Essays / s /

November 24, 2009

Welcome back after a few weeks on the sidelines of cycling life! As you can see, we at gw.com have re-designed our site to make it easier and more enjoyable to navigate through, even if little has actually changed. All the old features are here - 'graham's view', 'ask Graham', 'race updates' - although it will still be a few months before the season starts again and those features take on a life and meaning all of their own. Ask me any questions you like - I'll try and answer them all! We're still finishing off a facelift of the e-commerce site, but 'prints' is up and running as of today for those that want to delve into our archives - we have created a whole new gallery of 2009! And expect some exciting news about our new e-commerce store in a few weeks - all the old stock will be there as well as some new product awaiting release. To tide you over until then we do have some new mugs available, in time for your holiday shopping pleasure!

I'm a week away from heading to New Zealand for my annual period of R & R, but already I've been planning the up-coming 2010 season with a vengeance - a season that is less than two months away from starting! Still, 2009 has barely finished, and there is an awful lot of activity before it can be cast away into the history books. We still do not know if Astana will get its Pro Tour license renewal and that therefore Alberto Contador will be staying - or leaving. In the UK, gossip still promotes the feeling that Bradley Wiggins will get away from Garmin and sign with Sky before the year is out, a decision that might be linked to Contador's plans should Astana not get their elite status approved. Certain folks in Austin, TX, are keeping a close eye on the situation, for although Radio Shack has chosen its warriors to support Lance Armstrong against Contador, it cannot work on its battle strategy until the defending Tour champion has inked with his 2010 employer.

If Team Sky does not persuade Wiggins away from Garmin, its main hopes will lie with Thomas Lovkvist and Edvald Boasson Hagen - two great talents, but neither of them capable of leading a grand tour team, yet. Lovkvist and Boasson Hagen are one of many emigrants from Team Columbia, where Mark Cavendish is installed as the team's number one rider. Along with Sky's top two signings, Columbia has seen something of a talent exodus which may expose Cavendish to a more bumpy ride than he's enjoyed these past few years. Lead-out man George Hincapie has joined the expanding BMC team, linking up with World Champion Cadel Evans in a squad determined to go places in the coming years. All these team changes make 2010 a very exciting prospect, with a Tour de France slot up for grabs for the best newcomers - will BMC squeeze Sky out of a Tour place, for example? If Astana loses its Pro Tour status but Contador still stays because of a fat wage-packet, will the Tour invite the Kazakh team and its defending champion? If they do, there'll be an almighty hoo-hah for any top team denied a ride, for there's only 20 or so slots available in the world's greatest bike race!

July is six months beyond the season-start in Adelaide next January, but my planning has already taken me up to and ahead of next summer. 2010 brings with it more than just team changes - whole races have been swapped in the busy calendar, and I am having to contend with some awful decision-making. Try these examples: The Tour of California has moved to mid-May - mid-Giro as far as I am concerned. As difficult as my choice of race will be in May, it leaves February completely open, for after five years as the great early-season distraction, California moving to May has created unheard-of choice for teams and photographers together. Do I go to France, Spain, Portugal or Italy for my first European races - or to Oman instead for the tasty double-whammy that is now the Tours of Qatar and Oman, back-to-back..? Even the Classics have been fiddled with, for Ghent-Wevelgem is no longer a midweek jolly between Flanders and Roubaix. The Kemmelberg-influenced Classic now has top-billing as a Sunday race the same distance as in the old days at 250kms. Do I cover this beauty on the last weekend of March, albeit it at the sacrifice of my beloved weekend at the Criterium International in northern France? I've covered both events for over 25 years so it is not an easy decision - and that's before the choice between Giro and California has to be made...

So you'll see, great changes are in store for everyone involved in professional road-racing. So maybe it's appropriate that grahamwatson.com is changing its image a little - just a little, mind! As 2010 looms on the horizon I'll be aiming to bring more regular 'blogs' or views, as well as the traditional race up-dates. It looks as if I will be going to at least as many races as before, if not more, and I may even try to squeeze in a few 'specials' like a pre-Tour training feature with an unsuspecting 'pro or team. After a whole year looking-on in disgust, I've even signed up as a twitterer to beef up coverage of the sport. I might feel like a twit, but I'll try and make it as entertaining as I can - different to most other 'twits'... Let's see shall we - have a great winter and see you on January 18th for the pre-Tour Down Under classic in Adelaide, South Australia!"

- Graham Watson