Catching Up

Well there isn't too much going on at the moment, nothing to report anyway. Ulrika Johnsson won Celebrity Big Brother, how she did we'll never know, United are storming away with Ryan Giggs playing the best he has ever played and training for the Cyclo Sportives is going well. I've been doing quite a bit of gym work which has helped me a lot, and did a good loop on Saturday better than expected.

Lance Armstrong managed to survive the Tour Down Under without having heart failure, he did well finishing 29th overall and lead for about 10 seconds on the final lap of the final stage. To be honest I was expecting more, he spent most of the time at the back and I'm worried about him doing the Tour De France. He looks pretty heavy, definately not Tour De France fit. Early days I suppose and I'm sure Tour Of California will test him further.

I will start posting reviews of sportives I'm participating in shortly, starting with the Cheshire Cat.

For all twitterers out there, Manchester has it's first Twestival in February, celebrating the social media pheonomenon that it is, and raising money along the way. Join in the action here.

I also went to Sankeys at the weekend to see Pete Tong. He wasn't as good as when we saw him at the Essential Mix party, bit samey and pretty boring. Sankeys unfortunately has gone pretty pretentious too. No shirts or shoes or you'll get turned away (but wearing t-shirts and scarfs at the same time are ok?! Yeah...ok!). The power of Dave Vincent has gone to his head, why would you want a club full of cloned sheep? Which is a shame because they have some awesome lineups coming up, you just wouldn't want to spend much time in there, it'll piss you off.

Premier Calendar 2009 Dates

The dates for the 2009 Premier Calendar have been released. 2009 will see Pinarello rider Russell Downing defending his title. Russell was untouchable last year, winning pretty much everything going, his brother Dean who rides for Rapha Condor came second.

Expect to see more competition this year with olympic riders Ed Clancy and Rob Hayles back in town alongside the usual suspects of Dean Downing, Chris Newton, Simon Richardson, Tony Gibb, Evan Oliphant and Ian Wilkinson looking to cause trouble.

The Premier Calendar is the biggest series in UK cycling. It focuses on a traditional bike race, unlike round a closed circuit as with the Elite Crits.

Pinarello will be on form especially with Russell Downing and the support he has from the likes of Malcolm Elliot and Graham Briggs. Although, I think Halfords Bike Road Cycling Team will be the ones to watch, they have an excellent team especially with Rob Hayles who must surely be a huge bet to take on Russell Downing. He has excellent support from Ed Clancy and Ian Wilkinson. Uber cool Rapha Condor will be on form as always with Dean Downing who has support from an equally impressive Chris Newton, Tom Southam and Simon Richardson.

It should be a very interesting season!

Premier Calendar 2009 UK Road Cycling Race Series

14 - 15th March - Bikeline 2 Day. Flintshire.
29th March - Tour Of The Reservoir. County Durham.
11 - 13th April - Girvan Stage Race. Scotland.
19th April - Archer Grand Prix. Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire.
2 - 3rd May - Chas Messenger 2 Day. Buckinghamshire.
10th May - Lincoln Grand Prix. Lincoln.
23 - 24th May - Tour of Wessex. Somerset.
7th June - Ryedale Grand Prix. Helmsley, North Yorkshire.
14th June - Beaumont Trophy. Ponteland, Northumberland.
5th July - Tour of Blackpool. Blackpool.
26th July - East Yorkshire Classic. Beverley, East Yorkshire.
9th August - Tour of Pendle. Barnoldswick, Lancashire.
23th August - Richmond Grand Prix. Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Elite Circuit Series 2009 Dates

2009 sees 2008 champion Dean Downing defending his title and just like the Premier Calendar series he will face a lot of competition.

The Elite Crit series sees a UK wide series of closed circuit races with riders completing laps. I went to the Salford Nocturne last year and it's a fantastic way of seeing the action and riders up close. They normal take place in the evenings or at weekends and many follow some of the major charity cyclo sportives too.

National Elite Circuit 2009 Race Series

17th May - Hillingdon Grand Prix. Hillingdon, London.
17th June - Stone Criteriums. Stone, Staffordshire.
24th June - Otley Criteriums. Otley, West Yorkshire.
1st July - Rochdale Grand Prix. Rochdale, Lancashire.
3rd July - Tour of Blackpool GP, Blackpool.
7th July - Brighouse Criteriums, Brighouse, Yorkshire.
14th July - Colne Grand Prix. Colne, Lancashire.
22nd July - Blackburn Grand Prix. Blackburn, Lancashire.
5th September - Newport Nocturne. Newport, Shropshire.
6th September - Travelwise Warwick. Warwick
20th September - Preston City Centre GP. Preston, Lancashire.

