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The jam goes underground for Elon Musk; More red-light jumping undercover cyclists; lowdown on LTNs; tribute to Devon's Mr Cycling; funding secured for Welsh 'Biking Mecca'; CX champs preview + more on the live blog

It's Friday and Ryan Mallon is here to ease you into the weekend with the last live blog of the week...
07 January 2022, 17:31
That Friday feeling... brought to you by the Norsgaard siblings

It’s the weekend folks, and I’m away to put on my Jam records (not sure why the thought occurred to me).

Didn’t we have a nice time? Okay, I’ll stop now – before I get on to the b-sides…

07 January 2022, 17:16
Cannondale Almelo facility.PNG
Pon Holdings completes £600m purchase of Dorel Sports

Dorel Industries has confirmed the sale of its bike segment, Dorel Sports, to the Dutch mobility group Pon Holdings for the princely sum of £600 million.

The sale, which was originally announced in October, includes brands such as Cannondale, GT, Schwinn and Mongoose.

“We are very pleased to have completed the sale of Dorel Sports to a great company like Pon,” Dorel’s President Martin Schwartz said in a statement. “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I again thank the Dorel Sports team for their commitment to Dorel and their great achievements.

“We believe that with this sale, Dorel has realized full value for Dorel Sports, for the benefit of Dorel and our shareholders.”

Founded in 1980, Pon’s bike portfolio currently includes Cervélo, Focus, Santa Cruz and Faraday.

07 January 2022, 16:52
Is Sagan living in the past?

Earlier this week Peter Sagan and his brother Juraj announced that they had tested positive for Covid for the second time, after experiencing symptoms related to the virus.

Judging by the publicity shots posted by his new TotalEnergies team (taken before his latest positive test, Sherlock), the Slovakian champion seems to be also suffering from withdrawal symptoms from a certain rainbow jersey he once wore for three years straight.

“See, Peter, if you squint a bit, it’ll be just like you’re world champion again”, I imagine the photographer laughed, nervously.

As for the TotalEnergies jersey itself, it’s a bit of a mess. Which reminds me, I really need to get round to ranking this year’s kits…

07 January 2022, 16:29
Big names descend on the nationals

While my preview of this weekend’s British cyclo-cross championships earlier may have focused on the elite races, one of the more recognisable faces heading down to Crawley is 12-year-old Xander Graham.

The young Scot, who shot to fame after briefly outpacing the break at the Tour of Britain last year, won the U14 race at the Scottish cyclo-cross championships in November. 

Last week it was announced that Xander was one of the first riders signed by Jukebox Cycling, a multi-disciplinary team featuring former Garmin rider Phil Gaimon. 

I’m sure more than a few eyes will be on the not-even-teenage prodigy this weekend.

07 January 2022, 15:35
All Mod Cons

We’ve had a range of responses to this morning’s revelation that just shoving a load of cars under the ground won’t actually end traffic forever. Here’s a selection of your thoughts:

On the one hand, I like the idea of shoving cars underground out of our way, but is it really feasible? The big problems I anticipate is that drivers sometimes crash and if the tunnel isn't at least the width of 2-3 cars, then you're going to have a severe blockage. The other issue is of pollution - without decent ventilation the tunnels are going to be a health hazard.

Meanwhile, those problems largely disappear if you use the tunnels just for cycling (guessing that pedestrians would rather walk above ground) as there's little chance of a blockage and no traffic fumes to worry about.

A small part of me applauds this Elon Musk bloke for trying to do something 'different' with his numerous pots of gold. However the underground tunnels idea does seem to be reinventing the tube, but in a more short-sighted and elitist way. 

I'll admit I've not read all the bumf on Musk's tunnels, but if the idea was to produce safe routes for 'autonomous electric vehicles' to travel, then I'm kinda on board with the principal. e.g. 1) you can't let AI driven cars just drive around on the streets today 2) you drive in your EV to a gate/toll press the button which says 'autonomous' then sit back watch TV for half an hour while you travel to the other side/gate exit, then carry on with your car journey. 

