The Cycling Chef – Sean Kelly

In cycling terms food means fuel, and most cyclists know that a good ride starts with good eating in the days before, and good recovery is aided with good eating immediately after. Carbohydrates, Carb-loading, Protein, Glycogen etc. are all terms in the lexicon of even the most recreational of modern-day cyclists.
For some, though, food is also a passion and a vocation…

Sean Kelly is Head Chef at The Lovat, a stunning hotel in the beautiful village of Fort Augustus, on the banks of Loch Ness, keen MTB’er and road cyclist, and good friend of the BCR boys.

Part of this website’s purpose is to highlight the creative types drawn in to the world of cycling, and Sean is the very epitome of that, equally at home creating visually stunning, flavourful dishes in the kitchen, as he is hammering down the trails.

Grab a glass of something red and French, and let us introduce you to Sean Kelly, the cycling chef

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BCR: What bikes do you currently own and ride?

I have 2 bikes. My most used is a Giant Reign 2016 Enduro MTB, and I also own a Carrera Vanquish for the road.

BCR: How often do you ride and where are your regular haunts?

I’d like to go out every day but my job unfortunately doesn’t allow me to, so I get out as much as I can.
For some off road fun we go to Laggan Wolftrax and Ben Nevis. But more often in the summer I get into the local hills as much as I can, and in the winter most of my riding is done on a turbo trainer.

BCR: Any favourite routes?

I enjoy the Great Glen Way as there is a bit of everything, uphill, downhill some jumps and amazing scenery.
On the turbo (bkool) I really enjoy Central Park NYC as its only 6 miles but still a real workout, and I can fit it in before work.

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BCR: As someone who has travelled extensively, where would you most like to cycle in the world?

That’s a tough one as I love travelling. Anywhere with mountains and sunshine!
I’d also like to have a go at doing a stage of the tour before I get too old. I’d also like to do the JOGLE some day. Up here you also have the coast to coast challenge and the Strathpuffer I’d like to have a go at. Too many challenges and not enough time!

BCR: If your cooking skills/style were a bike race what bike race would it be?

Probably the Tour De France. I sometimes feel as though I’m going up hill or doing a time trial in the kitchen. They say the tour is the toughest ride but come and do a few 15 hour shifts in the kitchen with me and you’ll probably wish you were doing the tour!

BCR: Why do you cycle?

I was more into long distance running to keep fit, but due to an injury I had to stop and needed something else to do, so took up mountain biking which I really enjoy. This year I also bought a road bike to give that a go as well. It’s a great way to keep fit and I just love the outdoors.

We still use some of the old techniques, but technology and the fact that people are more knowledgeable about food has allowed us to be a lot more creative

BCR:  You’re also no stranger to feats of endurance, with the completion of a double marathon under you’re belt.

In 2008, I did the London marathon with a friend, whose idea it was to run from the finish line, at 3 am, to the start line, and then complete the main marathon. So about 55 miles altogether, as we had to take some slight detours due to some of the tunnels still being open at that time in the morning. It was for the Bobby Moore fund for bowel cancer. Originally I was just going to support my friend either on the first or second marathon, and he was looking for a second person to do the other one, but he couldn’t find anyone so talked me into it. We had another friend who directed us around on a bike, who also carried water, gels and snacks for us, for the first 26 miles. For me the first 32 miles was quite easy but after that I hit a wall and was counting down every mile after that. I started to get cramp and was constantly asking myself what the hell I was doing? The last mile took me about 20 minutes but once I crossed that line I had a big grin on my face as we were the first people to do that!

BCR: During events I quickly get tired of sickly sweet gels and bars, and crave something more natural, which doesn’t play havoc with your digestive system.  Do you have a recipe for a tasty snack that you could share with your fellow cyclists, to keep the legs turning?

How about these Oatmeal And Raisin Cookies?
Raisins are a great, cost-effective source of simple carbs, potassium, fibre, iron and other nutrients. Porridge Oats are every runner/cyclists best friend.

150g Unsalted Butter
300g Plain Flour
1/4tsp Bicarbonate Of Soda (mixed in with flour)
250g Porridge Oats
150g Raisins
200g Demerara Sugar
2        Large Beaten Eggs

Beat butter and sugar together until soft and pale, slowly add the eggs then mix in every thing else, roll into cylinder approximately 6cm wide then freeze, when firm cut into 1cm thick slices and bake in the oven at 175° for 7/8 minutes until nicely golden. They’ll be soft when they first come out of the oven but will firm up when they are cold.

Flavour comes first.
If it looks bad but tastes amazing, I’d rather have that than something that looks amazing and tastes bad.

BCR: Can you describe how you trained as a Chef, who trained you, and where?

I did 2 years at local college after school, and in those days everything was done in French, and all the dishes we learned were French. I eventually moved to Paris and worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants.

