It’s even more simple than you’ve been told.
1. Don’t be a dick.
2. Ride whatever the hell you want.
3. No one gives a shit if your bar tape matches your seat.
4. The bike comes first, right behind family and friends and making a living.
5. Riding in bad weather makes you better. But don’t be stupid about it.
6. If you aren’t having fun, stop.
7. Don’t overlap wheels. Just fuckin’ don’t.
8. Don’t be late to a group ride. Be early.
9. If you’re dropped three times, do your own thing. (See Gentlemen’s Ride)
10. If it’s a no-drop ride, don’t drop people. Ass.
11. Support your local bike shop. And bring them food sometimes.
12. If you race more than 3 times a year, you are in Sport division. If you podium twice, move up. If you win, move up. Getting dead last in Expert is better than winning in Sport. Getting DFL in Pro is better than winning in Expert. No one cares if you win. We all have to go to work on Monday. Test yourself.
13. If you get plate number 13, you turn it upside down. You just do.
14. Do not make start line excuses. “I haven’t been riding”, “I’ve was sick last night”, “I’m too hung over”, “My bike is too heavy”, and the like, are all your fault. Just ride, congratulate the winner, and hang out with your pals after. It’s all good, man.
15. Blogs are stupid. Don’t listen to them, and never take them seriously.
Coffee Ride: Easy, Pease-y. You ride bikes slow and go to a place to drink coffee. Do not fuck up the coffee part. Jeez.
Gentlemen’s Ride: A group ride consisting of any number of riders. Fast but conversational pace on the flats, with hard efforts on climbs. Strict rolling regroups over the top of climbs. Everyone gets back on the first time, no exceptions. Second climb, rolling regroup. If you are dropped two or three times, do the gentlemanly thing and finish the ride alone. If you’re crushing everyone, do the gentlemanly thing and make sure the bulk of the ride stays together. Most of the group should finish together. Ride leader makes any other decisions.
No-Drop Ride: No one is left behind. Ever. That said, make sure a pace is announced and enforced, and do not get in over your head. If it is no drop at 18mph and you can only do 14, think long and hard about going.
Ice Cream Ride: No spandex. 10-12mph. It ends in ice cream, preferably out of a small, miniature Detroit Tigers helmet.
Recovery Ride: If someone says they are going on a recovery ride, they are going to try to drop you on every climb. Guaranteed.
It’s not all about going up…!
Man bags and nocturnes
Radiohead humming in the background, Mark and I cruised down to Albertville in the GPM10 car, Serotta mounted high on the roof rack. We drove down past the bottom end of Lake Annecy and followed the valley down in the early evening sun.
When we arrived, I joined the sign on queue in the shade of the Place D’Europe. I realised I was a little bit apprehensive about racing. The last one I did was way back at the end of May before exams. A combination of lack of training, change of position, and too much alcohol meant that my form had taken quite a hit since earlier in the year. However I felt considerably more assured after seeing half the racers queuing up had man bags and capris on.
The race started at 8:30 and was 90 kilometres. This meant that for the second half the racing would be floodlit, which is massively fun. Anyone who has commuted home in the dark knows that everything feels faster at night time. The course was pan flat, triangular, and included a short cobbled section though a group of crowded cafes. Last time I raced Albertville was in 2011 and I was 4th. It has been chilly and drizzling rain, which made the corners a little dicey. This edition was graced with perfect weather- 25 degrees and clear skies.
70 racers lined up beneath the grandstand. The local dignitary waved the flag and we shot off the start line. Breaks were coming and going for the first half hour before a group of three slipped away with two from the AG2R feeder team. I made a suicidal effort to bridge, but fell short and ran out of energy just as I approached the cobbled section. Completely gassed and sweating like a pig, I latched onto the back of a chasing group but we were swallowed by the peloton. That group stayed away for the win. I played my finale terribly, banking on a bunch sprint when in fact it split up and ‘soft’ breakaways slipped off the front.
It felt good to compete again, even if I was beaten by riders who wear man bags. The French really know how to organise quality races. On that note, I hope everyone is enjoying the Tour and the incredible weather.
Étape du Tour 2013
In my haste to gripe about litter on Alpe d’Huez and whinge about the insufferable weather we experienced in May and June, I have neglected to update my racing progress. After what can only be described as a lacklustre performance at the Bec CC road race, I was forced to revisit my lofty objective of riding the national championships in Glasgow. With a grand total of zero BCF licence points from my three race starts (of which two resulted in DNFs), I was reduced to spectating. My only option was focus on the Étape.
