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Riders on the storm at the Dutch Headwind Championships; Cycling and NFTs - what's the point?; Cycling and disability: does cycling present itself as a ‘uniquely virtuous activity’?; The Great Gravel Debate + more on the live blog

It’s Monday and welcome back to the live blog – Ryan Mallon is here as we head into the new week with all the optimism of a rider on the start line of the Dutch Headwind Championships
07 February 2022, 18:11
Harrie Larrington-Spencer - Stockport Council (photo credit - Harrie Larrington-Spencer)
Disabled cyclist accuses Stockport Council of trying to “worm its way out” of making sure that all cycling and walking routes are accessible

A researcher at the University of Salford who specialises in inclusive active travel has criticised Stockport Council’s plans for new cycling infrastructure which she claims will restrict access for disabled cyclists.

Harrie Larrington-Spencer told the Manchester Evening News that the council’s active travel plans, which include installing chicanes, bollards and barriers to combat anti-social behaviour on some cycle routes, don’t “meet the legal access requirements”.

The 31-year-old, who has reduced function in her left arm and hand after being hit by a car five years ago says that disabled people who use non-standard cycles and larger scooters will find it particularly difficult to negotiate the barriers.

“The very basic bare minimum the council should be doing, they don’t reach that, which morally is pretty disgusting. There’s a minimum and the council is trying to worm their way out of it,” she said.

“You are limiting who can access these routes, which is terrible.”

Harrie claimed that the council has misunderstood the Equality Act, by making arguments about ‘balancing’ the needs of disabled people with tackling anti-social behaviour.

In a recent meeting, Dean Fitzpatrick told Stockport Council: “I think in the way we have got unsafe, selfish, speeding, erratic car drivers, we also have the same with cyclists and we also have the same with people on scooters.”

“As councillors, our job is to try and balance everything for the whole community.”

But Larrington-Spencer says the issue is “not about balance. Disabled people have the right to access these spaces. You should be able to use the same walking and cycling routes that non-disabled people can use.

“Anti-social behaviour is a separate issue that they should be tackling. I have never seen police on these routes before. If they want to tackle anti-social behaviour, that’s what they should be doing.

“At Nelstrop Road, they have removed the barriers and put in lights and improved the surface so I can connect to Fallowfield loop to Heaton Chapel and I can go into the Active Neighbourhood area as well," she said.

"That’s a nice example of an inclusive cycle route by removing barriers. So they know what they need to do and how to do it - which possibly makes decisions like this even more frustrating.”

07 February 2022, 17:38
Does price really matter?

Silca, the bike accessory manufacturer, wrote this rather testy response to our review of its new titanium bottle cage

Does Silca have a point? Should the price of a product be taken into consideration in reviews? 

07 February 2022, 16:58
Bike Club founder responds to criticism of NFT project – “We’re going to surprise a lot of people (in a very, very good way)”

Following this morning’s blog entry, one of the founders of the NFT and Blockchain-based Bike Club, Tyler Benedict, got in touch with road.cc to defend the project.

Benedict, who also founded the cycling tech blog Bikerumor, said that despite the criticisms directed at the project on social media, the launch of Bike Club is “a good thing for the cycling community”.

“There are a lot of NFT scams out there, for sure,” Tyler told road.cc.

“You don’t need to take my word for it, or Rich’s, or anyone else’s, but the four founders have put our real names and identities behind Bike Club, along with our combined 60+ years in the industry, so our reputations are on the line.

“This isn’t something we take lightly, nor is the responsibility to deliver on the promises we’re making.

“We believe we’re building something truly special here. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people (in a very, very good way).”

Tyler and artist Rich Mitch will appear on an upcoming episode of the road.cc Podcast to discuss their plans for Bike Club, both fungible and non-fungible. So keep an eye on the blockchain for that...

07 February 2022, 16:26
"Don't these drivers know about the changes to the Highway Code?"
07 February 2022, 16:21
Clobbered by a football? Stick a cycle helmet on in case it happens again…

Here's a tale from the weekend from road.cc's own Simon MacMichael:

What this tweet doesn’t mention in just how fast the ball was travelling … curling and dipping, but missing the goal (which I presume was the intended target) and smacking my friend squarely on the right ear.

It was like a sucker punch and it’s fair to say he didn’t quite know where he was for a couple of minutes, and someone went and found a couple of paramedics who checked him over and made sure everything was okay.

A few minutes later, he said, “Hang on… ” and started rummaging around in his bag, pulled out his cycle helmet and stuck it on, which probably got the biggest cheer of the second half from the home crowd on an afternoon that ended in a 3-1 defeat.

As it turned out, lightning – or in this case, the football – didn’t strike twice and the helmet was not put to test.

07 February 2022, 14:52
That's one way to shut the door...
07 February 2022, 14:31
Tour of Valencia 2022 (via GCN)
The Great Gravel Debate

It’s that time of the year again, folks!

