Monthly Archives: March 2018

Rules, ethics, gamesmanship and cheating

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I expect that at least 90% of the world has no interest in cricket but I think it’s a great game – how can you not love a sport where you can play for five days and have a draw at the end of it?

Sadly, cricket has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. The Australian captain, vice captain and one of their batsmen were caught cheating in a test match against South Africa.

The three had hatched a plan to use sandpaper on the ball to make it behave favourably for their bowlers.

They were sent home from the tour, have since been banned for 9 or 12 months – and have lost lucrative contracts both in cricket itself and from commercial endorsements. Although apparently not being part of the plan, the coach has now resigned, accepting responsibility for the culture of the team.

As a cycling fan, it reminds me of the (too) many scandals and rumours that plague pro-cycling.

For me, it all starts out fairly simply – if you break the rules you have cheated and deserve the (appropriate) punishment that’s coming to you.

Take TUEs in cycling. Taking otherwise banned drugs can be within the rules if you need them for medical reasons – if you have the medical need and take them, you are not cheating. If you take them, pretending to have the medical need, you are cheating.

The line can get blurred once we get into the grey area of ethics in sport. If you compete unethically, I think you forfeit respect and moral high-ground and I think sport should be played to the highest standards of integrity – but if you are not breaking the rules, in my book, you are not actually cheating.

Part of the difficulty is that people have different standards when it comes to ethics and who is to say that their interpretation is right? At least the rules should be a clear line in the sand.

The Australian captain, Steve Smith, was in tears in a press conference saying ‘I will regret this for the rest of my life. I am absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness’. Of course, I don’t know him – he might be a great guy who has just made one mistake and on a human level I wish everyone involved all the best.

However, I can’t help wondering what Steve Smith would have been like if they hadn’t got caught. Would he have been sitting in his hotel room, consumed with guilt, because he had done such a terrible thing? I don’t know – but I doubt it.

I’m sure he is really sorry for what he did and I do have some sympathy with the position he finds himself in – but is the difference between satisfaction with a plan that worked, and abject misery for dishonest actions, mainly a question of whether or not you get caught?

More trial by turbo


We’re having it all in March – rain, snow, sun (but not much), wind and now hail stones. Variety may the spice of life but it’s no great help to cycling outside.

With poor weather it’s been the turbo again this week. That’s OK by me as I’d be a bit cautious about taking to the roads until I know my back will be up to it. So far, the turbo has been fine but I’d not want to have a back problem 30 miles from home.

I’ve discovered a useful bit of psychology that seems to work for me on the turbo. In the past I’ve typically used it for a set period – usually an hour. The problem with that is that there is little incentive to push harder towards the end, as cycling faster doesn’t get you to the finish any quicker.

I’m now looking to cycle a specific distance (50km at the moment) – so there is benefit in pushing harder. My speeds have increased as a result and the distance that I’m aiming for ensures that I’m riding for more than an hour anyway.

Tuesday’s effort was 1:04:22 for 50 km at 46.6 kph (31 miles at 28.9 mph). That’s down from 1:08:38 on Monday. Wednesday was 1:05:15 for the 50 km (with very tired legs).

One thing I’ve never really understood is how hours on the turbo equate to hours on the road. I appreciate that it would be a very rough guide as not all hours on the road (or turbo) are created equal, and all turbos seem to differ.

I read that an hour on the turbo is equal to 90 minutes on the road – but that came with no evidence. I guess the theory is that turbos are relentless effort – but also there are no hills (for the old, non-clever ones like mine) so I’m not sure.

Interestingly, I’m pedalling about 50% faster on the turbo than I can on the road – but I guess that might just be a meaningless coincidence.

Of course, I’m just looking for reassurance that the work I’m putting in will pay off when I get outside – especially for the White Horse Challenge next month. Such mental fragility!

It was back to the gym today for an hour. My back is pretty well healed – only a couple of twisting movements cause any discomfort so I kept to the machines that keep the back static and they worked well.

After that I did not feel like getting on the turbo this evening – but I did. My legs were very unhappy about it from the beginning so we did a deal – half distance if they went for it hard.

So, 25 km in 29:00 at 51.7 kph (15.5 miles at 32.14 mph).

That leaves just the 25 km to do by Sunday to complete my 200 km target for the week.

Happy Easter to everyone.



Recovery mode?