Elon being Elon I suspect his actual vision was/is little electric pod vehicles, but it was easier to grab a load of Model 3's given his other activities.  These tunnels are only really a technology demonstrator.

Speaking as a cyclist I would not be thrilled at being forced into a subterranean orifice to ride my bike.

Plus, here in the fens the water table is less than a metre below the surface, so scuba equipment would quickly become essential.

Interestingly, the Boring Company website suggested that the other alternative they thought of was flying cars, but decided tunnels were better because they couldn't fall on people's heads. A quick peruse of Wiki suggests they may not be possession of all relevant tunnel facts...

Move over Elon, I've just had a brilliant idea. We could put mass transit systems in tunnels under major cities. It would be like riding on a train and have lots of stops so you only had a short distance to walk when you got near your destination. In addition to reducing congestion it addresses another major problem in urban environments namely parking.

I think I might name this new system after a takeaway chain that sells tubular shaped sandwiches. I'll let you know if I come up with anything.

But enough about those, let’s get to the puns…

Tesla Tunnels Facebook comment

A few of you seemed to enjoy my reference to Going Underground, with one or two even supplying their own Jam-based world play.

My favourites were “Down in the Tesla Station at Midnight” and “Elon Rifles (through some new ideas)”. If you have any more, keep them coming.

However, some of you did go slightly off-piste, with “It Musk've Been Love” and “It’s Been Elo, -lon, -lon Time”. Let’s stick to the Jam, shall we?

My burning question in all of this is: how many (David) Watts does a Tesla produce?

That’s Entertainment!

07 January 2022, 15:09
EasyPost becomes co-title sponsor of EF Education team

Jonathan Vaughters’ EF Education team today announced that shipping firm EasyPost has joined the team as a title sponsor.

The change means that JV’s not-so-crazy-gang-anymore will be known as EF Education-EasyPost for 2022. Nippo, which will remain as a co-named sponsor for the EF development team, also stays on as a secondary sponsor for the elite team.

The sponsorship deal appears to represent a renewed period of financial stability for the Slipstream Sports outfit run by Vaughters, four years after they launched a crowdfunding campaign in a bid to keep the team going, and over a decade since the start of a flurry of mergers with other WorldTour teams such as Cervélo and later Cannondale.

Infuriatingly for jersey watchers, the squad’s new kit for 2022 won’t be revealed until the end of January, though I assume the fetching pink of the last few years will stay largely untouched.

07 January 2022, 14:48
It’s National Champs Weekend!

Fields will be muddied and jerseys will be awarded all over Europe this weekend – no, it’s not some tractor pulling, knitting competition (though that does sound intriguing), it’s time for the national cyclo-cross championships!

The South of England Showground in Crawley will play host to the British championships, a year after the venue was forced to postpone the 2021 event due to Covid restrictions.

Tom Pidcock won’t be returning to defend his title in the elite men’s race, as the in-form Yorkshireman opts to join his Ineos teammates for a pre-season training camp in Mallorca. Pidcock’s sights nevertheless remain firmly set on the upcoming world championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he will be hoping to add an elite rainbow jersey to his collection.

He will be accompanied in Mallorca by new teammate Ben Turner, who has been picking up some decent results in the ‘cross field himself this winter and would also have been considered a favourite for Sunday.

With Pidcock and Turner absent, the elite men’s race is wide open: Trinity Racing’s Cameron Mason is fresh off an U23 World Cup win in Dendermonde and an encouraging 15th among the best in the world at Hulst last weekend (a race won of course by Pidcock). Thomas Mein of the Tormans team has been steady at the highest level all winter, while Corran Carrick-Anderson and Rory McGuire have lit up the national series.

In the women’s race, Starcasino’s Anna Kay and Welsh wunderkind Zoe Bäckstedt (Tormans) will challenge 2020 champion Hattie Harnden of Trek Factory Racing. Kay bounced back from a broken collarbone after being hit by a car in September to win the GP Leuven, while 17 year old Bäckstedt’s staggering rise to the top of the sport in 2021 has included an elite win in Essen in December, along with three junior World Cup wins, a junior European Championships, and – don’t forget – a rainbow jersey in the junior road race. Can she cap off a stunning season with an elite national title?