Remco Evenepoel’s late implosion on Friday’s stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, and subsequent criticism of the race organisers for including a particular rough section of gravel road in the final kilometres of the stage, has provoked another of cycling’s endlessly enduring pub debates: Do gravels/cobbles/wet descents/extreme weather/ridiculously steep climbs [delete as appropriate] belong in road racing?

After losing the yellow jersey to Aleksandr Vlasov, Remco claimed that the gravel section, which saw Alejandro Valverde puncture while in the lead group, was “getting close to mountain biking” and that the race “was hard enough already”.

“Sometimes in the teams and in the bunch, there is frustration that we go on such small roads that are, I’m not going to say dangerous, but you cannot win something with it, but you can lose it. You can have a flat tyre so it’s always a risk,” the Belgian prodigy said.

Remco’s views were backed up UAE Team Emirate’s Matteo Trentin, who told Cyclingnews that gravel and cobbled sections shouldn’t be included in stage races and instead should be limited to their genre-specific classics, such as Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix respectively. 

“I am not keen to see gravel in a stage race. I think we are going too far, to a spectacle we don’t need,” said Trentin.

“Maybe [Friday] was not mountain-biking, but for sure it was gravel racing. If you want to find gravel racing there are circuits for that.

“Strade Bianche is Strade Bianche, it’s a race that was born and developed that way. It’s also special because of the Tuscany roads which are not the same as all the other gravel roads you can find in Italy. Rather than try to replicate that, maybe it’s better to find something that is special to this race.

“It’s hard enough as it is and we saw in the past that a lot of GC contenders lost a lot in the cobbled sections. But there is a reason why there are Grand Tour riders and there are Classics riders. You cannot mix the two things.”

The debate inevitably spilled over to social media, where everyone’s favourite DS Johan Bruyneel weighed in, arguing that “road cycling is not a circus”:

 What do you think? Does gravel belong in professional road racing? Or should we be more concerned about other elements of race safety? Let us know!

Quiz Maker

07 February 2022, 12:49
Does cycling present itself as a ‘uniquely virtuous activity’?

An interesting debate started on Twitter yesterday concerning the language we as cyclists use to promote our favourite activity, mode of transport, sport, or hobby, especially when it comes to disability.

The debate began when disabled activist Charli Clement tweeted a photo of a sign in the Library of Birmingham which instructed visitors to “burn calories, not electricity” by using the stairs:

One Twitter user, who we featured on the blog last week, questioned whether there was anything wrong with the sign, saying: “It seems like the same argument as saying that we shouldn't encourage people to ride bikes because not everyone is able to ride a bike.

“Also, if people who don't need it don't use it, the people who DO need it won't have to wait so long for it to arrive.”

Judy’s reply prompted further discussion – led by Scottish historian and disability campaigner Dr Michael Riordan – on how cycling, as an activity, promotes and presents itself:

What do you think? Should we be more careful with the language we use to promote cycling? And is it true that we should we try to avoid presenting cycling and cyclists as part of an exclusive and “virtuous elite”?

07 February 2022, 12:11
‘Why don’t cyclists use bike lanes?’ No. 435
07 February 2022, 12:07
Zwift Elite Pro Series Feb 22
Fancy racing with the pros (virtually at least)?

If you’re one of those riders who enjoys consistently telling the club run that you could hang on during a pro race, then you’re in luck.

Elite is bringing out a new monthly race series on Zwift called the Elite Pro Series, giving amateur riders the unique opportunity to line up on the same start line as professional cyclists.

Movistar and Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ pros are confirmed for the first round, as well as riders from the men’s and women’s Movistar eTeam.

Courses will vary from month to month so everyone gets a chance to race on a course that suits their strengths.

Kicking off on 17 February at 6.30pm GMT, the first event will be held on the Magnificent 8 course, in Zwift’s main map, Watopia.

The length of the course is 28.6km (17.8 miles) and has minimal elevation gain (131m, 430 ft) - it’s one of the flatter routes, with the only climb being the reverse Hilly KOM. So suitable for those who have, shall we say, neglected the turbo trainer over the winter…

The six pros that are competing are: Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team), Alicia González (Movistar Team), Tobias Ludvigsson (Groupama-FDJ), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Vidar Mehl (Movistar eTeam) and Steph Clutterbuck (Movistar eTeam).

If you think you can hang with the pros, you can register on Zwift’s website.

To be honest, I’m still banging on about the time I rode up the Oude Kwaremont with Johan Museeuw on RGT…

07 February 2022, 11:54
Sanremo, bikes, and music – the perfect combination?

For cycling followers, Sanremo is synonymous with La Primavera, La Classicissima, the place where the first monument winner of the season is crowned.

But for fans of Eurovision, the Ligurian coastal town is the home of the Festival di Sanremo, the longest-running annual TV music competition in the world.

This year, one act decided to combine the city’s two most famous exports by wheeling diamond BMX bikes on to the stage for their performance.

