The biggest year EVER. For British cycling, for me, Vulpine and hopefully for all of us. 2012.
*rummages around for new exciting superlatives*
What? What THE HELL happened there?
Oh, everything, essentially. Er, WOW.
The biggest year EVER. For British cycling, for me, Vulpine and hopefully for all of us.
*rummages around for new exciting superlatives*
Impossible to fit it all in, so here’s some personal highlights and an insight into Vulpine.
No Olympic velodrome tickets for so many of us cycling die-hards meant this was always going to be an uproarious start to the sporting year. Three British riders stood out for me, and their on-track displays would reflect their Olympics.
I’d never been near Chris Hoy when he’s going full gas. Its like putting your head against the speakers at a big gig. You can feel the waves of power go through you. The roar of primal aggression and strength is addictive, shocking, even. We grinned and screamed like children. True Legend.
Victoria Pendleton seemed to be riding every other race, each of them against Anna Meares. Their fabulous rivalry would continue through to August. As would her palpable physical, or indeed mental fatigue. She wanted out.
But the big story that night was a little local 19 year old called Laura Trott. Her victory in the Elimination Race (I’ve always preferred Devil Takes The Hindmost) was immense fun and against the odds. Her determination and fight was extraordinary. Could she repeat it 6 months later? Hell yes.
In the past, a podium in Paris-Nice or Dauphine would be a great season for the Brits. But Brailsford has fundamentally shifted the axis. Now we wonder how many can be won on the way to the grand tours.
The signs of things to come. Team Sky & Wiggins bossing the Spring stage races. Surely they couldn’t carry on like this right up to and through the Tour? Right?..
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…WE HAVE GO MAIN ENGINE START – 13th March
After being an apple in Daddy’s eye for many long years, Vulpine launched on March 13th 2012, a day early, but years later than I’d hoped!
Emmalou and I had spent years wondering whether it would work. Whether I’d got it right. The designs, the ethos, the magnetic closures. Would we get decent reviews? Would we get ANY reviews? Would anyone actually like it or indeed buy it?
Um. Yes. To our tear-inducing joyful relief, IT BLOODY WORKS DOESN’T IT!
We still haven’t had a bad review. Its getting a bit embarrassing. It looks like we shuttle around the World with fat paper packets of Benjamins, paying off journos. Please someone, say our stuff is rubbish. I’m begging.
EMAILS. ENDLESS PUMPING EMAILS – 13th March
If you insist on constructing a website from scratch, there are going to be cock-ups. We spent weeks/months ironing out any issues with our developers. But we didn’t fully test the mass email system did we? Oh no.
March the 13th. 8pm. I’ve been working for 15 hours solid and I’m shaking with fatigue. Its been a great day, but I need to announce our birth to the kind folks who’ve signed up for newsletters. Finger on mouse. *click*…gone.
Phew, now to get home, bath, curry, champagne, bed.
As I fiddle with the alarm the iPhone starts pinging. Ping ping ping ping ping ping ping.
Ping ping ping, constantly. I cancel the alarm, turn on the lights and stare at my emails.
Hundreds. And hundreds…of out of offices and STOP THAT NOW! messages….
Then the phone rings. People aren’t happy. I’m not happy. I’m really really not happy. My Mac finally rumbles back on and there it is, thousands of emails vomiting across the world.
I call Oliver the development company boss, he gets off his train and turns back, calls in his people, I try not to panic as it builds. Thankfully I decided to just pull the plug on the site, and that chops it off mid-flow.
11,342 unwanted emails in 8 minutes. Unchecked it would have ran all night. And put us on the wrong side of every new customer and spam filter for years!
Lesson: Test everything. And know how to beg for forgiveness.
RONDE VAN VLAANDEREN – 1st April
I get almost as jittery about The Spring Classics as Le Tour. I grew up dreamily staring at pictures of pink-eyed mud-cracked faces and yellow knashing teeth.
So when Neal Rogers, editor of Velo News suggested I pop over to Bruges for the Ronde and a little light Vulpine chat, my inner small-boy-on-xmas-day started jumping up and down on the bed.
Bruges is beautiful. Oudenaarde also. Steak goes well with chips. Cobbles hurt. Waving flags is fun. Everyone was sad for Spartacus. Pozzato has the killer instinct of a hamster in ballet pumps. And Boonen is quite popular in Belgium *cough*.
Immense. Thanks Neal. Images here.
THE BOONENATOR – 8th April
Paris-Roubaix by contrast was a chance to settle back with the TV and a twitter feed. I thought the cobbles in Flanders were grim. The French stones are insane. Tommeke rode his own teammate off his wheel and anhilalated the race. Just absolutely crushed it.
My favourite classic bossed the way I love it.
