22nd April: If Philippe Gilbert pulls off the amazing feat of winning all three Ardennes Classics - Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - this Sunday, it will also mark the end of a very successful Classics campaign for Belgian cyclists in March and April. Tom Boonen won Ghent-Wevelgem, Nick Nuyens won the Tour of Flanders, Johan Van Summeren took the coveted Paris-Roubaix, and then began Glibert's run of form that may or may not end in outright glory this weekend. Gilbert has been so superior this past week, it is hard not to see him winning in Liege, except that the finale is less in his favour than it was at Valkenburg and Huy. Gilbert can only win by attacking a long way out, ideally on the Cote de Saint Nicholas, but his signature racing is when making a late, last-gasp uphill sprint with less than 500-metres to go - and that won't happen in Liege. Win or lose, Gilbert has already done enough to write himself into the history books as one of Belgium's all-time greats, but it would be greater still if he could pull off that hat-trick of wins in Liege.
14th April: News that Riccardo Ricco seriously wants another comeback - even before he meets with a CONI panel of officials to hear his latest drug-related fate - would be quite laughable were it not for the fact this misguided man clearly has a death wish. Italy has produced some of the sports' greatest cyclists, old and new, many of whom have fallen foul of the drug-testers and establishment but who have then made comebacks which we must hope are more truthful. But Ricco defies all logic - will someone please take his bicycle away for good, before he becomes another Marco Pantani?!
11th April: I was horrified to hear of Julian Dean's crash in the Tour of Catalonia last week, and his subsequent collapse at Barcelona airport that earnt a second ride in an ambulance in one day! Dean is one of the unspoken heros of the sport, a man so dedicated to helping his Garmin teamates Tyler Farrar, Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler in the big sprints. Dean was once again planning a three-tour strategy in 2011, hoping to complete the Giro, Tour and Vuelta as he did back in 2009. So get well soon, Jules!
19th April: No surprises that Philippe Gilbert won the Amstel Gold Race for the second year running - the finale plays into his hands and legs so perfectly! Gilbert is the latest success story of the 'Lotto' team that has been around for decades now, and which has won classics and stages but never a grand tour. News that the team may be splitting for 2012, with Lotto going one way and Omega the other, adds yet more spice to the formation of Green Edge, the Australian team that is expected to steal a few riders from Garmin, Sky and HTC. Could Gilbert find a place in this new team from Down Under?
April 11th: Paris-Roubaix was one of the most exciting editions in years, following on from equally absorbing races at San Remo and Flanders. It was also one of the dustiest races I've ever experienced because of the lack of wind, and dry, dry ground. Armed with a new pair of Oakley goggles, and a mouth mask intended for builders and labourers, I survived relatively well. Not so my cameras - the cleaning and repair bill came to almost £600 ($1,000)! So just as well it was a great race then...
6th April: Mark Cavendish's win in the G.P Scheldeprijs ended a long period of bad luck and frustration for the Manx fastman. Cavendish has done little else other than fall off or suffer mechanical problems since his season began in Australia in January. Tour Down Under, Tour of Qatar, Tirreno, Milan Sanremo and then Ghent Wevelghem, there hasn't been a race where the HTC rider hasn't come away disappointed. Maybe that has all changed with Scheldeprijs, a race he has now won three times. I've a suspicion Cavendish is on the verge of having a very great season, as he did two years ago by winning stages of the Giro and Tour. 2011 looks like being at least a repeat of that season, and who's to say it won't be even better?
April 14th: There's nothing quite like spending ten days or so in the heartland of the cobbled classics. I could just make two se per ate weekend trips to see the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but to be based in one place, Kortrijk, the whole time allows me to immerse myself into the unique atmosphere of these races. I stay each year at the Hotel Broel, which in the past few years has become the base for teams like BMC and Lampre, with enough guests and visitors to make the week even more enjoyable. Across the town square stay Team Sky, while nearer the station is Team Leopard-Trek; Saxo Bank, Quick-Step and Garmin are never far away either. The result is a week of 'star-spotting on my bike rides alongside the canals, and even the occasional tow home! And plenty of beer-drinking too...
April 15th: One of the few dislikes I have when photographing Paris-Roubaix is that I cannot take my full compliment of equipment with me on the motorbike. I like to carry either an iPad or lap-top in the panniers, as well as a mighty 200-400mm lens for race-finishes and dramatic landscapes. But in P-R, there is no time to use these wonderful tools as I spend the whole day making diversions around the race, often arriving at a location just seconds before the cyclists get there. On a day where the temperatures were expected to soar in the afternoon, clothing needed to be stored away as well, meaning any space left by the absence of the iPad and lens was already allocated. In more conventional races, I'll be able to pack far more equipment on the bike - but then those races won't be half as much fun!
April 4th: The Tour of Flanders has to be the craziest one-day Classic in the world! Not content with having a course that uses a myriad of tiny lanes and 'bergs' throughout the whole day, 'De Ronde' has an entourage of up to 100,000 fans following it around the country. They come by car, by motorbike, by bicycle and on foot, and are invariably drunk by the time the day is over - drunk on a mixture of alcohol and adrenalin. The highlight of their day is the Muur van Geraardsbergen - De Muur - which comes about 20-kilometres from the end. It's a very intimidating place to be when the race arrives, with the fans in full voice for their heroes who climb the hill with what little strength they have left. But it is the single greatest spot of the season at which to take pictures - the crowds perched on the hill near the little chapel just get bigger and bigger each year!
April 3rd: I got my first assignment for the 2012 Olympics the other day - to photograph the test event taking place on August 14th, 2011. I'm being used by the Olympic organisers to test the facilities myself and my colleagues will experience one year later. As a local to the course, I'm expected to give advice on the best places to shoot the road races and time trials, and to give advice on the best and safest places for photographers to work. Realisation and excitement about the London 'Games is growing fast over here, and I'm a tiny cog in the process of making everything go smoothly.
April 19th: The lead up to an Olympic Games always carries a lot of excitement for photographers, and not just because of the picture-taking potential. Word on the streets is that Nikon is about to launch a D4 camera later in 2011, with Canon doing likewise even sooner than that. Nikon's iconic D3 camera pulled the rug away from underneath Canon's market leadership a few years ago - and the optics specialists don't plan on handing any hard-earned ground back to Canon any time soon. As any new camera tends to be launched with new lenses as well, things have never been better for professional photographers looking for any gain over their rivals.