Puddles

And we think cycling conditions in the UK leave a lot to be desired. Come hell or high water the Giro d’Italia always delivers on excitement (Stage 9 of the 2010 edition).

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Pro cycling

I admit it: I’m addicted to reading. If ever I find myself with spare minutes I immediately reach for my book (I’m rarely without one), phone (how did I live before smart connectivity?), newspaper or magazine (I draw the line at free sheets and their mindless editorial copy though). This technologically advanced age fuels my desire to constantly be absorbing information, articles, tweets and blog posts and I simply don’t like doing nothing. Multiple IM champ Mark Allen and Brant Secunda wouldn’t approve of my inability to “quiet the mind” – although I do have their book and will read all about doing it I’m sure! So today, finding myself at lunch with time to kill and nothing to read- well…thankfully a WH Smith was located near my lunch spot. The saviour: the new design Pro Cycling.

I’ve always preferred Cycle Sport and sister title Cycling Weekly, but I have to hand it to Future Publishing: the new design is terrific. Clean crisp artwork, a wider page layout and heavier paper stock; bold, elegant and sophisticated; echoes of Wallpaper’s style, Creative Review’s innovation, National Geographic’s powerful imagery, even hints of Dazed & Confused’s edgy cool. It looks fantastic.

It’s hard for a monthly title to break news (that’s what cyclingnews.com – in the same stable – is for), but it certainly can provide depth of analysis, probing editorial strength and unique feature-led values. What Future Publishing have done here is create a blend that gives us cycling fans the insights into the pro world that we crave together with a sense of cycling viewed through an artistic eye. The unique beauty of the sport is its ability to fuse spectacular landscape vistas with fascinating race action; Pro Cycling mirrors this through it’s design and structure. Regular sections such as ‘Folio’, ‘Insiders’, and ‘Retro’ are simple yet stylish, but the content remains strong: ‘The Interview’ (with Cav), ‘Profile’ (Carlos Sastre), ‘Preview’ (of the Giro) and ‘Race Tech’ (chainrings) all hit the spot.

It’s refreshing to see Pro Cycling doing something different. And if it can really deliver on substance as well as style, with some hard hitting comment and analysis that holds the elite cycling world to account, then this could be a winning formula. The cover price is a bit steep (£4.99? Seriously?). In this instance my urge to feast my eyes on the written word overcame my desire to retain a crisp five pound note; but substantially more favourable pricing through a subscription is de rigueur in the print publishing world these days. Pro Cycling is currently available in all good news agents! Check it out.

All we need for tri?

For a while now I’ve been hoping to discover a one-stop-triathlon-shop for all my needs: finding events, searching for training camps, locating retailers – and so on and so forth. Too many hours can be – and have been – wasted clocking up Google page impressions (but being careful not to drive their profits by clicking on sponsored links – just a personal bugbear) and landing on out-of-date sites and event lists which were correct circa 2006.

It’s a problem that seems largely triathlon-based. Runners World and others have always proffered accurate and informative services from events to articles and training plans to product reviews for distance runners. I grant that the British Triathlon Federation offers a very useful (and localised) service – but it’s focus as the sports governing body is limited to events, clubs and coaching qualifications. So what about everything else a triathlete might want to find out about?

allyouneedtotri.com might just provide the answer. It’s only in beta – so comprehensive it is not, as yet – but just scanning the side bar menu you get a feel for its potential usefulness. Races, accommodation, therapists, training camps, fitness testing, trade shows, books and DVDs – it’s all there. There’s also a site blog and a forum for discussion which – in time – would hopefully provide a place for athletes to share ideas, review races and recommend products.

Now, there is also tri247.com which acts as the news hub of the sport and also contains results, events and product info. But it is more editorially-geared, so I think the allyouneedtotri.com listings-based portal idea has value. Then there’s 220triathlon.com which – with it’s strict adherence to it’s magazine subscriptions – has always offered a frustratingly shallow online experience. The improved site design is – well – an improvement, but I still find it fails to meet the high expectations it’s brand sets (why, for instance, isn’t the Gear review section a more comprehensive and relevant archive when the magazine has pages of analysis on the latest bikes, shoes, gadgets and gizmos month in month out?). Perhaps I’m being harsh. It does – after all – need to ensure commercial viability in difficult times for the print industry. But still, 220 has spent a long time waking up to the digital revolution.

My concern for allyouneedtotri.com is monetisation. It will need to build it’s position around comprehensive, accurate listings and valuable, easy to navigate user reviews in order to maintain it’s market differentiation, attract increasing unique user numbers and stickiness per visit (creating or syndicating editorial content is not the way to go given the competition). An ad-funded model is therefore essential. Paid for listings I’m sure are tempting, but risk seriously diluting the visitor trust relationship necessary for success (only Google has really made this work in my view – Yellow Pages and Auto Trader have seriously struggled to translate their paid for listing models into viable on-line businesses). The beta version has some ad spots on there, so hopefully the owners will be able to make this commercially successful. In doing so this could well be the first port of call for all our triathlon search needs.

What did you do on New Year’s Eve?

This is what I like about Alistair Brownlee. Kick back and relax on the most famous boozing day of the year, feeling satisfied with being the ITU World Champion? No way. Instead, the (young) man – who is surely Team GB’s hottest prospect for an Olympic gold in 2012 – was hitting the snow-covered hills in Yorkshire in the Auld Lang Syne Fell Race. Undetered by blood and grazes he powered to the win over 6 miles and 800 feet in 39.38. Incidentally, his younger brother Jonathan finished third in 39.58. Love the dedication.

The Crawl

1997. Hawaii. Sian Welch and Wendy Ingram, fighting their way to the line in a fight for – incredibly – fourth spot. In case you’ve ever wondered what desire looks like…

Mountain biking in the favela

Check this out.

Astounding

Can’t believe what I’ve just seen. If you didn’t see it, go watch it now.

Bolt