Thursday, 30 July 2009

Allez le Bleu

I was tired, and the alarm clock at 3.55am on Friday didn't help. But no matter how tired I may have been, a long weekend in France to watch Le Tour de France is enough to get me up!

After an incredibly smooth transition from taxi to Eurostar (despite Matt losing his boarding pass and us diving into the train as the doors closed) we once again experienced a smooth transition to our next train- la Premiere Classe of course- but that's where it ended for me. O2 had no network coverage across the majority of Europe and I was gutted. I had grand plans to keep people updated with my drivel throughout the weekend but without reception I was stranded like a Euskatel team rider.

We got to Privas without much trouble and, yet again, had perfect timing as once the obligates were complete (park the car, buy drinks, find the vantage point, set up cameras, pull out flags, whistles and bike horns) the riders came by. All that work for 30 seconds of watching people ride by quickly on a bicycle. I can understand how people don't understand this sport.



After much laughing about how that 30 seconds was the biggest thing to hit Privas for years, we decided to have a wander of the town. Can't bag it til you've seen it. It wasn't long til we stopped bagging it, thanks to the locals jumping off rocks and the bridge along with the open invitation.



Photos of Brett, myself and a local jumping off the bridge are coming tomorrow. Easy jump but it feels extremely quick. I loved it.

So back in Lyon we had only one ambition: not repeat last year's first night where Brett, Lucan and I all passed out by 10pm. Considering we had been up since before 4am it was quite a challenge. But nothing a few drinks wouldn't fix.

On the Saturday morning we were ready to repeat our success surrounding immaculate timing. Today was Ventoux day and the biggest risk of a stuff up. But as we all ate risk for breakfast (something had to top up a 'continental breakfast') I was getting amped- my phone reception was coming back! But the excitement was short lived as we got into hour 2 of our 5 and a half hour freeway traffic jam. Thanks to Twitter for keeping Brett and I busy while Matt alternated between a light touch of the accelerator, closely followed by a heavy smash of the brake. Many deep Twitter discussions later, we made it to the Bottom of Ventoux.





Not as imposing as I imagined but knowing its reputation I was suitably in awe. After over 5 hours of driving, 20 mins of walking and a combination of 2 impressive navigateurs and one impressive conducteur, we took our spot, set up cameras and waited no more than 3 minutes before the riders came past. It's not 'cutting it fine', it's 'good time management'.

The next bit got familiar- check out the town, get back to Lyon, try to stay awake and then get drunk. Easy.

While looking around Bedoin we came across the largest motor home I have ever seen. Motorbikes in the back, satellite on the roof, living compartment bigger than my whole London house, and most importantly: a tv on the outside for sitting on the side of le Tour course watching the race on ITV UK!

(Photo of motorhome coming tomorrow. If I have one more unnecessary late night I'm gonna break someone.)

After watching the rest of the race outside a motor home, we grabbed some food, watched some of the estimated 700,000 people come off the mountain and then bailed. Needless to say there was no traffic on the way home so the 2 hour journey took, well, 2 hours. Just in time to go out...

I'm still incredibly tired so the final installment (a night in Lyon and a day in Paris) will come tomorrow night.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Live Crazy Penis on Red Bull Music Academy

If it's not summer where you are, listen to this. It soon will be.



I've also tacked a playlist selection by Fat Freddy's Drop on the end.

(Fast forward 2 mins 40- she talks too much. ...and the first song is crap. 9 mins should do it.)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Masters Series...

The surfing world is divided after it was revealed that if the Association of Surfing Professionals did not revamp the world tour, a breakaway series could be created by ESPN and IMG. That's all fine and well but the contentious issue is down to who initiated this movement. It is generally accepted that Kelly Slater's manager has been in talks with ESPN and IMG. Slater, himself, has also admitted to attending a few meetings. But this is where the confirmation ends and as much as I feel Slater has his 'spoilt little shit' moments, I do think he is being blamed unnecessarily for this revolt.