By mid June my form was certainly the best it had been since 2010. Mark and I had squeezed in at least two tempo rides round his favourite training loop (which takes in a climb I’m pretty sure I raced over once), and I’d had to dig very deep to stay ahead of some of the clients on the Grand Prix de la Montagne. All that remained was to taper down for the event itself.
Unfortunately for the racing form, the taper involved a two-week trip back to Scotland for my graduation. While I tried my hand at a variety of activities, such as swimming:
it has to be said that I didn’t do a great deal of cycling.
However, come race day itself I was motivated. Shortly after crossing the start line I found myself in the draft of two spritely looking young climber types, who looked like they may well have recently done some races that didn’t result in them lying down to recuperate on a grassy verge within the first hour. Although they both disappeared into the mass of riders on the first climb, I felt good and ploughed onwards, with a casual disregard for my own sage advice.
I made good time up until the Mont Revard. It was here that my lack of anything resembling genuine form began to show, with the tell tale signs of cramp rearing its ugly head. By the time I reached Mark at the GPM10 feed station near the summit, I decided there was nothing for it but to stop and refuel with copious amounts of food and electrolytes.
If I hadn’t done this I’m fairly confident I would have been reduced to walking up the Semnoz. I remained firmly in first gear all the way up its unrelenting slopes, and only just about managed to keep that turning over.
Nevertheless, it was still a great feeling to reach the finish where the atmosphere was considerably more jovial than your average amateur road race. Not only that, but I also acquired a fine piece of silverware for my troubles, despite a number of people crossing the finish line before me.
The experience has made me realise that my days of racing at a high level are almost certainly over. But I’m looking forward to a new world of (sort of, but not really) free t-shirts, free bags and free energy gel samples. And, more importantly, the option of taking it easy if you feel like it!
Davie Campbell Memorial Road Race: DNF
O’er the Crow and Doon: 21st
Bec CC Road Race: DNF
Étape du Tour 2013: 538th
Keep cycling clean
Dear whoever thinks it is acceptable to do this:
A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to guide some clients up the hallowed slopes of Alpe d’Huez, as part of a four-day trip from Bourg d’Oisans to Nice.
As a kid, while I was being ridiculed by my peers for dressing in Lycra and paying little attention to the SPL results, I often longed for the day when cycling would be a ‘cooler’ and more socially acceptable sport. I was therefore more than pleasantly surprised to see the huge numbers of cyclists queuing up at the foot of the climb to test themselves over the gruelling 14km. It’s fantastic that cycling is going through a boom period, I’m all for it.
What I was horrified by however, were the equally large numbers of discarded energy gels on the roadside. I respect the fact that many people want to do the quickest time they possibly can, but there is absolutely no excuse for such behaviour. You might be dressed like this enthusiastic chap:
But you aren’t Philippe Gilbert, storming his way to another classics victory. You might be dressed in a polka-dot jersey, but you will almost certainly never stand on the top step of the podium in Paris. You might be on Strava, but you will almost certainly not set the fastest time to the top. And you aren’t on your way down Mount Everest, discarding an oxygen cylinder because your life depends on it (which by the way, I think is equally lame).
You’re a leisure cyclist, riding a moderately difficult Alpine climb. So for Christ’s sake, use these:
Those, in case you weren’t entirely sure, are bins. And on Alpe d’Huez there is one on almost every single bend. Throwing your gel on the roadside 5km short of the summit isn’t ‘pro’. It’s ignorant. It’s a privilege to ride in one of the most naturally beautiful areas in Europe. So don’t discard your gel wrappers. Keep cycling clean on Alpe d’Huez, or anywhere else for that matter.
GPM10 guide Dave Smith meeting up with former teammate Geoffrey Soupe at the Criterium du Dauphine.
Dave “yes basically I just finished my post grad in law and have a training contract next year with Clifford Chance…”
Geoff “Cest bien Dave! I am riding the Tour de France this year…you want me to sign that hat for you?”
Brass monkeys in Italy
It has been a long and harsh winter in Western Europe. The thermometer seems to have remained firmly on the wrong side of 5 degrees for an eternity, with plenty of rain and snow thrown in for good measure.
