Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Frenchman in Paris?

Tradition, passion and the question of science

So the French are doing rather well in their home tour are they? That is most certainly not a bad thing, especially given the dearth of French results in the post-Jalabert era. Thomas Voeckler’s decade-long exploits aside, it has been quite some time since the podium in Paris has had French-feet upon it. From the teary-eyed Laurent Fignon to the boyish charm of Richard Virenque, the sight of a French rider adorning overall rostrum has become but a distant memory. Yet this could change come Sunday, as Le Tour enters the streets of the capital city, marking the end of three weeks of toil.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Understated Sages

Of non-conformists, weirdos and the slightly different

Conventional wisdom is a term that frequently pops up in websites and blogs over the broad scope of health, fitness and sport. Credited to a 1950s economist named John Galbraith, its meaning is essentially those ideas generally accepted by experts in any particular field, the result of conforming effectively preserving the status quo of whatever.

In today’s modern society, particularly athletics, there seems to be an increasing demand for “how to” guides in almost everything: how to complete an ironman triathlon on eight hours a week; how to boost your immune system in seven easy steps; how to ride a bicycle faster uphill. Whilst this plethora of information is no doubt useful to a point, it is important to remember that most of this regurgitated advice - if blindly followed - can actually limit an individual’s true potential.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Commonwealth Games 1994

Memories of the Friendly Games

No South African male road cyclists at the 2014 Commonwealth Games? A travesty no doubt given the increasing number of riders capable of wearing the Green and Gold with distinction. The how’s and why’s aside, it may be worth a walk down memory lane when the talent pool was somewhat restricted and opportunities were not as forthcoming.

It’s not that long ago when South African riders in continental Europe were somewhat of a novelty. While there were plenty who “cut their teeth” on the Belgian kermesse scene, a homegrown rider on a mainstream European team seemed far flung and exotic. Granted that the likes of Mark Beneke and Willie Engelbrecht did spend an extended period riding for the Belgian ADR squad in the late-eighties (albeit under assumed-names), it was not until 1999 that the likes of Robert Hunter and David George turned professional with more fashionable trade teams.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Le Tour 2014: Personality Fit

Of vagabonds, panache and Kalahari natives

With the 2014 edition of Le Tour having spent some time in Great Britain, the peloton is now back on French soil with somewhat predicable results.

Thomas Voeckler certainly seemed thrilled to be “home”, so much so that he attacking effectively from the gun on stage four, providing the viewers with his usual theatrical display of facial expressions, unorthodox cornering techniques and panache. Ah, those French; brings back memories of the equally irrepressible Thierry Marie, whose lone exploits netted him several days in yellow back in 1991. Needless to say that the partisan crowds must have been going wild for the diminutive Voeckler, who hails from the far-flung overseas department of France known as Martinique. The term “character” could sum up the Frenchman quite well, one of dying breed of riders for whom feel and intuition dictate how they train and race. The Team Europcar rider trains according to his mood and the daily wind direction: high spirits call for lengthy sessions in the headwinds; tiredness and apathy lend gentle spins in the shelter of the French hedges.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Rhythmic Routine

La Grande Boucle, sleep and athletic rituals

With only a few days to go until Le Tour 2014, I would imagine that there is a fair amount of nervous anticipation among riders, management and sponsors alike. Notice how the ordering of the respective role players reflects the hierarchical food chain of pro cycling; everybody is nervous but for different reasons. Performance, logistics and return could be among the foremost thoughts of each party.

Perhaps the most put out are the riders, some of whom could be assailed with varying levels of self-doubt that comes with less than perfect form, health or general well-being. Living on the razor’s edge of peak fitness is a fine balancing act, where surroundings and habit are perhaps two of the most important contributing factors to this notion. Routine is everything to an elite athlete, where the repetition of a simple day template is key to achieving harmony and peace of mind; a safety blanket of sorts.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Adventures in Pure Motivation

Consistency, compromise and adaptation

Having just passed the winter solstice as well as the realization that 2014 marks my twenty year high school reunion has given rise to some philosophical reflection. Whilst it is not necessarily of benefit to live in the past, memories – good and bad – can in fact be invaluable in seizing the now and building for the future.

Whenever I think back to1994, I'm immediately taken back to time of great anticipation, incredible drive and just enjoying the moment. While this year no doubt stands out in South Africa's turbulent history, the aforementioned emotions relate to my personal mindset at the time. In short, I was in state of pure motivation.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Athletes of the ITU: Kate Roberts

A Journey in Athletic Excellence

The recent announcement of the South African Commonwealth Games team was met with a variety of reactions. As with the selection of many a national sports team, the ensuing inclusions and omissions do create much discussion, be it in the media, among the athletes affected or within the general sporting public.

For triathlete Kate Roberts though, selection to compete in Glasgow 2014 brought about great relief, not to mention a validation of sorts. Relief in a sense that her recovery from a lingering foot injury signalled a return to top-flight competition; validation in that she has retained her place in a sport that she has pursued professionally for over a dozen years. As with many elite athletes though, current form and notoriety is but only a snapshot of an immensely long journey to the top. Each of these guys and girls has made countless sacrifices in pursuit of their respective sporting goals, their commitment not limited to athletic prowess alone.