The Tour 2011

Had you read this blog 3 weeks ago and placed a bet based on my predications (not that I would have even recommended that) you now be much better off with Cadel Evans and Mark Cavendish both taking home winners jerseys.

This year's Tour has been one of the best. The racing has been incredible and in my opinion the best rider won. Cadel fought right from day one, many will forget his exploits in the first week, sprinting to lead the peloton over the finishes. He fought well in the mountains, when Andy Schleck attacked he pulled the bunch up over the Galibier & Alpe d' Huez to save time. His Time Trial to eventually win was sublime. This was perhaps his last year to take the Yellow jersey, personally I like the guy, he wears his heart on his sleeve and I'm chuffed to see him win.

To see Mark Cavendish take the Green jersey is just brilliant. The first ever UK rider to win the green jersey and at such a young age. He is one of a select few to have won 3 times on the Champs Elysees, together with 20 stages in the Tour de France. The guy will be come (if not already) legendary and I believe one to watch in the World Championships.

For me Thomas Voeckler and Phillipe Gilbert have been revelations. Their riding has been both entertaining and incredible. Voeckler fought for every kilometer to keep the yellow jersey. I'm sure he won't ever have to buy a drink in France ever again!

Lets not forget Sky's Geraint Thomas, best British rider finishing 32nd! He is still young and I believe we could see him challenging for the Yellow jersey in year's to come. With a new 3 year contract with Sky signed, I'm sure we haven't seen the last from him yet.

It has been the best Tour de France for years however if Bradley Wiggins hadn't of crashed, I wonder what the result would have been.....

A year with the club

Last weekend I celebrated my first anniversary with Weaver Valley Cycling Club. It certainly has been a rollercoaster. The ups and downs you go through are just incredible. My first year has been full of new challenges.

Your lifestyle changes (well mine has anyway). You watch what you eat. Saturday nights are now spent eating pasta, getting an early night before rising early on Sunday. Sunday breakfast is porridge before heading off on your bike in all weathers. You can return home strong and elated, other times cold, wet and exhausted just wishing it would all end. I remember once my body was so numb with cold that it took 15 minutes for me to get under the shower. Even so, you'll always be there at 9.30 the following Sunday ready to go.

I'm now completing around 100 miles a week (a club run can be 55-65 miles in one go), I've competed at the Velodrome in Manchester, which was awesome, and I'm now doing Club 10 Time Trials every Wednesday. I've marshalled and I've been lead car for the road races the club promotes. I also went away with the club to Llanberis in February. I was nervous amongst some really good riders: with a difficult route I only rode half way each day but loved the experience. The scenery was incredible and I'm building up to next year.

Dave Fearon was the man responsible. I had noticed the ads in the local Guardian promoting for new members, I had been building my fitness up over the past year aiming to join the club eventually and on one of my rides he rode home with me. He suggested I should come out on a club run. I'll always remember my first run with the club, a 60 mile round trip to Holt near Wrexham. A distance that I can comfortably deal with now but 12 months ago it was a distance which I saved for a sportive about 5 times a year. It was a tough run, I went off the back on pretty much every climb, I clung on in the middle of the bunch for most of the ride and was destroyed by the time I got home. Despite that I met a great bunch of guys.

I've stuck with it and I've only missed a couple of runs since then (I remember one run in December where only two of us met up on the Sunday morning!).

I've made loads of great friends. I need to mention in particular club run captain Al Silver who has been brilliant in offering support (we recently did a 25 minute 10 mile TT 2-Up) and I've really enjoyed supporting the juniors within the club, especially James Risk. It is hard to believe he is only 14 and he is certainly one to watch in the future.

If you are considering joining a club and you have a good year under your belt with training miles and sportives then get involved. It's ace.

Santa Pepsi Ad for the Summer

I love this ad from Pepsi. It is a very clever ownership of Summer for the brand. Coke Cola is notorious for it's Christmas advertising, so much so that people now regard Christmas not starting until they've seen the Coke Cola lorry on the ad.

In a clever twist Pepsi have caught Santa on his summer holidays, when offered a Coke Cola at the bar, he turns it down in return for Pepsi as he wants to have a little fun. This is followed by the strapline "Summer time is Pepsi time". Love the thinking!

The ad was created by TBWA/Chiat/Day. In a decent article on Ad Age they had a quote from Pepsi saying "We want for Pepsi to own the summer. It's a time when people want to have fun, go on vacation. ... The entire blue system, whether the bottlers or ourselves, is committed to really owning the summer."

The campaign includes radio, out-of-home and digital buys, as well as social-media elements. A Foursquare partnership will see consumers checking into hot summer locations, such as beaches.

The campaign comes on the back of Pepsi recently dropping to America's 3rd following Diet Coke in 2nd and Coke as brand leader. PepsiCo have increased spend by 30% on it's beverage brands.

The Daily Mail of all people has a nice case study into the two companies and their advertising

Tour de France 2011

The 2011 Tour starts this weekend (how quickly has that come round?!), celebrating it's 100th anniversary in the Alps the riders will tackle 3,430km over 21 stages.

The route only includes one individual Time Trial this year on the penultimate day and a Team Time Trial on the second day. This could be problematic for Alberto Contador who uses them to gain seconds if not minutes on his rivals. The Team Time Trial shouldn't cause too many problems early on in the proceedings, although watch out for teams missing changes and dropping riders, as we've seen in the past minutes can be lost so easily.

The first week is pretty settled, all flat with a couple of lumps and bumps. The first week will suit the sprinters and "punchy" Spring Classic specialists such as Philippe Gilbert, Thomas Voeckler and I would also have a punt on Sylvain Chavanel too. Hopefully we will see Mark Cavendish in Green!

From the second week onwards it is all about the mountains, with only one or two gentle stages until Paris. The second week sees the riders taking on the Pyrenees, stage 14 will be tough with six big tests but nothing like stage 12 which features the Tourmalet and finishes with the Luz-Ardiden.

Nothing, however, can prepare you for the final week in the Alps. The riders will be on their knees. Stages 18 and 19 are simply horrendous. Stage 18 takes on the Agnel, d'Izoard before completing the highest ever finish in Tour history on the Galibier. The next day stage 19 takes on the Telegraphe, the Galibier again and finishes on Alpe d' Huez. Just incredible. Kev & Eleanor Underhill in the club are tackling exactly the same route in the Etape sportive. I have a huge amount respect for that and wish them all the best.

Ones to Watch

I think favourite for me has to be Alberto Contador, he had a terrific Giro and looked very strong. He has doubts over how fresh he is compared to other riders who avoided the Giro such as the Schlecks but I think he will be fine. I see him attacking on a big mountain stage, maybe stage 12 and carrying a 3-5 second lead into the Alps allowing him to sit in the wheels.

A lot has been said about Andy and Frank Schleck. I'm not sure, they have had a terrible built up to The Tour. Andy was non-existant at the Tour of Switerzland and Frank lost a podium place due to a terrible Time Trial. Andy does have the ability to pull it out of the bag at The Tour though so we shall see.

My money is on Cadel Evans. He had a great Dauphine and did well in the Spring Classics. He looks strong: the typical Cadel Evans fighting spirit is there and looking he is determind than ever.

And then there is Bradley Wiggins. His build up has been perfect, first place at the Dauphine and now our British National Road Champion too. He has learnt a lot from last year. He has tweaked his training and from listening to his interviews he seems relaxed and fresh. He seems to have his spark back which was missing last year and I feel he will have a good Tour. I would love for him to get on the podium in Paris. Come on Brad do the jersey proud!

Green jersey. Can only be Mark Cavendish!