The Tour Pool needs you!

The Tour de France starts in a few short days and that means the Tour Pool is back for 2014. I can say goodbye to my free time, on the other hand …

Think of the children!

Think of the children!

Last year, the Tour Pool raised $1,500 for the National Capital Region Espoir Bursary, which supports local up-and-coming cyclists. I’d love to be able to say we’ve raised even more this year — think of the children (pictured)! — and the one thing we need in order to do that is more entrants.

So please head on over to the Tour Pool website in the next day or two and sign up (once we have a workable start list …) and convince some friends to do likewise. Again, think of the children!

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The Ottawa doldrums

Cyclists' bane: the snow on the capital's pathways is left to melt of its own accord, leaving sections like this one near Island Park that remain blocked for weeks after the rest of the pathway is clear.

Cyclists’ bane: the snow on the capital’s pathways is left to melt of its own accord, leaving sections like this one near Island Park that remain blocked for weeks after the rest of the pathway is clear.

For all the boastful talk about Canada’s capital being a cycling destination, it’s a pretty crappy place to ride a bike at this time of year.

Of course, you can’t blame anyone other than Mother Nature for the melting snow that makes for soaking feet and salt-encrusted bikes for a couple weeks each spring. But it’s hard to buy into the spin about the region’s commitment to cycling when nobody makes even a token effort to reopen the major bike routes once the temperature creeps back above zero.

Given the long and hard winter we all just lived through, the snow has melted remarkably fast these last couple weeks, leaving most roads in the region both snow- and melt off-free — especially in the surrounding countryside. In many ways it’s been a great spring for cycling, with a one-week transition from skiing to biking. Just don’t try to use the region’s pathways to get in and out of town. Continue reading

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OBC Grand Prix a victim of cycling’s popularity

Bike races die for lots of reasons.

My timeboard operator, Jenny Vipond, and Gord Fraser await the start of the 2013 OBC Grand Prix. Sadly, it was to be the last edition.

My timeboard operator, Jenny Vipond, and Gord Fraser await the start of the 2013 OBC Grand Prix. Sadly, it was to be the last edition.

Usually, it’s a shortage of money. Sometimes it’s a lack of entries. Occasionally it’s because a venue becomes unavailable.

But this is the first time I’ve heard of a race getting cancelled because cycling is too popular.

The Ottawa Bicycle Club announced this week that the OBC Grand Prix is cancelled for 2014 because the venue, Gatineau Park, has become too congested with … recreational cyclists. Continue reading

Posted in Cycling, Gatineau Park, Ottawa, Racing | 3 Comments

Stevens Racing-OVP Fundraising dinner hits the spot

Members of the Stevens Racing-The Cyclery women's and men's teams with Stevens Canada importer Peter Metuzals, middle. Photo by Zara Ansar

Members of the Stevens Racing-The Cyclery women’s and men’s teams with Stevens Canada importer Peter Metuzals, middle. Photo by Zara Ansar

An evening out with good friends is never a bad thing. Even better is doing it for a good cause.

Close to 120 people came out to St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall Saturday evening for the Stevens Racing Fundraising Dinner, raising more than $6,000 to be shared between the Stevens Racing-The Cyclery team and the Ottawa Velodrome Project.

With the region in the grip of an unusually severe winter, it was a social evening the Ottawa cycling community needed.

Mike Woods, left, was one of the bursary recipients. Photo by Zara Ansar

Mike Woods, left, was one of the bursary recipients. Photo by Zara Ansar

Highlights included an auction of Stevens team members as “domestiques for a day” to the highest bidders, and the announcement of the 2014 National Capital Region bursary winners.

A big thanks to organizers Chris Reid and Nick Vipond, and to everyone who helped make the evening a success!

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A $75 ticket to cycling greatness

fundraising event 500 pxThe value of money is a relative thing.

As you grow older and the house you live in is worth half a million dollars, the car you drive sells for $30K and the bike you ride retails for $5 grand, it’s easy to lose perspective on what all those dollars actually represent.

For an aspiring bike racer, every penny counts. A career can hinge on $20, which could be the difference between getting to a race that can lead to a pro contract, and staying at home and missing out.

That’s why raising funds for our young up-and-coming local riders is so important. The Ottawa cycling community is made up of smart and affluent people, and on Jan. 25 there’s a great opportunity for them to make a big contribution to the future of our local talent. Continue reading

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Working it

I’ve been involved in bike racing for nearly 30 years now, so that means I’ve worked a lot of different jobs.

That’s the great thing about being Canadian. Because cycling is a small sport here, if you’re involved, you get really involved and you end up learning a lot of different skills. You may not truly master any of them, but at least you learn enough to know what not to do.

As a result, besides being an international bike racer in my day, I’ve been a mechanic at the Olympic Games Pan Am Games and professional six-days; I’ve been a team director; I’ve done neutral support for Mavic; I’ve been the time board guy on a motorbike; I’ve been a race organizer, a race director, a commissaire and a TV commentator; I’ve been the motorbike driver for a time board guy, as well as for photographers; I’ve been a cycling journalist, a coach, a VIP driver, a public relations person and a logistics guy. And I’ve done radio tour.

But while it’s great to do so many different things, if you stay in Canada you can’t truly master any of these tasks because you simply don’t get exposed to the next level.

