Holiday photos: day 4

My beloved and I were in the Vendee for the start of the Tour de France. We had based ourselves just over the border in La Baule, well placed for the first four stages. Saturday’s opener kicked off in Noirmoutier-en-L’Ile which is attached to the mainland by the oft underwater, UNESCO protected, Passage du Gois. Luckily, there’s also a rather spectacular bridge which was used by both us and the peloton.

Proceedings got underway early so that everyone could watch THE match. Today’s photo is artwork from my dear friend Greig Leach who faithfully records the key moments of every stage. This is of the stage winner Colombian Fernando Gaviria who took the race lead, points’ jersey and that of best young rider on his maiden stage, in his debut Tour. I would’ve used one of my own photos from the stage start but the place was rammed and every photo contained bits of spectators. If only I were much taller!

Art of Cycling: The 100th Giro d’Italia

American cycling artist Greig Leach and I are working together again. Greig’s planning on producing a hardback book of his vibrant postcard sized pen and water colour paintings of each of the stages of this year’s 100th Giro d’Italia, complete with his narrative – which I’ll be editing –  stage profiles, stage winners and jersey wearers.

Now’s your chance to pre-order this magnificent memento of what’s already shaping up to be an epic edition of the Giro as it wends its way from Sardinia to Sicily, and the length and breadth of mainland Italy. The first ten days or so has been super exciting and it’s only going to build to a crescendo in the final week. You can “try before you buy” as the work and accompanying (unedited) narrative appear daily on his blog, plus he regularly posts his work on   Facebook and Twitter.


This is a Kickstarter project, so if you would like to support Greig, check out the campaign page. Contributions start very small at just US$1, but you have to commit at least US$40 for an artist signed copy of the book (with worldwide delivery) plus assorted goodies. Splash the cash and pledge a whopping US$ 500 and your book will also be signed by the winner of this year’s 100th Giro d’Italia. No prizes for guessing who’ll be collecting that all important signature once the book is published.

Of course, you can also buy Greig’s original postcard sized drawings of this year’s races (and indeed from many other races), but you’ll need to be quick. It’s a case of first come, first served! These, and indeed the book, would make wonderful presents for the cycling enthusiast(s) in your life. Or why not treat yourself to a reminder of what’s sure to be a very memorable grand tour?

Official Richmond UCI Road World Championship 2015 artist Greig Leach.

If you want to know more about Greig, please  check out my interview with him!

2015 Highlights

In a year of so many highs, which ones really stood out in yet another busy and thoroughly enjoyable year?

1. Richmond 2015 UCI Road World Championships

If I had to pick only one, this would be it for a myriad of reasons. Firstly a big shout out to the organisers and the people of Richmond for putting on a well-organised, well-supported fantastic World Championships. None will ever surpass my first in Salzburg  – a girl never forgets her first – but this one came pretty close.

Next, I (finally) got to meet Greig Leach as we began to collaborate on our second book together. On so many levels, it’s odd for him have an editor who’s not American, editing American prose. But I know that I bring my knowledge of the cycling world and obsessive eye for detail which is the perfect counter-point for Greig’s broad brush perspective. Our second book will be published in early February but you can order a copy now.

The World Championships are a great opportunity to meet up with friends old and new, including VeloVoices’ very own Panache. I’ve been working with these guys since 2012 and have still to meet everyone in person! I not only met Panache aka Chris but his lovely wife Audrey, who was nursing a broken foot, his best cycling buddy Chad and his equally lovely wife Belva. I helped Chris, Chad and another of their friends Scott have a memorable cycling holiday at the Tour a couple of years back. I think the next trip might well be in the Dolomites with their better halves! I am poised to lend a helping hand.

Sagan wins Worlds (image: Greig Leach)
Sagan wins Worlds (image: Greig Leach)

I love it when someone I know wins a race. Admittedly, Peter Sagan was one of the bookies’  favourites for the men’s road race title but, with only two team-mates and a season which had not perhaps gone the way everyone expected, the pressure was on. Peter delivered in spades with a swashbuckling attack, a risk-all descent and a hanging on for grim death finish. He was warmly congratulated by his peers and the fans after winning in style – something he does only too well.

2. Three Grand Departs

More by accident than design, this year I was fortunate to attend the start of all three of the grand tours. Impossible to pick a favourite as they were all special for many reasons. The Tour is always fantastically well-organised and I take my hat off to anyone who can organise the equivalent of 21 Royal Weddings with barely a hitch. It runs like a well-oiled machine but its sheer size mitigates against rider and fan intimacy which is much more easily achieved at both the Giro and Vuelta which are both rather more laid back affairs.

