crankpunk becomes Communications Manager for the Mongolia Bike Challenge & the launch of the new MBC website

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when i went to the Mongolia Bike Challenge for the first time back in 2013, i remember sitting there in the hotel dining room at the hotel we were starting from in Ulan Bataar, as the staff got on stage and introduced themselves, and thinking ‘this would really be something, to be a part of this.’

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with MBC founder Wiilly Mulonia, and Genghis Khan

 

one year on, back for my second year (partnered with the event as the provider of coaching services for the participants), race founder and director Willy Mulonia was kind enough to offer me the job of Communications Manager, which i naturally accepted, chuffed to become a member of staff for what is truly a brilliant race.

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me on the right, taking 3rd on the final stage 2014, and first in the Masters. no money changed hands for the win, i swear. though a beer may have been bought later that eve…

if you’re thinking of doing this one, but not quite sure, all i can say is that you will never regret it. fair weather or foul, it is an experience that stays with you forever.

to register, please go to the official website and check out our brand spanking new design, where you can register, check out the gallery and some amazing images, and also read about my coaching services for the event.

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you can read about my experiences at the race here, here on VeloNews, and if you’re not squeamish, i’ll be reposting the full Director’s Cut which includes a frisky customs official, complete bowel failure and a mugging, very soon.

in the meantime, enjoy some amazing images from 2013 and 2014 at the Mongolia Bike Challenge!

Gilbert gets the Classics ball of wonder rolling, the Lance & Ricco Comedy Show cranks on, and The Hour & the Death of Romance

This article originally appeared in The Roar.

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Philippe Gilbert got the ball rolling by saying on Thursday that he’s targeting Milan–San Remo, getting us on an early start for the annual Spring Classics Obsessional.

It happens every year. Faced with an interminably dull few months from the end of the racing season until the the Spring Classics (sorry Tour Down Under, people outside Australia generally aren’t all that fussed about it), it doesn’t take too long before we all start looking ahead (I started last April) to the greatest races on Earth.

And they are, aren’t they? Milan-San Remo, Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Omloop-de-loop, such beautiful names, such beautiful roads, all one-dayers, races for hardnuts, warriors, the monsters of the sport.

Like Andy Schleck.

The Classics are racing at its most pure, its least diluted, its rawest. It’s a race from point A to point B. You don’t get a rest day. Have it.

That they aren’t there all year long is a good thing, somehow, but I do feel like a smack junkie doing cold turkey from the end of April to March every year (sorry Lombardia but you just don’t get me that excited, not like the ‘Biggies’).

i couldn't resist...

i couldn’t resist…

Anyway, Gilbert won’t win Milan-San Remo. Yes, he’s finished third (2008 and 2011) but he won’t get the gap he needs to win solo and he won’t win a sprint against anyone else who might be there.

Peter Sagan for me. It will be his year for really cracking home that immense talent of his. All hail the Year of the Pete.

On to Riccardo Ricco and Lance Armstrong.

Apparently you can’t keep a good man down. Or a bad one.

Ricco and Lance both of course went down in a blaze of their own making, one received a lifetime ban, the other 12 years, and yet both keep popping up again and again in the cycling media.

Ricco recently went to Lausanne to visit the UCI-funded Cycling Independent Reform Commission to ‘chat’ for seven hours, in the hope of getting his ban reduced.

“I paid my own way to go there,” he told CyclingNews.

Blimey, he must have been very serious about it all then. My Italian source did confirm however that his mum made him some sandwiches for the journey though, so thankfully he didn’t have to pay for his own lunch too.

Phew. I was about to suggest we have a whip-round.

Anyway, Ricco says he was led to believe he would get a 50 per cent reduction in his ban if he named names, he says he did but still got no reduction.

Half off? Is it Chrimbo already? Wait until the sales are on, Ricco! Everyone knows that’s when the bargains are to be had.

“The whole thing was a joke,” he bleated, and everyone resisted saying ‘No sh#t, Sherlock’ in reply. “It seems the rules are applied and interpreted depending on who you are.” Which is funny, cos that’s how he approached the rules when he decided to get on the juice.

To be fair though, finally, there is some sense from Ricco, in that he is right that it is a case of one rule for some (i.e. the nasty dopers), another for the ‘nice’ dopers.

