Tour de France 2011 Route

The 2011 Tour de France route was announced today in Paris. The route celebrates 100 years of the Alps and to mark the occasion the Tour visits the Galibier twice and also goes up the vicious Alpe d' Huez for a mountain top finish two days before Paris.

There is an individual time trial before Paris.

There is a return to the Pyrenees in the first half of the race which could be interesting and there is the return of the Team Time Trial too.

Not as exciting as the start of 2010 without the Beligium Pave but definitely one for the climbers, I'd put my money on Andy Schleck this year.


It's good to see that branding still plays a massive part in our day to day lives.

Clothing retailer Gap announced that it was to give it's reknowned logo an overhaul in an attempt to appeal to a modern audience. The new logo included a blue square in the top right hand corner as a nod to the old branding.

Well it's safe to say it all kicked off. Over 2000 comments on it's Facebook page, not counting those on Twitter (a Twitter feed dedicated to both the old and new Gap logo were created). Such was the uproar surrounding the new look that within a week of announcing the new logo Gap decided to pull it and revert back to it's previous branding.

There are two ways to look at this.

1) Gap has a terrible communications strategy. Do they really know their audience?
I would love to see the brief for this new logo. It is terrible. It is poor design, secondary school at best execution. I wouldn't have the square overlapping the "p" at all, nor the gradient in the square. It would cause all kind of production problems and would look terrible in a single colour.

Gap reverted back after only a couple of thousand people kicked up a fuss. For a global brand this is very weak. Were they too frightened to loose mouldy old customers and make a bold new decision? Surely they had done their research?

2) Is it a clever Social Media strategy?
I find it hard to believe that (according to MarketingMag) a reputable agency such as Laird & Partners in New York would create such a grotesque logo. Gap also announced through Facebook that they were re-branding. Not exactly the norm when executing such a major branding change.

Gap also pulled the new logo within a week due to a couple of thousand people complaining. Were they looking at a clever way to get people talking and add new followers to their Facebook and Twitter feeds? Perhaps create a bit of a fuss and get people to remember the glorious heritage of the Gap brand. Those expensively produced blue paper bags with the reversed logo. Look good on the high street don't they? When did you last shop at Gap? The clothes were expensive but the quality was good no? Wasn't there a time when it was cool to have your baby dressed head to foot in Gap? But now you shop at Next right?

I can't say which one it is but it would be genius if it was number 2. Shame they couldn't have kept it going slightly longer!

Horse of the Year Show Tickets

Becky and I ventured down to the NEC in Birmingham on Wednesday for the Horse of the Year show. Becky loved the day and arrived home a lot lighter in the purse but weighed down by shopping!

We had a good day but I wanted to highlight something just in case you were thinking of going because I think it is very poor form from the organisers Grandstand Media.

Becky had left buying the tickets to the last minute (due to saving up to go and trying to get the day off). Luckily she managed to get the day off, however when it came to the tickets last week we were shocked to find that the £26 and £36 a ticket seats had sold out - for these seats to sell out on a Wednesday and Thursday is very unheard of. There was no way we could afford £56 each, it wouldn't be good value for money either with the professional riders not being very active on the Wednesday.

Anyway after searching long and hard we managed to grab hold of some £36 tickets.

For Horse of the Year show to say those cheaper tickets were sold out is wrong. We sat in the arena and there were hundreds of empty cheap seats. It was so empty that the stewards told us to sit at the front (in the expensive seats) as it wouldn't be busy.

Surely it would make better sense to fill up the arena with cheaper prices than hang on to see if people would pay £56 a ticket (which from talking to 5 people they didn't). Grandstand Media have had to pull the British Open Showjumping Championships already due to lack of interest, perhaps they should revise their strategy or Horse of the Year show will follow suit.

It isn't a cheap day out, especially for families. You also have to pay £8 parking, and if you want a programme that is another £8 (I know I fainted too). Food and drink isn't cheap either, easily £4 for a sandwich, hot dog or burger and a cup of tea even comes in at £1.60.

Yes of course best advice is to book as early as possible especially if you are thinking of going Friday, Saturday or Sunday, (if you book by December you can pay 2010 prices rather than 2011 so sounds like they're going up again) but for Wednesday and Thursday book the cheapest you can as chances are you'll sit nearer the front anyway. Approximate tmes are available on the website beforehand so print those off from there to save the ridiculous £8 programme charge.