3. My Beloved Aston Villa

My late father (far left) holding 1957 FA Cup won by AVFC
My late father (far left) holding 1957 FA Cup won by AVFC

The boys managed to reach the FA Cup final where they were roundly beaten by a vastly superior Arsenal but, more importantly, they managed to (again) stave off relegation. Unfortunately, key players wanted out and were sold to be replaced with a bunch of very promising youngsters, including a player from my French team OGCN. A change of managers has not managed to lift the boys off the bottom of the Premiership where they languish easily in last place. I fear for them, I really do. Let’s hope they get their act together under Remi Gard (who is a disciple of OGCN Manager Claude Puel) and play (much) better in the first half of 2016. I’m hoping Gus will lend us Loic Remy, another ex-OGCN and OC Lyon player, who can score goals.

The next chapter……………………..

Since returning from the Road World Championships in Richmond, I have been busy editing Greig’s latest opus. This time we don’t have to worry about raising sufficient finance. The book, The Art of Cycling: Richmond 2015 UCI Road World Championships, is being underwritten by the local newspaper which will also be handling its nationwide marketing.

 

Cobbles climb: iconic view from the races
Cobbles climb: iconic view from the races

I learnt a massive amount from editing Book de Tour and I’m delighted to be able to put that into practice. I follow a rigorous routine whereby I initially correct all the typographical errors. I then check the facts to make sure Greig’s correctly interpreted the race, appreciating that, this time around, he had many distractions. He painted from a live feed in the Greater Richmond Convention Center right opposite the podium and not from his home studio.

He enjoyed a very visible presence while painting and selling his original artwork, and prints, meeting many of the competitors, their family, television crews, and a number of his own admirers. Greig tells his wonderful tale in the book’s introduction.

Double art whammy as racer goes past Greig's mural
Double art whammy as racer goes past Greig’s mural

It was also the first time we had met in person, but sadly our respective schedules precluded too much interaction. Cue another visit to Richmond!

I then try to weave the story of the individual races from the individual narratives under each of Greig’s paintings. Obviously, as a resident, he was able to add plenty of local colour and individual perspective. However, unlike Book de Tour, the landscape was pretty much the same for every event. In addition, many of the competitors were completely unknown to either of us. But we tried not to let these be limiting factors.

One particular hurdle for Grieg was the lack of television coverage of any of the junior events. Luckily, he had friends out on the course who sent him photographs which he could then reproduce in his own inimitable fashion.

Having got the story straight, I meticulously check all the wording. Who knew there was such a wide variation in American-English and English-English? And then there’s the grammar! Our transatlantic cousins are mighty fond of the comma. I also have to be careful to keep Greig’s “voice”. He has a particular way of talking that I am at pains to preserve. We pore over the narrative regularly via Skype.

Flying flag in support of
Flying flag in support of France

 

Team time-trial World Champions
Team time-trial World Champions

Meanwhile, Greig’s still painting: flags, team jerseys and course maps. These help to further illustrate the narrative and results. I do my bit with the start lists. These I can download from the UCI site and transfer from pdf to word documents. We want to ensure that everyone who took part is included in the book. It’s a painstaking task converting pdf documents into word ones and re-checking every detail.

Each race has its own map showing where on the course the riders were painted
Each race has its own map showing where on the course the riders were painted

Then there’s the thorny question of who to ask for a foreword plus quotes for the sleeve jacket. Again, with Greig’s growing reputation, this proved a much easier task than with Book de Tour. Kathryn Bertine, one of the better known and higher-profile figures in women’s cycling provided a glowing, but well-deserved, foreword. I had no trouble getting a quote from newly crowned world champion Peter Sagan, despite asking him the week before his nuptials.

After a day spent editing, I like to leave checking the draft [book] until the following day to get better perspective. Yesterday, I sent everything to Amy, the publisher’s designer, who’ll set the book into the previously agreed format. She does this with Adobe InDesign, a programme with which I have no familiarity.

This will then allow Grieg and I to pore over the book from cover to cover to check its consistency. There’s a couple of things we’ve done differently this time. Specifically, we’ve omitted accents, largely because the UCI ignored them in the official start lists but also because of the vast amount of time I spent checking and re-checking the correct spelling of participants’ names last time.

In Book de Tour, Greig used the start list from a respected and popular website which contained no less than 60 errors! A pretty startling number given there were only 198 starters!

