What's Cool In Road Cycling

Meet The PEZ Crew: Ed Hood

When you see the name Edmond Hood at the top of an article you know you are going to get interesting, in-depth, and incisive writing. Ed has more experience at every level of the sport than just about anyone and everyone. Alastair Hamilton took a few minutes recently to try to get the ‘King of the Blackberry’ to spill the beans on the man behind the words.

PEZ: In your wide career in cycling you have been a rider, manager, sponsor, runner at the Sixes and (obviously) a journalist. Has one been more satisfying or enjoyable than the others?
Ed Hood: I was primarily a time trial rider but did the odd bittie on the road and track – I loved it. Everything about it, the training; getting the lightest possible bike; the race rituals; the whole thing. When it all came right; when you were on top of the gear and the silks were singing on the tar on a Sunday morning, there was no better feeling.

The “management” you mention was of GS Modena, a Scottish amateur club which I was involved in the set up and running of, along with my friend, Stewart Sutherland – it’s not as if I was Lom Driessens!

Having said that, we were successful in our time and the kit, organisation and team work weren’t so far behind what I see now, in Scottish racing.

Sponsorship at the Scottish level is very much a labour of love. It’s different if you’re Phil Griffiths with his Pinarello team in England and you’re getting good coverage in the mags and on the websites – that’ll sell for you. We did it because it was our passion – the commercial return was zero.

Bruno Risi is a favorite of Ed’s.

Running at the Sixes; it’s the best. You’re in there with some of the best riders in the world – Bruno Risi is an all time great – there’s the music, the gossip, the banter. Every night when the programme kicks off and the 70’s disco pumps, I sit and think, “God, I love this!”

The best thing about writing about the sport is when someone you’ve never met takes the trouble to sit down and write and tell you they enjoyed your words – that’s special. To summarise: everything I’ve been involved in with cycling has had its moments – it’s the King of sports.

PEZ: You have been road-side at all three of the Grand Tours, the World Champs and probably most of the classics, which is your favourite race?
Ed: The Primavera is epic, a seven hour odyssey across a country; through different topography, culture and climate. It’s a magnificent race – but it needs to get back to the Via Roma finish.

Flanders has to be seen to be believed – a whole nation enthralled.

The Worlds is awe inspiring, that last lap, with its speed, drama, desperation and anticipation is one of the greatest twenty minutes of sport you’ll ever witness.

Ed working hard for a great shot at the Tour de France.

As a famous rider from days past, once said; “le Tour est le Tour!” Officials who are power mad, over-kill security, too commercial, huge in its scale – but drive a stage, meet those fans and it’ll wash all your cynicism away.

It’s not always sun and fun!

The Giro is more sympatico and Italy is so diverse and beautiful – and the fans know their stuff.

The Vuelta; it’s a million miles behind the Tour; but it’s so laid back and quirky. On one of the rest days, last year, Contador was ambling about chatting to all and sundry – simply no chance of that on le Tour.

My favourite? A kermesse in Flanders, with the boys, hanging over the barriers chatting to the locals with our frittes and beer – bliss.

PEZ: Are there any races that you have not been to that are still on the list of races to be given the Ed treatment?
Ed: Tro Bro Leon, Munich Six, the Ras in Ireland, Philly and, if I had a time machine – the GP des Nations, Escalada a Montjuich and Trofeo Barrachi in their golden days.

PEZ: And your favourite country for the sport of cycling?
Ed: Flanders, no question. Whilst races like Milan – San Remo and Lombardy are wonderful occasions; there’s nothing like Flanders with its kermesses, inter-clubs, semi-classics, cafes and bars. It’s part of the fabric of the nation.

PEZ: You have covered races from local Scottish events to the biggest in the world, what does it feel like to go from; lets say the Giro d’Italia to a round of the Scottish race series?
Ed: You can’t and don’t compare – two different worlds.

We have a little website, VeloVeritas, where we try and keep up with the racing, but we can’t attend all the Scottish races. We attend most of the main ones though.

The Cycling Weekly magazine doesn’t cover Scottish races anymore; we feel that guys who train hard deserve a little fuss to be made when they do a good ride. We’ve covered a few of the Scottish races on PEZ over the years as well.

PEZ: As a cycling journalist what would you say was your best memory?
Ed: Being at the Copenhagen Six this year when “my” team, Michael Morkov and Alex Rasmussen won was pretty special.

Ed with his ‘boys’: Michael Morkov and Alex Rasmussen.

Following David Millar in a Tour time trial, two years ago was an eye opener – he was so fast and fearless in the pouring rain.

And following CSC in a team time trial at the Giro in Sardinia, three years ago, was jaw droppingly impressive.

PEZ: What riders influenced you in the past and who do you rate in the peloton at the moment?
Ed: I grew up in the Merckx era – he’s my still my hero. I met him at Milan – San Remo, this year; I was like a kid! Patrick Sercu; an athlete of such incredible versatility, but I don’t think people realise how special he was – imagine Chris Hoy winning the green jersey in the Tour: that it puts it into perspective. Ole Ritter; the Danish pursuit and chrono star, the Terminator on Clements. Felice Gimondi; he was just so cool and classy. Cipo; I loved his showmanship and speed – I miss him.