I started at a place called La Table Du Baltimore in the 16th arrondissement, where we gained a Michelin star. My last job was a place called Le Drouant which already had a star, and which is in the 2nd arrondissement. I was second chef in both of these restaurants, the first one was quite a small team of 5 chefs, I was responsible for the running of the kitchen and training of the junior staff. Le Drouant was much more interesting; we were a team of around 23 chefs but we worked a 4 day week so there was never 23 working at the same time. My job changed daily, one day I would be on meat, the next day on fish, the day after I would be working on the starters, and my 4th day I would work on the pass plating the food. It sounds quite easy with so many chefs and only working 4 days but it was pretty intense. Being the second chef I had other responsibilities like ordering the food, and after a few years in France under my belt I had a really good command of the language, but for some bizarre reason one day I ordered 50 kilos of turbot instead of 15. Needless to say I learnt quite a lot of swear words from the chef the following day!

BCR: How does the techniques, methods and styles in which you were trained relate to the type of food you create now?

Things are so different today, and for the better!
We still use some of the old techniques, but technology and the fact that people are more knowledgeable about food has allowed us to be a lot more creative, as opposed to the restraints that come with classic French cuisine.

BCR: How would you describe the type of food you create now?

I like to think of it as creative with a touch of humour, but what really interests me is trying to achieve zero waste – a philosophy which permeates every aspect of the hotel.
By that I mean being able to use every part of an ingredient. As an example, most potato peelings end up in the bin but I want to use them in our cooking, and that’s where you need to get creative to be able to turn them into something interesting and enjoyable.

BCR: I understand you do a lot of foraging for ingredients. How did you get in to this, where did you get the knowledge of what to look for, and what do you use in the restaurant?

I’ve always had an interest in fresh fruit and vegetables; my grandfather was a keen gardener. Just picking and cooking something you have grown yourself is an amazing feeling knowing that it doesn’t get any fresher than that, so collecting something that grows wild for me is even better! When I worked down south a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go on a foraging course so I jumped at the chance, we have all collected brambles with our parents so to find out all the other things you can collect was a great opportunity, so it kinda stayed with me. I worked in Tuscany for a while, where we collected wild herbs and asparagus, but in Paris I never had much opportunity. Here in the Highlands there is an abundance of stuff just a walk away from the hotel so we collect different types of sorrel which grow on the lawn, and we get wild garlic at the bottom of the hotel. From early summer until November there is an abundance of mushrooms; we get ceps, chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms, winter chanterelles, amethyst deceivers which have a beautiful purple colour, and the list goes on! We get raspberries, blackcurrants, brambles, strawberries, flowers and herbs. 99.9% of what we pick gets used in the restaurant in sorbets, soups and everything in between, the .1% thats left we have for our dinner!

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Mushrooms, growing wild near the hotel, and ripe for foraging

BCR: How do you strike a balance between delivering visually striking, flavourful, and sustenant food?

Flavour comes first.
If it looks bad but tastes amazing, I’d rather have that than something that looks amazing and tastes bad. Of course, if it looks and tastes amazing, then even better.

BCR: Have you ever thought of going for some type of Michelin guide accreditation – a star, bib gourmand etc. – both in terms of the recognition and achievement that would bring you and your staff, and also the advertisement and customer attraction an industry award like that would also bring?

Not sure how you ‘go’ for a Michelin star. We had 3 rosettes in the AA guide but decided to come out of it this year.
I’m not a big fan of the guides; I’ve been to starred restaurants that were truly horrendous and I’ve also been to restaurants without stars that have been amazing. Having said that I have also had some amazing meals in starred restaurants as well.
I think it’s the inconsistency in the guides that puts me off, but if the Michelin guide awarded us a bib gourmand or star I certainly wouldn’t refuse it!

BCR: What, where or whom is your biggest inspiration for your dishes?

Inspiration comes from everywhere; books, people, other chefs, social media.

BCR: What has been the best mistake you have made?

Probably turning down a good job in France to come to the Lovat where I met Caroline who became my wife and business partner.

BCR: Who has been the biggest influence in your life, professionally or personally?

I couldn’t name one person. I think everyone I have ever met has had some kind of influence, from my grandparents, parents, employers, and everyone in between, but Caroline, although she probably doesn’t know it, drives me to keep striving to be a better chef and person.

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BCR: What dish or meal has given you the greatest satisfaction in creating it?

This really splits opinion with customers, but I love cooking and serving pigs trotters.
It sums up how I feel about food, and using all the parts of an animal.
My grandparents used to eat trotters and other ‘second class’ cuts because that’s what they could afford, but cooked with care they can be amazing!

BCR: What has been the best restaurant you have visited, and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to eat in incredible restaurants around the world so it’s difficult to choose just one. I could probably write a book about all the great restaurants I have been to.
In the last few years my favourites have been L’enclume in Cumbria and Pure C in the Netherlands, close to the Belgian border, which has one star but should definitely have 2 in my humble opinion. My favourite Scottish restaurant is a toss-up between Castle Terrace, Timberyard and 21212 closely followed by The Gannet and Cail Bruich

BCR:  ..and finally.  One book, one drink and one fridge raid midnight snack.

