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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Inside the Tour - seasoned print sports journalist

While a cyclist like Phil Anderson blazed the trail for future Australian cyclists, Rupert Guinness was one of the first Aussie journos to write about modern cycling and the Tour. Currently covering cycling (and rugby) for the Sydney Morning Herald and author of the book What a Ride (and others), Rupert's looking forward to getting 3 hours sleep a night over the next three weeks. This wearer of fine Hawaiian shirts answered my questions to give us another insight into the Tour circus. 

TdC: So when are you off to the Tour? (oops, he’s already there)

RG: Leaving Sydney June 28….Paris Wednesday, June 29 early in the morning. I’ll meet one of the Velo News crew who I follow the Tour with at Charles de Gaulles airport. "Then we plan to take the TGV to Nantes, then cab it to our hotel at Clisson (25km away) and be there in time for a glass (or too many) of rose by 3.30pm!

TdC: We know riders would get nervous before taking part in the Tour, how about yourself? What do you feel:
- this many days out of the Tour (it was about a week or so when this asked)

RG: I am usually nervous that I won't get to speak to all the people I need to, to provide as comprehensive a lead-in and preview of the Tour, while at the same time get ready to have everything for the race when it starts. It all works out in the end, but I find the "to do" list is always as big and no matter how well I try and be organised I am always chasing the clock on the day I leave. When I do leave, I also have to make sure I have enough stories in the system at work so they can publish stories for that day you lose while in the air!

- the night before
RG: The night before the Tour starts I realise that all the hypothesising that has gone on for weeks or months could mean nothing! The Tour is about to start and what matters is what happens from the first kilometre! I usually feel at peace then, even if it means all the preview work is now past - history, or material to be proven wrong - which is okay, because we are all wrong sometimes (or too many times). I am usually really excited about what will happen, knowing that come the Tour's end in Paris I will be surprised many times over - and also, I must add, most probably shocked!  It’s about being ready for anything - and in most cases that is being ready for the unexpected. I also always take time to be back with my old touring mates from Velo News - even if they didn’t work for Velo News when I did, but there is a tie there. Finally, I also take a little time out just think about the riders and everyone in the entourage and hope they all get through safely. 

- the morning it all kicks off?
RG: I always wake up early (well, I have to, to make contact with the SMH desk before we hit the road). But on the first day I am just anxious to see the race get under way and look forward to see a result and all the fall out to write about. It's only the start, but after so many weeks of anticipation it is a start! It’s also the first day you are tested to get all your work patterns in place. It usually takes me several days to get into the swing of things and that is usually a result of error and slip ups - easily fixed by knowledge through the years of what works, but you need to be reminded in the first days. It’s the same for our travelling group. We all have different deadlines and needs, but we all try to finish by a certain hour so we can leave to find our hotel and eat dinner, even if it means we are working through and after dinner. It all comes naturally after a few days.

-And what did you feel your very first tour
RG: My very first Tour was in 1987 when Stephen Roche won. I was working for Winning Bicycle Racing magazine and at the time writing a daily diary on Roche. So I was taken back that I got to do that on my first Tour. I was also amazed by the size of the race at the time, and the circus around it - and the carnival of it all. It is much bigger now of course, but then it was still a huge thing. Although, I believe there was then still room for more intimacy between people. Now, the race is so big, it’s mostly about everyone getting in for what they need ... a sad thing, but a fact of life when so much money and importance is placed on an event that is more international. But my first Tour, I recall asking my predecessor at Winning (and one of my current touring mates) John Wilcockson who has now covered more than 40 Tours (to my 23, incl 2011) what he felt about his first Tour. He said: "Fantastic. I will always remember it." I would use the same words ... it is clearer in my mind than most Tours since!

TdC: Describe an average work day there.
RG: The day begins for me at about 6.30am. I get up, call the SMH to check if they have received overnight stories I have written), then I go for a run (40-60mins). That is the ONLY part of the day that is to myself as we share accommodation (2-3 in a room) and cars and from the moment we arrive at stage start there are ALWAYS thousands around you. We always leave to get to the stage start about one hour before. When we leave and arrive depends on where our hotel is from the finish - that can be from 100km away to actually being on the start line! What we do in the day varies according to needs - our group has 2 cars; but these days the best thing is usually to park in the press derriese (behind) and use the time you have to do interviews and let the stage start and then take the alternative route on autoroute and rejoin the route with about 30km to go and get to the finish about 1-2 hours before.

