Spring Classics – Paris – Roubaix

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Missed out on a Flanders preview last week. Sadly, my prediction would have actually been right.

So this week is ‘l’enfer du nord’ or hell of the north to you non-francophones, although, anyone into cycling will recognise it (it’s big business after all).

The race is characterised by the cobbles, 28 ‘secteurs’ to be exact. To put it lightly the race looks hard in the dry, but if it rains it turns into a true epic. For any Roubaix virgins, make sure you check out some of the videos below, my favourite ‘secteur’ is the Arenberg Trench, something, or someone, always goes down there.

Who should win? With Flanders in the bag, Fabian Cancellara’s momentum is frightening, but all didn’t go to plan last year, and he was very nearly beaten by Sep Vanmarcke. If he takes a half decent sprinter into Roubaix velodrome, I doubt his ability to turn them over.

Who will win? Such as the strength of the OPQS squad, if Zdenek Stybar or Tom Boonen doesn’t win it should be considered a failure. They two are my favourites, along with Peter Sagan.

Dark Horses: As with all the classics, all it takes is a crafty move to outsmart the favourites. For sure the riders that the favourites need to shift are Geraint Thomas, Edvald Boassen Hagen, Alexander Kristoff, Luca Paolini and probably John Degenkolb too.

 

 

 

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Reflection on Multimedia Reporting module

Throughout my Journalism course at Edinburgh Napier University, thus far, the practical work has to be the main factor in my development as a journalist. The multimedia reporting module has done a job to encapsulate the theoretical learning from all previous, and all current, modules in a way that allowed me to be more practical with my skills and knowledge.

We often used the Scottish independence debate as a basis for work in classes, understandably, as it is such a big news story for this year. In one of the first multimedia lectures we were split into groups and made to record podcasts discussing issues to do with the referendum. Our group remembered the thinking that discussing issues already discussed, made for articles or podcasts that didn’t really constitute news. For that reason we decided do a podcast that would appeal directly to our age group (18-23) and decided to de-bunk some popular myths about the independence referendum. I was happy with how it went, as I gave plenty opportunity to put into practice all we had learned about podcasting and using the radio studio, and I think the idea was genuinely original. (https://seangordon182.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/scottish-independence-debate-audio/)

Another article, about the Independence referendum, I produced in class was entitled “You Decide”. This article, strangely enough, was inspired by graffiti I noticed in the Dalry area of Edinburgh. Someone had spray painted two blue lines to create a saltire and the words, you decide. Although not an overly ‘newsy piece’, I tried to convey opinion in a way that I felt included ‘newsy’ ideas. However, the main multimedia idea here was that I felt the inclusion of a picture of the graffiti, as to me that was the new part of the story, and carried more strength about the awareness of the independence debate in Edinburgh.

However it was not only work that I did in class that I feel were products of the module, but the extracurricular work we were encouraged to dol.

 The piece I originally did for the Edinburgh Reporter (http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2014/02/alistair-darling-accuses-salmond-of-blindfolding-the-electorate/ ), on Alistair Darling visiting the Piecebox Café in Edinburgh to talk about the developments in talks about the currency union for an independent Scotland, led to the use of what I’d learnt about finding a ‘newsy’ angle on the story. Because in the day prior George Osborne had definitively said that Scotland wouldn’t be able to share the pound wouldn’t be allowed to share the pound with the rest of the UK if it went independent. For this reason I had to find something that would give the story and edge as all that Darling said about the story was basically repetition of what Osborne had said in the days prior. So for that reason I referred to the Andy Bull book Multimedia Journalism and one of its first and defining quotes about “What is news?”: “News is something someone, somewhere, doesn’t want you to report”. For that reason I listened to what I had recorded and picked out a quote that could be seen as a direct attack at Alex Salmond and his independence campaign. Darling claimed that Salmond was asking Scots to go into the polling stations blindfolded about what would happen in an independent Scotland. This worked in Andy Bulls logic as it is something that Alex Salmond wouldn’t have wanted Scottish people to hear.

One of the things that is particular to writing a successful blog (not merely for personal pieces) is using your own passions or interests to find a niche, to create something original. This is the premise for a lot of my blog posts, relating directly to cycling. As both a racing cyclist in Britain and a fan of professional cycling around the world I have expert knowledge to be able to write in a way about cycling others can’t. This allowed for me to be able to write race previews for races, cyclocross in particular, for the Edinburgh Reporter and for my own blog.