Book:  Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, who sadly recently commited suicide. For telling it how it really is in a kitchen.  Drink:  Champagne.  Midnight snack:  Proper cheese.

You can follow Sean on Instagram – @stationroadlochness or @thelovatlochness
or on Twitter – @stationroadfood or @thelovat
Booking a stay at The Lovat hotel, or a fantastic meal at The Brasserie restaurant where Sean practices his craft, can be done through their website or on +44 (0)1456 490000

Happy Rolling

Daz & Craig

BCR Cafe shoot-14

The Ultimate Cyclist – Graeme Cook

He has logged over 32,000 miles on Strava.  He rode Paris-Roubaix Sportive on a single speed.  He has ridden over  27-century rides in a calendar year including the toughest Sportives this fair land has to offer.  He has more badges in his Strava Trophy case than a 75-Year lifelong Scout has on his sleeve (not too mention a Santa list of bagged KOM’s). This rouleur is a true cycling advocate and rarely does a day pass without him either riding his bike, advocating or promoting cycling.   So without further ado, It gives us great pleasure to introduce to you our friend Graeme Cook- The Ultimate Cyclist Continue reading “The Ultimate Cyclist – Graeme Cook”

Iona Shepherd – The Cyclist’s Cyclist

As you know the premise of our website is to celebrate the local heroes, the salt’s of the earth’s, the creatives and the batshit crazy types that migrate to this amazing cycling life.  Today we are talking to a cyclista that could have a foot in every one of those camps…if she had four feet that is?!  However, rest assured, two feet she has.  Two feet that she uses with great affect, not only to propel herself across and around Glasgow on her beloved Flanders Fixie,  but also to stand up as an active agent and influencer in affecting and championing positive change for cyclists near and far. Continue reading “Iona Shepherd – The Cyclist’s Cyclist”

Fallen Hero’s- Why I Rode Ventoux

I began to love cyling as a teenager when I borrowed my Cousin’s bike and cycle all around the Village where I lived. But the real change for me was when I went into ‘The Bike Shop’ in Falkirk in 1986 and looked up at all the bright colours and chrome that glinted in the sun. In those days there was no aluminium and carbon fibre, it was steel and soldered lugs that defined the quality of a bike.

Continue reading “Fallen Hero’s- Why I Rode Ventoux”

Was Chris Froome a Worthy Winner of the Giro 2018?

Well all is quiet on the eve of the 2018 TDF, You Excited much?  Personally, I’m currently feathering.   As much as I love the action of the Giro and Vuelta, nothing beats the TV coverage of the TDF.   Ned Boulting, the dry wit of Gary Imlach and the insider takes from David Millar & Chris Boardman on ITV.  Then on Eurosport there is the weird and wonderful combination of  Carlton Kirby’s immense general race related knowledge V’s Sean kelly’s Cal-cu-lations!!
 But what i’m looking forward to the most is letting the racing take the headlines ( hopefully).  Unless you’ve been living on Love Island, then you’ll be acutely aware of the pantomine that occurred this week surrounding  Chris Froome. The will he -wont he race conundrum, with ASO forcing the issue.
  • Firstly ASO (The organisers of the Tour De France)  thought they would take the governance of Cycling into their own hands by announcing they would not allow Chris Froome to race whilst the case against him for his adverse analytical finding was still outstanding.  (Cry’s of magnifique reverberated around the French countryside and beyond.)
  •  Fast Forward 24 hours and the UCI carpet bombs ASO’s sniper shots with the announcement that they would be closing the case against Froome- on the recommendation of WADA.  You could dive down a very big Donnie Darko white rabbit hole around pharma-kinetic testing etc but lets not.  Long story short, Froome is back in the TDF.  If you like watching bike races then you want to see the best riders duking it out. Right? Love him or loathe him, I’m no fan boy but this makes for better racing IMO.
On anticipation of the haters that will inevitably come scurrying back out their bunkers, just like they did after his Stage 19 revelatory win en route to his Grand Tour Grand Slam,  I would like to pose the question…
“Was Chris Froome a worthy winner of this years Giro”?
The majority will likely say no but IMO he was  (wow swim against the tide eh). Here’s why i think that.
There is a lot more to becoming a champion than meets the eye.  Especially the little furry eyes of the trolls, who appear to be off the group think that a superior sport person, has to be doing it by ill gains.  Or it’s only because they have the best team, best gear or hottest girlfriend.  Last time I checked, this wasn’t a  birthright to success!
 There is no clear blueprint for success, but there are traits required to wire the operating system of a champion:  Desire, Discipline, Resilience,  Learning,  Belief, Focus, Sacrifice, self control and a shit load of hard graft to name a few.
Chris Froome has been displaying these traits  in abundance the last few seasons, regardless of how many  salbutamol chugs or not . And furthermore the speculative Stage 19 in question, he was the embodiment of these traits in perfect harmony.
For example
  • LEARNING – STRATEGY: He ‘Formigal-d’ Dumoulin learning from his own errors .  In 2016 Froome lost the Vuelta on Stage 15 to Formigal when Contador and Quintana set out on a breakaway.  Froome decided to wait on team mates to help reel them in and then couldn’t pull them back.  Sound familiar with Dumoulin on the transition after the Finestre attack?
  • DESIRE TO LEARN: strengthen your weakness’.  Check out all the time he gained on the descents on the BBC article.  This is a rider who only a few season used to descend like bambi on ice or Thibot Pinot. He now arrows down the mountain like Bode Miller.
  • INTRINSIC BELIEF: Although he had swung a haymaker up the Zoncalon and connected, he was still back on the ropes the next stage, yet he had intrinsic belief to what he was still capable of and most importantly, never knowing when he is beaten..  See the messages to trainer Tim Kerrison in BBC article
  • DO your homework:  Team Sky recce’d the stage and set about a new feeding strategy to maximise carb absorption ( BBC report)  No other team was doing that and saying they didn’t have the personnel available like Team Sky did, is just a cover up for lack of preparation.
  • SACRIFICE and HARD GRAFT:  This could have backfired spectacularly but at least he had the nuts to go for it and he went all in. Devoid of the usual mass of team mates and tactics that Team Sky are notorious for.
And this questionable Stage 19?  To me, this was a show of sporting excellence that is up there with arguably one the finest sporting performances of our generation.  Obviously the nay sayers will take this performance as proof that Team SKY are some nefarious organisation complicit in ill-gotten gains. Thats why I understand their stance to publish a full holistic report of Froome’s Stage 19 performance from meal plans, to personal messages to power readings. CLICK HERE FOR LINK to help quench the fanning flames and validate the performance
An excellent read for all the data miners out there.  But if like me you just want tae get on with watching the race, then the rub is as follows
  • Team SKy planned for Froome to lose weight towards the end of the race
  • Their attention to detail for the Finestre stage was incredible
  • Froome’s Descending is where he made the majority of his gains