Continuing in this vein May saw what was ultimately the coldest Giro d’Italia on record, and a number of stages had to be modified as a result of the unusually cold temperatures. Stage 19 was eventually cancelled following heavy snowfall. The 2013 GPM10 Giro d’Italia weekend was scheduled to take in, yes you guessed it, stage 19.
Based in Bormio, we had intended to watch the race come over the famous Passo dello Stelvio and guide our group of clients around a couple of classic routes, including both the Stelvio itself, as well as the Passo di Gavia.
The weekend got off to a shaky start. The Milan airport pickup, that should have been a 5 hour round trip, turned into a 9 hour epic. For whatever reason, the motorway on the Lecco side of Lake Como was partially closed, and I was forced to avoid the spectacular resulting traffic jam by taking the much slower, and infinitely more stressful Como side.
Italians on this side of the lake seem to be living anything but la dolce vita and the traffic can only be described as utter chaos. The day I drove down turned out to be no exception. Uncomfortably close encounters with oncoming lorries and buses, and holidaying pensioners strolling casually in the road instead of using the pavement all added to the excitement.
Further contributing to the fraying of my nerves were the Italian driving classics: zero use of indicators, and the curious practice of braking while simultaneously accelerating, until such time as you are as close as is physically possible to the rear bumper of any car that happens to be preventing you from maintaining 160km/h.
By the end of it all I was more fatigued than after any bike race. Fortunately, our clients were very patient.
While I was enduring this ordeal, the remaining GPM10 staff were out enjoying themselves in what proved to be the only sunny day on the Stelvio all trip (see title photo). However, not everyone staying in our hotel had such a pleasurable day.
Another group made the unfortunate mistake of descending the other side of the pass, only to be prevented from coming back over by the Italian police because of the avalanche risk. After failing to make the 80km detour via Livigno before nightfall, they had to call the hotel to send out a taxi to fetch them.
We awoke on the morning of the infamous stage 19 to light snowfall in Bormio. With the white stuff present 1600m lower than the summit of the Stelvio, things were not looking hopeful. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before one of the clients read on Twitter that the race had been called off. Cue contingency plan number one of the weekend.
Options were limited. Both the Stelvio and the Gavia were very definitely closed, so the only possibility of doing any climbing was to attempt the Passo di Mortirolo. Topping out at under 1900m, there was a slim chance it might be open.
Following a quick recce in the motor, Mark decided it was ride-able. Among Europe’s iconic climbs, the Mortirolo has few equals in terms of steepness. With an average gradient of 10.5% for 12km and sections of over 20%, it is not for the faint hearted. Personally, I thought it was the hardest climb I’ve ever ridden. The slope is unrelenting and unlike for example, l’Alpe d’Huez, the hairpin bends are even steeper than the short sections of straight road that separate them.
At around 4km from the summit the snow was beginning to settle on the roadside. We certainly didn’t hang around at the top, and the van and car were on hand to transport everyone back down.
The decision to move locations definitively was swiftly made on our return to the hotel, after a conversation with a couple of hapless Australians dressed in shorts that went a little something like this:
“Which way is it to the Gavia?”
“Just go left and keep straight on. It’s the road with the barrier saying ‘closed to all traffic’”.
We later overheard one of them at dinner say, “I couldn’t feel my hands, my feet were so cold it felt like I was pedalling with my knees”. Quite clearly they hadn’t had the best of rides, but at least they were still alive.
Fortunately, we had a fantastic contingency plan number two in the form of the Lake Como peninsula. We decamped to a hotel between Como and Lecco and thankfully the weather was considerably more clement. The photos speak for themselves.
Critérium du Dauphiné
June 2nd-9th 2013
The Critérium du Dauphiné is well under way, off to an unconventional start by begining in Switzerland for the first time and doing away with the traditional prologue for a normal stage and straight into the Swiss Alps. The Dauphiné has always been a race that has proved pivotal in preparations for the Tour de France and this year sees no real change with Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) going head to head before the Tour, also not to mention Richie Porte (Sky), Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Joaquim Rodgiguez (Katusha) are but a few certain to put the pressure on and test themselves before the tour.
Stage 7 could prove to be a decisive stage with the ascent of Alpe d’Huez and then the Col de Sarenne. The Col de Sarenne pass sitting at 1,966m has never featured in a competive event and gives all the main Tour contenders a preview of what is to come in the 18th stage of the Tour de France. After the tricky descent of the Sarenne they then go over Col d’Ornon 1380m and then finish off with the Col du Noyer which summits at 1664m.