I feel the need to add my own opinion on the ASP and Slater despite the fact that it makes no difference to the outcome of this revolt:
-The ASP has never been progressive but it has been solid. And as a result of this professional surfing is still operating extremely well in the background but it is far from pushing the limits. I'm a huge fan of the heavy dudes throwing huge slow turns but current locations don't allow for that so all the heavy dudes who used to rule have been forced off tour because they aren't performing. (Thanks Lowey, it was epic.) Many of the current contest locations favour aggressive riding yet the judging panel don't really reward arials. (Good luck Jordy.) So I ask you ASP, where do you sit? You look confused.
-Slater has won 9 world titles, and given up on maybe 3 because he's not sure whether it's what he wants to do. His mind is unique- if he wants it, it's his. If he doesn't care, it's his. If he thinks he needs it, he will lose. If the world is coming down on him he will either run away or he will fight to the death and come up trumps. But either way, he is progressive and when he wants something he goes out to get it. Punters can bitch and moan about him being ungrateful toward pro surfing, which has given him everything but he has pushed the limits of surfing as far as it can go. Now he needs to lift the competition itself to a higher stage.

The ASP world tour has been stagnant for many years- through no fault of their own- partly because they are forced to conduct comps in shit waves because that's where the fan base and sponsorship money is. Japan had bad waves but the comp remained for years because the fan base was huge and the money was there. All non-Brazilian surfers hate the Brazil comp because the waves are often rubbish, but the fan base is massive, so the tour stop remains, year after year.

So I, the humble spectator, unofficial crude (off-record) commentator, BBQ Crew selector, and sometime (when I can get out of the UK) surfer have 3 solutions to this problem:
1) Up the internet coverage.
2) Improve the WCT locations.
3) Introduce a tennis style Masters Series. (Yes, that's right and you know it.)

1) Billabong have led the way when it comes to internet coverage of surfing events. With the exception of John Shimooka (who is at Rip Curl) Billabong have the most educated, respected and likeable commentators involved in their coverage. (GT, Ronnie Blakey, Occy, Louie- keep up the good work!) More importantly they manage to maintain the greatest connection during the coverage. Boost Mobile could learn a lot... Rip Curl and Quiksilver do a great job but one of the ideas put forward by Terry Hardy (Slater's manager) was that internet coverage be standardised for each event. I agree and I will settle for nothing less than Billabong showing the others how it's done.

2) I'm certainly no expert on sports advertising. In fact, I'm immune to advertising so I have no place offering ideas right here. But what I hope for is that the advent of better internet coverage would increase sponsor exposure and reduce the need to have a large physical crowd at each event. Lucan, add your comments at the bottom. I'd perform due dilligence for this article by calling you but you're probably asleep and I'm probably lazy. This would allow locations like Japan and Brazil to fade quicker than a hypercolour t-shirt and make room for quality locations. (Did someone just say G-Land?)

3) Yes, you heard right. A Masters Series. Not, as in an over 600 year old category but the best of each year competing for the big coin. Brett and I strongly disagree with the commercial aspects of professional surfing but together we found a nice compromise, which I feel is the best option I've seen so far. The top 8 (my idea) or the top 15 (brett's idea) are selected from the year of regular WCT events and those invited pros compete in a one-off event for seriously large coin. This is the showcase event for the sport, which sells out to IMG and ESPN. They can bastardise it however they like but the ASP should keep running great events as they have for over 30 years (with minor location and judging criteria changes). The aim is that ESPN work their magic and get big ratings/ sponsors and therefore big prize money and give the top 20 something to work towards. The rest of the top 44 are working towards requalifying for next year. This will hopefully up the game for everybody on tour.