THE CHAP – 18th May
We are going to have our first baby! Emmalou and I have been inseperable since 1996. We’ve grown up together and Vulpine has been the greatest test of all this. The Chap was conceived as we launched Vulpine, and though we’re not into fate and all that…Well, you get it. Our two babies. The green one. And the most important one – the pink (we presume) one.
Bump has grown as Vulpine has grown. He’s expected on the 8th of January, but we have a sneaky feeling we’ll be meeting him sooner. I’d better start getting a few jackets altered sharpish.
MIXED FEELINGS – May
Ever since Gavia ’88, with Hampsten in his Oakley Pilots and the swollen hypothermic faces, I’ve loved the Giro. Prettier, harder, cooler, pinker than the Tour.
But this year it was all a bit too rogues gallery. The grizled older ex-dopers challenging. Thank you Ryder for fighting and winning. Thank you DeGendt for attacking like a lunatic and grabbing a piece. Yes. Racing wins.
MORE FUN PLEASE – June 4th
Cycling is fun. Hurting yourself is fun. Swooping about on a fixie is fun. Fun isn’t a very cool word. *cue images of children’s TV presenters waving to camera*
But hell, we all love a bit of fun, in whatever guise we dress it up in, and there’s not enough of it in cycling recently. So we had a fete. Booze, cake, art, messing about, all that. Cycling is a culture as well, with lots of young business like ourselves making stuff with passion, and we wanted to reflect that too. The bikes, graphic design, different cycling types with their tweed caps, hairless legs or summery skirts. All in one place.
More of that sort of thing.
THE DAY AFTER THE DAY BEFORE
A chap called Ricky Feather gave me this at the first Vulpine Cycling Fete. I rode it the next day. What a bike. What beauty. The man’s at the top of the pile. Worldwide. I sit and stare at it. Hell, I even ride it.
I walked into Look Mum No Hands! on the final day of the Tour knowing I had to be in a crowd. To take in the atmosphere but also to cement something I couldn’t actually believe.
Brits do not win stage races. Brits gets occasional plucky stage wins. Brits do not come first and second in the world’s great race. Clean. Dominating. Utterly.
I grew up with Robert Millar’s 4th place the single greatest British cycling performance we’d had. With Sean Yates getting a TT stage in ’88 a typical occasional highlight. Stephen Roche & Greg Lemond were my surrogate Brit heroes.
I stood in Look Mum No Hands! and I made the audience laugh because I shouted across them what it means to me. I wasn’t joking, or looking for effect. I just wanted anyone who didn’t get the context to know that this was a seismic event.
And then Wiggins came over the line arms aloft, just as Cav had done seconds before.
OLYMPIC ROAD RACES
And the rollercoaster of emotion went on. And on.
This time the Olympic Road Races were going past Vulpine’s offices. Near my house. On the country roads or city streets I’d ridden thousands of miles on for years. It was extraordinary for so many of our friends.
The result was always a stretch for Cav. And as for Vino and Uran. Well, lets not break the mood. Lets move on.
MARIANNE VOS & THE FUTURE OF WOMEN’S CYCLING
Which brings in Vos. A cyclist who dominated which such class and verve nobody could begrudge her anything.
Least of all her Olympic Gold against a Brit, Armitstead. A deserved and popular winner of a nail-biting and fascinating women’s race the next day, far superior to the men’s. Held in torrential rain after the perfect heat the day before, it hammered home a message that women’s racing is tough and deserves better, because in many ways it IS better. Unfettered by the immense political complexity of men’s pro racing. Less tainted by doping. And on an intoxicating growth curve.
This is what FANBACKEDWOMENSCYCLING is all about. The authorities aren’t helping, so we, the cyclists, are. We want great racing, and that means encouraging more races, more athletes, better paid, better everything, especially attitude. Vulpine will be part of this next year.
Perhaps to many the biggest cycling story of 2012 was Armstrong’s fall. Well, not so much a fall as fired down a mineshaft to Hell by Saturn V Rocket.
The World’s Most Famous Cancer SurvivorÃ¢â€žÂ¢ let his own tumour of invective and lies eat away at bike racing. It spread across the sport, even into casual cycling.
I hate talking about doping. Not because I want to deny it it or doubt it. Simply because it gets me down. Selfish really. But I want to talk about all the great racing, culture and pure clean fun to be had from cycling.
But I ended up talking on national TV and radio about the last thing I would have chosen to…Not that it was enough to stop me, ha ha!! At that time in August the mounting evidence was unheard and the sides were split. It was an awful period. I was pulled out because I had a third way, that Armstrong’s victories were great fun to watch, and admirable, but he was still a dirty rotten scoundrel.