Ed got the chance to meet one of his heroes this year: Eddy Merckx.

Currently; for the classics, Tom Boonen – let’s hope his nonsense is behind him; in the Giro, Danilo Di Luca; in the three week Tours, Alberto Contador – he’s such a quiet unassuming guy, but the best in the world in the Grand Tours, he’s a man of the people too, I like that.

Danilo Di Luca is a favorite.

PEZ: Tell us about your French journalist hero?
Ed: Philippe Brunel; he always dresses in black, he’s skinny with long black hair – like a hip professor of literature or a Beat generation poet. Cycling is something grand – Shakespeare would have written about it (Hemingway did!) a Greek tragedy, a Norse saga; heroes, villains, despair, joy, betrayal, victory, defeat.

The inimitable Philippe Brunel.

There’s no post modern irony from him; bike racing is an essential part of life, not a pass time to be treated lightly – it matters!

PEZ: Unlike most cycling journalists you actually went to college to learn the trade, there must have been a plan?
Ed: I was sick of what I was doing, I needed a change; I always thought I could write. Initially I thought I could go into general journalism but as each day goes by, I realise more and more that the only thing I ever really wanted to do was write about cycling.

Ed waiting patiently for a few words from Geraint Thomas.

PEZ: How did you get started with PEZ?
Ed: My friend, Stepano suggested I submit a piece – it was about Mike Neel’s brilliant ride in the Worlds, back in the 70’s; one thing lead to another. When Richard asked me to go to my first Tour, there were tears of joy in my eyes.

PEZ: How did you feel when he sent you to your first big race as a fully accredited journalist?
Ed: Terrified! Stricken with fear, self doubt and sheer horror!

PEZ: Which has been your favourite PEZ assignment?
Ed: The next one!

PEZ: What makes you get involved with what must be the lowest job at the ‘6’ days, being a runner, doing all the not so nice jobs?
Ed: I’m really lucky, my buddy Kris is a soigneur and treats me with respect. Usually we’re working for Franco Marvulli, who’s a cool guy to look after.

Ed often works for Franco Marvulli at the Sixes.

There’s stress, sure, but generally its great fun and you make excellent contacts. You’re in a little bubble and all that matters is the race. There are fringe benefits too – like the pizzas in Grenoble and Lou Bega’s dancers in Berlin.

PEZ: OK, the drugs question, is it getting better?
Ed: I think so, I hope so, but really, I don’t know. The UCI do not take a consistent stance and even ASO, who organise the Tour have some people on the race who should not be there – in any capacity. I won’t say any more – I don’t want my credentials ‘pulled!’

Kohl’s revelations were disturbing; but the problem is what to believe – we know the man is a cheat and a liar so it’s difficult to accept anything he says.

When I first got into cycling in the early 70’s’ ‘kit’ was part of the culture in pro cycling – if your hero was ‘declassed’ now and again, well, that was part of the sport. We didn’t pay too much attention, really; but the world has turned and what was acceptable 30 years ago, simply isn’t now.

And the level that doping and blood manipulation has reached is insane. The Festina Affair in ’98 should have been a watershed, but it wasn’t – it got worse, instead of better.

Ed with Sr. Masi.

The governing bodies have to keep battling and the efforts of teams like Garmin and Columbia must be applauded.

The list of names is depressing; Schumacher, Kohl, Rebellin, Colom – it really does depress me when the scandals break. When Rasmussen was ejected from the Tour, two years ago, I just wanted to go home.

PEZ: What’s Ed’s take on the past, present and the future of cycling?
Ed: Despite the scandals, the credit crunch, the changes in the structure of society, the need for instant information and gratification, the sport still has a strong pull – it really is unique.

Ed gets a few words from soon-to-be Milano-Sanremo winner, Mark Cavendish, right before the this year’s start.

The speed, the colour, the spectacle, the fact that it’s on the open roads and zooms past your house, usually it’s free, there’s very little of the thuggery, racism and violence that afflict other sports – unique.

PEZ: Lance Armstrong?
Ed: Hugely professional, driven, dedicated, a force of nature. I have mixed feelings about his comeback; he gave the 100th Giro a huge PR boost but I also think his hype draws attention away from good young riders on their way up. Despite what’s happening with Astana, he’ll be at le Tour – ASO will see to that.

PEZ: What are your plans for this years’ Tour de France? And who will win?
Ed: Martin Williamson and I will be covering the last ten stages; our number one goal is to take Pez readers there with us. The scenery, the fans, the characters, the quirky stuff, the bars, the stars, the bikes . . .

I would have said; Contador to win – but that’s only if he gets a start, however, he’s with Lance, and “what Lance wants, Lance gets!”

PEZ: With everything you have done, which is just about everything, what does the future hold for Edmond Hood the journalist, the cyclist and the man?
Ed: The main thing is to get back on my bike – it’s depressing to look at my fat face in photos!

There you have the world according to Ed Hood and he has the experience behind his words. We will be looking forward to Ed’s unique Tour road side reports and on-the-spot rider interviews in July and so much more from his Blackberry!

Ed will be at it again in just a few weeks time with his trusty Blackberry in hand.

Want a word with Mr. Hood? Send him an email!

Don’t forget to check out VeloResults.co.uk for lots more as well.

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