Old days, we used to stay on the course and follow breaks and go ahead of them on the course and savour the stage more; but nowadays - again - there are so many accredited cars and people, its safer and more efficient to just go ahead. But many of the routes and climbs I know from early Tours. Sometimes I go on a motor bike that is available to print journos; but you lose a day of writing for the paper, websites and all the other modern media outlets. After the stage, we do interviews and usually leave the press room - that can be anything from a tent to an ice rink, basketball court or even church (old days) - about 8-8.30pm and set off to find our hotel. All the time we are still working on various stories. For the SMH I usually do an immediate one for online, then a main story and secondary story for the paper and also a daily The Breakaway column for the paper. It also all goes on line. I am usually writing at press room, through dinner, in back seat of car en route to hotel and then at hotel - but at a comfortable pace by the end. However, usually it is 3am or 3.30am when I actually turn the lights out - realising that in 3 hours I'll be up and doing it all again. Its all good fun, as exhausting as it is, especially with the daily moving of hotel. The big test is when things dont go well, such as over booked hotels, having to sleep on the floor, finding the kitchen is closed etc etc ... Gotta keep an open mind!

TdC: For us that can’t be there and never been - briefly tell us what the whole TDF circus is like.

RG: I have described alot of it above; but the one thing about the Tour is that while there are 198 riders they are the minority. The whole entourage is about 4,500-5,000 strong and while all of France is on holidays, it is THE occasion for the celebrities to be see. Everybody want something from somebody - but that is what makes the Tour, especially with the proximity of fans with the riders. As I said, from the moment I wake at 6.30am to when I turn the lights out at about 3am there are always people around you - and enthusiastic emotional people. WILD!
I could go on all day about this ...

TdC: So imagine you’re 80. What moment do you think you’ll recall the most


- Of the tour
RG: Sorry but the biggest impact was the day Fabio Casartelli died in 1995, followed by the next stage when the peloton rode over the longest and hardest stage in the Pyrenees - in scorching weather - as virtual cortege. This year has been tragic with the deaths of Wouter Weylandt and Xavier Tondo, but being there in 1995 and having to report on the incident was hard, especially as he came from  the team that was my "round" as I worked for the American Velo News guys then.  

But happiest moment? Wow, there are many: as an Aussie would say witnessing Robbie McEwen win his first Tour stage in Paris when he rode for Rabobank, and also Stuart O'Grady's claim of the yellow jersey in 1998 and he said: "not bad for a freckly bastard from Adelaide." He also said it showed the yellow jersey was not a myth beyond Australian reach - and from that day on, his words have paid dividends.

- Of cycling generally
Seeing an Australian stand atop the Tour podium on the Champs Elysees, wearing the yellow jersey and capturing in my memory (if not camera) the golden hue behind him, contrasted by the silhouette of the Arc Triomphe in the background. It is still THE best scene that not only celebrates the winner but also the finality of another Tour done. Whatever year that happens, it will just reinforce to me that the wild dream of one day reporting about an Aussie victory that was sparked for me by Phil Anderson becoming the first Aussie to claim the yellow  jersey was really worth it .... On top of that, I really must admit that there are two other moments that I love - the chance to sit down with friends in an old village and enjoy a glass as the sunsets, and the overall enthusiasm of the millions who follows the race - the beaming smiles. Even f you feel it’s a bad day when you wake, you always finish thinking that it is amazing an event in a sport with so many issues is so resilient.

TdC: I can imagine on the day you're leaving to come home from France there'd be a sense of relief it's over,but do you suffer post tour lows?

RG: There are post Tour lows - as much as I am keen to go into the SMH office and see colleagues (and find out the gossip), it can be deflating to realise that from your last story the Tour is really not important. Everyone has already moved on to the next event ... but that's life. It still sucks because you want to continue living the Tour.

TdC: Do you think you'd ever go the Tour if you weren't working on it?

RG: I’d love to ... but with the full kit and kaboodle: a caravan, BBQ, bikes, TV and all the stuff you need to set u home anywhere on the route and just wait for it to come - while having a party at the same time. One day I will do it ... but can I do it without applying for my accreditation, I suspect not, because I feel I'll always want to have it - just in case!!!

