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M. McCann "rednotdead1976" (N Ireland)
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Pantani: The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist [DVD]
Pantani: The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Erskine
Price: £8.10

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and timely portrayal that does justice to the source material., 23 May 2014
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To head off any comments about how I saw this before the DVD release- this film was premiered a few weeks ago in a small number of cinemas and I was lucky enough to see it in Belfast just after the Giro team presentation at a showing followed by a Q&A with James Erskine and Matt Rendell. Why was Matt Rendell there? Well, this documentary was inspired by his brilliant, balanced and detailed "The Death of Marco Pantani" although due to the nature of film making there were only certain elements that could be included.
As for the actual documentary- it brings together many of the important people in Pantani's life to develop an picture of a complex and passionate individual. We live in a world shaped by media that prefers simplified binary oppositions- people are either for us or against us, good or bad- however this documentary challenges that simplistic dichotomy- it is too easy to condemn pro cyclists from that era for all being "bad people who cheated using drugs" but this work places everything in context. While not condoning what went on during a dark period for cycling, it forces viewers to ask themselves honestly what choices they would have made in the same position.
There is also a tendency among many to promote Pantani to the sainthood, such are the myths and narratives that were built around him, but again Erskine avoids this- the film doesn't judge Pantani, it simply offers opportunities to understand a very complex man who struggled a lot internally. It is to Erskine's credit that he cut through a lot of the protective bubble people close to Pantani erected to preserve his legend, and it humanises him all the more.
While offering an extra "chapeau" to Erskine on the Dario Fo inspired title, it is important to note that you do not have to be a cycling fan to find this an excellent piece of work-in fact it would be interesting to see the responses from those who are approaching Pantani with fresh eyes, not carrying the baggage of opinions from the past. And for those of us who have followed the sport for a long time- the archive footage of Bartali and Coppi, as well as Pantani himself as he surges away climbing on the drops is worth the price of the film alone as well as underlining just why Il Pirata inspired such fervent support.


The Tour De France Miscellany
The Tour De France Miscellany
by John White
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe a bit more time spent editing?, 22 Jun. 2013
As 2013 marks the 100th edition of the world's most famous cycle race , and just as the centenary year of 2003 did, a massive surge in books about the Tour de France have popped up. Some are reworkings of those originally launched 10 years ago but there are many new offerings in different formats, some concentrating on the photography, others the topography and many more a linear narrative covering each edition. This offering takes a Schott's Miscellany approach, with snippets of information and fact presented in what seems to be a stream of consciousness manner. There is no logic to what follows the preceding entry which can be disconcerting if you are reading it cover to cover-you can skip from Phillipe Thys to Eddy Merckx then onto a random quote, then a summary of a stage followed by a history of the polka-dot jersey. This is obviously designed for dipping in and out of at random but I don't feel this approach works on such a subject.

There are other criticisms, including some of the writing. There are a number of contributions that repeat the same thing in separate, continuous sentences- the biggest culprit being one explaining why Coppi never took part in the 1953 Tour, citing the World Championships and where they were to take place in three sentences one after the other- obviously a massive failure of editing. In fact I feel that there was obviously a rush to get this book out since there are a number of mistakes that editing should have caught. Some are misspellings but others are factual which, since this is a book that is purely about facts are unforgivable. For example Ivan Basso is rendered "Ivan Busso" in one entry, and Franco Bitossi becomes "France Bitossi".

However the typos are not the worst failures- there are some pure factual inaccuracies. According to White, Andy Hampsten won the white young riders jersey in the 1996 Tour, which would have made his 1988 Giro victory all the more impressive as he would hardly have been out of puberty if that was so!

In another part he refers to the tifosi support of the Lion King in the title and describes the climbing exploits of Claudio Chiappucci in one stage , despite the fact that it is well known that the "Lion King" nickname belongs to Mario Cippollini and mountain stages were never Cipo's friend!

