The three guys behind the blog and podcasting site “Velo Club Don Logan” may be ‘foul-mouthed and ill-informed’ (their words), but they’re also nice lads and very entertaining too.
They show typical Scottish self-effacing characteristics but they are producing regular high-quality podcasts and blog posts driven by their huge enthusiasm for all things cycling, particularly the goings-on in the Pro scene and the seemingly endless succession of doping scandals, cycling politics and governmental blunders.
After listening to the fantastic podcast of their interview with Graeme Obree – in which Graeme talks openly about previously unexplored aspects of his life and career – we had to find out more about this site and the men behind it; Graham, Gary and Colin – and we caught up with them recently to get a bit of background and to hear their plans… okay, there aren’t any plans…
Just who is Don Logan? And why ”Velo Club Don Logan’?
(Graham) “Don Logan is a character played by Ben Kingsley in the film ‘Sexy Beast‘.
“His performance, coming from a guy best known for playing Ghandi, is jaw-dropping, as a foul-mouthed sociopath trying to recruit a team for a robbery. We all saw the film around the same time and, given that we are all deeply immature, we thought the swearing was really cool. We needed a team name for our entry into Ten Under the Ben [a MTB enduro held at Fort William in Scotland every year] and settled on ‘Team Don Logan’.
“Colin and I did the Etape du Tour in 2009 and loved seeing all the French jerseys and decided that ‘Velo Club Don Logan’ sounded more jet-setty & continental…”
(Gary) “From an artistic perspective, the scene in which Don returns to meet Gal, Dee Dee, Aitch and Jackie for the first time in years is brilliantly shot and acted so the edgy, tense silence is equally excruciating for the viewer. But, yes, the swearing’s brilliant!”
(Colin) “Sexy Beast is just such a great film that it needs some sort of homage and naming your mediocre mountain biking team in honour just felt right. But mainly because, in the swear count, Sir Kingsley is right up there with the best!”
Who is in the Club? What’s your background, both on the bike (racing, level reached), and ‘real life’?
(Gary) “The Pod is basically just Graham, Colin and I but Graham’s brother John and our mate David are also “members”. We also have assorted hangers-on just because we’re famous 🙂
“I’m a civil servant who lost touch with his BMX when he was 15 and only got into mountain biking 11 years later.
“I’ve only been a roadie for the last year. So far my *cough* racing has been the excellent Ten Under the Ben and a wee XC event called the Hairy Coo, held in Perthshire each autumn. I’ve also done an off-road duathlon but competition really isn’t a big consideration.
“We’re all doing the Ken Laidlaw sportive in the Borders this August – my first ‘proper’ roadie event — and a few Twitter chums are also signed up. I dare say a competitive element may emerge during the 105 miles!”
(Colin) “Level reached? That’s a joke! I passed my cycling proficiency test in 1976 and that’s about all they wrote!
“My real job is working for the Independent as the Sales and Marketing manager. This means I have nothing to do with journalism but just attempt to be the world’s top blagger.
“Graham and I went to school together far too many years ago but started doing a wee bit of running a few years back which lead to mountain biking at Ten Under the Ben.
“He said he had met this keen mountain biker in the school playground while picking up his son and suddenly, we had a team. From there a blog and eventually the Pod.”
(Graham) “Aye – no great tales of heroic junior racing. I started mountain biking in about 1994 or so and got a road bike in 2006.
“Colin and I have done the last three Etapes Caledonia (including the famous sabotaged one!) and we also did the 2009 Etape du Tour, the one that finished on Mont Ventoux.
“I suppose you could say that we fairly accurately represent the current crop of born-again cyclists (although I despise that term).
“In my day job I’m a Chartered Structural Engineer with my own practice.”
You’re based in the West of Scotland?
(Colin) “I am. The other two have emigrated to the middle east of Scotland aka ‘Sausage Roll City’.”
(Gary) “Actually, I’m a West Lothian lad, born and bred. I don’t think it’s generally considered to be the epicentre of Scottish cycling but Graham and I are here and Endura are based just along the road.”
How long has the VCDL site been going?
(Graham) “The site was born in 2008 as a blog”.
(Gary) “It’s our birthday later this month!”
(Graham) “The blog came about as a method of recording our mediocre racing adventures in the first Ten Under the Ben that we entered. We just kept it going and really didn’t change anything once the pod came along.
“But we are planning a revamp of the blog over the next wee while. Gary has a real talent for writing and it would be nice to get a few more posts up in between episodes of the pod.