TdC: Finally, fave part of France, -and wine/food

RG: I used to live in the Alpes Maritime in Southern France, but I love all of France - actually my least favourite place is Paris - well, that’s not quite right. It’s a beautiful city, but I just love the wide expanses of unadulterated country. I love al the wines, all the colours, Bordeau and Bourgine reds are great. Bordeau whites too and of course, anyone who knows me would be expect me to mention the good old rose - one of my favorites is Bandol. Food? Love it all, but when on the Tour and having trouble finding a place that is open, you can always rely in the Asian restaurants.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

That's so Couch - that's so Haven

Cache Cache Witness Tampering?

Where's Lance


OK OK, so Tourdecouch is a bit behind with the whole Cache Cache thing.  We all know the story by now.  If not, you’ll find a detailed summary here.  
 
Quickly though, Tyler was going out for some eats as a guest of Outside magazine in a restaurant in Colarado, Cache Cache. The owner rings up the Yellow Livestrong phone in Texas to say “you’ll never guess who’s here?”  Lance fires up N7LA and he’s there at the restroom within moments.   Apparently he said “I’ll destroy you in there that witness box” or something like that.  And according to rumours, there was also some stuff said about some lady called Haven?   

Or was he?  The restaurant owner and some random patron, later seen eating from a white lunch bag given to him by Lance, said he never left the stool. While those are words we also hope were uttered in 500 of his doping control tests, here’s another guy who never left his bar stool. And this lady looks like she’s spent a lot of time on a bar stool too.  Bet Lance has never been to that restaurant.  

Anyway, the Feds are said to be looking into whether there was any witness tampering in the toilet. Tourdecouch is more worried about people who are allowed to name their kid Haven. 

Tastes like chicken

Of course you also heard the one about the five Mexican soccer players busted for clenbeuterol and then blaming it on the chicken they ate. While tourdecouch often finds entertainment observing cyclists/ex cyclists, it’s also amusing to sit back and watch some journalists too. They guffawed and cried on twitter, “chicken? what’s next tofu?”  like only beef has clenbeuterol in it or something.  Are they questioning that chickens are never given clenbeuterol? Or its not plausible meat in Mexico is tainted? Surely a five second google search would help solve that puzzle.  While Tourdecouch is neither here nor there in regards to believing in athletes and their excuses, I’m definitely firm in my belief status in journalists who can’t even u-google –lise.

The Tour always brings out the sartorial brilliance

- Rug up in France in July with this LT scarf, at 69 euro, it's made from a mixture of unicorn tears and the best fabric.

 - Check out the mod goodness here of Wiggo.  Team Sky brings out the rainforest cause again to look different to Garmin in the peloton

- And Nike not to be outdone by Le Coq Sportif brings in a new shirt especially for the tour. Shit you not.  UPDATED: this product is no longer available, apparently. But here is what it looked like.




Cav gets an MBE

Again, behind on the news .  Cav got an MBE -  for his spelling on Twitter.  At first I thought it was a ghost tweeter, but surely he/she wouldn’t be there when Cav’s about to have a shower, when he’s cuddled up with the missus, and when he’s checking out the Velits twins’ legs.  

Why the surprise? The guy who brought us that articulate victory sign last year can actually spell and string two sentences together.  I think I’ve only seen one mistake so far.  That’s better than all the other English-is-surprisingly-their-first-language tweeting cyclists - and many cycling blogggers.   

Vomatron award
 - Goes to, not Wiggins for his impersonation of a pregnant northern England 15 year old, but this from Trek via Leopard Trek on Facebook:   
- If we could change our status, we'd be "In a relationship" with "Winning"." by Trek Bicycle

Leopard Trek Training Camp Video
And to get you all in the mood as the behind the scene vids from Leopard Trek are always pretty inspiring and awesome, here's latest mini doco inside their training camp, a great insight into what’s been happening:   
  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tour de France Competition #tdf133 - The Prizes

Well, the prizes are sorted.  Details of how the comp #tdf133 is going to work is here

1st prize - Tim Kolln's the Peloton + Herbie Sykes' Maglia Rosa.  Click here and here for more details.  