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It’s amazing how every few generations most sport throw up a dominant champion like Woods, Federar, Taylor and Froome whom ultimately move  their sport to the next level of what we thought was previously impossible.  Tour- Vuelta double ( can’t be done in modern era)  Vuelta/Giro  back to back, (pushing it ?)  Tomorrow  we have the start of a potential Giro/Tour double; (cant be done unless you have the high seas coursing through your veins like ‘Il pirata’ Marco Pantani did.)  Froome is re-writing what we thought was impossible.  Hopefully this will lead to more GC contenders mixing it up and not just saving themselves for one or two Grand Tours
Was Chris Froome a worthy winner of the Giro?   YES
Vive Le Tour… Happy Rolling
Daz
BCR Cafe shoot-33
Here’s a link to Mark Cavendish’s >>stage guide for this year

How to Ride Ventoux

How to Ride Mount Ventoux

Now normally my Strava feed reads something like;
  •  Morning Ride,
  • Lunch Ride,
  • Fahrt am Abend ( Pardon you Daniel Friebe),
  • Groundhog day
  • or maybe even Skating La Feclaz top ( That Thibaut Pinot gets aboot)
So last summer when the following rides started appearing on my feed, logged by three ‘real’ friends, albeit from different cycling circles, my interest was well and truly piqued.
No to mention it induced a huge spike in ride jealousy.
  • Mad Dogs and Englishmen
  • The Giant of Provence
  • Mount Ventoux
Although there is only one degree of friendship separation, all three riders(that became four) are unbeknown to each other, yet they are now inextricably linked by a huge common invisible bond.  They all rode the cycling Everest that is Mount Ventoux.  All within a few weeks of each other last summer
 This lit a fire of curiosity and wonder in my mind.  Question that I had to ask the next time our wheels rolled, glasses chinked or in this case, INBOX’s pinged.
We’ve all seen it on the telly, but what is it really like? is it really that tough?  What tips could they give if we were  to do it?
So via the mediums of email, Facebook and Whats App I posed all the riders the same questions, to illicit and tease out their response of information that will hopefully help the you’s and me’s ride this bald beauty one day.
 They have delivered in spades with wildly differing approaches, yet all   capturing the ride, the environment and the moment.
Introductions first.  The 3 riders that became 4  are as follows:

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Firstly before we go any further lets discover more about this mystical mountain with a plethora of nicknames that create a sense of imperious menace: ‘Beast of Provence, The Bald Mountain or the Giant of Provence’