(Colin) “As I find it difficult to type 140 characters without bad grammar and mis-spelling [(Gary) — you’re not kidding, I’ve spent as long correcting Colin’s answers to your questions as I did typing my own!], I leave the flowery prose to Gary, who has a real talent for remembering every climb, tree and rock we cycle over.”
(Gary) “They call it “talent”, I call it “a survival mechanism”; ‘Oh dear God, my legs are going to fall off and my lungs are coming out of my — oh look, a tree!'”
How did you come upon the idea to podcast in the first place?
(Graham) “Colin and I were early adopters of the podcast genre, listening to things like Coffee Geek, Portafilter, and Ironman Talk, and we often talked about it but never really did more than talk. We were big fans of the Velocast and its demise gave us the kick-start that we needed to start up a podcast of our own.”
(Colin) “I really enjoyed the concept of some of the early podcasts and remember getting excited when I took part in the phone cast that Portafilter had.
“Then the running casts in particular really made listening accessible to “normal” people. I still really like Phedippidations, the podcast at SteveRunner.
“I also used to take part in the Runners Round Table, thought they didn’t abuse me as much and this pair do!”
What goes into making a typical podcast? Do you script it, or ad lib it?
(Gary) We do actually put in a surprising amount of pre-work and each episode usually has at least half-a-dozen pages of notes. All Graham’s ad libs are carefully scripted, of course, but the abuse of Colin just seems to flow naturally. The “um”s and “ah”s are all mine, something my wife constantly berates me for!
“The interviews take more work, especially because people are giving up their time to talk with us but also because we don’t want to make arses of ourselves!
“For example, we visited Graeme Obree with pages of stuff, lots of which we never touched but better to have too much material and all that…”
(Colin) “It’s scripted of sorts via Google Docs, though to be fair Gary and Graham tend to craft it then I come along and muck things up with my own particular brand of chaos.”
(Graham) “We try to get to a point where we can record it “as live”, from start to finish. It helps things to flow and also helps to minimise the editing process.”
You don’t have a particularly Scottish-heavy agenda – are you interested more in the pro side of the sport?
(Graham) “We do discuss some local issues – such as the threatened closure of The Hub at Glentress, but local topics will, by their very nature, have a limited appeal. We like to think that we are discussing various aspects of cycling from a Scottish viewpoint.
“The pro side of the sport is the thing we end up talking about most because when we’re not recording, it’s the thing we end up talking about most!”
(Gary) “I think there’s a danger we could do the “Scottish thing” to death and I certainly don’t want to make that our USP.
“Yes, we are Scottish, but then the Two Johns are American and they don’t drape each episode with the Star Spangled Banner.”
And there’s a MTB interest there too?
(Gary) “Mountain bikes are our “roots”, if you will as we all first met on the trails of Ae, Glentress and Carron Valley.
“As a sport, I think it’s still woefully served by the mainstream and cycling media.
“Even the MTB magazines don’t really go a bundle on racing beyond DH stars like Steve Peat, Sam Hill and the Athertons so I think there’s a wee niche for our off-road stuff.”
Your current podcasts are 90 mins long – any plans to ‘chunk’ it, make it shorter?
(Graham) “90 minutes has become the norm over the last handful of episodes but we would rather keep it nearer the hour mark – just to keep the listeners from nodding off.”
(Gary) “If you’ve ever read any of my blog posts, you’ll know that brevity is not one of my strengths. It’s difficult enough keeping it brief without giving me any LESS time to (in)articulate myself!”
(Colin) “We are conscious of the time and I think that 90 mins should be the top end. After all how much banter can you subject people to and still expect them to come back for more?!
“Besides, I only know about three jokes so I need to stretch them out a bit…”
You remind me of “Off The Ball” on Radio Scotland, with Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove. I’m not really into football, but I listen to their programme purely for their banter, it’s funny…
(Graham) “Amazingly, you are not the first person to have made that observation – and I think we would be extremely flattered by the comparison. “Velo Club Don Logan, ye can repeat it, but ye cannae beat it”, has a certain ring to it.”
(Gary) “Lots of people think Graham sounds exactly like Stuart Cosgrove which is surprising considering he has almost no interest in football.”
(Colin) “Only Gary really follows football, but we all listen to ‘OTB’ and that’s certainly something we would love to recreate.