Lance Armstrong's Comeback

Well he's done it, after all the hype, training, blogging, twittering Lance Armstrong made his race debut for Astana yesterday in the Tour Down Under in Adelaide.

Although not necessarily his first race, that will be on Tuesday, today was a 51k, 30 lap criterium. A 130,000 people turned up to see the event, where he finished up 64th with a time of 1hr 4mins, 24 seconds behind winner Aussie Robbie McEwen. So much is the popularity of Lance Armstrong's comeback, that the result even featured on the main page of the BBC News website.

Claiming he was taking it easy on his first time out at the back, he twittered afterwards "1st day done. Fast criterium but felt great to be back at it. Legs felt good".

In other good news, Mark Cavendish's new lead out man
for Team Columbia-High Road, Mark Renshaw came 11th.

You can follow the Tour Down Under on the offical website here.

3rd Runway Heathrow Airport

So the government has agreed to the building of a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport, which should be completed by 2020. The new runway will increase capacity with an extra 200,000 flights landing each day. Unsurprisingly it hasn't been met with everyone's approval.

With the increased flights there are concerns over increased emissions and would involve a whole village being wiped out to build it. There is also increased noise pollution to consider which, from reading up on various news feeds, hasn't been covered too much due to more pressing environmental concerns.

As upsetting as it is for those to lose their homes in the village of Sipson, I agree with the 3rd runway at Heathrow. If Heathrow, a vital gateway for cargo and tourism in and out of the UK, doesn't expand with the potential traffic available, the UK economy will suffer. Increased capacity at Heathrow will invite increased trading of goods and tourists visiting the UK, this in return will bring more jobs.

I understand the concerns with emissions, however we've been lead to believe that they will be tightly controlled, with slots only available to the most modern/efficient aircraft. This is key, because with new aircraft you could increase capacity but keep emissions at virtually the same level. At the moment the avation industry contributes to 2% of emissions worldwide, and with the planned increase in traffic it would rise to only 3%.

For those against the expansion, the problem they have is that those campaigning against the expansion, aren't doing themselves any favours and has produced some great comedy over the last couple of days.

The 3rd runway was discussed on Question Time this week with Willie Walsh, Chief Exec of BA on the panel. The funniest and the best moment of the evening was when Baroness Tonge, exclaimed "if we allow runway 3 to go ahead, the emissions produced by Heathrow alone will be more than what the country of Kenya produces in a year". Willie Walsh brilliantly and simply calmly replied "I'm always interested to know if these people actually know how much emission Kenya produces in a year". The question was put back to Baroness Tonge, and would you believe it, she didn't know. She didn't have a clue!

Well I can't tell you much more either to be honest, however I can tell you in Kenya, carbon emissions are 200 kg a head; here in the UK it is fifty times that.

The Guardian also covered a particular story on Saturday with Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon making his thoughts known. Oscar winner Emma Thompson has emerged a leading figure in the protests, with some reports claiming she had event bought a plot of land on the potential development site. In response Geoff Hoon commented "She (Emma Thompson) has been in some very good films but I worry about people who I assume travel by air quite a lot and don't see the logic of their position. BAA don't wake up in the morning and think "we need a bigger airport" and airlines do not say "we need to put on more flights" unless there is a demand for it. So the point is about not just Emma Thompson, but lots of people. If someone living in LA says they didn't think it was a good idea to expand Heathrow, well the last time I looked the only way to get from LA to Britain is Heathrow".

To which Emma Thompson replied "Get a grip Geoff". Fantastic!!! And to Geoff's credit a very credible arguement.

UK Road Cycling Teams & Riders 2009

Find below the list of UK road cycling teams and riders for the 2009 season, these guys will be featuring in the 2009 UK Premier Calendar & Elite Circuit Series.