Furthermore to this due to the fact that I actually take part in many of the cycling events that go on in Scotland, I can give a perspective from inside the race. I’ve learned that this can create a much fuller report of what is going on in a race as opposed to standing on the side-lines watching. Not only can you actually see, and be involved in, proceedings but you can give insight on what goes on in all stages of the race. A lot of journalists will be at one point on a course or at the finish waiting to see who raises their hands. Cycling is a complex sport in all disciplines, and it’s very often more interesting what’s going on in the heart of the bunch that what’s going on at the nose. I’ve learned that a fuller insight often results in a better article, such as the one I did for Dig in at the Dock! this year. (http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2014/01/rider-diary-dig-in-at-the-dock-cyclocross-race/ )

To conclude, I think the practical work I have done in class, and outside, have really been the main factor in tying up all the knowledge and skills gained from the multimedia reporting module. Only practical work could have done so in such a way as to hone skills instead of just confirming them.

Spring Classics – Milan – San Remo

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Certainly my favourite of the Italian classics, and probably in my top three along with the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris – Roubaix, is the Milan – San Remo. The first of the five monuments of cycle racing, it’s a title that all cyclists would love to have on their palmarès. Although in recent years there hasn’t been any sort of domination in the race, such as when Eddy Mercx won the race 7 times, it’s pretty straightforward picking out the favourites.

Who should win? Peter Sagan. For anyone that has been following this race in the past few years, you have to believe that this is Sagans years. 4th in 2012 and 2nd in 2013, it has to be third time lucky in 2014 for he Slovak.

Who will win? Such is the nature of the race, it often springs up a surprise winner. With no-where man Gerard Ciolek edging out Sagan in 2013 and Simon Gerrans getting the better of favourite Fabian Cancellara in 2012; if you’re a betting man, this probably isn’t the safest race to count on.

Who I want to win? Although improbable, I’d like to see Mark Cavendish repeat his 2009 win.

Dark horses: As I previously mentioned such is the nature, sometimes a decent sprinter can sneak over the Poggio and cause an upset. I’d like to think Simon Gerrans will be there again this year, as his early season form has been awesome.

(Thoughts go to Tom Boonen – who won’t be racing – and his family at this hard time for them.)

Who do you think will win?

To help you decide, here’s my favourite Milan – San Remo moment ever (what a descent).

 

Strade Bianche – It doesn’t have to be Belgian to be classic

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So marks the start of the big Italian races this year. Although this race has only been run for 7 years (8th edition today) it has all the prestige of the likes of E3 or the Omloop. The ‘white roads’ of Tuscany will offer much drama, I’m sure, and, to say what everyone’s thinking, Sienna will be the Colosseum for the first showdown between Sagan and Spartacus.

Who will win? Peter Sagan, Cannondale. I can’t see past Sagan this year, as was his consitency in the Spring Classics last year, if he’s gotten any stronger I don’t know that Cancellara will be able to shake him, however…

Who should win? I have to say Fabian Cancellara, Trek World Racing. If he were to make it a hat-trick of wins at Strade Bianche, which I think if he really goes deep he should be able to do, and opens his account for the Spring Classics this year, it will be a huge mental boost for Spartacus in the upcoming cobbled classics that he just loves so much.

Who I want to win? Cancellara.

Dark horses: Alejandro Valverde, Movistar, has to be the biggest contender outside the two. He has had insane form so far this year and although it may not culminate as well as he might hope in the summer, you can hardly bypass him for causing an upset in Sienna. BMC also have a pretty strong team, and although Cadel Evans is the leader, Samuel Sanchez could equally be up there. Furthermore is the two Colombians Sergio Henao of SKY and Rigoberto Uran of OPQS could be in wit ha shout if they can withstand the heat on the white. Equally from Movistar, Benat Intxausti showed in the Tour de France he’s dab hand at getting away and making it stick, he’s a man to watch.

 

Who do you think will win?

Red Bull Hill Chasers Returns to Edinburgh

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Red Bull Hill Chasers will return to Edinburgh on April 12th. The event sees a change of venue, which was held last year on Victoria Street in the Grassmarket, to The Mound offering a more central location for the event. This is a completely unique event that allows cyclist from all different disciplines to compete together in this short race, with the podium last year consisting of two mountain bikers and a roadie.