2nd & 3rd prize - The generous folk at Aprés Velo are offering one 'Work of Art' T-shirt for each of these placegetters.  Aprés Velo "cranked out in 2006 to fill a gaping void within the cycling industry’s casual clothing offering. Incredibly, the grand and noble sport of cycling seemed to have no "after cycle" wear with street cred. Thus began Apres Velo, which is French for "After Cycle".  Our designs cover a broad cross section of attitudinal and quirky graphics, geared towards Bitumen and Bituchix (roadies), non-polluters (commuters), and dirty dudes & dudettes (MtBers)…..something to suit all bike-fixated obsessives." Check out their fab range here.   And here's one of the shirts you could win:


Aprés Velo

4th prize - One year's subscription to The Peloton magazine*. 
5th prize - Ultimate Cycling Boxset DVD Prize Pack - Overcoming, Hell on Wheels, A Sunday in Hell

6th prize - Your choice of cycling cap generously offered by Richard Lee from Bikes, Books, Beers (and also Cycling Art). Check out the selection of caps (from Galstudio on the side bar) and choose which one you'd want to win. I personally think they're the best cycling caps going around.


Bikes, Books & Beers


7th prize - A collection of oils for the cyclist from La Gazetta Della Bici's Oil Range La Clinica Amano. Simon's got some special cyclist oils for the winner- meanwhile check out his new oil range here.  Here's what Bill Strickland had to say about the oils you could win.

La Clinica A mano

8th prize The Peloton (as above) but a year's digital subscription.

Voter's prizes
1st prize - A cap of your choosing from Bikes, Books and Beers (as above)
2nd prize - Really cool green, polka dot, yellow jersey themed coffee mugs from lookmumnohands. See them here
3rd prize - A copy of 'How I Won the Yellow Jumper' by Ned Boulting. Review here.

(*If a US winner, I will send another prize with this one)
(**might need to "work something out" if you don't have an all region dvd player etc and you live outside of Region 4)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Inside the Tour - seasoned TV cycling journalist/presenter


Think pioneers of modern cycling in Australia, and you’ll probably think Stuart O’Grady, Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans etc.  But you should also think: SBS.  Mike Tomalaris sums it up in a recent blog post to launch Cycling Central’s brand spanking new website:  
“we like to think we’ve been responsible for changing the television viewing habits of Australians around cycling, particularly every July since the "Aussie invasion" to the professional peloton started some 15 years ago.”
While there’s now an even larger hard working team behind and in front at Cycling Central, for years Mike was the lone 'handsome' face of Australian cycling. He saw its potential probably long before network execs at the home of soccer did – and still fights in its corner.  Tourdecouch threw a few questions to Tomo, who’s covered the Tour since 1996, to get a better look inside the tour.   

TDC: So when are you off to the Tour? Do the SBS crew all fly together?

MT:  The SBS crew does travel together for the most part and we literally hit the ground running when we arrive in France Wednesday morning. This year the drive from Paris airport to the Vendee region (the location for the Grand Depart) is some six hours, so after 24 hours in the air, the day of arrival is usually spent behind the wheel of the cars we will use for the month of July.

TDC:  We know riders would get nervous before taking part in the Tour, how about yourself? What do you feel:

MT: I don't necessarily get nervous because there's so much to do in the days before our first broadcast. Making TV for an Australia-wide audience with a crew of just six is time-consuming. The technical aspects of ensuring the pictures are correctly beamed to the other side of the world are significant while the logistics of setting up for the day-to-day operations are equally important. 

We rent space in a truck which is our "office" for the Tour's three week duration. This truck follows the Tour every day and can be found in a compound directly behind the finish line reserved for the world's electronic media covering the race.

Our job in the hours before the first day's coverage is making sure EVERYTHING is in place.

TDC: Describe an average work day there

MT: The work isn't hard. I like to think I have a professional team around me. Besides, all involved in the SBS coverage, whether on location or in the control room at the Sydney headquarters, are genuinely passionate about the sport and the race itself.
The hours, however are long, especially for us on location. You have to remember SBS' modern-day coverage caters for the demands from various departments. Apart from screening live pictures and morning and evening updates and highlights, there's the needs required for the Cycling Central website and the nightly news service. Throw in the numerous radio crosses and blogs and you soon realise the work load starts to stack up. Since doing my first Tour in 1996 I have taken on the role of driving the crew vehicle. After almost four weeks of driving the distances covered averages out around to around 7,000km.


TDC:  What do you do when we're all watching the race are you off filing stories etc,do you get to see any of it?

MT: If there is a "down-time" it's when the race is on. This the time of day we get a quick bite to eat for lunch and plan ahead for features to be shot and scripted for future programmes. It's also the time of day when I normally find an adequate location at the finish line to shoot links for the 6pm highlights show.

I must stress we always have an eye on the race for the scripted voices I provide and send for the nightly news the following day.