On the other side of the Irish sea, the Irish national championships take place in Armagh’s Palace Demesne. Maria Larkin will be defending her 2020 title, while Chris McGlinchey will be hoping for a local win after finishing second two years ago.

Meanwhile, for those hoping to catch a last glimpse of Wout van Aert before he hangs up the ‘cross bike in favour of a concerted shot at the spring classics, he will be hoping to round off an illustrious and dominant season with another Belgian title in Middelkerke on Sunday.

07 January 2022, 12:51
Elon, take note – this is how you do a tunnel…

 As we saw earlier today, Las Vegas may have the fancy new Jeeves-operated Tesla Tunnels, but perhaps Elon Musk would avoid any congestion problems if he looked to one of the world’s oldest cities for inspiration.

2,000 years ago the Great Quarry of Rome, located just a few miles from the city centre, was created: a 22 mile twisting labyrinth of underground passageways which the Romans used to extract pozzolana, a volcanic rock which, when mixed with lime, created a kind of ancient concrete.

Luckily for you, these ancient tunnels can now be explored by bike. Sotterranei di Roma (Underground Places of Rome) organises bike tours of the subterranean network, which accommodate around 40 cyclists at a time. Mountain bikes are preferred, but the tunnels’ hard-packed floor means visitors can use a city bike if they wish.

It might not make you want to scrap your plans for the Dolomites, but this could well be your next cycling holiday…

07 January 2022, 12:20
“Biking Mecca of Wales” approved

Now this is promising – Monmouthshire council has formally approved funding to progress plans for a cycling centre near Abergavenny.

The proposed velo park will include training and racing facilities suitable for road, cyclo-cross and mountain biking, while recreational space will also be made available for families and leisure cyclists.

A budget of £28,000 has been earmarked to fund consultancy costs for the project, with the council hoping to receive planning permission by June.

Welsh Cycling, which is working with the council to develop the plans, noted that a lack of suitable road cycling facilities represents “one of the main barriers to the development of the sport in Wales”.

A design and access statement says that the new facility “will be of regional and potentially national importance for the growth and development of cycling and other wheeled sports.

“It will further enhance Abergavenny’s reputation as one of the most successful cycling towns and destinations in Wales.”

Maybe we now won’t have to wait too long for the next Geraint Thomas and Zoe Bäckstedt to emerge…

07 January 2022, 11:58
Ken Robertson (credit - Cycling Time Trials)
Last ride for south-west’s ‘Mr Cycling’

For someone who devoted his life to cycling, I can think of no better tribute. On 12 January, local cyclists will ride behind the hearse carrying the coffin of South Devon’s ‘Mr Cycling’ Ken Robertson as he takes his final lap of the Torbay Velopark in Paignton.

Ken suffered a heart attack while on a ride with clubmates just before Christmas. He was 85.

Ken, who had been involved in the sport for over 70 years, was a member of Mid-Devon CC and organised the club’s Dartmoor Classic sportive since its foundation in 2007. He was also the tenth longest-serving member of the national committee of the Road Time Trials Council, a position he held between 1981 and 2001. Fittingly, a time trial in Ken’s memory was held on 27 December.

Ken continued to clock big miles on his bike well into his eighties, riding over 200 miles a week, and to celebrate his 84th birthday last year he rode 84 miles for charity.  

Mid-Devon CC chairman Mike Gratton said, “It is the intention that the hearse will take a detour around the Velopark so that Ken can have his final ride with his cycling buddies. Those who wish may cycle behind him.”

A private family service will then be held in Torquay, though it is expected that a live broadcast of the funeral will be made available.

07 January 2022, 11:08
The lowdown on LTNs

Next month Oxfordshire County Council will make a decision on whether to permanently install Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Church Cowley, Temple Cowley, and Florence Park, where trial LTNs are currently taking place. Three new LTNs have also been approved by the council to commence in March.

