The road you ride on

Road cycling. We think about cycling all the time but when was the last time you ever considered the road? It is just there. Perhaps you know where the rough sections appear on your riding routes, but what makes one road smooth and another rough? What makes a road?

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The war memorials of France

Monument aux morts

Today is a national holiday in France and Belgium. Le jour de l’Armistice is a chance to remember those who fell in the war from 1914 to 1918 and subsequent conflicts.

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Belgian record

I’ve covered the subject of Belgium’s government, or rather the lack of one, before. But today marks a new world record for the country overtakes Iraq for previous record of “longest political crisis”. Following elections 249 days ago the elected representatives have been able to form a majority to govern and the longer the crisis … Read more

No risk for Gulf tours

The ladies Tour of Qatar starts tomorrow. At the same time a number of so-called Arab states are seeing prolific pro-democracy protests and several autocratic leaders have been falling back on military force. Right now expatriates are being evacuated from Egypt. So a quick word to reassure anyone that the upcoming pair of races in … Read more

Belgium Without A Government

I’ve covered the political splits in Belgium before. So time for a quick update: Belgium is still without a government. This makes it Europe’s longest post-war political crisis, beating the 209 days it took to form a government in The Netherlands in 1977. If it goes on to the end of March then the Belgians … Read more

Happy Sinterklaas

It’s Christmas Day today in Belgium, known locally as Sinterklaas. You might already think the country is quirky at times. Today’s celebrations probably confirm this. Blacking up all over Belgium and Holland Why? Well the Belgian Father Christmas, Saint Claus (aka Santa Claus) has a sidekick. Who is called Zwarte Piet or Black Peter. And … Read more

What are those flags you see in Italian races?

Followers of cycling will note that the finish of a race often sees many flags being waved. My favourite is the “Dirk Hoffman Motorhomes” board, a common sight in Belgian classics. It’s inevitable, the finish line is filmed in detail and the images are repeated on news broadcasts. In other words, it’s valuable airtime. I’ve … Read more

"Let’s get ready for the break-up of Belgium"

Three months after elections, Belgium still has no government. Months of negotiations, politicking, horse-trading and more have come to no avail as the latest attempt to form a parliamentary majority has collapsed. In short, the country is split between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Walloonia. There are spats over linguistics but other fault lines too. For … Read more

The Summer of Spain (and the bad news)

As part of a series of pieces about life in Europe beyond cycling, here’s another addition. For more in the series, click on the Out of Competition tag below. Spain’s having a great summer sports-wise. Nadal’s just won the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the soccer team’s in the World Cup final and maybe Alberto Contador’s going … Read more

Belgian elections this weekend

Belgians go to vote this weekend and it could see the country set on the path to breaking up. I’ve written on this in the past here and there’s an election preview from the British newspaper The Guardian here. Will Belgium split? Well it’s not going to happen quickly. Philippe Gilbert will still be riding … Read more