Candi-TV Pinarello Cycling Team

Pinarello bikes

Russell Downing
Malcolm Elliott
Graham Briggs
Peter Williams
Andy Roche
Lee Davis
Dale Appleby
James Sampson

Rapha Condor Cycling Team
Condor Bikes

Dean Downing
Chris Newton
Tom Southam
Simon Richardson
Kristian House
Ben Greenwood
Rhys Lloyd
Matt Cronshaw
Liam Holohan
Darren Lapthorne
Mike Rudling

Halfords Bikehut Cycling Team
Boardman Bikes

Rob Hayles
Ed Clancy
Ian Wilkinson
Andy Tennant
Mark McNally
Rob Partridge
Ian Bibby
David Fletcher

Plowman Craven Cycling Team
Cervelo Bikes

Evan Oliphant
Tony Gibb
Jeroen Janssen
Jon Mozley
Stephen Adams
Tom Barras
Tom Murray
Jon Tiernan-Locke
Ross Creber
Dan Craven

Sigma Sport Specialized Cycling Team
Specialized Bikes

Matt Stephens
Robin Sharman
Kit Gilham
Wouter Sybrandy
Andrew Bye
Neil Swithenbank
James Williamson
Dan Duguid
Tom Last

Sports Beans Willier Cycling Team
Willier Bikes

Ben Luckwell
Grant Bayton
Marcin Bialoblocki
Will Bjergfelt
Richard Wilkinson
Mark Perry
Billy Jo Whenman

Kinesis Cycling Team

Kinesis Bikes

Steve Lampier
Matthew Kipling
James Stewart
Rab Wardell
James Moss
Jack Pullar
Alex Bhogal
Vincent Veilleux

Team Corley Cycles
Trek Bikes

Roy Chamberlain
Matt Higgins
Simon Gaywood
Chris McNamara
Richard Cartland
Mark Wordsworth
Martin Freeman
Karl Freeman
Tom Kirk
Nick Jones

Social Media Cafe Manchester

Just got in from attending this month's Social Media Cafe @ The Northern in Manchester. Social Media Cafe is a gathering of like minded individuals who are interested in discussing, sharing and learning about web 2.0 and social media. The event is free and run by volunteers.

Despite having a good understanding of web 2.0 and SEO, I was still pretty apprehencious as I knew a lot of people attending were big players in the Manchester circuit. At first, I was surprised at how busy it was. SMC is very friendly with lots going on, people recording video and instantly uploading to the web, while others Twitter away during the event, something which takes a bit of getting used to while someone is presenting.

It works very simply, it's an open conference. If you want to do a presentation about a certain aspect of social media, simply let the guys know on the website and they'll fit you in. Tonight there were 6 presentations to choose from, spread over 2 sessions. I chose "How To Make Money From Your Blog" by Craig McGinty and "Using Social Media In Learning" by David Bird.

I chose Craig McGinty mainly because I enjoy reading his blog. He is a good example of how powerful blogs can be and how you can make an income through having adverts on your blogs. His presentation was about solid website marketing. Have good, relevant content, be single product focused (his was all about moving and living in France) and focus on where best to place adverts. I managed to have a quick chat later on and a really nice guy.

David Bird's presentation was excllent. David works at MMU, teaching digital marketing and social media. He discussed the problems he faces in trying to implement and improve online communications at MMU. I really feel for him. I totally believe that today's learning institutions are so far behind the times with online activity it is untrue.

David told us how he is introducing video to compliment alongside written essays. These videos allow for greater creativity, especially for those with learning disabilities, to express themselves clearly. These videos are also contributed to the marking - great idea!

Schools, colleges and universities need to start listening and investing in media which young people can relate to. This video which I saw a few months ago is the results of a survey by Google on what students are up to today. It is very, very interesting.

If you're interested in social media I highly suggest heading down next month. I've learnt I need to get more involved with taking photos and video!

Check out the Social Media Cafe Manchester website here. They are also on Twitter.

Mark Cavendish's Scott Addict 2009 Road Bike

Courtesy of this is Mark Cavendish's new road bike for 2009. Scott have recently taken over from Giant as bike sponsors for the Team Columbia team and what a road bike they've put together. I think it looks mint!

You can read the specs here but basically it's fully kitted with Shimano Dura-Ace, SRM cranks and power control, Ritchey headset and even uses a standard Scott Addict LTD frame and folks. Most importantly the whole bike is made of carbon, meaning that it is 100g lighter than last year's Team Columbia Giant TCR Advanced SL bike.

If you have the money you can grab one yourself from Evans Cycles.

It's quite a long way away from my Hinde L'Etape. You can read about the sportives I'm doing over the summer here.

For this year's Tour De France, Mark Cavendish has also gone for a custom paint job on his Scott Addict which looks mint!

New Astana Team Kit 2009 Feat Lance Armstrong

Cycling Weekly released pictures of the Astana cycling team (or should I say Lance Armstrong) today as they prepare for their first race in Australia.

The 2009 kit has hardly changed from last year's but still clearly distinctive of it's Eastern European roots. Did they nick it off Borat? You can buy one from either Wiggle or Evans Cycles.