That all changed with release of the USADA files. For many the realisation final came. He HAD cheated. Really really unpleasantly. And my stance hardened too. Hell, I’ll always remember attacking Ullrich after crashing and the impromptu cyclocross. But they’ll never feel the same. Little will from a large swathe of my cycling li
And that must not be our future.
THE NEW CYCLING
The UCI as they are now are not going to end it. Pat McQuaid & Hein Verbruggen left cycling in a worse place than when we came into such a vintage year of racing.
They are responsible for the corrosion and potential destruction of our sport, and certainly already its image outside its own confines. They have to go.
Who knows what the best way to achieve that is. Change Cycling Now and the Greg Lemond’s bid for UCI President seems to have lost momentum and doesn’t seem to have caught the public’s imagination.
Power plays are no doubt building behind Pat’s back. But who will grasp the reins? Someone who can change the face of cycling, untied. Or will it be a public face in front of dark political forces with its own agenda. There are currently too many competing factions. This will play into the old guard’s hands.
Nature abhores a vacuum. But not nearly as much as it abhores Pat & Hein.
PARALYMPICS CLOSING CEREMONY – 9th September
The entire Olympics and Paralympics were hugely emotional for so many. As a Brit, a Londoner and a lover of cycling, it was one of the greatest periods of my life.
We were lucky enough to get last minute tickets to the Paralympics closing ceremony, after missing out on the Olympics almost entirely, apart from the road cycling.
To be at the end of it all. To see so many extraordinary athletes and to feel the intensity of warmth, with none of the cynicism that preceeded The Games (including myself) was perfect.
ROAR – 19th September
Reviews mean so much to us at Vulpine, and indeed to our customers. You try your best to make the perfect garment, but there’s always doubt and worry. We needn’t have.
The best review of all, given that it was so massive, so contrasting, was "Levis vs Vulpine" in The Guardian. Vulpine model James called me and said that Kat )in Vulpine) was on the homepage of the Guardian website. I thought he was messing with me. So on I go, and I just started ROARRRING with my hands in the air! That was before I’d even read what Peter Walker had said. That piece changed our lives. It was so enthusiastic the comments even suggested we’d bought Walker off!!
We’d had a request for some samples from Peter many months before, right at launch. I waited and asked if anything might happen to them. It was a lot of stock to give away for a wee company. I asked about the timing and Peter said the Olympics were deadening other sports coverage and it was delayed, but that it was a comparison between Levis and Vulpine. Levis?! Wow, I was immediately complimented. Exciting. But I tried to stay unusually pessimistic. It hurts when these things don’t come off, as they often…don’t. So that call on the 19th of September was a surprise.
A massive hollering wooping moment we’ll always remember.
VELO CITY GIRL – 22nd November
Taking on staff is a big deal. Until now Vulpine was Philip and I, plus some fantastic friends helping us with expertise. You’re putting someone’s hopes, aspirations and of course livelihood in your hands. You can’t mess about.
I’d wanted to take Jools on since I’d met her. I hate CVs and ‘relevant experience’. Relevant experience is common sense, not exams…To me.
There are people who ‘get it’ and people who don’t. Jools gets it.
Jools is loves cycling and style. I guess that’s her CV there. She’s presented on The Cycle Show and has a very respected blog. Absolutely bloody perfect bonuses. And she likes walking Lily. Made up we got her.
The Froomster gets to prove his mettle in a hilly 100th Tour. Whilst Wiggo goes for the Maglia Rosa, and doubtless nab a few dozen stage races. Cav should get his train back. Has he got what it takes to climb towards another Milan-San-Remo?
Will this be the year that women’s racing steps out of the shadows? Will it be given the chance? Will we support it enough to make that shift? Its in our hands.
Will Britain’s further massive success in cycling continue to trickle down into everyday life? Will this change decisions on infrastructure and transport priorities? Will we stop getting killed? Will the anger subside?
The quick answer is already no, but it will improve. We are getting there. People’s attitudes are changing. Too slowly.
Phil Gilbert is yet another, if not the most deserving Rainbow Band wearer. Is he back on the case in the Spring? Will Canc stay in one piece and we’ll see Phil, Tom and Fab all fight it out together? God I hope so.
Will Pay & Hein get shown the door, and better human beings take over? Or is it status quo, and a shoring up of bureaucratic defences?
With many riders coming through in XC, will we finally get our cross-country MTB champions as we do in DH?
Personally, I just hope our boy and mum are healthy and fine. No, we are not calling The Chap Mark, Bradley, Greg or Chris! I hope to get out on the bike a bit to watch some racing and take the dog on some trails.
For Vulpine, we launch a women’s range. And we’ll be part of a major women’s racing team. More fetes. Loads more apparel in lots more colours. And we’ll be creating some cycling art of many hues.
Have a great Christmas and a smashing New Year. If we try hard enough, we could beat this year….Couldn’t we?!