TDC: I can imagine on the day you're leaving to come home from France there'd be a sense of relief it's over, but do you suffer post tour lows?

MT: It's very strange the different moods and feelings one goes through when following and working on a three week sporting marathon which takes you to a different location every day. From my experiences I find exhaustion starts to kick-in at around stage 11 or 12. There are times when I awake in my hotel bed (wherever it may be), look to the ceiling and murmur to myself "I don't wanna play this game anymore." Once you break through that initial barrier you can see the finish line, and after nearly three weeks and think "We're almost there." But you know, after we've packed up and farewelled our foreign colleagues, that's when the realisation of not coming back kicks in. Strangely, when I'm on the plane for the flight home the feeling is one of "Gee, I could go another three weeks!"

TDC: So imagine you’re 80. What moment do you think you’ll recall the most?

MT: Personally, the entire 15-year journey has been memorable for me - that's why I keep going back. I can honestly say there has not been one day since 1996 when I have been disappointed. I love television and I love the Tour and I'm so grateful to have been part of the development process which has taken the SBS coverage to where it is today. The network's dedication to the event has done wonders in terms of changing the viewing habits of its audience. More people have taken to bikes, more people are watching according to the viewing rating numbers, and more people appreciate there's more to TV sport than the staple stuff that is served up in July by other networks.

TDC: Do you think you'd ever go the Tour if you weren’t working on it?

MT: Definitely. But the way I'd do it is to take my bike and be part of a tour group that rides in the morning and watches each stage from the comfort of a lounge in bar or cafe in quiet village. I stress that I wouldn't be anywhere near the race itself - far away as possible from the Tour's madding crowds. That would be bliss.

It's probably best to reveal the worst part of covering the Tour and while the mountain stages is where the race is either won or lost for everyone associated with the race it's a frustrating nightmare. The huge crowds that assemble on the narrow mountain roads, the tight security and the cramped space at the finish line makes it very difficult. It also means you're guaranteed to be stuck in a "car park" in the late evening hours after the stage with the hundreds of thousands of spectators who are also trying to get off the same summit.

TDC: Finally, why do you ride? Briefly describe how it feels.

MT: This might sound corny but for me there's nothing better than being in a bunch and feeling the breeze in your face and the warmth of the sun's rays on your shoulders. I've been riding a bike for 10 years (only started riding after covering cycling) - it keeps me young and fit and eliminates the "love handles" I couldn't get rid of when I wasn't training on two wheels.

Next time - Rupert Guinness answers Tourdecouch's questions. 












Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Le Tour Fever - Final Rider List

Announcements so far, all in the one place:


AG2R-Mondiale 

Maxime Bouet
Hubert Dupont
John Gadret
Sébastien Hinault 
Blel Kadri 
Sébastien Minard
Jean-Christophe Peraud
Scrap Christophe
Nicolas Roche


Astana
Alexandre Vinokourov
Rémy Di Gregorio
Dmitriy Fofonov
Andriy Grivko
Maxim Iglinsky
Roman Kreuziger
Paolo Tiralongo
Tomas Vaitkus
Andrey Zeits

BMC
Brent Bookwalter
Marcus Burghardt
Cadel Evans
George Hincapie
Amael Moinard 
Steve Morabito
Ivan Santaromita
Manuel Quinziato
Michael Schar

Cofidis
Mickael Buffaz
Samuel Dumoulin
Leonardo Duque
Julien El Fares
Tony Gallopin
David Moncoutié
Rein Taaramae
Tristan Valentin
Romain Zingle

Europcar

Anthony Charteau
Cyril Gautier
Yohann Gene
Vincent Jerome
Christophe Kern
Perrig Quemeneur
Pierre Rolland
Sébastien Turgot
Thomas Voeckler


Euskaltel-Euskadi
Samuel Sánchez
Egoi Martínez
Gorka Verdugo
Amets Txurruka
Rubén Pérez
Iván Velasco
Alan Pérez
Pablo Urtasun
Gorka Izagirre

FDJ  
William Bonnet
Sandy Casar
Mickael Delage
Arnold Jeannesson
Gianni Meersman
Remi Pauriol
Anthony Roux
Jeremy Roy
Arthur Vichot



Garmin-Carvelo
Tom Danielson
Julian Dean
Tyler Farrar
Ryder Hesjedal
Thor Hushovd
David Millar
Ramunas Navardauskas
Christian Vande Velde
David Zabriskie