Talking of Borat, the team actually originates from Kazakhstan, where cycling is a huge sport over there, the Astana is 75% built around Kazakhstan nationals.

So why is media giant Lance Armstrong riding for them? Well mainly due to his long standing association with bike manufacturer Trek and also the management of ex-American pro rider Sean Yates who rode the Tour De France 12 times and coach Johan Bruyneel, who managed Lance Armstrong to his massive 7 Tour De France wins.

Away from Lance Armstrong, there is also Alberto Contador, winner of both the Tour De France, Vuelta Espana and Giro D' Italia and only the 5th rider in history to win all 3 grand tours. He is also the first Spaniard to do so and is seen as a sporting hero in Spain. There are a lot of concerns whether Lance and Alberto will get along. Lance on a media ego high and Alberto a potential legend in the making wanting to protect titles. That battle in it's self will be fascinating.

They are then joined by a fantastic back up team which includes Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer who are easily capable to win races.

The main focus of course is on Lance Armstrong's come back, everywhere he goes seems to be a media circus and there are concerns he will be attacked in the mountains by still sore and jealous Frenchies.

Lance seems to lap it up, loving every second of being back in the limelight. He is riding purely to raise awareness of Livestrong, his charity supporting the fight against cancer, which he remarkably did during his Tour De France. He won't be paid salary nor bonus.

What is also fascinating is the methods he is using to promote himself. He has a blog which has video and photo footage but most interestingly he is using twitter. You can follow his daily routine, follow his training, team rides and he will also be documenting races before and after the event, which knowing Lance will be juicy!

He is also introducing photos to his twitter feeds and if you were subscribed to his feed you would have known before anyone that he was doing the Tour De France and you would have seen his new wheels too. It's a great way to learn about twitter and also a great demonstration of how powerful the program can be in recieving news.

I still believe that Alberto Contador will be the one to watch, his time trialling has improved a huge amount. Watch out for him in the Tour De France.

You can check out my own sportive progress here.

Garmin-Chipotle Slipstream 2009 Team Kit

In more new team kit news, Cycling Weekly captured Bradley Wiggins showing off his new Garmin-Slipstream 2009 team kit in Majorca last week. You can grab one at Wiggle.

2009 will be a big season for Bradley Wiggins, after huge success on the track, he will be looking to take that talent on to the road. I think he can do it and wouldn't be surprised to see him in the top 5 of this year's Tour.

Garmin-Chipotle and also known as Slipstream also features the UK's David Millar and American Christian Vande Velde with the big up and coming Dan Martin in the ranks too. They PR heavily on the ethical stance against doping and riding clean. With the huge amount of talent at their disposal they should have a big season ahead of them. Their season kicks off in Austrailia before heading onto the Het Volk.

Cheap supermarket prices: dealing with the crunch!

A recent press release from has shown that we're dealing with the crunch by downshifting on items such as pasta, crisps, tomato ketchup and cereal. Downshifting being a term thought up by money bod Martin Lewis, which involves consumers switching from brands to cheaper supermarket own brands. The data is shown over a year period.

Pasta own brand has seen an 8% surge with crisps, ketchup and cereal seeing a 4% increase. Baked beans, coffee and tea bags have had a 3% increase to own brand.

However when it comes to bog roll and soft drinks we like to stick to our respected brands, with 2% returning to juice brands and 1% of now rough bums returning back to Andrex and co.

When it comes to biscuits and Cola we stick with what we know, with no changes seen.

Pasta, cereal and crisps I can understand but baked beans and ketchup?!! I'd be interested to see how the data compares to Sainsbury's recent Tomato Ketchup advertising campaign. But surely everyone must know that there is only one ketchup and baked bean in this world you must use and that is Heinz! Credit crunch it may be, but thou shalt never take me from my Heinz bean.

New Columbia HTC Cycling 2009 Team Kit

Cycling Weekly released news on their website the other day of Team Columbia HTC's new team kit for the 2009 season, seen here modelled by top UK rider Mark Cavendish. A welcome change from last year's sickly royal blue. The new kit sees the addition of new sponsor HTC, a mobile phone manufacturer, alongside outdoor clothing manufacturer Columbia.

The Cycling Weekly forum is divided, but I love it and bought one from Wiggle.