We are wrong to take a stand on the personality traits of certain riders and consider them ‘worse’ than others. Ricco should have been handed a lifetime ban. George Hincapie more than just six months, and he should have been made to repay a lot of cash. Alexander Vinokourov should not be in management. We could go on.

And on.

And on.

And, ok you get the drift.

Then Lance, another thinking man’s Ricco, turned around last week and said, “The sport is so weak. Just fundamentally weak. From the unity standpoint. From a rider’s standpoint. The teams. They have no authority. No power.

“So when you have a shit show like we’ve seen with me, someone from the outside can just step in, go back 12 years in time, and royally screw a sport and a new generation that deserves none of this. Cycling and its hypocrisy is off the charts.”

At which point the needle on the hypocrisy chart went round so fast that it blew up.

The same new generation that keeps spewing out positives weekly? The same new generation that won’t stand up to be counted in the face of these positives and a weak leadership?

And are the teams really so weak? Or do they in fact control pro cycling? Astana seems to have been playing the game by its own rules and are still in. Bjarne Riis, Oleg Tinkov and the old Saxobank, same deal. Katusha too.

More claptrap from the sport’s ‘new protector’ (the same one who will not disclose the inner workings of his relationship with Thom Wiesel and Jim Ochovitz).

Armstrong never attempted the world hour record, and thank Eddy he didn’t or he might have managed 62 kilometres in his EPO heyday.

It’s great to see it back in mode, to see the big guys having a crack at it – and indeed the not-so-big guys. But then I got thinking and I realised that it is in fact little more than a gimmick.

Only the cynical would say that it’s yet another UCI money spinner.

Anyway, it’s basically a UCI money spinner.

The bare bones are that since the UCI unified the record and brought the bike rules in line with regulations for current track pursuit bikes, they’ve simply remodeled the mess it already was, a record that will keep on being broken by every successive generation by ever greater degrees. Essentially, riders who aren’t as good as those before them will get the record, for a week, a month, maybe half a year, until another comes and breaks theirs.I

If we really want to see The Hour back where it deserves to be then let’s get them on the old bikes.

I know! In this day and age? When we can sell a load of carbon stuff that’s all shiny and new and makes the rider actually faster than he really is (in relative terms – against Merckx and on a steel bike)?

Yes. Let’s be crazy. Yes, we have advances in track surfaces, and yes in training too, and yes the dope has got way better, and of course the world doesn’t stand still. But there surely yet is a place for a bit of romance in this world ain’t there?

Ain’t there?

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The Crashtag™ by Elevengear review

the guys at Elevengear got in touch about a new identify thing they call CrashTag, asking me if i was interested in checking it out, so i said yes, so they sent me one.

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simple.

which is the idea behind The Crashtag, far as i can see. one one side of the rounded piece of Al6V4 titanium you have a pattern of your choosing from 10 patterns (they have a club special too, whereby you can get your club name and logo on the front – in fasct, i think anyone can get whatever they want put on there), on the other you have space for 159 characters that should include your name, an emergency number and whatever else you want, laser-engraved on there.

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there’s also a QR code on there, which links to their site and your own personal page, where you can input your photo, website address, FB, Twitter and what else you fancy.

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it comes with a variety of cords in different materials of differing lengths too, which allows for fastening either as a necklace or as a tag on say a bag, shoes, or the bike itself i guess.

it’s kinda cool (it’s a bottle opener too), though maybe a little overpriced at $34.50 i feel.

the QR code idea is that if you meet someone of interest whose details you’d like, rather than just taking a number, you scan their code and boom, you have all their details in one handy place. not a bad idea, interesting enough, though i had to download a QR reader app first to make it relevant. a quick poll of my amigos showed that just one person out of about 20 had a QR reader app on their fone.

i originally put it on my saddle but it was clinking every 5 seconds, then just ended up sticking it in my pocket but found that i forgot it the next time i rode. didn’t look right on the shoes, the cord was too short for my wrist but as it’s sized like a dogtag it’s too big for there anyway, and as a necklace it just wasn’t my style.

so, it’s kinda smart, looks pretty good, the QR code idea is fine but not many people i know at least have a reader, and can it compete with the bracelet-style id tags available now? not sure.