HTC-Highroad
Lars Bak
Mark Cavendish
Bernhard Eisel  
Matt Goss 
Tony Martin
Danny Pate
Mark Renshaw
Tejay VanGarderen  
Peter Velits 

Katusha
Pavel Brutt
Denis Galimzyanov
Vladimir Gusev
Mikhail Ignatiev
Vladimir Isaychev
Vladimir Karpets
Alexander Kolobnev
Egor Silin
Yuriy Trofimov 

Lampre
Leonardo Bertagnolli
Grega Bole
Matteo Bono
Damiano Cunego
Danilo Hondo
Denys Kostyuk
David Loosli
Adriano Malori
Alessandro Petacchi  
 
Leopard-Trek
Andy Schleck
Frank Schleck
Fabian Cancellara
Linus Gerdemann
Maxime Monfort
Jakob Fuglsang
Jens Voigt
Stuart O’Grady
Joost Posthuma

Liquigas-Cannondale 
Ivan Basso
Maciej Bodnar
Paolo Longo Borghini
Kristijan Koren
Daniel Oss
Maciej Paterski 
Fabio Sabatini
Sylvester Szmyd
Alessandro Vanotti


Movistar 
Jose Joaquin Rojas
David Arroyo
Imanol Erviti
Ivan Gutierrez
Benat Intxausti 
Fran Ventoso 
Rui Costa 
Andrey Amador 
Vasil Kiryienka



Omega Pharma-Lotto
Philippe Gilbert
André Greipel
Sebastian Lang
Jurgen Roelandts
Marcel Sieberg
Jurgen Van den Broeck
Jurgen Van de Walle
Jelle Vanendert
Frederik Willems


Quickstep
Tom Boonen
Sylvain Chavanel
Gerald Ciolek
Kevin De Weert
Dries Devenyns
Addy Engels
Jérôme Pineau
Gert Steegmans 
Niki Terpstra


Rabobank Cycling Team
Carlos Barredo
Lars Boom 
Robert Gesink
Juan Manuel Garate
Bauke Mollema
Grischa Niermann
Léon Sanchez
Laurens ten Dam
Maarten Tjallingii


Radioshack
Jani Brajkovic
Chris Horner
Markel Irizar
Andreas Klöden
Levi Leipheimer
Dmitriy Muravyev
Sérgio Paulinho
Yaroslav Popovych
Haimar Zubeldia


Saur - Sojasun
Jérôme Coppel
Anthony Delaplace
Jimmy Engoulvent
Arnaud Coyot
Jérémy Galland
Jonathan Hivert
Fabrice Jeandesboz
Laurent Mangel
Yannick Talabardon


Saxo Bank Sungard
Alberto Contador
Jesus Hernandez
Dani Navarro
Benjamin Noval
Richie Porte
Chris Anker Sørensen
Nicki Sørensen
Matteo Tosatto
Brian Vandborg


Sky 
Edvald Boasson Hagen
Juan Antonio Flecha
Simon Gerrans
Christian Knees
Ben Swift
Geraint Thomas
Rigoberto Uran
Bradley Wiggins
Xabier Zandio


Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 
Borut Bozic
Thomas De Gendt
Romain Feillu
Johnny Hoogerland
Bjorn Leukemans
Marco Marcato
Wout Poels 
Rob Ruijgh
Lieuwe Westra

Saturday, June 18, 2011

#tdf133 - the Tour in 133 characters or less

Sometimes long and winding analysis is unneccessary. Short definitely seems sweeter if it means winning a prize and being part of the general Tour buzz.

I've been thinking for a while now of a feature for my blog where people contribute by summing up the stage or race of a major cycling event with a simple tweet. So I'm launching it in time for this year's TDF. To celebrate, I'm backing it up with some prizes.

Firslty though,  here's some examples that inspired me to think of this idea
"echelon bashfest in the desert" (@nicodonnell tweeted about a stage in last year's Tour of Qatar)
"Cunego's camera-moto driver is descending with poop-filled leather pants." (from @NYVC_snark_cast about the other day's stage of the Tour de Suisse - so, this one was more commentary not summary, but you get my drift as to what I'm looking for as this pretty much summed up that stage). 

