Time Trial: a film reviewed

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Cycling has long held a symbiotic relationship with art. The poetry and pain of the sport inspires artists working with almost any media. From the early days of flighty prose to sell newspapers, through books endeavouring to describe its suffering and salvation, to the cinematic art of Jørgan Leth, cycling has few rivals, in the sporting world at least, as a source of inspiration; even musicians are inspired by the humble bike race - none more so than Kraftwerk.

Finlay Pretsell joins this long tradition with Time Trial, his exploration of David Millar’s life in cycling, and his final season in particular.

As the trailers finally finish, the first thing that confronts the viewer is the BBFC certificate... 18. What? For a film about cycling... why? Seconds later, it becomes obvious why this is an adult film. Millar, and those around him, don’t censor themselves. Why would they? This is a brutal sport, and the film contains many brutal moments. Races and riders are fucks, shits, and, on one memorable occasion, glove-stealing cunts.

That’s not to say that there is no beauty in this brutal world. Pretsell obviously has a wonderful eye for the tiny moments of wonder, and shot after shot, whether capturing suffering or glory, is beautifully produced and edited. Although the influence of other artistically-minded sports documentaries is at times apparent - films like Zidane and Senna, not to mention Leth’s oeuvre - Time Trial is a unique, modern film that feels as though it could only have been made now, with a rider like Millar in total cooperation.

Time Trial is more than just a pretty face, however. Nothing this beautiful has any right to be so informative... I have consumed cycling media in all its forms for many years. I’ve watched, read, listened, and streamed, not to mention raced, but I’ve rarely felt this immersed in the world of professional cycling. From tiny vignettes within the peloton, to bare-all hotel room footage, and warts and all interviews with the man himself, Pretsell gets deep under the skin of his fellow Scot, at times even to Millar’s evident discomfort.

Parts of the film make genuinely uncomfortable watching. A lot of this is down to the sound design and score, which use atonality and dissonance to unsettle the viewer and underscore Millar going deeper and deeper within himself. In particular, a wickedly tough climb at Tirreno Adriatico, and the frozen and washed out 2015 Milan-San Remo are stark antidotes to any Sunday rider who fancies the life of a pro.

The darkness is both literal and metaphorical - at his lowest ebb, Millar the cyclist is entombed within tunnels as Millar the man, shot against a black backdrop, bares his soul.

There is no easy redemption here and Pretsell won’t allow us the simple ending of Millar punching the air. His is a cleverer and deeper film than that, and is all the better for it. Having been so deeply immersed in the peloton, finally we are allowed to come up for air… and given the narrowest of hints that perhaps there is life, and maybe even happiness, beyond cycling. 

Time Trial is in cinemas now, and is also available on iTunes, Sky Store, Amazon Video, or Google Play.

Why not organise your own club screening at https://www.timetrialfilm.com/clubs

 

A ride in the making: Simpson CC 2018

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We're busy putting the finishing touches to our latest CC ride. It takes place north of Ipswich on Sunday August 19th, starting from the iconic roadside café The Kesgrave Kitchen. Avoiding main roads it'll take you deep into the heart of the Suffolk countryside. You'll discover villages with no name, myths, folklore, wild untamed skies and of course the sea.

We plan to stop for lunch at the Eel's Foot Inn, an undiscovered gem of a pub dating back to 1533 tucked away in the hamlet of Eastbridge. With Adnams beers on tap and numerous food awards to it's name, this venue rightly gives the ride its title.

Covering approximately 70 miles at a pace of 15+ mph our ride policy ensures no-one will get left behind - it's not a race, it's a social ride so you'll need to feel comfortable riding at this pace as this is a non supported event. For everyone's convenience the route will be circular. Please ensure you come prepared.

In order to keep rider numbers manageable we operate a first come, first served policy. If you fancy joining us we'll need you to confirm no later than Thursday 19th July.

We look forward to hearing from you at www.info@simpsonmagazine.cc

Simpson CC, the best way to be taken for a ride.