I took an impromptu trip to this event last year, simply because I’d agreed to buy a bottom bracket from one of the competitors and this was the easiest was to take delivery of it. I spent the rest of the evening itching to get my leg over something with two wheels and get on Victoria Street for a go. Although the change to the mound will take out the Flemish allure of the cobbles, it’s liable to still be an excellent event and if you want to race I suggest you sign on here – http://redbull.seetickets.com/event/red-bull-hill-chasers-2014-qualifier-rounds/the-moose/772544/ – or at least get along on the 12th at 7pm when the real action will kick off!

Check out the race from last year!

Spring Classics – Omloop het Nieuwsblad

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This is my favourite time of the year for bike racing; no questions asked.

I’m planning to do these previews for every classic, but seeing as the Omloop is on presently I’d  better go quick.

Who should win it? This is a hard one because the Omloop has a history of being notoriously hard to control. In saying that, Luca Paolini has the confidence of last years win to spur him on. Tom Boonen must be raring for a victory as he wasn’t about last year, and it’s safe to say he’s a dab hand at sprinting. Eddy Boassen-Hagen, Gerard Ciolek, Tyler Farrar, Arnaud Demare, Sep VanMarcke and Alexander Kristoff are all a shoe in too. Unfortunately it looks as if the God Of Thunder, Thor Hushovd has had a nasty crash so wont be contesting today.

Who will win it? Again hard to say.

Who I want to win it? Sylvain Chavanel, that boy has style.

 

Away to watch it now! 

Man on the Moon

Jamie Donaldson

I recently decided that if I ever have kids and find myself with three boys then they would be called Neil, Edwin and Michael.

I then announced this to my family and was upset that they, like almost anyone, didn’t understand the significance of those three names until I told them (I’m slightly ashamed that I had to google one of the names myself). The reason I chose those names as the title may suggest is that they are the names of Apollo 11’s crew; Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

I know that some people don’t believe it but these men were the first (except Collins) to walk on the surface of the moon and I can’t think of any other single human accomplishment which trumps that. It’s not often that we spare a thought about it but the mere idea that 12 people have walked…

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Alistair Darling accuses Salmond of blindfolding the electorate

Darling meets with members of the public in the Piecebox Café in Polwarth.Darling meets with members of the public in the Piecebox Café in Polwarth.

Better Together campaign leader, Alistair Darling, today met with members of the public to discuss the most recent developments in the  independence debate. The meeting, at the Piecebox Café in the city’s Polwarth Crescent, comes days after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, dismissed any hope that an independent Scotland could share the pound with the rest of the UK.

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer accused the First Minister of asking the people of Scotland to walk ‘blindfold’ into the polling stations 200 days from now. He said: “In the past few days the wheels have been coming off the nationalist wagon.

“Alex Salmond is not prepared to tell us what currency we will be using and cannot guarantee that if an independent Scotland were to join the EU that they would have the same deal as now.”

DSCN0608[1]Darling strongly emphasised the point that with thecurrency union completely off the table now there is no way to know what the pound in your pocket will be worth in an independent Scotland. This was reinforced by a representative from the Federation of Small Businesses present at the meeting who voiced concerns over the fact that many businesses rely on trade in other areas within the UK, an action that would be made difficult and expensive without a common currency.

He also warned that a change in currency could have dramatic effects on business in Scotland, and suggested that companies such as RBS and Standard Life would face a choice of a move down south in order to trade in the currency held by the majority of its customers.

Finally Darling warned not to take the decision of voting yes or no lightly, as the vote on 18 September is final: ”The result, whatever it is, will stand.

“People have to understand that there is no going back, and if the polls say yes? The result is binding.”

[ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE EDINBURGH REPORTER 17/02/14]

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The top ten mountain bikers of my generation

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10. Andreu Lacondeguy

At spot number ten comes the ‘Little Mexican’. Although not glittered with medals and trophies like some of the others on this list, Lacondeguy is a hero among many mountain bike fans due to his appearance on many films showing his wild personality and a riding style that can only be described as ‘loose’. Although he broke onto the scene with appearances in flims such as the New World Disorder series, arguably his best video export came in July 2012 when he released ‘LACON DE CATALONIA’. Refer below.

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