Last weekend I was riding in the slushy southern snow and this weekend on some sketchy southern ice. Winter conditions can be challenging, both to ride, and to figure out where to ride and where to avoid. Finding “the powder” might mean trying to get out early while its still frozen, sticking to the north faces, or maybe just getting out on the road. This past week there has been a time for all of the above topped off with a ride on Squirrel Gap after a skin coat of freezing rain on frozen ground, just enough to have traction on the dirt but glare ice on the rocks and roots. That was enough to get me focused, and in the moment. I don’t think I thought about much else other than riding on that one, although I was thinking about racing, and getting fired up. I can’t help but think about racing when I ride. To be honest, it’s one of my favorite meditations. When I have a big race on the horizon my rides take on another dimension. Not that these rides wouldn’t be satisfying as is, but with a goal, there comes this obsessive sense of purpose that I fully enjoy. Having the Transylvania Epic on my calendar is an extra special motivation. It may be four months off, but now my winter days are filled with thoughts of summer and speed. I’ve been invited to share bits along the way as I gear up for the race, which I’m thrilled to do. I promise not to stick to the topic.Mountain Biking for me, and my family, is a way of life. I’m a mountain biker first and I could live without racing, I did for a while, but its undeniable that I’ve had the most fun when racing is in the picture. When I’m racing, I’m riding more. I’m quitting work early a few times a week, or blowing it off all together and sneaking out after dropping the kids off at preschool. I’m making the rides happen instead of letting them slip by.I probably did my first real mountain bike ride in Turkey Pen at the age of seven or eight. I rode an orange five-speed tornado that was built strong enough to withstand wheelie drops off the four-foot brick retaining walls onto our driveway. There was a tough climb about two miles in on South Mills River Trail that my dad called “Sam Go For It.” It takes about two pedal strokes to get over now. Being able to grow up in these mountains has been really special. We used to hike all the time growing up, every weekend. Looking Glass Rock, John’s Rock, Shining Rock, Slate Rock, Flat Laurel Creek, The North Face of Looking Glass, these were some of the more popular hikes. Even after years of exploring our sense of possibility underwent a tremendous expansion when we started riding bikes in Pisgah in the early 90s. Somehow we had never heard of trails like Caney Bottom or Laurel Mountain, sitting right here under our noses all along. I’m only now getting a grip on DuPont. Appalachia, like no other place, can hide its treasures.I got into racing as a junior. I had a craving for competition. A generous community gave fuel to the fire, Mike Nix from Liberty Bikes was one of the first to offer my sister Willow and I support. More help followed with team Devo and then Cane Creek. Without the racing there would not have been anywhere near as much riding happening for us.I still get really excited about racing my bike. That may be partly due to the fact that I never really went big time or may be just the fact that bikes are the finest human invention and racing bikes is about as intimate as you can get with a bike. So bring it on! Don’t expect any cutting edge training tips (I’ve just put on a heart rate monitor for the first time) but I will share some stories and some thoughts as I make my way towards the race. Join me for a ride; lets see where it goes.
S&P Global Ratings is taking steps to clarify how environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations feed into its credit analysis.The credit rating agency is phasing in the incorporation of ESG sections in its corporate rating reports. It started doing so for the oil and gas and utilities sectors and is now rolling this out to all major companies across every sector, and to smaller companies in the sectors most exposed to ESG factors that may be relevant to ratings.It expected around 40% of the corporates it rates to be covered by an ESG section by the end of the year, it indicated. According to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), credit rating agencies needed to explicitly signpost credit-relevant ESG risks and opportunities in rating reports. Michael Wilkins, S&PIn a report rounding off the first phase of the ESG and credit risk initiative, the PRI said progress had been “remarkable”, especially by the large credit rating agencies.Carmen Nuzzo, PRI senior consultant on the initiative, said the largest agencies had “embarked on a race to the top”.Last month Fitch launched ESG “relevance scores” to show how ESG factors affected the agency’s individual credit rating decisions.Moody’s has also taken steps to be more clear about how it incorporates ESG issues into ratings. In November 2017 it announced it had expanded its ESG-dedicated teams and resources as part of this effort.Work in progressMy-Linh Ngo, head of ESG investment risk at BlueBay Asset Management and chair of the PRI advisory committee on credit ratings, said: “This PRI-led initiative has been instrumental in advancing thinking and practice in terms of incorporating ESG into debt investing.“With the growing momentum and engagement from the industry, we are very excited about the next phase.”This next stage would include extending the initiative to include bond issuers, the PRI indicated, with a view to advancing understanding of the materiality of ESG factors to credit risk, as well as promoting engagement, developing common terminology, and enhancing data disclosure.Nuzzo said more work was needed to assess the link between sustainability and credit quality.The PRI has compiled a list of recommendations to improve the process and output of ESG consideration in credit risk analysis, targeting investors and credit rating agencies.Recommendations for investors included that they set up internal frameworks to make ESG consideration more systematic and “not confuse the purpose of credit ratings and ESG assessment services”.Steps that both groups needed to take included to: categorise ESG factors by type, relevance and urgency;conduct regular retrospective analysis to assess how their relevance evolves;use sector, scenario, sensitivity and stress-testing analysis to monitor long-term risks, incorporate uncertainty and focus on drivers of potential outcomes; andengage with issuers on ESG topics to improve awareness, disclosure and transparency.The PRI said some “advanced investors” had made visible progress on many aspects of the recommendations, which were intended to be treated as best-in-class practice rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The PRI has been working with credit rating agencies and investors since 2016 in a bid to improve consideration of ESG factors in credit risk analysis and promote better understanding of the practice.The PRI found that some “disconnects” between fixed income investors and credit rating agencies were due to a lack of investor awareness of agencies’ improved ESG-related focus and analytical resources. They could also be misconceptions linked to the two groups’ different objectives, PRI said. Michael Wilkins, managing director and head of sustainable finance at S&P Global Ratings, said: “We have long incorporated ESG considerations into our credit analysis. What we aim to do now is to more clearly underline to industry bodies, investors, and stakeholders how we do so.”