There is very little new to anyone who has a vague interest in the Tour in this book, while complete Grand Bouchle novices will struggle to understand why some entries were important due to a lack of context. It does not help that White has bunged in random stage reports from different editions without explaining why they are worthy of inclusion-in fact many are in the vein that "such and such a rider won this stage in this date" without identifying why those stages out of the hundreds that have taken place are mentioned.

So in summary, this book does have some uses, and may encourage new followers to find out a bit more about the largest annual sporting event in the world. However due to the rich seam of writing that the Tour has always prompted, there are many other books out there with this information placed in context and, I have to say, without the occasional factual blunder. Generally more of a help in setting quizzes as opposed to understanding the complexities of World Tour Cycling, but again I would advise checking the facts elsewhere just to be sure. A few more hours under the eyes of an editor and fact checker could have made this a valuable resource, rather than a rehash of well-known stories and some factual wobbles!


Bike!: A Tribute to the World's Greatest Cycling Designers
Bike!: A Tribute to the World's Greatest Cycling Designers
by Richard Moore
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Style backed up with substance, 22 Oct. 2012
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The term "coffee table book" is one that is bandied about quite a bit, and to my mind conjours up images of a large tome with beautiful pictures that lacks content and is simply there as decoration. My fear when I ordered this book was that I would get something fitting that description, though knowing Richard Moore and Daniel Benson were involved eased my mind slightly. And thankfully my fears were totally unfounded. Yes, this is a gorgeous book, well laid out and as suited to an art gallery as a bookshelf, but the content is there as well. A great basic history of the bikes and components that helped make riders such as Coppi, Bartali, Merckx, LeMond, Hinault, Indurian the legends they are. The most important bikes in pro peleton history are all here, beautifully illustrated and the stories behind the designers and the manufacturers are presented in a detailed and clear manner.

The main emphasis is on roadbikes so mountain bikers may feel a bit put out but overall it is hard to fault this book. From Bianchi to Gitane, Giant to Cinelli, there is something here for race fans from any generation, and it is a relief to see that todays carbon-fibre weight fetishists can be exposed to the steel, aluminium and titanium steeds of the past (and present!) and get a feel for the history and tradition of the sport. Cycling has a long culture that many of its top proponents are keen to immerse themselves in and keep the traditions going, and books like this will help add to the mystique and legends behind the "convicts of the road". Anyone who admires fine construction and skilled craftsmanship, or who loves beautiful engineering will welcome the detailed text as well as the well selected and clear photos. The only small blot I have come across is a full page picture of Robbie McEwen and Eric Zabel in a sprint that appears to be a blurred screengrab, but the rest of the images are of high quality and accompany the prose very well.


Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike
Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike
by William Fotheringham
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Merckx biographies are like buses...., 26 April 2012
I finished Friebe's The Cannibal immediately prior to reading Fotheringham so naturally my instinct is to compare the 2- generally both books come to more or less the same conclusions regards Merckx, what drove him etc. Fotheringham does have the advantage of actually having interviewed Merckx himself although this turns out to have been in 1997.
As a summary of Merckx's career, this is well structured and draws on a wide range of interviews from those who worked with or against The Cannibal. There is plenty here to amaze and educate those not lucky enough to see the man when he qctually competed and it shows why it is not simple hyperbole to describe Merckx as the greatest cyclist ever. To be honest if I had to choose between Friebe and Fotheringham I would find it difficult-they complement each other well in that they go into different levels of detail on different epsiodes so something Fotheringham mentions in passing is dealt with more expensively by Friebe and vice versa. So neither is fully definitive on its own but still stand as useful and illuminating


Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal
Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal
by Daniel Friebe
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good summary of the highs and lows of the career of the greatest cyclist ever, 10 April 2012
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As a good summary of the life of the man voted in a number of polls as one of the best sportspeople ever, this is quite good. All the highs and lows are there, and there is an analysis of what drove The Cannibal, and what made him different to those who have gone before and come after him. While Armstrong may be held high in the eyes of many, it must be remember Merckx was succesful in Classics as well as the Grand Tours, whereas Lance just concentrated on the Tour.
Friebe allows for competing analysis from a range of sources, those who competed against Merckx, those who rode with him and those who reported on his career. Of course it helps to know the background to each of Merckx's interactions with those who have been interviewed- obviously some come with more an an agenda and desire to protect their legacies than others, and the author does well to reflect these, without negatively impacting on the validity of their input.