Competition Details: 
Tweet your description after each stage of the Tour and use hashtag #tdf133.  That's 140 characters minus the hashtag topic. (You have to use the hastag or I won't see it. No @replies coz that gives u less characters unless you're super brief). You will need to tweet by the following times in your region (I hope I have got them kind of right):

Australian Eastern Standard Time - 12 noon of next day after the stage you're tweeting about
France part of the Continent - 4am of the next day after the stage you're tweeting about
UK - by 3am of the next day's after the stage you're tweeting about
America/Canada - East side - 10pm of the same day as the stage you're tweeting about (I think?)
America/Canada - West side - 7pm of the same day as the stage you're tweeting about

This time gives non European viewers who can't watch it live the chance to watch the highlights and tweet - and it falls at my lunch time so I can read them all.

A stage winner for every stage up until and including stage 19 will be announced on my blog about 4-5 hours later so you'll know the winner before the next stage (unless it's a rest day, but I'll still put it up the same time). Each stage winner goes into the final 19 and then it's up to the voters. Stages 20-21 will not be part of the comp as I want to give people enough time to look at the finalists' tweets and vote so the prize winners can be announced either on the final day or the day after (to be finalised).

Voting and voters prizes
Voting starts after the 19th stage and when the blog post is up for the 19 finalists.  All voters will go into the draw for prizes. Unfortunately, I'm not knowledgable enough to have voting/entry forms on this site, so you'll have to enter by emailing me at tourdecouch@gmail.com  UPDATE: you can vote by either emailing me, or also in the comments using your twitter url as an id - or other option there. Anonymous votes in the comments will not be counted. Voters will be put in a list and randomly selected.

Prizes
Details of prizes are here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

300 words thrown together today on why I love the Tour and cycling for a comp I won't win

Late one night, July 2005, I changed channels to SBS.  In my insomniatic haze, I was instantly hypnotised by the colours of the peloton, riders moving as one; all of it like flying, all of it freedom.  I was hooked.


I got back on the bike after many years and when I sped down my first hill with a big goofy grin on my face, I felt exactly like when I rode as a kid. Liberated. You talk to people who don't ride and hear the requests they throw out car windows to 'get off the road,' and you realise: 'they just don't get it, and they probably never will.'

'We' know there's nothing like it. Yes, sex is pretty good. But then you climb your first real hill alone, up a sizeable gradient. You tell yourself, focus on your tempo, picture your feet turning perfect circles, finish the bottom of the pedal stroke with a mud scrape like flourish. There is rhythm in your pain. You reach it; the summit, and that feeling you've never experienced before and never will off the bike. Not a sense of accomplishment so much as meaning of life type 'stuff'.

The Tour kidnapped my imagination and wooed me to cycling. Even with the shadows, I love the beautiful athletes who'll leave Vendee July 2 not knowing whether they'll make the torturous three weeks. What they do know is that's all they'd rather do.

I'm technically not French, but even before 2005, Beef Bourguignon ran through my veins. I prefer the Classics for racing but there's just 'something' about the Tour. It's the diary I never kept and the places I missed while I was in France. Most of all, it's an excuse to eat calorific food like duck fat and watch Romain Duris DVDs,again.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

A year's supply of bread-Shaftesbury Cycle Revival


It may not be the Kapelmuur but riders found the going just as hard. And to the rider who climbed up the fastest went the spoils - a year's supply of bread courtesty of Hovis.

The Gold Hill Honk is not only the noise you'd make if you saw Victoria Pendleton naked (or clothed) eating Hovis atop a hill but is also one of the two races at the inaugural Shaftesbury Cycle Revival.

The Honk saw 120 road and mountain bike riders sprint up Gold Hill, made famous by Ridley Scott's 1970s Hovis advert. In this advert, the kid pushes the bike up the hill, as did many today.




The other race, the Shaftesbury Shooter the website says is a "mixed terrain short course urban downhill event ideal for dirt or jump bikes - a downhill rig won't get round the corners."



I found out about this little gem of an event via tweep Paul Sloper.  He let me use some of his pics. From the looks of it, some took it a bit more seriously than others.















This probably would've been an even better story if I told you who won or if I could've found a shot of the winners with their novelty size bread. But indicative of how awful conditions were for the riders, Paul didn't hang around to find out who won either of the events. The event website also does not have the results yet, but stay tuned. For more of Paul's photos from today, click here, and to see his other shots, including from this year's Track Worlds, click here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Le Tour Fever - the Rooster


The return of the Gallic Rooster.  Like innrng says 'the better story is probably much more to do with Le Coq Sportif’s arrival than the end of the Nike deal.' 

There are many better stories in this beautiful sport.