would i buy one? no, but then i don’t have an ID bracelet either. i know i should but you know, sometimes i get a little creeped out heading out thinking ‘ok so if i get hit so bad that i can’t talk then this will save me’ – you know? maybe stupid, but then i make a conscious effort never to say the word C-R-A-S-H oitloud either, so i’m safe.

i think i’ll stick it on my travel bag, will look good there.

um, realising maybe i wasn’t the best person to review this. i’m sure some people who do ride with their info on them would love this.

pros:

looks good

light

smart

cons:

where am i gonna put it so i don’t forget it?

how many people have QR readers?

not cheap

6.5/10, if you’re pushing me…

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Balls Out: naked cyclist fined for not wearing a helmet

 

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well, this certainly brings new meaning to that phrase.

wonder if he was on the rivet?

ah the pedantry of The Law. some dude in New Zealand is caught under the influence of alcohol and naked, whilst riding a bike. and is charge not with indecent exposure but with riding without a helmet.

reminds me of the English couple having sex on a packed train whilst all the other passengers pretend nothing is happening. when the couple had finished their tryst and lit up cigarettes, however, a gent looks over and says ‘Excuse me, but this is a no smoking car.’

reminded me also of the Swedish guy who was caught having sex with a bike. he punctures the tyre than er, takes care of himself. i told this story to a bike buddy of mine last week and he didn’t believe me. here is the video evidence:

back to the naked NZ guy. not sure if didn’t get busted for indecency on the grounds that the cops just couldn’t be bothered or if it was just too cold for the biker to actually offend anyone:

‘Timaru police Senior Sergeant Randel Tikitiki told Stuff.co.nz that the man was not charged for indecent exposure because that would “depend on what could be seen.”‘

hmm!

cycling posters! thanks Liz!

what a find, and thanks to Liz Newbery for this.

a bicycle posters page on FB. one of the best things i’ve seen on FB, in all honesty!

that’s the great, truly great thing about the bike – it just makes you smile, and there’s plenty in these beauties to smile about.

enjoy.

HolyCrit organiser & volunteer facing a year in jail: Zul Awab interview

i was not alone in reacting with disbelief when i first read the news from Singapore that the organiser of the Holy Crit race, Eric Khoo, and volunteer Zul Awab were facing hefty fines and up to 6 months in prison after traffic police shut down their event due to a complaint from a local. Singapore is certainly an intriguing city but it is not one in which bike racing thrives, despite there being a substantial number of road, track, fixie and MTB riders.

each year the cycling federation struggles to put on a national road race and time trial championships, having to wrangle with the government to get a permit to close roads.

within this environment, the emergence of a crit series came as a ray of light in an otherwise dingy house. it injected a much required shot of adrenalin to the local scene and meant that people who wanted to race their fixies and single speeds finally had a place to do it.

until, that is, Zul Awab got a phone call from the local traffic police asking him and Khoo to go to the station to ‘help them with their inquiries’. that visit resulted in a criminal charge and a potential jail term. which is slightly ironic, as the Holy Crit was started in the hope of keeping young kids out of trouble.

“The idea behind this whole thing to keep these kids off the streets,” explains Awab. “In Singapore we have gangs, drugs, kids getting drunk at an early age, so we are trying to educate these kids about fixed gear and to get them into this sport. They don’t know about how to ride, about safety, helmets, all that. That was the aim.”

the ide behind the Holy Crit is to give something back to the cycling community and to help deepen the existing culture there. Khoo runs a bicycle store but was frustrated by the lack of spaces available for the people buying his bikes to test their machines.

“The first event was on September 1st last year. Nobody gains a single penny out of this, nothing. Some of the kids are at school. So there’s an entry for of $8US which goes to the winner, every penny.”

Zul Awab, left, and Eric Khoo

Zul Awab, left, and Eric Khoo

but was the event safe? or was it at a time or in a place where pedestrians and other road users were in danger in any way?

“No. It wasn’t at all. It was at 11:30 at night, there were no cars or mopeds. It was in a secluded area, the only cars there were parked.”

on the day when the got the call from the police, Khoo and Awab willfully presented themselves to the police, Awab says.