“Hopefully even if listeners aren’t quite as into cycling as us then they’ll still find us entertaining.”
I imagine one of you has experience as a sound engineer or something like that, to edit-in the music so well – it sounds like you produce the podcast in a studio… or do you?
(Graham) “Yes, I have some knowledge as a musician and sound engineer. Most of our recording gear comes from my experimentation in the early days of computer recording. It used to bug me that the sound quality of many podcasts was really poor and: so I was determined to try to get ours to sound as pro as possible.
“With the exception of a few hiccups along the way (which the others will tell you, upset me to a disproportionate level) I think we have achieved that.
“We record in the world famous ‘Sausage Roll Studios’ (which is actually my office), and use about ten times as much gear as is strictly necessary.
“I’m afraid I am a gear freak in all walks of life!”
(Colin) “Due to time constraints I usually have to Skype in from my home office and let Graham do all his black magic genius with the sound.”
(Gary) “I’m just pleased you didn’t say “it sounds like you produce the podcast in a ‘phone box”…”
Cycling administration at the top level (the UCI) seems to have it’s problems (donations, radios, doping scandal after scandal, etc) – do you rejoice in the variety and volume of things to discuss, or despair that the sport’s leaders appear to have multiple (often conflicting) agendas?
(Graham) “From our point of view, the many facets of cycling (including all of its woes) means that there is never any shortage of topics to discuss.
“We’re not embedded in the high levels of the sport and we don’t profess to have the greatest insight, knowledge or experience, but we have a passion for the sport that is shared by our listeners and we just really enjoy ourselves talking about it.”
(Gary) “The UCI have made themselves an easy target and we could probably have a regular “kick Uncle Pat” slot, but it does get a little tiring.
“Like most fans, we’re on the outside of the political circle looking in and it is frustrating. That said, the blog went mental after I posted my e-mail exchange with Pat McQuaid about the Lance Armstrong donation so they’re good copy, as it were!”
Which has been your most popular edition? I’m guessing the Obree one?
(Graham) “Obree was definitely our most popular and the one that we are proudest of. We carried out a ton of research and the reward was that he took us seriously and opened up.”
(Colin) “That definitely took things to a different level both in terms of our own input and planning and the rewards we got for that input. Graeme was just so engaging and we sat back and let him talk.”
(Gary) ““Input and output”? Have you been reading the manual for your laptop again?”
How was Graeme when you met him? He made you a brew, and opened the box of Tunnocks Tea Cakes?
(Gary) “It quite literally was like that, although they were Jaffa cakes!
“All our contact beforehand had been with Graeme’s manager (hello, Charlie!) so we really didn’t know quite what to expect. I’d imagine that Graeme himself felt the same – I mean, what would you say if your daughter announced that three men off the internet were coming to visit?!
“But Graeme was a great host, welcoming: complete strangers into his home to talk about cycling. While we had loads of questions, Graeme himself pretty much led the whole thing, as Colin alluded! I think I didn’t say a word until about 15 minutes in — there simply wasn’t any need to!”
(Graham) “The experience of meeting and interviewing him was beyond anything we could have imagined. He invited us into his home, made us tea and talked to us in a very relaxed, open and engaging way.
“It is said that you should never meet your heroes but I’m so glad I did and it’s something I will treasure forever.
“I heard him on Radio Scotland and Radio 5 shortly after we’d interviewed him and: I honestly believe that he gave us a better interview (certainly better for the die-hard cycling fan).”
Graeme has had a hard time of it over the years, and again recently… I saw him on a BBC Scotland sports discussion the other night, and he looked lucid, healthy, full of energy and ideas. One member of the audience even suggested he should be our Minister for Sport!
(Gary) “It’s been great seeing his name and face appearing in the media once again and for sporting reasons.
“I missed the programme yesterday, but I do think it’s a tragedy that Graeme isn’t actively involved in the upper echelons of the sport in Scotland or the UK.
“Oh, and might I suggest that the new velodrome for the 2014 Commonwealth Games be christened the ‘Graeme Obree Velodrome’? No offence to Sir Chris, but he’s already had a big slice of the recognition pie.”
Obree mentioned one of his biggest achievements was not being drawn into the Pro Road scene’s doping culture – the top level of the sport is struggling for credibility these days, would you agree? Was Graeme better off out of that milieu?
(Gary) “The sport has struggled for credibility beyond its own boundaries for years.