The overall winner will no doubt be decided by the end of the day on stage 7 but Stage 8 will no doubt be a great spectacle as they head over the Col de Vars (2100m) and finish on Montée de Risoul (1844m).
The 2013 Étape route.
That’ll be easy then!
Severely criticised by some in the cycling fraternity for not being sufficiently “tough”, the route for the 2013 Étape is made up of a loop of one of the less well-known French massifs, le Massif des Bauges. This weekend we guided some clients around the course, giving us a first taste of what to expect come July.
While Mont-Revard and le Semnoz may not occupy the most prestigious of places in the annals of Tour history, I nevertheless found the route to be a real test.
After skirting the Lac d’Annecy for less than 10km, the course turns right in St Jorioz (home to the Neepster himself) where you bid adieu to anything resembling a flat road for the rest of the day.
The course profile gives the Côte de Puget and the Col de Leschaux as two separate summits. But effectively this is one climb, as the 1km or so of descent between the two provides little respite. This means the first ascent of the day is around 10km in length, and the relatively manageable average gradient doesn’t really do justice to the difficultly of the climb.
On towards the Col des Près and things don’t get much easier. The road surface is heavy in places and although the trend is predominantly downwards, it isn’t long before the Côte d’Allion le Vieux heaves into sight. I found this to be as challenging as the Col des Près itself; although the average gradient is given as less severe, again there are a number of sections at 6 – 8%.
The descent of the Col des Près is long, fast and technical with a mixture of sweeping bends and tight hairpins, and there is enough here to keep even the most adept of bike handlers thoroughly occupied. As soon as the descent is over, the road kicks up again and turns sharply right in Saint-Jean-d’Arvey where the penultimate climb of the day, the Mont Revard begins.
As one of our clients put it, the Mont Revard just “doesn’t seem to end”. They were in good shape and it still made for an hour and quarter of climbing, approaching nearly 20km in length. The road surface is rough near the top which adds to the difficultly. My favourite part of the climb was near the summit where the road opens out to give (hopefully, weather permitting) a spectacular view over Aix-les-Bains and its sizeable lake.
The road leading to le Semnoz is real puncheur territory, with the toughest section coming on the climb up from Pont de l’Abîme. Built in 1887, I’ve been reliably informed this is the oldest suspension bridge in France. If by this point fatigue is beginning to set in (which it will be), you certainly don’t want to look down. The bridge is very narrow and the 100metre drop to the gorge below is not where you want to be ending your day out!
The race organisers give the finish climb at 11km but looking back at the Garmin data, the climb of le Semnoz really begins around the 115km mark, making it about 4km longer than the official race profile. Certainly there was some significant climbing before the village of Quintal.
I would like to see the faces of some of those complaining of a lack of toughness on the stretch of road out of Quintal with 120km already in the legs. From here the road rears up at a steady 10 – 12% all the way to the junction with the D41. If that isn’t enough of a challenge for the diehards, there’s always the Strava leaderboard to aim for, which is currently topped by…FDJ’s Tour de France star Thibaut Pinot, in a particularly brisk 11minutes and 35seconds.
Once on the D41 the gradient remains consistently at 8% all the way to the summit and the finish of the Étape. Having ridden the majority of the best-known passes in the Alps, I think le Semnoz is certainly up there with the likes of Alpe d’Huez in terms of difficultly.
For those of you who did enter the event you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Although it’s not as arduous as some of the classic Alpine or Pyrenean routes, the Étape 2013 is a serious challenge in a superbly beautiful area of France that you might not have otherwise thought about visiting. As Sean Kelly would say, it is still a “beeeg day in de cloimbs” that could easily shake up the “general classement” in the “Tour of France” itself.
Underestimate it at your peril!
Ruth riding along the shores of Lake Como, Italy
Crossing Lake Como on the ferry from Mennagio to Bellagio
A view from the Menaggio – Bellagio ferry, Lake Como, Italy
Bec CC Road Race Report
Last Sunday saw the first rendezvous of all three members of the newly formed GPM10 racing team. The reason for our meeting was to test ourselves at the 120 km Bec CC road race, down in the depths of Kent. The plan was hatched about a month ago in Majorca on a warm, clear evening in Pollenca, inevitably after a few San Miguels. Mark needed a bit of motivation to do some training in between trips, and was going to be near London that weekend. Dave would be returning to form after his no fail 4- week fitness plan (see his blog), and I just wanted to race.