One voice that is missing is Merckx himself who did not want to collaborate with the book (apart from a brief conversation detailed in the epilogue).Friebe insists this is actually more beneficial, but there is still a void there that is not filled. While a certain amount of revisionism is to be expected, I do feel that Merckx's absence is most clearly felt as Friebe attempts to deal with the controversies that surround Eddy. This is no hiagoraphy but it would be good to see what how these events are now viewed by the man himself with hindsight-to get this however the reader would need to seek out the other works Merckx did collaborate on.

This is generally well put together, although on a small number of occasions I had to re-read sentences a couple of times to get their meaning-some were open to ambiguity which should have been addressed at the editing stage. Overall though I recommend this as a good summary of Merckx's life though I am looking forward to checking out William Fotherington's Half Man, Half Bike, to see how he deals with Merckx.
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Tomorrow, We Ride
Tomorrow, We Ride
by Jean Bobet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest sporting book I have ever read, 3 April 2012
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This review is from: Tomorrow, We Ride (Paperback)
"On the following Sunday, he escaped"- a single sentence that, like Hemingway's "For sale, baby shoes, never worn" uses six words to tell a gripping, emotional story more than reams of flowery prose ever can. This is typical of a very untypical sport biography/autobiography- it is said that cycling and boxing promote the best sports writing, but Jean Bobet has gone much further in this one. As well as being a successful professional cyclist and brother of first 3-time winner of the Tour de France, Louison Jean Bobet was also an academic- leaving a life destined as a lecturer in university in Scotland at his brothers behest, and together they experienced the highs and lows, triumphs and failures of the Classics and Grand Tours in the 1950s.

Within the first 17 pages Roland Barthes has been quoted, and a couple of pages later the protective Jean actually turns Barthes away from Louison's hotel room after a hard won stage victory. This is a book that really could only be written by a Frenchman or woman. As well as bringing to life the strain and horror that is climbing the Ventoux on a scorching hot day, Jean also draws from many aspects of life-intellectual, physical, cultural- and with an obvious love of language has created what I consider the best sporting book I have ever read. He is poetic but never mawkish in describing the sight of Coppi, Gaul, Kublet, Kobler and other post war greats heading the peloton, taking on the pave or conquering the legendary climbs that make up the Tour, the Giro and the Veulta. His writing is so enlightening and eases the reader in, that even someone with no interest in cycling would get drawn into it.

It is probably obvious that I am a big fan of this book, and its combination of influences mean it is no simple "he did this, I did that" narrative, but an inspiring, emotional and sometimes funny revelation of what life as a pro-cyclist in post-war France was like.


How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)
How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)
by Ned Boulting
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, comforting and very funny, 3 Mar. 2012
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I picked this book up at 2pm today, and by 9pm was on page 240, despite putting it down for a while to make the dinner. It has been a long time since I have had to ration a book to ensure I don't finish it all in one day- and it is not that it is very short either.

I am a big fan of ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, and have been ever since re-immersing myself into the world of roadracing. I wanted to find out what life is like for those whose job it is to actually pull together the pictures and commentary that allow us to watch and get involved in what is, for me, the world's best sporting event. One of the attractions of the Tour lies in not only the sporting spectacle but the respect paid to the heritage and traditions of the event, and cycling as a whole. This book does that but, is not afraid to poke fun at the more ludicrous aspects of life as a sports reporter.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me was how comforting I found the book. That might be an unexpected term to use, but for someone who has only had the opportunity to get back into cycling after finally getting cable TV, the world of bikes can be portrayed as inaccessible by many publications, particuarly those who seem to insist unless you are fully proficient in debating all aspects of whether Shimano or SRAM groupsets are preferable or what type of forks are worth shelling out a couple of grand for, you really have no place getting involved. Boulting has a fresher, non-elitist outlook, and in fact when he was packed off to cover his first TdF in 2003 he seemed even less informed than me- his excrutiating first foray into broadcasting is cringeworthy but funny to read and also explains the title of the book.

