Saturday, July 26, 2008

In defence of Cadel

Boring ... wheel-sucker ... never attacks ... most unworthy winner ever (if he wins). There are a lot of people who don't rate Cadel.

I still think he is the best rider in the race and will be pulling on the the yellow jersey later tonight.

The way he rides to his strengths reminds me a lot of Miquel Indurain. I doubt Cadel will manage five wins, but if you think back to the flack that Big Mig used to get for blowing everyone away in the time trial and then sitting on wheels in the mountains it is quite uncanny.

In my opinion a lot of the negative publicity is purely down to the number of journalists covering the race and looking for any small piece of controversy. Sure, Serge the bodyguard is a bit over the top and his tantrum after the crash didn't show him in the best light. There is also the annoying whiny voice ...

But, you have to admit that has shown himself to be a pretty interesting and complex character. On the bike he looks confident and in control even when losing time. Off the bike he seems less sure of himself and more nervous. And, even though it often seems to be about so much more, the beauty of The Tour is that the best bike-rider is always the man in yellow on the Champs Élysées.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Alp

Last night I made the tactical decision to go to bed once the race leaders crested the Cime de la Bonnette-Restefond, gaining an extra 20 minutes sleep and assuming that nothing much would happen on the run-in to Jausiers:
  • Menchov loses 35 seconds on the descent (he must be glad that today is an uphill finish)
  • John-Lee Augustyn goes from likely stage winner to lucky to be finishing in one mis-judged corner
  • And Cadel Evans headbutts a cameraman
Hmmm. I feel almost as silly as Felix Lowe must be feeling today ...

I won't be making the same mistake tonight. By the time the stage finishes atop Alpe d'Huez it should be much clearer who will be in yellow on Sunday night. If Cadel can stick with Frank and Bernhard then he will likely be the first Australian to win, if he loses less than a minute or two he will probably still be OK, more than that and it will be one of the others in the top 5.

One of my favourite items of clothing when I was younger was a t-shirt from Bourg d'Oisans at the foot of Alpe d'Huez. I can't remember what the image was, but it was a white t-shirt with bright green text and drawing.

Monday, July 21, 2008

New books

For some reason getting books in the mail is far more exciting than going into a shop and buying them. Maybe the delay heightens the anticipation and whets the appetite. Maybe the extra expense means that only truly interesting titles get the privilege. Or perhaps in this case it is the knowledge that I couldn't just go into a shop and purchase them off the shelf.

Both of these look great. I haven't read anything by either author before, but hope that they might become new favourites. I have read a review and some poetry by Kathleen Jamie in The London Review of Books and am embarrassed that I hadn't found her books before know. From the same school of Scottish writing as Andrew Greig (who she seems to have had a bit of thing going on with ...) and treading a similar path to Robert MacFarlane's The Wild Places how could it not be brilliant?

Sputnik Caledonia is about a young boy who wants to become Scotland's first cosmonaut. For someone who was born the year that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, just missed the excitement of the space-race, but grew up with visions of rockets and space travel this is an irresistible premise for a novel.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Song for Sunday

One of my all time favourites. From one of my favourite bands.

Rain falls likes Elvis' tears ...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Liquid ether

Lovely piece of writing by Christos Tsiolkas, from The Age a few weeks ago, about the pleasures (and dangers) of the night, growing up in Melbourne and the transition from childhood to adult.

The print article is accompanied by one of my favourite Bill Henson photographs, which complements the writing beautifully.

Song for Sunday

Friday, July 4, 2008

23 days in July

My favourite time of the year is just around the corner, the greatest annual sporting event in the world is about to begin and I have been in training for sleep-deprivation, swotting up on facts and form and examining stage maps and profiles ...

And the big question this year is Cadel can win it? I really do think he can. The course suits him, the preparation has been good, but not too perfect and the changes to the rules will help him. I also think he has the experience and confidence to ride his own race and not be distracted worrying about the competition.

Sastre and Valverde are going to be the main rivals. I still don't think that Cunego has the legs for the high mountains, but hope to see Andy Schleck and Ricco do well in that arena. Menchov will also be a threat, but I just think he will have one bad day that will put him out of reach of the podium.

The Silence-Lotto team has obviously been built around Cadel's potential this year, leaving Robbie out in the cold, but ironically I think this will help him take the jersey for the fourth time. Cavendish is gaining in confidence every day and will be close by, with the ever reliable Hushovd just behind.

So here's the full list of predictions. Two jerseys and the overall for Australia? Yes, I think it just might happen.

1 Cadel Evans
2 Carlos Sastre
3 Alejandro Valverde
4 Andy Schleck
5 Ricardo Ricco

1 Robbie McEwen
2 Mark Cavendish
3 Thor Hushovd

1 Andy Schleck
2 Ricardo Ricco
3 Cadel Evans

Oh, and Davy Miller will get a stage win somewhere ...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Best of the Booker losers

Moderately interesting poll on Scott Pack's blog – me and my big mouth – to find the best book that was shortlisted, but didn't win the Booker prize. I always find it hard to resist anything in this vein i.e. something that involves lists and books.

Of the ten books chosen by Scott and his illustrious panel I have read four and enjoyed three. Of the ones I enjoyed it was hard to make a choice between three very different novels.

Waterland was the first I read, probably in my early twenties, and I remember thinking that I wouldn't like it (sounded too much like a period novel, which of course it is, but not like that), but found myself loving the story and the writing.

The Butcher Boy came next a few years later when I was working in a bookshop and paid attention to things like the Booker shortlist. It is great, although pretty disturbing, and it isn't surprising that it lost out to The English Patient and Sacred Hunger.

But the book that ended up getting my vote was Cloud Atlas. I suspect this will be a runaway winner – published recently, entertaining and readable but still cool – but in the end I just decided that it was the book that I had enjoyed reading the most.

A prize for anyone who can guess which one of the list I have read, but hated.

And for the sake of debate here is my version of the top ten books shortlisted for the Booker that didn't win:
1 Tibor Fischer – Under the Frog
2 David Mitchell – number9dream
3 Bernard MacLaverty – Grace Notes
4 Peter Carey – Illywhacker
5 David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
6 JG Ballard – Empire of the Sun
7 Graham Swift – Waterland
8 Patrick McCabe – The Butcher Boy
9 William Boyd – An Ice-cream War
10 David Lodge – Small World

And remember to add your vote before the closing date on July 9.