Goodbye 2010…..

So with today being the 1st of January 2011, we officially bid goodbye to the year of 2010, and what a year for cycling it was! We saw epic grand tours crafted to extol unprecedented suffering, a three-time tour champ testing positive, Spartacus dominate some early season classic action, and of course the rise and rise of popularity of cycling within the UK. Below are some of my top highlights from the past 12 months, some personal, some as a cycling fan, but all as a lover of all things on two wheels!

Mark Cavendish cries after victory in stage 5 of Le Tour
And I cried with him! I will never forget it, it was one of the handfuls of days off we had whilst posted in South Africa for 6 weeks with work, and I watched the last 80k or so of the stage live on tv, and maybe it’s because I was a little tired (actually exhausted) and emotional, I just thought it was the most amazing thing, and I loved seeing how much it meant to the guy, especially after his early season arrogance and that whole two finger salute shtick. It showed how much the chap cares and how much he needed it. And well of course we all know what him form was like after this…. hats off to Mark.
London gets two epic cycle hangouts
Early summer bought us the arrival of two cracking bike-loving venues in town.  The Rapha cycle club, a temporary cafe come boutique come gallery sat proudly in Farringdon, welcoming all manner of cycle fans for their daily Giro and Tour screenings, as well as throwing some very nice soirées come the evening, such as new range and book launches. It’s tenure ended late July rather sadly, but rest assured the club will return summer of 2011 serving some lovely nudie roast! Look Mum No Hands! is a rather more permanent cafe venture plonked in the heart of the old street area, serving food, drinks, running a repairs workshop and bike film screenings aplenty. As well as screening live races and old cycling films, they have also hosted some great nights such as a q&a evening with pro-tour rider Dan Lloyd and most recently the launch of the Gran Corsa charity challenge. Be sure to pop in when in town, it’s a one of a kind venue.

Alexander Vinokourov wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège
April saw Vino win Liege in an emphatic manner, motoring away from Kolobnev in the closing section to take his second LBL title. After serving a two year ban for playing with his blood, the Kontraversial Kazakh made a return to the Astana team and rode in a manner akin to a super strong diesel engine. 
Rapha launch ladies specific range
Finally a brand stepped up to the challenge of making some super functional and stylish ladies specific cycle wear. Drawing from the designs of the popular mens products, Rapha have created a range for the most discerning of cycling women. Reviewed here and here the range has performed wonderfully over many miles in 2010, and rapha have built a truly solid foundation of products that hopefully they will keep adding to as the seasons tick by…

Cadel Evans takes a truly epic victory during stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia
I don’t think anyone will disagree with the use of the term ‘epic’ when recounting stage seven of what could be described as the most brutally entertaining grand tour for years. The giro had it all, insane mountain time trials, evil climbing stages and of course the pavé and dirt of the seventh stage, the 220km from Carrara to Montalcino. Cadel, Cunego, Vino and others amongst contention, it took a natty kick from Evans to shake his adversaries and give us a victory salute to remember. He looked battled drained and completely spent, and for that reason it has to be one of my favourite stages this year.

Editing at Le Tour final day
In 2010 I had the privilege to be sent out to edit for two amazing photographers on the last day of Le Tour de France. I did a small write up of the experience here. 2011 should hopefully see me heading out for this stage again on behalf of Getty Images, all fingers crossed and calendars allowing. I will of course try and document the thing a little better this time, with of course having another whole years worth of on-the-road experience under my editing belt 🙂

Quote of the Year 2010
This nod had to go to Omega Pharma Lotto’s Matt Lloyd for the following golden nugget after several crashes had blighted the tour, with Euskaltel’s riding being widely blamed  – “They just fall off. There’s no reason why. You’ll just be riding along and there they’ll be like a bleeding carrot in the middle of the road lying in pain.”

The “Hell Of The North” ride
Possibly the funniest craziest ride ever undertaken, you can read a report of the day here. I simply cannot wait for the 2011 ride, and rest assured I have even booked it off work already to ensure nothing gets in the way of getting dirty and scoffing some frites courtesy of Rapha whilst enjoying the spectacle of roubaix on the big screen. A sublime day that wont be forgotten for a long while Also, I will ensure I don’t wear speedplays this year boys 🙂

Giro vs TOC
A great wee chart knocked up by the Ritte boys explains why the giro this year was just SO damned good. If the 2011 version is half as good it will be amazing still.

Cancellaras April Romp

Chris Newton takes the Premiere Calendar title
What a way to retire. Chris Newton retired from road racing by winning the Premiere Calendar title in his final season on the tarmac. Finishing 200 points ahead of the super strong Simon Richardson, Newton rode the races classy and legs like dynamite. It struck me how awesome the level of domestic racing is in the UK, I really enjoyed watching the races on eurosport, and think 2011 is going to be an awesome year for the domestic racing scene, with teams like Endura, Le Col and Rapha ready to duke it out.