With stuck seat-post issues on the Fort framed bike, the De Rosa gets relegated (promoted?) to the turbo

Most interesting headline of the weekend: ‘Queen to start 2018 London Marathon’. I’m disappointed that they don’t seem to think she’ll finish it – she just needs to put in the training.


Anyway …… I woke up on Saturday feeling a bit better after falling out of the apple tree on Thursday – not exactly gambolling around like a newly-born lamb, but better.

There were a couple of new bruises that I’d not spotted before (drowned out by the main injury, I guess) but they’re not major issues.

I have no idea exactly what I hurt – but I certainly hurt it. The main pain is in the small of my back, right of centre. I guess it might be a bruised kidney but no symptoms other than the pain, so perhaps it’s just a good thump to the muscle.

I’d been doing well with the weight – I’d lost nearly a kilo (2 pounds) in 4 days by Friday morning – but, of course, injuries need to be treated with comfort food. Despite that, and with the lack of exercise and a fine Sunday lunch with friends, I held on to most of it for a 0.8kg (1.75 lbs) loss over the week.

However, all this has set me back (even) further in my training for the White Horse Challenge on 22 April. Not good news – but it has spurred me on and I’m still determined have a real go at beating 5 hours (although that is getting less likely as the weeks pass). It’s a real challenge, one that would give me the gold standard …… for the under 40 age group! That’s got to be worth going for.

I had a go on the turbo this evening. Despite still being in some pain walking, it went quite well on the bike with 50 km (31 miles) in 1:08:38 (43.7kph/27.1mph). This week the aim is 200km (125 miles), injury permitting, recognising that most or all of it is likely to be on the turbo.


An apple tree, a ladder and gravity




Pruned apple tree – but it fought back

I came down to earth with a bump on Thursday – literally. I fell out of the apple tree.

Actually, it’s worse than that – I’d spent a happy (and safe) hour or so climbing in the tree and was finishing off the last few snips from the ladder, which should have been safer.

Initially it wasn’t too bad but after a couple of hours it really stiffened up. As someone who sleeps on his side, Thursday night was tough as lying flat on my back was the only way to stop it hurting too much.

It is hardly any easier today – I don’t seem to have broken any bones or ruptured any vital organs but it certainly hurts.

It’s difficult to see any positive outcomes (especially as there are a couple of twigs that I missed and cannot now prune) but at least:

  • I’ve proved that men over 60 don’t bounce well
  • Gravity has been shown to be alive and working well in Oxfordshire
  • I know what getting into and out of a bath will be like if I live to 100.

So, no running, no gym, no turbo and no outdoor cycling for a while. I wonder what people do if they don’t do any of those (or, if like me at the moment, they struggle to sit, stand or lie down)?

What an idiot.


Grass, sand, seat posts, Zulus and Russian spies


Bournemouth beach – those pushchairs/baby buggies certainly leave some tracks

Tuesday it was off to Bournemouth again to check that the recent bad weather had caused any problems (it hadn’t) and to see if I could mow the lawn for the first time this year (I could).

It had thawed quickly and the roads were clear so I went by the cross-country route, through the ancient city of Salisbury – more famous recently for the (alleged) nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy. I wasn’t worried about that … I only had the windows firmly wound up because it was cold – honestly.


No one likes litter but those little bits of paper can really mess up a beach like almost nothing else I can think of

The road goes through Tidworth – a garrison town on the edge of Salisbury Plain, near Stonehenge. There has been a lot of recent building and I passed ‘Rorke’s Drift Road’, which is new. I get the military connection but it did seem a bit incongruous.

I don’t suppose that Rorke’s Drift is very famous outside the UK, but in 1879 it was the scene of an attack, by 4,000 Zulu warriors, on a British depot/hospital manned by a garrison of 150. After 12 hours, up to 400 Zulus were dead, along with 17 British soldiers and the Zulus withdrew.

Possibly, people might remember the 1964 Michael Caine film ‘Zulu’ that tells the story.

Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana (where the nearby British garrison was largely wiped out in a Zulu attack just before the one at Rorke’s Drift) are well worth a visit if you find yourself in KwaZulu-Natal.

My guess is that there isn’t an ‘Isandlwana Close’ in Tidworth.

Anyway …

… on Wednesday I felt a small niggle in my left knee (weights or mowing, I assume) but it eased and Mrs O and I went for a long walk, and then it was back to the turbo for an hour and 27.9 miles (44.9km).

I went to put the saddle up a bit – but the post is seized in the seat tube. Another avoidable job to be done – why is it so hard to remember to move seat posts every now and then?