A case in point: I first did radio tour at the Tour de Beauce about 10 years ago, and it was a great experience. For those who don’t know, radio tour is the broadcast system that feeds information to all the team directors following a road race. The radio tour operator sits in the chief commissaire’s car behind the peloton and keeps everyone informed on breakaways, time gaps mechanical problems and so on. It’s a lot of fun because you have your finger on the pulse of the race, but it’s a big responsibility because the teams will make tactical decisions based on the information you give them.

But of course, the Tour de Beauce is a relatively low-key Canadian race. Any mistakes I made were no big deal, and since nobody told me what to do I found my own way of doing the job. No problem there — I figured doing radio tour in Beauce would be the beginning and end of my radio tour career.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was asked to do radio tour for the Grands Prix Cyclistes in Quebec and Montreal — the only WorldTour races in the Americas. For the uninitiated, these races feature the best teams and riders in the world, and they’re run to a truly professional standard.

In other words, I would be broadcasting to the creme de la creme of the cycling world, along with a raft of VIPs, and I would be doing it largely in French, with former Tour de France contender Charly Mottet sitting to my right to tell me what I was doing wrong.

So when the big day rolled around earlier today, the prospect of being the voice of the bike race for the next five hours was daunting to say the least.

Of course, I did make mistakes, and Charly had a lot of advice — most of it on things like when to say the riders’ number and when to say his name — but all in all it went pretty well.

And, more importantly for me, it was a chance to step up to the next level and push the envelope on my skills. For Sunday’s race in Montreal, it should go even better. If you’re there, wave to me — I’ll be in the red car behind the peloton, with “President du Jury” written on it.


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24 Hours goodbye

The last edition of 24 Hours Ottawa, Aug. 2, 2013.

The last edition of 24 Hours Ottawa, Aug. 2, 2013.

Friday marked the final edition of 24 Hours Ottawa, the free weekday newspaper published by the Ottawa Sun.

It was also my workplace for four years: I was 24 Hours editor at the Sun from 2008 to 2012.

It’s not much of a surprise to see 24 Hours go; in fact, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did, and while the reasons behind the paper’s demise are alarming, if I’m honest it’s not all that disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful for my time at the paper because I learned a lot. But that education came not from being 24 Hours editor because after the first few months that job only took up a small fraction of my time.

When I was hired early in 2008, there were two 24 Hours papers in the region: The English one in Ottawa and the French one in Gatineau. The English one, like other 24 Hours papers across the country, was filled largely with recycled Ottawa Sun content, with the exception of daily contributions by a roster of columnists who were paid by the piece. Occasionally there might have been a story assigned specifically with 24 Hours in mind, but for the most part the only thing that distinguished 24 Hours content from the Sun was the choice of stories. In general, the editorial stance was skewed to a younger, more female readership, so it was less conservative and sensationalist than the Sun. Essentially, it was an orange counterpart to the green Metro paper and existed simply to ensure that Metro didn’t scoop up all the advertising revenue the free commuter paper market could bear. Continue reading

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The Tour Pool is back for 2013!

Maurice Garin, winner of the inaugural Tour de France in 1903, enjoys a smoke. Not sure what the butcher is there for.

Maurice Garin, winner of the inaugural Tour de France in 1903, enjoys a smoke. Not sure what the butcher is there for.

UPDATE: The Tour Pool website disappeared so I had to build a new one. I’ve updated the link below, and here it is again:

It’s time to hunker down and get this annual Tour Pool thingy up and running.

As you can see by the announcement, the 13th edition of the Tour de France pool is back, and it just so happens it coincides with the 100th edition of the Tour de France.

That’s a lot of editions, and as you can see in the photo plenty has changed over the years in equipment, clothing and attitudes towards smoking.

But a couple things haven’t changed in the Tour Pool: It’s still awesome, and it’s still a great way to contribute to up-and-coming Ottawa-area cyclists while having a great time. In fact, the Tour Pool has become the No. 1 contributor to the Seenite Sports Espoir Bursary.

Check out the website, do your research and get ready for 2013!

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Cyclists supporting cyclists

Arianne Bonhomme, Evan McNeely and Conor O'Brien.

Arianne Bonhomme, Evan McNeely and Conor O’Brien.

The funniest jokes are the ones with an element of truth to them.

That’s why the gag 2:00 into this video is hilarious — a lot of cyclists are cheap bastards.

But not all of them, and not all the time.

For 14 years Ottawa-area cyclists have scraped together their pennies to support the National Capital Region cycling bursary. This week, the bursary committee — founder Ross Knight, Doug Corner and myself — announced the 2013 winners.

They’re Ariane Bonhomme, Evan McNeely and Conor O’Brien. Continue reading

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Tuck and roll

It’s amazing when you’re heading into an unavoidable collision how everything begins to move in slow motion.

It’s been many years since I last experienced this phenomenon, but I got reacquainted with it on Sunday thanks to finding myself behind the wrong people at the wrong time at the Calabogie Road Classic.

I have some decent fitness after cranking out more than 2,000 kilometres in sunny Mallorca, so entering the Calabogie race seemed like a good idea. What’s more, it’s a race I’ve never done before, and it’s held on a cool motor racing circuit just over an hour west of Ottawa. Continue reading

Posted in Racing, Uncategorized | 2 Comments