I can't wait for the new season to get started. I'm in Belgium in February when the Het Volk is on, one of the first European sportives. I was in Belgium at the same time last year when it was on and it was great to see it on TV. The Belgium folk are really into cycling. There are rows upon rows of bikes everywhere, stepping out of the nightclub at 6am, groups of cyclists fly by in full gear on top of the range bikes. Top Belgium rider Tom Boonen is as famous as David Beckham over there, although he as recently got himself into a bit of bother, upsetting a number of fans after writing off his one evening Lamborghini and getting himself into a spot of bother with his lavish lifestyle.

You can read about my progress here.

Northwich Guardian

I love getting the Northwich Guardian. My weekly helping of the usual nonsense from my beloved hometown.

This week sees a full page spread of a 53 year old husband from Castle called Ivan Blacka demonstrate outside Firdale Medical Centre. I say demonstrate, it was just him with a homemade oversized badge stuck to the side of his head with a home-made placard saying "This surgery has let my wife's health deteriorate for 3 years. Be aware!".

All this comes from his wife suffering from back pain for the past three years. The doctors from Firdale prescribed painkillers, which by the way Ivan didn't think were suitable for her (no reason why). Although the pain continued the doctors refused to send her for a scan or other checks, leading to this demonstration with Ivan claiming "I don't feel they're doing enough, I'm watching someone I love suffer".

As sorry as I am for his wife's condition, if he loved her so much and was so concerned why didn't he register at another surgery or visit a hospital?

Such is the sensitivity of the subject, the article stated that "Ivan and his wife, who he does not wish to be named have been married for 30 years and have a daughter". Well, if you are nosey partridge living in the Northwich, never mind the Castle area, I'm sure with that information it won't take you long to find out which Mrs Blacka it is. Hmmm I wonder which Mrs Blacka in her 50s it is in Castle then?

When even your IPhone isn't good enough!

Read an interesting article in T3 magazine yesterday. The Iphone hasn't gone down too well over in Japan with only 500,000 units shifted so far and the reason...

1) It doesn't have a mini digital TV reciever (all phones in Japan have them).
2) It doesn't have animated emotions.
3) It doesn't have a smart chip so you can use your mobile as a debit card or travel pass.
4) It doesn't have screen technology to block visability from other people.

Well away from the animated smiley faces, it just shows how far behind we are here in the UK. One guy interviewed in the article said that he was so used to watching TV on his daily commute he couldn't do without it!! Watching streaming digital TV on your phone as the norm?!

Many Japanese phones have screen technology where you can only see the screen face on, but what I find most fascinating is the use of the mobile phone as a payments system. Supposedly the smart chip for this technology has been built in Japan and is all patented so to buy the technology from them would cost a fortune, although an innovative idea.

At the moment Iphone sales make up 35% of Apple's sales alongside 12% computer sales and 53% Ipod sales. So Apple may need to go back to the drawing board to make the IPhone a success over in the Far East. Meanwhile over here in the UK...isn't Apple a fruit??

Warehouse Project - New Years Day with Claude Von Stroke!

Last night was the closing party of The Warehouse Project in Manchester, and courtesy of Adam B and Claude Von Stroke, I managed to get hold of a free entry.

The Warehouse Project has become a legendary clubbing institution in Manchester over the past couple of years, adding spice and sparkle to what was becoming a gloomy clubbing circuit. The idea being 4 months worth of very special Friday and Saturday night raves in, yeah you've guessed it, a Warehouse.

The Warehouse Project for the past two years has been underneath Piccadilly train station in a unused underground car park in the arches. Brick archways are decorated with a state of the art lighting system and accompnied by a very loud, crystal clear sound system. Over the past 4 months, The Warehouse Project has attracted some of the biggest lineups in the country, mixing up everything from House, Techno, Breaks & Drum & Bass with some of the best DJs from around the world. The events have been a massive success, you can count on one hand the amount of nights that haven't sold out over the past 4 months.

Last night included Yousef, Deep Dish's Dubfire and Claude Von Stroke.

Claude (or Barclay) is a friend of my mate Adam B, which dates back to the early days of Barclay setting up Dirty Bird Recordings and when Justin Martin was first putting out his productions. Barclay's alter ego Claude Von Stroke blew up in the past year with "The Whistler" and "Who's Afraid Of Detroit" getting big plays everywhere. He also has a Fabric CD out in the next couple of months so check it out!

Despite the NYE hangovers, all sets were solid and we all left happy that the New Year had started off on the right foot!

It can be full of Johnny Tight T-Shirt and Felicity Fake Tan, but if you can work past that it's a wicked night out clubbing. The good news is that The Warehouse Project will return once again to Piccadilly later on in 2009 due to the construction of a new block of flats close by being put on ice due to the credit crunch. Can't wait!