New Heinz Tomato Soup "Whistle" TV Ad

I saw this new TV ad from Heinz the other night for Tomato Soup, no doubt for the run up to those chilly Autumn days. The advert was created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and is part of a £2 million pound campaign.

I love how it has brilliantly observed and captured the moment of someone's first mouthful of soup. Beautifully filmed and has a nice tone to it

Dave Hinde Race Series

Those who read my blog will know I had a disagreement with a cyclist and a car recently which ended up with my 6 month old Dave Hinde L'Etape frame being written off, together with handlebars, cassette, chain and rear mech.

Anyway all this has meant a new frame and the guys at Dave Hinde have been excellent, in fact Jim was one of the first to phone me once the news had filtered through. They set to work in taking the bike apart and checked everything throughly. With my entry level L'Etape written off they made me an offer to replace it with a brand new Race Series frame which they had in stock. Made in Aluminum, like the L'Etape, the Race Series frame is made by Italian frame maker Dedacciai. For those of you who following cycling closely, Dedacciai also make the frames for Condor of the Rapha Condor Racing Team.

The Race Series frame is certainly a lot chunkier especially on the seat tube with a squared top and down tube. It means business and is similar weight if slightly lighter to the L'Etape. I have it finished with Pro-Lite kit, Mavic wheels and full Ultegra groupset.

I decided to upgrade the forks. I had Ambrosio forks previously, this was a default option from Dave Hinde. I wasn't impressed with the forks, right from the first ride they had a very harsh ride and wept under pressure when sprinting. They were very poor.

I upgraded to Deda's very own Blackfin racing forks which are full carbon and are also very light. The difference has been incredible already. The ride is a 100% better, the front of the bike glides along soaking up the little bumps. Compared to the Ambrosio forks it is like riding in an arm chair.

Combined with the Race Series frame, the Deda forks make a very nice ride. The bike is very forward moving, every pedal stroke pushes through the frame to the wheel. If you're looking for a first time road bike I'd probably stick to a L'Etape, for an upgrade or second affordable frame definitely consider the Road Series.

First time at the Velodrome

On Friday evening I had my first taste of riding the boards at the velodrome in Manchester courtesy of Weaver Valley Cycling Club. I hadn't had any track cycling experience before, nor had I ridden a fixed or fixed with no brakes!

All I can say is that if you love your cycling, you need to get on the track. It is the most overwhelming, exhilarating, mindblowingly, adrenalin fuelled fun you will have on two wheels. It is brilliant.

The air whooshes past your face, the massive kick you get as you come off the bend, your surroundings just whizz by, it is such a great sensation.

Some beginners tips if you're visiting the Velodrome for the first time.

1) You can hire a track bike from the Velodrome for £10. They are all fixed wheel, all you need to know is your frame size.

2) You can hire cycling shoes from the Velodrome for £4 or if you use Look Delta cleats you'll be ok.

3) Riding a fixed wheel bike can be strange at first, even stranger without any brakes! With a fixed wheel, the cranks are constantly moving so you can't freewheel. Don't worry if you try to, you just get a gentle reminder from the bike to keep pedalling! Track cycling is all about how fast you can spin your legs, together with leg power.

4) You brake by 1) softly cycling backwards, this takes some getting used to as I found I was yanking back to harshly at first or 2) start to cycle at a slower revolution.

5) Every session has a trainer from the Velodrome who will get you on your way. The sessions are split into 2, one half for beginners and intermediates and then another half for the experienced boys and girls (we were getting 15 minutes on rotation which worked out really well).

6) The key thing about cycling at the Velodrome is to push hard through the corners. It is all about forward motion and looking around you. Never move out without a good look.

7) Don't worry about the banking, it does look intimidating at first but let gravity help you out. When we were racing we used the black inside line as it is the shortest way round the course and used the blue line for overtaking. You start off by riding around on the flat "cote d'azur" around the edge at first to get used to a fixed wheel bike and then go up onto the banking. At first it is a wierd sensation trying to stick to the line, you'll wobble about a bit. I found it dodgy on the corners but you just have to relax and trust that the bike isn't going to from under you, and as long as you're pedalling it won't do.

8) Self control is a massive area. Get some group riding experience so you know how to alter your cadence to suit the man in-front. You need to be thinking ahead, pre-plan your movements and be aware of what is happening being you.

9) Always overtake on the outside. Never on the inside.

10) Relax and enjoy it. I found as soon as I relaxed my upper body, loosened my grip on the bars I could concentrate not only on the race but let my legs do the work.