A rare piece of good timing


Normally I could wait a few years between opportunities to take photos like this. Now it’s twice within two weeks

We timed our trip to Porlock (and our departure from it) extremely well. As we left on Saturday the temperature had plummeted and there were snow flurries in the air. By Sunday morning Porlock Hill was closed. I’d like to think they are putting up a plaque to commemorate me cycling up it on Friday – but I rather expect it’s due to the snow.

We have a couple of inches of snow here in Oxfordshire so no running but I managed an hour on the turbo on Sunday morning before an excellent lunch with friends in the village. So, a great few days but they have left their mark on my weight with the typical ‘three steps forward, two steps back’ routine that sees me back to 70.3kg (155lbs).

I’d like to pretend it’s just extra muscle from the weight training but I know that’s not true, so it’s time to take the issue a bit more seriously and exercise some willpower. We are out again for next Sunday’s lunch but in the meantime it’s a target of a kilo (2.2lbs) off this week.

The temperature is hovering around freezing but I got out of the village today and went to the gym for an hour …. but is it doing any good (generally or to my cycling)?

While in the car the iPod shuffle function came up with both ‘When Johnny strikes up the band’ and ‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zeavon. By such small things the day is brightened.


The chickens are not very impressed by the snow ….


…. and will the new laurel hedge be OK?


Porlock Hill – it’s a bit steep


Porlock Hill – very pretty but the ‘Gradient 1 in 4 uphill’ might be taken as a bit of a warning. Perhaps both caravans and cycles should be directed to the Toll Road

Just back from a couple of days in Porlock (North Somerset) with friends who have a holiday home in the village. It was a great trip and a delightful village in a lovely area – but our friends know I like to point the front wheel uphill … and Porlock Hill that leads out of the village West towards Lynmouth is a famous climb in the UK. Apparently it’s number 4 in Simon Warren’s ‘100 Greatest Cycle Climbs’ (a UK book).

There are two routes that can be taken. The main road is the steepest ‘A’ road in England – listed as 1.6 miles (a bit over 2.5km) and climbing 998ft (304 metres) at an average 12%. Sadly, that doesn’t tell the whole story as there are ramps on the lower slope at 25%, as highlighted by the signs at the top and bottom.

The other route is by the old Toll Road which climbs almost exactly the same distance but takes a more leisurely 4.2 miles to do it (about 6.76 km).

There is a famous annual hill climb up the hill – I think both routes have been used.

It is quite possible that deciding to climb the hill by both routes for my second ride outdoors since early November was a bad idea – but I’d taken the bike and rather felt that I’d be letting our friends down if I didn’t have a go. So, Friday afternoon I set off, choosing the harder one first.

It’s hard to describe the climb as I spent pretty much the whole of the first half with my head down and sweat in my eyes. I think it’s fair to say that it is simply brutal. I had expected that the 25% bits were just on the inside of the hairpins but I’m not sure they were limited to that. My Strava trace certainly shows over 28% at one point and it felt every bit of that.

I’d checked where the Strava segment started but not where it finished so I carried on to climb 400m (1312 feet), just to enjoy the misery for longer. As it was, 5% faster would have put me in the Strava top half for the climb – which is OK for a 62 year old with so few miles in his legs (and some extra pounds round his waist) in March. We’ve been invited back later in the summer so I can try again!


I decided to come down the Toll Road as the main road is very narrow and was a bit damp. The Toll Road is really lovely (even on a cloudy and blustery day) with views over the Severn Estuary (or perhaps it’s the Bristol Channel at that point?).


Looking up the estuary/channel towards Cardiff and Bristol


South Wales in the distance – there’s a faint rainbow over the water in the middle of the picture but the camera on the phone didn’t capture it well

Once at the bottom, I turned round and went back up the Toll Road which was delightful, with a maximum 8% gradient which felt relatively easy after the earlier crawl up the main road.

It’s not often that I ride only a little over 27 km (16.8 miles) and climb 799 meters (2612 feet) the UK.


We also had a walk on Thursday – Dunkery Beacon is the highest point in Exmoor. Not sure if the Exmoor pony lurking in the background knew that

Stop Press: it’s possible to cycle OUTDOORS


After an hour and a half in the gym on Saturday lifting (for me) heavy weights, Mrs O and I went for a run on Sunday morning. About 6.3 km (4 miles) but most notably it was the first time I’ve been outside for exercise for just over 4 months, what with the sciatica, holidays, and terrible weather.