What is Mount Ventoux

For the un-initiated Mount Ventoux sit’s proudly in the south of France.  Instantly recognisable to all cycling fans for it’s lunar-esque and barren landscape. The last 16K average 9% gradient.  A fearsome climb, even for the Pro’s.
It’s steeped in cycling history. Notoriously as the resting place for the iconic British Legend Tom Simpson who collapsed, asked to get put back on his bike by fans then died half a mile from the summit whilst racing the 1967 TDF.  His death believed to be caused by a combination of factors. Heat exhaustion, Stomach upset, alcohol and amphetamines.
More recently Ventoux hit the headlines in 2016 as the theatre for Chris Froome’s motorcycle induced crash which prompted his comedic, sans bike run through the crowds, as he awaited the arrival of his spare bike.
The Bald Mountain can be tackled from three routes:
1) South from Bédoin, the ‘classic’ route and the one the Tour De france use (21.5km long with an ascent of 1610 metres.  Last 16k 9% gradient.)
2)  Northwest from Malaucène, the quieter route, but equally as challenging( 21km with an ascent of 1570 metres).
3) East from Sault, The longest climbing but least punishing due it’s 4.4 % average gradient(26km with an ascent of 1220 metres).
Then again climbing it once just isn’t punishing enough for some folks.  If you are radio rental you can always climb all three routes in one day and join equal mentalists in the Club des Cinglés de Ventoux (literally the Maniacs of Ventoux Club!).  Easy peasy japaneasy.  Only 72 km of climbing with 4300 meters ascent!! (gulp)

How We Conquered Ventoux

Continue reading “How to Ride Ventoux”

Photography and Cycling with Tom Main

Photography and Cycling- A Q&A with Professional Photographer Tom Main

Thomas MainLet us introduce you to our friend Tom Main.  Tom is a former award winning Sport & Editorial photographer who previously worked for major publications such as The Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Mirror and The News of the World.  Now he is primarily focused on his passion of large format film and platinum printing.  Ohh and how could we forget! He is also a dab hand at cycling photography and a little bit of film making to boot.

So without further ado, here is our  Q & A with Tom. Questions posed By Daz.  Enjoy

BCR: Tell us a little about your life in Sports Photography.

TM: I started shooting rugby for The Sunday Times office in Glasgow in 1992 with a bit of football and then cricket in the summer season. I was then asked to go to cover SPL and 1st Division football for the News of the World 1993 as the No3 photographer and at the time there were only three football match reports with photographs so it was always Rangers, Celtic and some other team ! So I managed to cover grounds in Scotland from Stair Park Stranraer in the south to Forres Mechanics at Mosset Park on the Moray coast.

By the time SCORE the football pull-out in the NOTW was launched a few personnel changes had taken place and I was first choice for sport and was covering it all; football, rugby, golf, boxing, swimming, anything with exertion and I was there.

At the turn of the century I was in a position to supply my work to other newspapers through the contacts I’d made so my work was now being published the UK’s broadsheet and tabloid papers. This goes back to being freelance and making contacts in the sporting world allowing me the opportunities to create work that the papers would want especially in sports that generally had to battle to get coverage.

There were lots of great photographic experiences along the way that unfortunately haven’t made it to my thomasmain.com website like; Amir Khan KO in 30 seconds to Bredis Prescott, glove on jaw, back page of the News of the World. Tiger Woods on the front page of the Telegraph Sport or Scotland’s former rugby coach Andy Robinson in the Guardian. Generating my own style of portrait and getting to know what certain papers wanted I could create jobs that would be published and that was the essence of a freelance photographer.

“Winning and award is like peeing down your leg with black trousers on, you feel all warm and nobody notices!”

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BCR:    When did you move away from Freelance/Editorial and how did this change your outlook and approach to your own projects?

TM: I was always a freelancer, which looking back now, wasn’t so bad overall, as I still had control over what & when I wanted to shoot. In saying that I’d shoot any sport at any level at anytime, as I still enjoyed the challenge, but as the old adage goes at a few football  grounds when the floodlights came on….it got darker! I remember being at Firhill, home of Partick Thistle, and my camera had a broken light meter, so  going into the second half the floodlights came on and I whipped out my hand held light meter only to hear “you don’t need that to tell you it’s dark!” from one of the other photographers to a few guffaws all round.

Rupert Murdoch killed my career but he did give me the opportunity to go and create work away from digital cameras,  great tools for professional work but a double edged sword nonetheless with the market flooded with images. I now work almost exclusively with black & white film, silver gelatin prints, platinum palladium prints and….. shhh ! digital prints. I’m not anti-digital but I have used it enough to want to go back to what I enjoy and thankfully I kept my darkroom equipment through this digital period and found it easy to go and shoot manually with a hand held light meter again. After finding work outside journalism any free time I now have could be devoted to the ideas and projects I put on the back burner over the last few years.

People need to experience the satisfaction and enjoyment of producing a photographic print without the use of a computer or digital camera,

BCR:  Tells us about your current cycling project(S)  

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TM: My work at the moment is looking more at the aesthetic of the print that is expressionistic with the movement and texture.

So over the last six or seven months I’ve been shooting cycling action which is a perfect subject as the cyclist brings the effort and drama that I’m looking for. To add to the action photographs I’ve also collected various damaged bike parts to photograph in a still life set up and trying to get a delaminated tyre to look interesting is difficult ! Beyond the still image I’ve also started a video project involving my son Ellis and hopefully some additional riders in the future. This one goes back to my professional sports work where I want to shoot video on longer lenses in order to compress or foreshorten the perspective so that I can concentrate on the rider in detail. This is challenging as I haven’t had a great deal of experience with video and it’s a different way of thinking and planning your shots, though it is nice to see a moving image with the same look as my sports photographs.