“My understanding of Graeme the person is based on his book and a couple of hours chatting round his kitchen table, but I think he definitely was better out of the doping culture – both in terms of his personal values and his public credibility.”
(Graham) “I get the impression that he was better off out of that scene and I have incredible admiration for the stand he took.
“It just proves everything that we’ve heard of that era seems true, your choice as a rider appeared to be to dope, or to throw away your career.”
Do you think a four year ban for a 1st doping sanction will help? Or the threat of not being able to work in cycling after being banned, once your racing career is over?
(Gary) “Sanctions alone won’t solve the problem and I think those with “associations” with doping have their part to play in cleaning up the sport. I think it’s better to have guys who have lived in/through a doping culture being part of the solution rather than being ostracised as the problem.
“Or do we have Mr Mackey from South Park telling everyone “drugs are baaaad, m’kay”?
“I’ll probably sound like a politician here but we need to look at the causes of doping, those who administer it and — of course — those who do dope. The riders get banned but the “doctors” generally go free.”
What did you make of Floyd’s interview with Paul Kimmage, and the transcript of which that was posted on the NYvelocity website?
(Graham) “I like Paul Kimmage, I believe he has the best interests of the sport at heart.
“I also love Landis, for all his failings, and I think history will view him as having done professional cycling a service by cutting trough the culture of omerta.
“Those who ridicule his allegations as the ramblings of a known liar are deluding themselves and I suspect that, deep down, they know it.”
(Gary) “One of the biggest messages you can take from the Kimmage interview (and this is something I’ve blogged about) is that dopers aren’t the devil.
“Floyd has lost pretty much everything through his denial and he didn’t shy away from that. But it underlined the fact that riders who dope are human.
“Demonising them simply attempts to cover up the fact that they’re no different from “clean” riders.”
…and yet, despite all of cycling’s problems, it’s still hugely popular – Flanders and Roubaix were epic…
(Graham) “Flanders was awesome – it’s my favourite race of the year. When Cancellara attacked at 40k & Boonen got a bit blocked, I was a bit deflated I would have loved to see Cancellara win, but I didn’t want a 40k TT.
“However it ended up as a great race & the Muur, in particular, is one of the great arenas in cycling, along with Alpe D’Huez and Mont Ventoux, among others.”
(Gary) “I just caught up with the coverage of Flanders the other night and it was a great race to watch even knowing the result.
“I’ve watch the final km a few times and still think Tom Boonen might just steal it with that final big launch from way back!
“I think Flanders also underlined the intrigue, skulduggery – call it what you like – that exists in any sport.
“Leopard Trek poised to take the win, Nuyens stealing it for Saxo Bank and the in-car showing Bjarne Riis going mental at his team’s
win at the expense of his former employees – well, as mental as Bjarne would ever allow himself anyway!”
(Gary) “A slow news day at the Gazetta della Sport, I think. As there’s no aerodynamic advantage to be had by having it on his front, the argument boils down to the fact that being better hydrated is an advantage.
“Or is it just me?
“We’ve already seen riders wearing the Camelbak Racebak under-jersey pack – which the pedants could argue constitutes a fairing at least when it’s full — but nobody’s said anything about that.
“Would there be an issue if someone simply had a 2 litre water bottle on a TT bike?”
(Colin) “I don’t see what the big deal is really. I’ve been developing the look of a front facing camel back for years albeit my way is to eat and drink loads.”
And Contador? We used to be big fans of his, reckoned he was the pro’s pro. Now though, we’re not sure what to think.
(Gary) “I think that sums it up. It must be hellish if you’re a rider at the centre of a case like this and you genuinely have ingested something unwittingly.
“But do we want to get back into the issue of plasticizers? Like Floyd, has Contador been rightly busted but not for the right offence?”
(Graham) “It’s a tough one. He’s a stunning rider, but the test was positive, albeit at a level that some labs wouldn’t even have returned as a positive.
“The worst thing about it at the moment, is the perception that he’s “doing a Valverde” and running around hoovering up race wins that will ultimately be taken from him if he looses the appeal. The guys who finish second will never get the glory of the win.
“Of course, that assumes he is guilty, and I’m not 100% convinced that he is.”
Are you planning to discuss Lance Armstrong’s Federal Investigation in future editions?
(Colin) “Oh yes!”
(Gary) “Of course, there will be several minutes dedicated to Graham and I telling Colin why he’s wrong!
“Nah, I’m sure we’ll have something to say but the trouble with Grand Juries is that all the evidence and testimony is heard in private.