We don't need an NRL Super League/ Soccer Premiere League or A Series/ or Kerry Packer's Cricket league. But the Athletics Golden League and Tennis Master's series are great examples of how to lift the stakes and the audience of the sport, without killing the day to day competition. The details will be nutted out over many more beers, but you get the drift. I don't think the WCT is broken, it can just be updated. I also don't think a breakaway league is warranted, we just need a single sell-out option once a year to lift surfing's profile without ruining everything it stands for.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Greatest 1980's Rivalry Re-Ignited

Throughout the late 80's this was the greatest rivalry in professional surfing. They met 16 times, and have won 8 each. And for the first time in about 15 years it's on- tomorrow at 5.15am GMT- and you can watch it live on www.billabongpro.com.



Their most memorable clashes were the Rip Curl Bells Pro semi that clinched Tommy's first World Title in 1985/86 and the two Op Pro Finals in front of 100,000 people at Huntington Beach won by Occy later that year.



"I beat him at the OP Pro in Huntington twice in a row and the rivalry probably started there and then went to Bells and various heats around the world tour,- said Occhilupo. "There were literally thousands of people on the pier and they were all shouting for Tom, I had to come out and upset the motion.-

"I only remember being in the zone,- said Curren. "Occy was pulling out every trick, he had that little extra.-

"Both of us were pushing as hard as we could, but he won that one with a wave at the end, I just remember it was very tense and very tiring as well.-

Curren went on to win 353 heats, 33 events and three World Titles while Occy won 380 heats, 12 events and one World Title. Both featured in spectacular comebacks - Tom returning from a two year hiatus to clinch his third crown from the trials in 1990 while Occy's well documented rise to the 1999 crown after a decade in the wilderness is one of the greatest feats in sporting history.



Carn Occy...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Begin Rant

It's been a while since my last rant. I put this down to the lack of tube journeys and even greater lack of listening to the news. So I'm currently pretty peaceful- not the greatest state while trying to write a rant. So I'll just ramble until it comes to me:

I need some thinking time, so whatch this while you wait.



Most of my time has been spent watching le Tour, watching tennis, getting fit and dealing with recruitment agencies. I'll let you guess which one is the least pleasant.

Le Tour de France has just started so all I can say is surprise, surprise, team Silence Lotto is not a team. If you wanna know how it's done, watch Team Columbia Highground or whatever they call themselves. That's how it's done.

While I'm obviously an accomplished cyclist who is allowed to tell professional riders how to do their job, I am also an accomplished tennis player and I have one thing to say to the ATP players: "please come into the net". Sunday's Wimbledon final was the most entertaining match I've watched since Pat Rafter retired. Andy Roddick is generally known for his power but he mixed it up on Sunday and forced Roger Boring Federer to play entertaining tennis. Critiques can suggest Federer will use passing shots when you're at the net- but who wouldn't. Federer is a great player, he knows when to use the right shot but something different had to be done and A-Rod stepped it up. They both deserved the win but I am in awe of A-Rod forcing Fed-ex to play defensively.

In economic news, the UK car scrapping scheme is a joke, just as expcted. The deal was that if you scrap your car and buy a brand new car, you get a few grand off the retail price. Sounds like a fair enough idea to kick start spending until you consider that everybody drives European or Asian cars. So the money that is being spent by UK residents is going to other countries. Not really gonna kick start the UK economy now, is it? So in June, there were 15% fewer cars sold than June 2008. But of those manufacturers whose sales increased (Hyundai +91.1%, Kia +60.5%, Ford +4.0%) none have a manufacturing plant in the UK. The biggest domestic producer is Toyota, whose sales decreased 29.4% year on year. Good work. If you want to offer a stimulus package, just give everybody $900 to spend on Taiwanese big screen TVs and overseas holidays...

Does anyone else find KRudd's last Twitter update a bit naughty?



He's working with the Malaysian Prime Minister on people smuggling and he's using his phone while refuelling. I would like to have attached the clip from 'Pizza' where Pauly was using his phone at the service station and Kamahl told him off, but I can't find it. So instead I'll end this wandering rant with a clip from the man himself.