Cyclist

BCR:  Any current or past Cycling photographers who’s work you enjoy?

TM:Before I mention any photographers this is a link to a Henri Lartigue photograph that sent me down the road of my current cycling project. I’m not looking to recreate this image with cyclists but it is the source of inspiration. Not bad for a photograph over 100 years old to still be so stimulating. Back to inspirational photographers. I really don’t have specific cycling photographers in mind though I do like Thomas Van Brecht’s work for Pelotonphotos. Though there are too many photographers to mention that have had an effect on my work in one way or another however I will mention Chris Smith from the Sunday Times and Eamonn McCabe from The Observer both of whom were a big influence on my sports work when I was learning. Albert Watson’s

photographs for Rolling Stone magazine were another big influence on my work, though on the portrait side, his attention to detail is incredible and the photographs timeless.

BCR: What equipment do you use and what does it give you over digital.

TM: Did I say I get to push boundaries? Shooting sport with a Fuji GX617 panoramic camera or a 5″x 4″ Field camera is interestingly difficult and can yield results not to everyone’s tastes, but that’s life at the edge of the frame. After years of striving for pin sharp, peak of the action photographs, I am now interested in building up layers of texture and movement with multiple exposures or one second long, panned shots. Even my still life photographs are challenging as I’m not satisfied just to sit a 1kg stud bolt down to be photographed, I need to make it float ! One of the reasons for shooting with film is that everything has to be done in camera when working with silver gelatin prints.  A very small amount of computer work is required for Platinum Palladium printing. I’ve never found any enjoyment in manipulating images to the extent of adding or removing parts of the image. If something exists and you don’t want it in your photograph then you have to work to find a composition that removes the object from the scene, that’s part of the enjoyment of photography. Adding and subtracting in Photoshop is lazy, it’s not enhancement, it’s just something else you let a computer do. People need to experience the satisfaction and enjoyment of producing a photographic print without the use of a computer or digital camera,

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BCR:  What is it you look for in setting up and creating your pieces?

TM: The first thing that draws me to a subject is tone followed quickly by texture and that tells me if the subject will photograph well in black and white. Next consideration is the composition, whether or not the subject sits in the frame correctly, bearing in mind that I use the full frame of the negative for the final print, as I don’t crop my current photographs, just to make things a little more challenging. Also,  to make it really interesting the location for the best picture always seems to be three feet over the edge or where security tell you where you can’t be or when someone tells you it can’t be done. The best spot never seems to be where I’m standing.

I like pushing boundaries. I like to push my photographic self.

BCR:  Talk us through your process of creating how you make your subject matters appear to float…P.S. Can you make a Cyclist float?  I floated once on the bike, but it didn’t have a happy ending for me!

TM: I don’t think you’d want me to make you float, I don’t do instant gratification, I like the pain, suffering and elation involved with creating the initial visualisation from scratch through to the final realisation in print or,  in order to stay in the present, digitally on my website. All of my still life photographs where the subject is floating is done in the studio not in Photoshop and it then requires a level of technical still to light the subject in order to make the photograph believable and subtle. It would be a dawdle in Photoshop, but where’s the ‘fun’ in that? Generally once I’ve shot the photographs I spend an evening developing either the rolls of film or, in the case of large format, the single sheets of 5″x4″ film. Netflix on my phone evens out the tediousness of repeat processing film. Once the film has dried overnight I’ll scan the photographs and make adjustments to the levels and spot out any dust on the negatives. Once they digital images are ready I’ll either produce a digital Pigment Ink print straight from my Epson P600 printer or I’ll prepare a larger negative printed from the same printer but used as part of a contact print to make a Platinum & Palladium photograph. Platinum printing is too involved to explain it here though I have some examples on my twitter feed @thomas_main or use Google as there are plenty of examples out there.

BCR:  What is your favourite memory or experience from your time  in the field as freelance sport and more recently in your non digital world?

TM: To name one I would think winning the Sports Photographer of the Year three times at the Scottish Press Awards, though the quote from the guest of honour doing the presentations burst any bubbles, “Winning and award is like peeing down your leg with black trousers on, you feel all warm and nobody notices!”  Even just being nominated is enough vindication that you’re doing something right. In the non-digital world the best experience is seeing the finished print just as you imagined it would be before you had even pressed the shutter. Nothing beats that!

BCR: What is one of the most important things you have learned in your life of photography.

THE most important thing I learned is that no matter how worked up or upset you are, never burn your bridges. Before you get to that point remember you are not more important than your subject no matter who they are.

I did burn my bridges once before I left the industry though it was building up for a few years and I still haven’t regretted it, so probably recognising any source of irritation and avoiding it’s influence would be a good piece of advice.

BCR: Your on a field trip. One album, one book and one alcoholic beverage to fire up the creative juices?