“If you look at the BALCO case, the first people to go to jail were actually the journalists [Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, authors of “Game of Shadows” – a much recommended read] who broke the story!
Do you follow the discussion forums? Did you see that a Cyclingnews forum contributor called ‘Race Radio’ privately asked the Livestrong exec’s some hard questions, but genuinely fair ones, for a charity to answer, and for his trouble is now being hounded on Twitter by Livestrong and Armstrong defenders and supporters – and these supporters appear to be endorsed, at least, by LA himself…
(Graham) “You can waste way too much time on forums so I tend to avoid them if possible.
“I am a bit uncomfortable with criticism of LA’s charity work. My general faith in human nature doesn’t allow me to believe that his charity work is anything other than honest and altruistic.
“It seems inconceivable to me that someone who very nearly lost his life to cancer would use it cynically for personal gain.”
(Gary) “I think there are those around Lance Armstrong who would seek to use Livestrong as a means of deflecting attention from — shall we say – other aspects.
“Hence if you question Lance’s cycling credentials you automatically become an enemy of the world-wide fight against cancer.
“If people have been helped in any way by Livestrong or Lance’s story then great. I know a number of non-cyclists who have suffered from cancer and have been inspired by his books. But cycling remains a sport, not a billboard for one rider’s crusade, however altruistic.”
Do you guys pay particular attention to the legal issues (being sued!) made possible when discussing public figures?
(Gary) “In Episode Eight I used the phrase “evidence is stacking up” that the UCI was somehow complicit in covering up the alleged EPO positives from the ’99 Tour.
“Of course, what I really meant — your honour – was that there are some suspicions. One of our listeners is an attorney in the USA and Tweeted me to ask in a tongue-in-cheek way what that “evidence” looked like.
“We had a good chuckle but I genuinely was a little spooked by what my words could have meant for us/me. I even posted a (suitably tongue-in-cheek) retraction on the blog!
“In all seriousness, I do think that “new media” or not, we still have some responsibility for keeping things above board.
Who would you love to interview? And why?
(Graham) “Too many to mention…
“I would love to speak to Johnny Green, who writes for Rouleur. He is the ex road manager of The Clash and I love his style. [We reviewed his book about following the Tour a couple of years ago]. He featured on the Road to Roubaix DVD and is very passionate about cycle racing as well as being a very interesting guy.
“David Millar, for the obvious Scottish connection and for the fact that he polarises opinion as to whether redemption in cycling is possible or should even be allowed.”
(Gary) “Of the current crop of riders, I’d love to speak to Mark Cavendish.
“Like David Millar, Cav has a polarising effect on many fans, albeit for different reasons. Everyone has an opinion about him but very rarely – I think – does the “real” Cav ever get a hearing.
“I’d also like to chat with Matt Rendell but he ignored my e-mail last year. I might e-mail Ned Boulting instead, just to make him jealous! 🙂
“Matt’s enthusiasm for cycling is shines through in his writing and I’d really love to get into how he researched The Death of Marco Pantani. That sounds like it could have been almost as harrowing as the story itself.”
(Colin) “Robert Millar. Man there’s a story!
“I think Paul Kimmage would be an interesting guy to chat with too.”
Can you see video playing a part on your site?
(Graham) “Being the very definition of faces for radio, video is not something we are currently considering.”
(Colin) “Do they do extra wide screen web cams? I’m happy for folks just to imagine what we look like.”
(Gary) “People would have to be seriously twisted if their imagination was any worse than the reality!”
What plans for VCDL going forward?
(Colin) “More of the same, pushing the boundaries of bad taste and ill-informed opinions!”
(Graham) “You are assuming that we actually “plan” anything!
“As the season progresses, we need to evolve how we discuss the races themselves. We are certainly not a results service but maybe we can give some sort of overview from the fans perspective.”
(Gary) “I think we probably know what progress might look like but haven’t necessarily attempted to articulate that in any sort of structured plan.
“We do take the Pod more seriously than we tend to admit so keeping it relevant and entertaining is probably our main aim.
“Oh – and to ride our bikes more. Yeah, that’ll do me.”
We second that last sentiment. With thanks to the guys at Velo Club Don Logan for their time – here’s wishing you every success with your site and the podcasts, there’s no doubt it’ll be another busy and discussion-rich season!
Now go get a brew and a biccie, and listen to the Velo Club Don Logan podcasts for yourself.