Sockology: the art of detailing and much more

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Whether you're pounding away on the pedals or kicking back on a low intensity recovery ride you're always aware of your cockpit surroundings, handlebars, hands, legs and feet. In the glory days of the summertime everything around you is bursting out with life, with such extreme intensity. Bare arms and legs begin to gain colour, those winter miles now prove there worth as you drink in the sights and sounds you've longed for. When you glance down you see the machine-like movement your legs are making: the engine room in motion. For us there's a certain special relationship taking place, that change of angle where leg meets foot. It's celebrated by the sock, be it an intense pattern, an explosion of colour or just a combination of elements.

On a domestic level sock choice has always been a personal 'thing' - much maligned with the stigma of Christmas gifting but to the cyclist it's become an expressive format. Even the hallowed ground of sock height caused unrest within the cycling community. Started by the seven time dethroned Texan Lance Armstrong and further championed by Sir Brad Wiggins, the long cuff sock is state-of-the-art to many 'new generation' cyclists. Gone are the purity days when white ankle socks were the staple diet, cycling's high altar has been replaced by a technicolour revolution.

Our stance on this remains open minded, the tri-band intersection ranging from leg to sock to shoe remains as individual as any other major bike decision. We just love to see how riders embrace this relationship without being judgemental in any way. This said we do ride with a guy who sports white cotton towelling tennis socks - a really strong rider and extremely nice chap but someone needs to have a word with him on this front.

Apart from the demands of seasonal materials 'Sockology' is an all year round affair - the doors are wide open. Colour and pattern is there to brighten the bleakest of winter rides so go and embrace the revolution. Love your feet and they will love you back. Happy feet = happy riding.

What others say really counts

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Sometimes it's good to be questioned about what you do and why you do it. The voicing of an opinion gives one the opportunity to revisit/reassess the worth, the merits and ultimately the initial motivating force behind what you had set out to achieve.

Back in March 2013 when we launched Simpson it was based on the desire to communicate and share our love of cycling with other cyclists. Honesty and a sense of community inspired us to create a no bull***t publication about the sport we dearly love.

When Derby based creative content agency Crocstar got in touch wanting to interview us for their blog post we were, in all honesty, a tad hesitant. Things like this happened to more mainstream publications and not to us - but having discussed its merits we agreed it instinctively felt right. Crocstar's previous blog posts demonstrated a degree of both sensitivity and intregity that sat comfortably with us.

We would like to personally thank Crocstar's writer and content creator Shannon Watson for her crafted words they beautifully capture the essence of Simpson and all that it stands for - chapeau to you!

http://crocstar.com/blog/2017/satisfying-your-craving-for-headspace-could-change-your-life

 

A material world: the resurgence of 80's music

For a post 90's generation bands like Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, Joe Jackson and now even Devo are a foreign language, a mysterious entity locked into the bygone era of their parents. For those of us privileged to have grown up with the eclectic sounds of electronic music it's amusing not only to revisit such songs but to see how they are being presented to another generation.

It got us thinking, if we were to identify a song and associate it to us, which 80's song would it be? What could truly sum up Simpson, not only as a publication but as a whole philosophy? What would our choice be based on? Would we go down the well-trodden path of a cycling related song title i.e. Queen's 'I want to ride my bicycle' or should our search go deeper. 

Cycling like music is located in a place very close to our hearts (yes we'd better believe it - we are very passionate about both these subjects in our lives).  It's the beat, the rhythm that motivates us, a slow love song isn't for us. What sound would identify us, tie us in to what we do and believe in?

Kick against it as much as you like but musically the 80's was a hotbed of contrasting styles. Having gained inspiration from Big Country's album 'The Crossing' for our Romance of the Road feature in issue 11, we would look to Sheffield for our choice of soundtrack. Directly related to the manufacture of steel, Sheffield also produced a host of pioneering electronica bands like Cabaret Voltaire and The Human League.

Openly influenced by industrial sounds created by heavy machinery pounding raw materials that sounding out for miles from foundries working throughout the night. Our choice has to be The Human League 'Being Boiled' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMhs8e12z_Q

The emotive power and rawness of this track remains ideal for turbo/roller/zwift workouts as well as staying in the mind on longer rides. It's a fitting cross over anthem to both the past and future.