One of Richmond's many Monuments
One of Richmond’s many Monuments

We’ve also avoided the use of typical cycling terms such as bidons. The Americans call them drinks bottles and so have we. This avoids having to provide a glossary, though we have a section on Frequently Asked Questions based on Greig’s post-worlds experience. It appears that a number of Richmonders have seen the light, embraced cycling, become fans, and sought further information from Greig

Greig’s now working on the book cover, using one of the striking paintings which shows a readily recognisable Richmond scene. While, I’ll be checking and re-checking the content with the designer.

Sadly, the book won’t be available before Xmas though the newspaper will be pre-selling the book and offering book certificates to be exchanged in February. I do know one thing, I will not be collecting autographs on a copy of the book though I may ask Peter Sagan to sign a number for Greig and his supporters – a nice memento.

Postcard from Richmond, VA

My beloved’s halo has slipped. Having downloaded the instructions on how to get to Richmond from Long Island, he decided to ignore them and go off-piste. I can’t tell you how often he does this but usually GPS gets us back on track – not this time, no GPS.

We were staying in a hotel just outside of Richmond, far enough away from the madding crowd. This was my tenth consecutive World Championships and expectations were high after one of the organising committee told me it was to  modelled on my first, and still my favourite championships, which were held in Salzburg, Austria.

We drove in early Sunday morning for our preliminary reconnaissance of the course, when Richmond more closely resembled a ghost town, which allowed us to marvel at the splendour of their civic buildings before the crowds came out and, more importantly, decide where we wanted to stand and watch the racing.

2015-09-20 WCHogwarts
Hogwarts?
Typical colonial building
Typical colonial building next to statue of George Washington

We based ourselves in The Marriott Hotel on the finish line: television, great WiFi, restrooms and refreshments readily available and right opposite the convention centre for the podium ceremony and press conference.

The racing kicked off with the trade team time-trials with BMC successfully defending their crown, as did Velocio-SRAM in the women’s. It was somewhat poignant victory as four-time winners Velocio are disbanding at the end of the season.

Rohan Dennis: BMC defended their World Championship crown
Rohan Dennis: Proud of his second gold medal
It’s Monday, the sun has gone, the crowds have thinned, volunteers outnumber the crowd, my beloved has departed for a two-day business trip to Baltimore and I’m flying solo, sans camera. Happily, he was back for Wednesday’s elite men’s time-trial where Belorussian Vasil Kiryienka prevailed –  to the surprise of many.
Gold medal winning performance
Gold medal winning performance
Thursday there was no racing which gave us ample opportunity to explore Richmond. We spent a delightful morning at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, built around a number of very generous donated local collections, and explored the historic area of Carytown which has the finest examples of Victorian housing in the US. We ventured along W. Cary St littered with property porn which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Surrey commuter belt.
Richmond Historical Society
Richmond Historical Society
 I was amused to see they had a “Downton” Exhibition. They do know it’s only a television programme, don’t they?
VMFA
VMFA

A month away from Halloween and many houses had pots of matching chrysanthemums and gi-normous pumpkins on their porches.

Bountiful harvest
Bountiful harvest

While we were sightseeing the teams were out training in glorious sunshine on the road race course.

Kazak team out training
Kazak team out training

The biggest group of fans, apart from those supporting the US, were the Eritreans. Over 400 – or was it 4,000? – had come in hired coaches from all over the US. They were enthusiastic and very noisy supporters – just what the riders ordered.

Teams training
Teams training including the Eritreans

Back to the racing and on Friday, USA’s Chloe Dygert and Emma White, who had won gold and silver in the time-trial respectively, got in the day’s break with Dygert going solo to take her second gold. She had such a large time gap over the chasing group that she cruised over the line. I could easily have kept pace with her. White collected her second silver.

Double gold medal winner USA's Chloe Dygart
Double gold medal winner USA’s Chloe Dygart

Changes to the men’s U23 meant that riders in ProContinental teams were now eligible to take part and the French, who have a great record in this competition, were much fancied. France’s Kevin Ledanois and Anthony Turgis didn’t disappoint going one-two on the day.

France's Kevin Ledanois: the winner!
France’s Kevin Ledanois: the winner!
Austria springs a surprise in the junior men's race.
Austria’s Felix Gall springs a surprise in the junior men’s race.

The elite women’s race was very aggressive with riders constantly pinging off the front and being brought to heel. Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead capped a glittering season with a gold medal – next stop Rio and Olympic gold.