“Me and Eric went down there to help them and we were interrogated for about eight hours. I was handcuffed and my leg was cuffed too. My mobile phone was confiscated, they took  my home computer, saying this was all standard operating procedure. My lap top was confiscated also. And we were just trying to serve our local cycling community.”

now he and Khoo are facing a 6 month sentence.

“We hope of course that won’t happen. The law they are trying to get us on only related to motorised vehicles. We hope, with the prayers and support of cyclists around the world, that it will just be a warning and a slap on the wrist. This whole thing wasn’t about trying to be glamorous or famous, it was just about giving something back.”

i asked him if he had any regrets, his answer was heartening.

“No, not at all. We want this to legalise this, keep it going and we want to keep the race the same.”

i wish them all the best for a suitable outcome to their predicament, and that this event reaches their ambition.

stay tuned here on crankpunk for updates.

if you’d like to leave messages of support for Eric and Zul, I suggest you do that here where they can see it, or alternatively seek them out on FB.

things that make you go hmmmmmmm…

can’t kick Astana out cos apparently it’s not in *the rules*.

well, what great and auspicious rules we have. brilliant. have to kick out Europcar cos they are something like 5% short on the finances required for World Tour status, but a team that has a 500% increase in dopers over 3 months can stay.

well lah-de-dah.

someone replied to my article last week pointing to the inner ring article about how Cookson had no choice but to grant Astana its license for 2015.

i replied:

the article was written in light of the fact that the UCI has been facilitating cheating for many many years. the fact that in the UCI rules there are none that would allow them to kick out an outfit that has has had 5 positives (and then let’s think about Kreuziger/Contador/Vino and on) in three months tells you that there is something inherently wrong with the organisation.

there is no rule on unethical behaviour and bringing the sport into disrepute that a presiding committee that included independent folk couldn’t rule on? why not? have a referendum on it by asking your members – and remember, if you hold a license you are a member of the UCI – and let them decide.

you can say ‘well these are the rules’ all day long but if the rules are ineffective there must come a time surely when we question why these are ‘the rules’ and in whose interests it is to have to adhere to such useless regulations. the UCI have done just about nothing to garner our trust in the past 25 years. this is not isolated – they’re on a cracking run of f&*k ups and here is Cookson handing out a license almost no one wants to see awarded and having commentators cocking their snouts and saying ‘well those are the rules’ – and i really wish there was a font called ‘Patronising & Snide’, cos it’d be applicable there.

what have ‘the rules’ done to this sport? damn. *the rules* suck.

i was a bit angry when i wrote that, and i should not have implied that that ‘the rules’ line was snide – it is patronising though, i’ll keep that in.

anyway, yesterday i was reading The Guardian and came across a story about a City executive named Jonathan Paul Burrows who is now a former City exec. Why? Because he was thrown out by the Financial Conduct Authority for dodging train fares.

Yes.

Dodging train fares.

Mr. Burrows

Mr. Burrows

To be fare (hi-hat please), he was quite the fare dodger.

“His dishonest behaviour came to the attention of the City watchdog after it came to light that he had saved himself almost £43,000 over several years by exploiting a loophole at the ticket barriers,” notes The Guardian.

Burrows would get on the train at his station which had no fare barrier, then get off in London and use his travel card, paying a third of what he should have paid.

Pretty sneaky right? Tut tut, Mr. Burrows.

Even more naughty when you learn that Burrows, who worked for Blackrock, earned 1 million pounds a year.

And all this has certainly cost him. He didn’t just get a 2-year ban, but was banned for life from any senior role in the financial services industry.

” He will never again be allowed into a position of authority, although, in theory, he could take junior back-office jobs,” said The Guardian.

(Vino as tire-pumper-upper, love that idea).

The ruling was passed down under the FCA regulation which demands that its members must pass a ‘fit and proper’ test, something Burrows was deemed to have failed with his fare dodging.

Outsiders, like myself, might look at this ruling and wonder why just about everyone in the financial industry in the UK hasn’t failed this test, something Burrows alludes to in the article, but it certainly is something that you wonder why the world sporting bodies can’t incorporate.

And not only why they can’t, but why they haven’t.

Things that make you go hmmmm, indeed.