These are just a few of my top 2010 cycling moments, please comment below as to what the highlights were for you, did you reach your goals of kms? was there a particular race that reduced you to tears of emotion or frustration? Was there a product that helped you get everything you wanted out of 2010? Then jot it down below and share. I have a feeling 2011 is going to be another belter of a year. I’m in the process of penning down my cycling goals, mainly relating to my continuing back/leg issues, but that’s another post for a few weeks time! Here’s to a great year passed, and another great one to unfold…

Les Mémoires Du Peloton

Prendas have produced a top notch retro 2011 calendar with iconic photographs of yesterdays cycling gladiators, from Mercx to Moser to Indurain and even very own british hero Malc Elliot! Its a great calendar to hang on the wall and jot down all your upcoming ride and race dates…. a wonderful stocking filler this Christmastime. Available here

투르 드 프랑스!

A very good friend bought me a crazy Tour de France review magazine back from his F1 travels to the far east. Its got some cracking bike pics in, but most hilariously there is a manga-style cut out game, snakes and ladders style, featuring some very funny cartoons….

Cover shot 
Andy v Alberto
Cadel loses the yellow jersey
Cadel & Lance have a cry

Bianchista @ Le Tour

This weekend I was privileged enough to be sent to work at the tour by my firm, Getty Images. I’m a photo editor based in London but this summer presented me with the opportunity to travel to both South Africa for the world cup (64 games, exhausting but amazing) and also to the Tour de France for the final stage. Guess which one I was most excited about?!
I was incredibly privileged to be out there editing for Bryn Lennon, a snapper who is superb when it comes to cycling. Bryn really knows his stuff when it comes to stories, rider politics and capturing a moment that conveys the main protagonists. Along with Bryn I was also there to edit for Spencer Platt. I wrote a previous blog post on Spencer here. His award winning work in war zones needs no introduction, and being a big rider himself, he took some amazing photos that really complemented Bryn’s style, by offering things from a different perspective.
Arriving in Paris on Saturday, I milled around from my base in Saint Augustin, hiring a velib on the recommendation of Alex, and cycled up the Champs Elysee. Lord knows how those guys sustain the speed and control they do, what with the cobbled surface and super tight corner at the top!
On Sunday I was taken to go collect my accreditation from the press centre, seeing Frank Schleck as I was walking in! Dude was in good spirits. The moto driver for Getty was Koen Hardens, and he had a long old chat with Saxo mechanic Christophe Desimpelaere, whom i wanted a snap with cos he looks a gnarly dude indeed. I also bumped in Dave Brailsford and got a snap and said hello.

At the accreditation desk, the girl was giving some guy sh*t about him not being on the list or whatever… which was incredibly amusing….. as she was shunning none other than ex-world champion Paolo Bettini! He laughed with myself and Koen at the girl blatantly not having a clue who he was. The story had a happy ending and I can confirm Paolo got his passes.

Then it was time to head to the Champs, I basically sat in the top area in the middle of the course, right by the Skoda on the Champs. The peloton whizzed by abouit 12 inches from my face! Here I was passed CF cards from Bryn down on the finish the finish line via Koen and some handy driving and Spencer was stationed up with myself. Queue lots of tech issues concerning France’s appalling 3g network (1kb per second really ain’t going to cut it when iv got 100 images to send to clients on the wire Mr Sarkozy!)

I had around 3500 images to edit….. Crouching over my laptop screen with a coat over my head to avoid glare, I furiously selected the best of the bunch and got them fired out. When editing pictures its my job to select and sort out (photoshop, resize, send etc) the images that convey the main stories (actually the undercurrents too!) of the event but also give a feeling of the atmosphere. To be working under such intense pressure from the field solo is great when it goes well, id say the only downside was I was in such an incredible position yet I couldn’t soak it up or appreciate it as any true cycling fan would… I was there to do a job, and not ‘soak it up’ as it were 🙂
What was amazing was being chanted at by a massive group of American fans in the crowd, i think I went bright red! I gave them a wave and the crowd cheered. haha famous for a minute. I also loved being driven down the champs behind the peltoon with an open laptop filing images in one hand (that pesky connection!) and holding on for dear life with the other hand. Epic!

After the race ended and the winners dutifully presented themselves on the podium, I headed to a backstreet bar to fire in more images… I worked for around 2 hours there as Bryn and Spencer joined me when they had completed shooting the riders procession etc.

In the evening we hooked up with our company CFO who was out there for some riding and touring in France, enjoyed a few drinks before hooking up with Tim de Wale and a couple of drunk Swiss Radio girls. We then headed to the Oakley party, finally arriving at 4am after getting epically lost, however when I saw Thor Hushovd stumbling out I knew we had found the right place!

Hopefully next year I can wangle getting out for the full three weeks as I wont be obliged to be at a major football tournament 🙂 Below is a low-res selection of some of my favorite images, captured by some incredibly talented guys. Massive thanks to Bryn & Spencer for being the most ego-less and awesome efficient guys to work with. And a huge thanks to Getty for saying yes to me asking to head out! The whole Getty image gallery can be found HERE and of course purchased for press usage.