Offensive riding by the women along the leafy and historic Boulevard
Offensive riding by the women along the leafy and historic Boulevard

Finally, the blue riband event which had supporters out in force, particularly on Libby Hill which resembled a mini Alp d’Huez. In my book, there was only one favourite and he prevailed – a very popular winner.

2015-09-27 WCmensRRbreak
The early break
The Dutch giving chase
The Dutch giving chase
The Germans preparing to lend the Dutch a hand
The Germans preparing to lend the Dutch a hand

Former world champion Tom Boonen looked lively throughout the race even getting into one of the breaks. He’s keeping a close eye on Alejandro Valverde who, despite five trips to the podium, has yet to stand on the top step. Would that change today?

2015-09-27 WCmensRRtom
Tom Boonen looking lean and mean

Slovakia’s Peter Sagan followed an attack by Greg Van Avermaet and just kept on going from 2.7km out. Some daredevil descending and superb cornering allowed him to build a three second cushion which was enough to see him solo over the line.

A very popular victor
A very popular victor

This man captured all the action which will be in a book edited by me and published in time for Christmas. Be sure to add it to your letter to Santa.

Official Richmond 2015 artist Greig Leach.
Official Richmond 2015 artist Greig Leach.

Highlights

New Year’s Day is not a bad time for sober reflection on the last 12 months. What were the highlights of another busy and thoroughly enjoyable year? In no particular order, here goes:-

1. Amael Moinard (BMC) wins stage 2 of Tour du Haut Var in Draguigan

Amael Moinard

There’s nothing nicer than seeing someone you know win. Particularly someone who spends most of the season working his socks off for his team mates. We saw Amael’s victory in the company of his wife and children which made it even more special. His two young boys were thrilled, going onto the podium with their father to receive the trophy. A moment they’ll always treasure, which was captured by the mother of another professional rider who kindly gave me the picture. A fellow VeloVoice (Thanks Chris) gave it the Andy Warhol treatment, I had it printed and it now hangs in the Moinard’s hallway. A constant reminder of a special moment, one we were fortunate to share.

2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) wins Vuelta al Pais Vasco

VpVstage1winnerBertir

A stunning win on stage one by Bertie in truth secured him the overall. He looked to be back to his best, heralding the prospect of a thrilling summer of racing.

3. Book de Tour

book du tour small cover for style v5

I edited Greig Leach’s narrative accompanying his marvellous record of last year’s Tour de France. It wasn’t the Tour we were all anticipating but it was none the less thrilling. The crowds for the UK Grand Depart in Yorkshire were unprecedented –  wonderful to see, and experience. The race had more twists than a barleycorn, an emphatic victor and each stage’s tales were beautifully captured by Greig in bright clear colours which convey a real sense of movement, occasion and emotion. I’m hoping this first successful foray into printed medium will be just the start of a new venture for Greig. His paintings deserve to be more widely shared.

4. The Basque Country

Cycling: 32th Clasica San Sebastian 2012

We managed three visits by dint of our trip along the northern coastline of Spain to last year’s World Championship in Ponferrada. We’re slowly exploring more and more of the region on two wheels and refining our list of must-visit hotels, restaurants and bars. It’s a region which never fails to delight us and we’d move there in a nano second were it not for the weather. Once again we visited places we might never have gone to were it not for bike racing and our lives would be poorer because of it.

5. Marquez Boys Double

marc-marquez-alex-marquez-motogp-moto3

Having watched Marc Marquez take the world of MotoGP by storm, breaking records every which way since his rookie season in the 125cc class, it was great to see him (easily) retain his World Championship and for his younger brother Alex take the MotoGP3 title. Their parents must be so proud of them.

6. Conviviality of Cannondale Pro Cycling

Jake Hamm CPC Studio 8785b

Our friends at G4 provided the casual wear for Cannondale and, because I lend them a hand wherever I can, I got to spend time at training camps and races with the boys. We were made to feel part of the extended Italian family and looked forward to meeting up with them at races. In return, I think the boys enjoyed my cakes which I believe have moved up a notch since moving from club events to WorldTour. While the name continues, the team’s backbone is no more. But we wish all the former staff and riders every success in their new teams and roles. Thank you for a memorable year, we’ll cherish it forever.

You may have noticed that, one way or another, every highlight involved two wheels! I’m hoping 2015 continues in a similar vein.