TM: ALBUM: Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway BOOK: Hunter S Thompson – The Rum Diary. BEVERAGE: Jack Daniels & Coke

Huge thanks for Tom for giving us little glimpse into his life and passions.  If you would like to see more of Tom’s creations head to

WEB:

thomasmain.net

thomasmain.com

Tom’s social media weapon of choice is Twitter follow him at TW: @thomas_main   and tmainphoto for Instagram

Happy Rolling

Daz

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Photo by Tom Main

Rolling With 14

On the road

A rather disappointing effort in the Aviemore 100 (more on that at a later date…) has had me concentrating on pedalling technique over my last couple of rides, which has led to some rather surprisingly good results.

It seems that during lapses in concentration, whether due to fatigue or simple absent-mindedness, there seems to be a reversion to some kind of default pedal stroke which is probably a lot like how I used to ride a bike as a kid: a stomping action, where power is only exerted through less than 50% of each turn of a crank. It doesn’t take a performance guru to deduce that this isn’t going to help me get anywhere fast.

To try and rectify this I’ve been working on keeping my backside firmly down in the saddle, with solid ankles, and feet pedalling in circles.
Pedalling in circles is probably a bit of a cliche, but it’s probably the best way to describe an effective pedal stroke, where a combination of push and pull exerts a force on the pedals, in a particular direction, throughout the full revolution of the pedal stroke.

This pedal stroke has been particularly easy to achieve when the road goes uphill, with the gradient itself helping the process. The technique needs a little more practice on those flatter, TT-like roads.
The Strava PR’s (as much as the variables inherent in Strava segment times can fully justify a tangible sign of improvement…) have been coming along regularly, so it’s something to keep working on.

Speaking of Strava segments, I was recently ruminating on how much more enjoyable a long Strava segment is.
Short sprints or climbs obviously have their place, but there’s nothing like a good 10-15 mile segment to make you think of pace, endurance, when to make a big effort, when to save energy, etc.

Some local favourites are below.

https://www.strava.com/segments/4838965

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https://www.strava.com/segments/17054030Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 19.58.21

https://www.strava.com/segments/7578333Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 19.58.41

Listening to

I was in two minds whether to raise the topic of football on these pages, but here goes…

Football these days leaves me kind of cold, especially in the higher echelons of the game where money pervades every aspect.
Following certain teams these days is akin to following one of the big 8 supermarkets in their race for market share (the Germans will probably win at that also): a game in which, as Method Man so eloquently put it, C.R.E.A.M.
How refreshing then to be reminded that all is not entirely lost by immersing yourself in the mad, mad world of lower league Scottish football.

The Pele Podcast, from the guys at Tell Him He’s Pele, is a series of interviews with the “stars” of Scotland’s Championship, League 1 and League 2.
Packed full of tales of daft-boyness, hard drinking, dressing room fights, dodgy agents, classic games, highs, lows, promotion, relegation, and everything else that makes up life inside the 30 clubs which form the bedrock of Scottish professional football.
Even if you don’t follow a Berwick, Brechin, Stranraer or Peterhead, there’s enough real insight in to people here, nevermind football or footballers, to keep anyone interested.

Check out the interviews with Steven Canning, Colin McMenamin, Paddy Boyle, and my particular favourite, The Beast, John Gemmell.

Reading

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Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son by Gordon Burn

Just finished re-reading this for the umpteenth time; it’s that good.
A detailed history of Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, but done without any sensationalised slant, concentrating completely on the people involved in the case.

This really is an absolute masterpiece.

Drinking

original

Coffee, coffee and more coffee.

Coffee and cycling go together like Rod Hull and Emu, Glen Michael and Paladin, and Cosmo and Dibs.
Since a Christmas time splurge on a Krups EA8150 , to provide me with my pre-ride caffeine fix, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with what my taste buds enjoy the most.
This process has been helped immensely by a coffee subscription service with The Coffee Factory.

By using their “roaster’s choice” option, at the frequency of my choosing a little bag drops through my postbox, complete with two 125g bags of coffee beans.
There’s everything from Ethiopian to Sumatran to Mexican coffee, each marking high on quality scoring.
A handy little card comes with each bag, describing the farm it was grown on and the tasting notes for the coffee itself.

Well worth investigating if you’re into your coffee and find the supermarket choice a bit bland.

Keep Rolling.

Craig

BCR Cafe shoot-40 2

Rolling with 12

On the road

I recently got my “summer” bike back from a custom paint job. Big cheers to Magnafibre Alloa for a great job and Michael from Alloa Cycle repairs for the rebuild(more to follow on another post). It’s not been on the road since October but It hasn’t taken me long to fall back in love with it’s airy, slammed curves.  Don’t get me wrong I’ve totally grown to enjoy the comfort and rather more relaxed riding position of my recently acquired Titanium winter freedom machine, but the fun factor? Well it’s just no where near as nimble, responsive or quick on the flats and descents as my Specialized Tarmac.   Thus with the belting weather I’ve been getting out as often as I can.  Of which, I’ve been particularly liking the morning summer commutes.   When I can get my arse out of bed early enough, i’ll head east (instead of north) to take an extended commute on as big an anti clockwise curve to work, as time allows. Riding into the rising sun with sweeping views of the Firth of Forth, whilst central Scotland rouses from it’s Golden slumber’s has a certain buzz to it.  Particularly on colder mornings where the fields, gardens and Golf courses sparkle like glistening gold waves as the sun liberates the early morning dew and occasional frost. STUNNING, see the photo slide show below. On days like these I Just want to keep pedalling, Keep  pushing that anti clockwise curve left like a freaky cycling Zoolander.  Needs must though. Bills need paying and wine needs a tasting, so  eventually a turn to the right and dismount is required.

