Saturday, November 17, 2012


You are so strong. They will not catch you.

In my earpiece, I could hear Bjarne's calm voice, urging me on.
You are destroying the Tour de France.
Tyler, Tyler, Tyler, you are so strong.
They will not catch you.
You can talk all you want about the BBs [blood bags] and the Edgar [EPO]; you can call me a cheater and a doper until the cows come home.  But the fact remains that in a race where everybody had equal opportunity, I played the game and I played it well.  I took a chance and I pushed myself as hard as I could, and when the day was over, I finished first.  As I approached the line, I slowed so Bjarne could pull up next to me and we linked hands in victory.  The press called it the longest and most courageous breakaway in Tour history.

from The Secret Race


I think we could all do with Bjarne Riis in our earpiece every now and then.  The incessant doping and squalid back-street blood transfusions I could do without, mind you.

I read The Secret Race in my local Waterstones over the last few evenings.  The shop has all the things I don't have at home right now: books, warmth and light.  It's an engrossing read - but that was definitely the best bit.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The Tower of Owls

And the Earl had said: 'This is my hour, Flay. You must go from here, Mr Flay. You must go away. This is the hour of my reincarnation. I must be alone with him. That you killed him is your glory. That I can take him to them is mine. Good-bye, for my life is beginning. Good-bye ... good-bye.' from Titus Groan

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Sunday, November 11, 2012


Edgar Allan Postal

Lance Armstrong, the man who strong- armed cycling, gives up fight
The most important lesson of the Lance Armstrong story, though, is the hardest to prepare for and guard against: our own gullibility and willing complicity.

In choosing pub quiz team names, we tend to go for what's topical.  A couple of weeks ago, when the matter of whether or not Lance Armstrong took drugs (he did) was put to bed, we went with 'Edgar Allan Postal' as our team name.  The drug EPO was referred to by Armstrong and his US Postal Service teammates as 'Edgar' or 'Poe'.

"It's not just that he enjoyed taking drugs: he really, really enjoyed talking about taking drugs," observed my brother over a pint, while we frowned at the picture round.  Certainly, apart from all the training and winning races and stuff that drugs enabled Armstrong to do, there seems to have been a teenager-ish culture of enjoyment and bonding around the team's drug use.  I devoted an idle morning to watching Tyler Hamilton interviews on YouTube, where he gave account of Armstrong popping drugs into teammate's mouths like candy.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from cycling for life.  Thankfully, there's no need to go through all the administrative headache of reassigning them to other riders, compensating people for lost prize money and whatnot as everyone else who was riding at the time was cheating too.

Further ignominy was shat upon the hapless Armstrong when he was burnt in Effigy at the Edenbridge Bonfire Society display in Kent, beating a shortlist of potential effigies which included Jimmy Savile (pub team name: Jammy Seville - if anyone challenged us about the poor taste, we were going to tell them it was about football).

Armstrong also lost his sponsorship from Nike and others, costing him a considerable fortune.  "Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner," said the company in a statement.  Perhaps, in light of that fact, they ought to include a Meat Loaf-style caveat in their 'Just Do It' advertising.

Further reading

"The title of Lance’s ghosted book It’s Not About the Bike was a dark joke that the judges should have understood. It was actually about the needles. Lots of them, in his arm, up his arse."

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