Just around the corner

Life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolates-620x440I’m going to have to disagree with Mr Gump. Life isn’t like a box of chocolates. They come with a guide so you can avoid the fillings you don’t like – and there’s plenty I don’t like. No, the wonderful thing about life is that we never really know what’s around the corner.  When I gave up my job in the City over 10 years’ ago now, I didn’t know what I would do but was excited by the prospect of getting well out of my comfort zone. I feel I’ve finally arrived.

I’m currently working having great fun on a newish project. Earlier this year, while skimming my Twitter timeline, I caught sight of a delightful painting. It was by an artist called Greig Leach, based in Richmond Virginia, the official artist for next year’s World Road Race Championships. I contacted him and asked if I could interview him for VeloVoices where we’re mightily keen on posters, paintings and photographs of cycling and cyclists. He agreed.

The picture that had caught my eye was one of his postcard-sized water colour and ink paintings. He produces a series of these during the year’s major races. I bought one of Peter Sagan’s (Cannondale) stage win into Montpellier in last year’s Tour de France and gave it to him for being voted VeloVoices Rider 2013. The picture now hangs in his entrance hall.

Peter and award2

Throughout the season, wherever possible, I’ve used these postcard-sized paintings to illustrate articles and frequently attach them to my Twitter and Facebook posts. Before the start of this year’s Tour, Greig approached me with a proposition. He wanted to turn his paintings of the Tour into a coffee table book.  He was going to raise the necessary cash on the crowd-funding site, KickStarter, following the template of a friend who’d successfully financed a similar project. Would I edit the book?

book du tour small cover for style v5

I’ve never done anything like this before but that didn’t deter me. My blogposts for VeloVoices are expertly edited by one of our three main writers.  No one edits these posts but then they’re just ramblings intended for friends and family. I often come back for a quick tidy up a week or so after I’ve posted. It is, of course, always easier to spots the errors of others. I should add that as an accountant I’ve proof-read many sets of accounts and, when I worked in investment banking, many legal documents. Editing’s a rather more skilled proposition.

Of course, I readily agreed. Who wouldn’t? I also helped publicise the project. I was advised to “bother the crap out of everyone you know!” Wise words. I took that advice to heart and pestered everyone I knew and lots I don’t. All in a good cause you understand.

Crowd-funding sites advise that projects which raise at least 30% of the required funds in their first week-end are more likely to be successful. We had barely raised 5%. But our target audience was watching a gripping Tour de France, with more highs and lows than the Alps. It all came together in the last week of fundraising, the week after the Tour finished!

Saying Farewell

As an editor, it’s rather tempting to superimpose what you might have written  but you shouldn’t. It’s not your tale to tell. Of course, it should be error free even though it’s written in a language not your own – American English. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been a challenge. I have cast my eagle eye over everything. And, I do mean everything. I have even checked that the racing numbers on the back of the jerseys correspond to the riders named in the narrative.

It’s only when you undertake such an exercise that you realise how many errors there are on most websites. You need to establish creditable reference points. Greig takes his Tour feed from NBC where the commentators are the much-revered pairing of Liggett and Sherwen.  Please don’t believe everything they tell you. I could find no substance for a number of their claims in my large library of Tour reference books.  It’s painstaking work and surprisingly time-consuming but then I’ve been on a steep learning curve and have gained plenty from the process.

The book is taking shape. Of course, it is all about the paintings but I want the narrative to do them justice.  I’ve also had to bear in mind that while Grieg and I are fans of the sport, it’ll be bought and read by some that are not. Just how much do you need to explain? More than you might imagine but not too much that it becomes tedious.

We’re on a tight schedule, the book is due shortly at the printers for its first blue-lined draft. We want that draft to be perfect – corrections cost money. The printed copies will roll off the presses at the beginning of November – just in time for Christmas. It’ll be the perfect gift for art-lovers, art-loving cyclists, cycling fans, cyclists and anyone else you know.

My work doesn’t stop there. I rashly promised Greig I’d get some signed by the Tour winner and he included this carrot in some of his crowd-funding incentive packages.

Safely Home

In recent days we’ve heard that the book is going to the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair. I’ve had to provide the publisher with a picture (cringe) and potted bio where I failed dismally to make myself suited to the job of editor.

Of course, we need to generate as many sales as possible in the window before the next Tour and I’m hoping that this will just be the start of Greig’s production line. Next up the Giro d’Italia, then the Vuelta a Espana, The Cycling Season and………………….

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Book de Tour here!

Links:  Greig’s paintings of this year’s Tour de France and La Course (with unedited narrative)