Anyone who was hoping that the bikes were a tribute to cycling’s longest classic (like Queen’s Bicycle Race was inspired by the Tour de France) will be disappointed to hear that Mahmood, a former Eurovision entrant for Italy and one half of the winning duo at this year’s festival, admitted that the bikes “have no meaning at all” and that he’s just “a bit loony”.

Ah well, perhaps we’ll be treated to an homage to the sport’s oldest classic, Milano-Torino, when BMX bandits Mahmood and Blanco represent Italy during May’s Eurovision Song Contest in Turin. Maybe Graham Norton will put in a word…

07 February 2022, 11:22
Riders on the Storm

Forget Valenciana, forget Bessèges, and definitely forget the Saudi Tour – the real racing this weekend was to be found on a nine-kilometre dam by the North Sea.

The Dutch Headwind Cycling Championship is an annual time trial event which takes place on the Oosterscheldekering barrier during stormy weather.

Participants have to ride the time trial on a high bar, single speed bike provided by the organisers. As extremely windy conditions – of Wind Force 7 or higher – are necessary to stage the event, the race has no fixed date on the calendar. Riders have to be prepared at any time to race and are warned by the organisers three days before a storm is due.

This year, the 200 entrants faced one of the hardest editions to date – with wind speeds of up to 57mph, along with rain and sand thrown in for good measure.

Jurjun van der Velde won the men’s event, covering the 8.5 kilometre course in 20 minutes 23 seconds, while Lisa Scheenaard, an Olympic medallist in the double sculls, won the women’s race with a time of 22 minutes 53 seconds.

Not sure what the UCI’s extreme weather protocol makes of the whole thing…

07 February 2022, 10:26
Matt Stephens joins the NFT craze… and Cycling Twitter isn’t happy

Matt Stephens may have been commentating on the Tour of Valencia for GCN over the weekend, but it wasn’t just his astute observations about sprint finishes and – bizarrely – beekeeping that have caused a stir on Twitter.

On Saturday, the former pro turned broadcaster announced (in a very PR, copy-and-paste kind of way) that he was joining a “new, exciting project” – Bike Club, “the first blockchain based cycling club”.

Okay, Matt, we’ll bite. So what’s Bike Club? Well, Bike Club is a project co-founded at the end of last year by the cycling artist Rich Mitch (real name Richard Mitchelson) which allows members to claim one of 10,000 unique avatars in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that he has designed, serving as proof of membership. Bike Club claims it is "the first-ever blockchain-based cycling club and NFT project built for the global cycling community." 

Ah, NFTs. I’ve heard of them (though I can’t admit that I fully understand them – does anyone?). From what I gather, and bear with me if you’re taking notes at the back, you can purchase an NFT of an avatar of yourself from Bike Club, designed by Rich Mitch.

That NFT doesn’t actually exist in the real world, but a digital proof of ownership (which proves, however many times somebody right clicks your image, that you’re the true owner of it) is stored in a big internet safe known as the Blockchain, which requires so much energy that it costs a considerable chunk of the Amazon rainforest to run. So far, so good?

NFTs have been heavily criticised in recent months, with some claiming that they form part of financial scams, exploit art creators, and help destroy the planet. 

It’s all a bit strange at the moment, made even stranger by the number of celebrities and sportspeople rushing to endorse this new digital craze. Last month, Chelsea’s former captain-leader-legend John Terry announced that he had become an ambassador (or ‘head coach’) for the Ape Kids Club FC, a football-based NFT project marketed at children.  And try watching this Jimmy Fallon segment on NFTs with Paris Hilton without dying of second-hand cringe. 

Bike Club isn’t the first NFT-based cycling scheme, however. In November 2021 Wout van Aert sold three of his biggest wins as NFTs, while an NFT image of a Colnago bicycle sold for a staggering $8,600 earlier in the year. 

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough – the most trustworthy cyclist of all time, Big Tex himself, has jumped aboard the NFT train (I wonder if it’s more nuclear powered than his old US Postal train?). 

In Bike Club’s defence, there do seem to be some tangible – or should that be fungible? – benefits associated with membership, including the promise of exclusive previews of new products from partner brands or the chance to ride with pros. The group also claims that a portion of the proceeds will go to cycling charities.

Nevertheless, Stephens’ announcement ensured that the former British national champion came in for some flak on Twitter, with many criticising the environmental impact of NFTs and the lack of transparency surrounding them.

Cycling writer Simon Warren tweeted that the project was “catastrophic for the environment”, while another user said that NFTs were “terrible for the environment at worst, and a scam at best”.

Speaking of LA, does this meme win the internet for today?

Rich Mitch, who has illustrated covers for cycling magazines like Rouleur, defended the project from some of the accusations, writing: “I can guarantee you this isn't a scam”.

He also addressed the environmental cost of NFTs and how this could potentially be rectified in the future:

So what do you think? Are NFTs the future of cycling fandom or merely the latest in a long line of online snake oil? Or are you still not fully sure what on earth we’re on about?

Ryan joined road.cc 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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