I have noticed how fatigued my legs are for a day or two after the gym – so I must be doing something right (or wrong) … but at least I’m doing something. On Sunday I couldn’t do the ‘stand up from dining chair using only one leg’ with either leg. Monday morning I tried again and could do it easily with both.

Monday was very wet so I went to the gym again and worked pretty hard with increasing weights.

Even more radically, on Tuesday morning I got on a bike which wasn’t attached to the turbo trainer … and went for a ride outdoors. This was the first such ride since 9 November (when I fell off). Happily, this time I did not fall off, something that made a real contribution to the enjoyability of the whole experience.

The aim wasn’t to go too far, too fast or too hilly – and I rose to the challenge of delivering on all three of those. In the end I was out for a couple of hours riding 55km at 27kph with 282m of climbing (34.5 miles at 16.8mph and 925 ft).

Not too bad with the training wheels and a certain amount of excess me. I started off feeling fairly strong – but tired towards the end which might simply have been the run and gym session in the legs from the last two days.

This cycling outdoors idea could catch on.

Does doing a turbo session count double if you really didn’t want to do it?


After Tuesday’s hedge planting and Wednesday’s gym session, I drove to London and back today, getting home early evening.

I really didn’t feel like doing anything strenuous but tomorrow I’m back up to London for a ‘sportsman’s lunch’, Saturday looks to be wet and Sunday is Mother’s day. I knew I should do something so I got on the turbo for an hour, covering 42.1km  (26miles).

The hardest part was getting changed and getting on the machine. Once I was going it was fine – almost enjoyable.

It makes me realise that exercising when you really do not want to does not count double physically …. but it does have a real psychological payback.

I shouldn’t be surprised – I had the same thing last summer at 4.30am when I very nearly didn’t leave the apartment to start the everesting attempt (everesting, French Alps July 2017).

It would have been easy to go back to bed because I was sure I couldn’t do it – and sure as hell I didn’t want to even try at that moment – but having the resolve to give it a go meant it all worked better than I could have expected.

It really doesn’t matter how good your legs are if you don’t get on the bike. They say that the most important 4 inches in golf are the ones between your ears – in my book, that’s pretty well applicable to all sports …. and life in general.

No resting on the laurels (but planting 55 of them)


Weird – the fields are almost clear but it looks like the snow was just shipped in and dumped on the track.

This has been a further period of ‘other than cycling’ exercise.

Following the happy hour shovelling snow from the small hill in the village on Saturday, it was back into the gym on Monday (for a fairly restful session in comparison – that snow shovelling was hard).

After a substantial thaw over the weekend, Tuesday saw two and a half hours planting a new laurel hedge which, again, made the gym feel relatively tame. More digging proved to be another good all-body workout.

Over the weekend I did some reading to try to get to the bottom of the ‘low reps, high weights’ vs ‘ high reps, low weights’ debate. As I understood it, the wisdom used to be that low reps with high weights was the formula for body building – but now thinking has changed. I’m still a total layman but, with acknowledgement to the blog written by Pedal Strength, it seems that heavy strength training can develop fast-twitch fibres which can be very beneficial for cyclists.

Apparently, heavier weights, with low repetition, can significantly increase strength without adding large amounts of muscle. Increasing strength in this way can improve endurance, power production, and resilience to injury.

After a 40 minute walk this morning with Mrs O, it was back into the gym this afternoon for an hour with heavier weights and lower reps. Strangely, it was very enjoyable – there is satisfaction to be gained from lifting close to as much as you can (even if it isn’t that much by the standards of others).

I’m concentrating mainly on legs and core and trying to do the exercises properly.

Interestingly, on the adductor and abductor machines (working the muscles used to move the knees together and apart) I can use all the weights available on the machines (60kg – 132lbs) but with the leg press, extension and curl machines I’ve still got some weights unused.

I’d have thought my quads and hamstrings might be (relatively) better than my adductors and abductors – but apparently not. Equally, if a 62 year old tipping the scales at under 154lbs can use all the weights available, it may just be that some of the machines are themselves a bit lightweight?

Of course, the weights sessions must be accompanied by aerobic exercise – I’ve seen the suggestion that up to 3 weights sessions a week with 8 hours of cycling should work well. Clearly, I need to restart running and the turbo needs to take a bit of a beating, but I’m going to have to be careful to ensure that the weights don’t fatigue my legs too much to do that properly.

I’ve still not been out on the bike but I can feel the day fast approaching ….