One of the other strengths of the book are that small, normally mundane aspects of life are reporting (such as how do reporters following the Tour ensure they have ironed shirts for every broadcast) in as loving detail as the big days (eg Bradley Wiggins' career changing stage in Switzerland in the 2009 event)and come together to create a well writting, involving and honest account that balances the banal with the glamourous and is a great snapshot of the carnival that takes place over 3 weeks every July.


Prison Notebooks (European Perspectives)
Prison Notebooks (European Perspectives)
by Antonio Gramsci
Edition: Paperback
Price: £45.00

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Style and substance, 31 Aug. 2011
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I have been a fan of Gramsci since discovering his works while at university and I am guessing anyone considering this purchase is probably acquainted with his thoughts through the various "Selections from the Prison Notebooks" that have been printed. Obviously the three full volumes here only scratch at the surface of Gramsci's output but they do benefit from a revised format based on the original editions taking more recent scholarly studies into consideration as well.

They are a very attractive set, well presented in a nice slip case that make for an intresting and aesthetically pleasing addition to a set of bookshelves, though the temptation just to sit and look at them should not get in the way of actually taking them down and giving them their due attention- while style may be impressive, it cannot be allowed to overshadow content (especially relevant in relation to the study of Gramsci!) and it does not here.
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Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Touch Screen Sim Free Mobile Phone - Midnight Blue
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Touch Screen Sim Free Mobile Phone - Midnight Blue

22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars EDITED Review-No longer recommended!, 29 Aug. 2011
THE FIRST PART OF THIS REVIEW WAS WRITTEN AFTER I HAD THE PHONE FOR TWO WEEKS-FOR A LONGER TERM VIEW SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM TO SEE WHY MY RATING WENT DOWN FROM 4 STARS TO 1:

This is the first smartphone I have had, so only really had my wife's HTC Wildfire to compare it with. I did go in with big expectations, and to be fair, most of these were exceeded, though I do have a few wee niggles.

While the range of apps is great and access to e-mail, Twitter and Facebook are excellent (and fool proof), the big attraction was the 8MP camera-I had the choice of a number of phones for my upgrade and to be honest it was the camera that sold it to me. Quality is great, especially compared to my last phone (also an SE) which had quite a poor one. I do find the touch capture a bit of a pain but it is easily turned off and the shutter button on the side is quite responsive.

I did find however that on ocassion the touchscreen wasn't as sensitive and response was a bit slow which was quite frustrating when typing. However this was not a permanent issue.

Also the start screen seems to hang for a very long time after turning the phone on- normally a minute, sometimes longer which can be a pain. But the biggest gripe I have is that unlike any phone I have ever owned since the 1990s, the alarm doesn't go off if the phone is switched off. I only found this out by nearly sleeping in the first morning after I had gotten it, and as battery life is poor I don't really fancy leaving it switched on all night.

There is no point going into great detail about how long the battery lasts since this has been covered fully by other reviewers. Overall I would recommend this phone, especially for those who like to have a good quality backup for a camera and who also use social media a lot. Just be aware of the small niggles. Sound quality is great and I can actually get a signal now (on the same network) at my wife's aunt's house which my other phones would not allow me to do-still a bit of drop out but a better reception nonetheless.