We also recently rode the Aviemore 100 but that story will come in separate blog.

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Listening to

I’ve been making up playlist’s for my page on Spotify,  some new tunes of my own to follow. But hears a sneak listen to my June list

Reading.

War of Art – Steven Pressfield. This is a yearly re-read for me

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Story goes like this. Towards the end of 2016 the missus and I planned a ‘romantic’ weekend break to the south of Spain. Two parts romance, one part decompress after one of the most intense work and family periods we had navigated.

On this journey of romance, partying,  inevitable soul mining and long deep conversations over Pintxo’s and Vino came an epiphanal moment .  The understanding that there is an aspect of being that’s helped keep me sane through the intense preceding months; an escape vehicle seldom seen but one in which I could dive like Bonds Lotus Esprit in Octopussy ( Rarely do i surface to a vessel full of sea sirens though).  That vehicle for me, is creativity & playing.   It keeps  me squared up, when all the outside and inner  forces are trying tae form a hexagon .  Yet until recently (<2years) I had been depriving myself, stopping myself, relying on the contribution of others for these artistic surges to come to life and thus the only thing that i was prolific in creating was frustration. Then the few times I did shake my own thing, I guarded it fiercely from the public eye, for reason’s I didn’t know why.

Anyway, whilst in the South of Spain (sans kids), we visited friends and Property Impresarios Leane & Graeme Carling at their new Villa in Fuengirola. That weekend they were putting the finishing touches to their own creative project.  Their first book ‘Property Superstars’. A book charting their rise from office jobs in Central Scotland to  becoming the largest Independent property dealers in Scotland.   Chapeau. Over one of the many bottles of wines that weekend, the chat was of inspiring books and I asked Graeme.  ” Read any good ones lately?”  His answer was almost a reflex, like an Andy Murray cross court return of serve it was so lightning quick.

”  Yes….it’s called War of Art.. Steven Pressfield, ammmmazing book, must read”   He asserted.

The book he referred to is written by Steven Pressfield  who’s fiction includes The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, The Afghan Campaign and The Lions Gate, but it is his non fiction work.   The war of Art, Turning Pro and Do the Work that have transcended into cult classics. .

War of Art It’s about turning the tables on yourself. It is succinct. Yes a self helpy book, although minus the woo woo bullshit philosophy of cast it to the universe and the universe will deliver.  This is more on the Stoic path.  No waiting for Muses and inspiration. Just start, do the work and you’ll find your flow, inspiration and at times Muse on the way.  As Graeme intimated a must read for anyone with creative urges, especially those that need a good boot up the arse to just get their shit done and out there, like I was.

>click Here to find out more

We spoke more of the central theme which can be captured in two lines from the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”  in other words the side projects, songs, books, pieces of art or even start up’s we want to do, but never get the finger out to do.

Instantly I was curious about this “resistance”.  Could resistance be the guarding, the denying, the delay in starting, the reliance on others, the annoyance at others reliance on me, that I was  all to frequently deferring to as an excuse against, getting shit done?……it was like a bomb going off in my head.  A collision course was now set with my earlier creative epiphany. Out came the phone and ordered it was and through the letter box  it lay when we arrived home. I devoured it in a couple of sitting’s.  With each page the self inflicted creative weight was lifting from my shoulders just like the morning dew off the grass of my summer commutes.  If it wasn’t for a combination of both book and epiphany,  you wouldn’t be reading this blog right know.  I would still be citing many excuses against creating that cycling blog idea, turning that melody into a tune, that Snowboarding movie.  I remember before we left that weekend saying to Leane.  ”  yi know I’ve always wanted to write a book”  My Tour of the highland series is essentially that.  A riders eye view at playing the endurance athlete for a three days.

Further reading are Steven Pressfields other cult classics on the creative topic.  These should be read in order listed below.

  1. >>War of Art
  2. >>Turning Pro
  3. >>Do the Work

There you go three book recommendations for the price of one



Drinking

I Latina Carménère

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 18.35.30This little beauty was corked last wine Wednesday in the Murray house.  I first tried this on our launch night at the Acoustic Cafe.  Danny of the Kennedy brought this along and splashes me a glass and when it came back in stock in his Naked Wine membership, the offer was made to grab a few and there was  no way I was declining.



Watching

We recently watched and recommend >>THE BIG SICK. A comedy loosely based on the real life relationship between comedian Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon and the cultural differences they faced in an interacial relationship.  Sounds shit, but is really gid.

Totally appealed to my sense of humour.  Check it out.

Get  Reading, drinking, Listening and Rolling…..Short life advice: Probably best do that in reverse order.

Daz

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