Unsurprisingly, the proposed East Oxford LTN has divided opinion since its first round of consultation, which saw a majority of respondents give a ‘thumbs down’ to the scheme. Tellingly, however, most of the respondents who actually live in the streets where the LTNs are to be implemented supported the proposals.

In December, Oxford City Council asked the county council to defer their decision until better public transport links were put in place.

This week a constituent opposed to the scheme contacted the local Labour MP Anneliese Dodds, who forwarded on the request for more information to John Disley, the Infrastructure Strategy and Policy Manager at Oxfordshire County Council. Disley’s response was roundly praised online as a “straight answer” and a “high-calibre” rationale for LTNs throughout the country:

The LTNs were funded by the Government primarily because they create safe cycle routes away from traffic (Quietways) by removing most traffic from roads which the cycle route follows. The cycle routes will provide an opportunity for people of all ages (from children to the retired) to have a safe cycle route into Oxford city centre, not only from Florence Park and Church Cowley, but also reaching out to Littlemore and Greater Leys, with areas of high deprivation and poor health.

Many residents do not have access to a car. In Oxford as a whole, the 2011 census showed that there were only 340 cars to every 1000 people. In Church Cowley 42%, Cowley 34% and Littlemore 27% of households do not own a car. The underlying aim of the LTN is to reduce car journeys along residential roads, particularly through traffic, making walking and cycling more attractive and the first choice for travel, and to keep these car journeys on the main roads which are designed to take this traffic.

The findings from research into the impacts of the London LTNs are that the health and travel benefits were far in excess of any other measures that they had previously assessed in promoting public health and reducing car pollution. It found a positive impact on a range of factors - better public health, lower road traffic within the LTN area and no increase on peripheral roads, reduced road casualties, lower car ownership, lower street crime (except cycle theft), and better emergency response times.

The constituent was not impressed, however, and claimed Disley’s reply “gives me no hope or trust in our council whatsoever.” Can’t win ‘em all, eh?

07 January 2022, 10:02
The undercover cyclist strikes again… as Audi driver ignores red light

In yesterday’s live blog we featured the very first episode of Undercover Cyclist, the new Channel 4 documentary series where mischievous bike riders get behind the wheel of a car, rampaging around the country doing all those things that careful, law-abiding motorists would never think of doing – like jumping a red light.

In today’s episode the undercover cyclist – in an Audi no less – blatantly ignores the temporary traffic lights, flying past the actual bike rider who (you guessed it) was coming to a stop.

In the replies, Alan was at pains to point out the filmmaker’s blatant disregard for staunchly-held stereotypes, writing “Stopping at a red light? Call yourself a cyclist?”, while Clare pithily summed up the kind of reaction we’ve come to expect from the “cyclists jump red lights brigade”:

I for one think that the Undercover Cyclist has potential, with all the footage of these motorists breaking traffic laws, completely out of character. Now where’s the commissioning editor?

Or maybe it’s an episode of Scooby Doo, where the cyclist gets de-masked at the end to reveal he was a motorist all along. “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling cyclists!” (Checks notes… the Audi driver actually did get away with it. Ah well, better luck next time Scooby).

07 January 2022, 09:14
The jam: going underground?

Remember “Teslas in Tunnels”, the latest brainwave from tech billionaire and wannabe spaceman Elon Musk?

Well in case you’ve expunged it from your mind, “Teslas in Tunnels” is Musk’s ingenious plan to “solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic” by creating a new subterranean network where users can hitch a lift across town in an electric car. Yes, you heard that right – more roads for cars, only this time underground. 

Two 0.8 mile prototype tunnels opened in Las Vegas in 2021, and local politicians have already approved a city-wide expansion of the project.

However, it appears that Musk’s ambition to put an end to traffic jams clogging up our city roads has – and this is a surprise – just moved the problem below the earth’s surface.

With congestion already posing a problem in the congestion-busting tunnels, Chris Boardman didn’t waste any time putting the boot into this latest car-centric transport fix.

Incidentally, in March 2018 Musk announced that the underground tunnels would actually prioritise cyclists and pedestrians over cars. Perhaps he should rekindle that particular idea. Or maybe just move the whole thing to space instead…

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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