EDIT- A software update sorted out some of the issues above- it no longer takes as long to start up for example, but the fact the alarm doesn't go off when the phone is shut off is still a bit of a pain. In relation to battery life I normally get almost two days of normal use without it dying totally (normal use being mostly Internet and 3 or 4 shortish phone calls). A new issue that did appear for me on one occasion so far was that when my battery died, after charging and turning it back on again the time and date had been reset to 00:00 on the 31st Jan 1980- I had to turn off the automatic setting and set the time manually. My battery hasn't been allowed to die since, though it will be interesting to see if this happens the next time.

EDIT ON 6TH OCTOBER:

Basically forget all the recommendations I gave up above-after longer term use I would say avoid this phone. I was a bit too forgiving of some of its foibles, but compared to my wife's HTC this really is a poor comparision.
New problems have developed- for instance if I push the power button once to lock the screen, the phone cannot then pick up calls-it sends them straight to voicemail.
Even when I don't lock it like that, for some reason the phone won't connect some of my calls and diverts incoming ones to voicemail. There is no logical reason for this- I have good reception and when trying to phone out it will eventually connect me after multiple attempts, although will sometimes cut out mid-call for no reason-this has come to a head today since I am working fromm home and my office has been trying to phone me and can only leave voicemails, yet on other occasions the phone rings normally.
Actually just as I type I have just recieved notification of another voicemail-it is from my wife and she has been unable to get through despite the fact my phone is sitting here with beside me, swtiched on and full signal.
Oh and now it gets worse-it won't even connect to my voicemail now! Sorry for the running commentary but this really is abysmal.
I can confirm it is not a network problem since I tried my SIM in another phone and it is working perfectly.

Another issue I have had is accessing photos I have taken on the camera. When I tap the gallery the screen either goes black or goes to the gallery page and no photos appear- it sometimes requires a number of attempts and then turning the phone on and off again to actually be able to bring up any of my photos.

To be honest I should have expected problems since it is a Sony Ericsson- in the past I have found their phones to be of dubious quality and after previous experiences vowed not to get any more of their products, but relented and am now paying the price for going against my gut instinct- so depsite all the positive stuff above, I would suggest passing this phone by and trying some of the other alternatives.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 27, 2012 12:46 AM BST


Tour de France 2011 (PS3)
Tour de France 2011 (PS3)
Offered by Clickforgamesltd
Price: £11.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly Tour de Farce...., 31 July 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Since the 2011 Tour shaped up to be one of the best in a long time, I knew I would be a bit disappointed when it finished, but as luck would have it the final stage took place on my birthday, and my great wife bought me this to try and help keep me happy until the Vuelta starts in August. So perhaps I went in with expectations a bit too high, but while not a bad game I did feel slightly underwhelmed and there was potential for this to be a much better game.

The game tutorial could be better since it raises more questions than answers in some cases-perhaps some footage illustrating the points rather than a simple static screen shot may have worked better. Plus options within the game are limited in relation to what orders you can give out- for example if you decide to go on an attack and want your team to block and slow down the peloton to protect you, you can't do that. The "Protect Me" order only has your team surround you which is not what you need at that stage, so perhaps the AI needs tweaked.

On a more petty note the voice acting is atrocious which can be a bit off putting after hearing "I've got a rocket under my saddle" as a response to an order to attack for the umpteenth time.

The simulated parts where the CPU takes over are also quite annoying, since they do not seem to take into consideration the orders you were giving just before you lose control.

Overall I think this game suffers from promising a lot and not fully delivering- I was more interested in the strategy end of it, so perhaps controlling the whole team from a car would be better than actually controlling one rider and also issuing orders. The menu system for doling out orders is also a tad annoying-sometimes to select a team mate and an order, you have to use the control stick that should be used to control your player which means you can lose a head of steam very easily by trying to sort out your team.

So while I would not call this game a total write-off, there are elements that mean it does not meet its full potential and it can be a bit frustrating. There are some small details that, in a better quality game could be forgiven but really it should deliver more. I will still hold on to it and play the rest of it through but if it is all out action you want then you will be disappointed. There is probably enough strategy to keep most people happy though again it is more the lost potential that means I would only recommend it to die hard cycling and strategy fans.


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