Safe to say it didn’t quite pan out quite as we had envisaged. 2 weeks into his intense training block, Mark came down with a nasty chest infection. Dave stumbled closer to the final hurdle and underestimated the effects of drinking vast quantities of gin and tonic 2 days before the race. But you see these sorts of things happen to all the best teams. Look at Sky and Wiggins at the Giro for example.
The weekend panned out as so…We had decided that it would be good form to go for a pre-race ride on the Saturday; just to blow out the cobwebs and prime the legs for the following day. Any professional team would do the same. 10 AM from my home in Windsor around the lanes of near Windlesham and Chobham for 2 hours was the plan.
Come 10:30 I am sitting in my cycling gear and get a text from Mark, ‘rather late night….4 AM! Slowly getting moving now’. Not entirely unexpected I must admit. The pair arrived at 11:30 after an extended stop at Heston services, to allow Dave some time to exude the remaining gin in his system.
We did manage to get out for a ‘ride’. I made sure I rode in front to avoid any chance of being caught behind anyone crashing under the influence. Ride food was chips.
My old coach used to say it was what you did the, “day before the day before” that affected your race more so than the day before. I used to think this was utter bullshit (and still do), but I had a feeling that Dave might provide some anecdotal evidence for his theory.
On the morning of the race, Dave managed to pin a number on his back and proudly announced he had only ever had one DNS (did not start). He then did a sterling job looking after his team mate (myself) through the 1 kilometre neutralized zone and then disappeared before succumbing to a DNF 30k in.
Mark decided that a DNS actually had slightly more dignity, so was on team manager/ water bottle/ camera/ moral support duties for the day.
My race went quite well. I tried to go with the very first (and winning) break that went away but didn’t quite have the legs. I also thought it would come back before the finish, but annoyingly it didn’t. While the lead guys fought it out for the win, I followed an attack on the penultimate climb by Raleigh rider Russell Hampton and arrived at the foot of the finishing climb with a small group of riders ahead of the main bunch. My legs were pretty shot by this point so I ended up grimacing my way to 9th place.
My GPM compadres and I parted ways at the finish. I headed back north to Loughborough while they went off to Belgium to recce the bone jarring Koppenburg. The roads of Kent probably prepared them well.
So I competed in my first road race for two and a half years, the Davie Campbell Memorial road race in Fife. This was also my first event riding in GPM10 colours. Unfortunately, the combination of the lengthy hiatus and a short four-week block of emergency training combined to make it a relatively short-lived affair.
There were however, one or two positives (and by that I literally mean two) to take away from the race ahead of my next event this coming Saturday, a road race that includes two ascents of the Crow Road, a long climb to the north of Glasgow. Firstly, despite nearly asphyxiating in the process, I managed to make it into the winning break. Secondly, (and most importantly) I came close to setting the fastest time on Strava for the main climb of the day. A boost to morale if ever there was one.
I’m fairly confident that after a week of rest I’ll begin to feel the benefits of my short training spell and be able to make a better fist of it this weekend. In any case, I’ll have to do better if I want to compete at the nationals because I’ve realised that during my lay-off I’ve been relegated to a third category racing licence. I’ll need at least a second category licence if I’m to be selected to start…it is looking touch and go!
Back in the Saddle
As I write this, I’m fresh in from my first ‘chain-gang’ ride for 18 months, having prepared with approximately 10 days of training. This is mainly because it’s been a time consuming final semester at university.
One of my courses involved pleading a mock case before the UK Supreme Court, followed by a second hearing before the right-wing tabloid’s favourite whipping boy, the European Court of Human Rights. Combined with the short days, the less than inspiring Scottish weather and the fact that I can no longer face a turbo-trainer, and I think I managed the grand total of about 200km of winter training.
Nevertheless, since writing my last blog on inspiring cycling, I’ve hatched a possible comeback plan. This year, the national road race championships will be held in Glasgow on the course that will be used for the Commonwealth Games road race. Better still, it goes past Glasgow University law school and comes within about 300 metres of my flat. And (touch wood) it’s just two days after I graduate. I think it would be a great way to finish up my four years in Glasgow by riding the race.
This is of course a bit of a pipe dream for the time being. My main obstacle is time. I don’t have very much of it between now and June in which to achieve the kind of results that will merit a place on the start line.
However, I’m motivated to give it a try, and this morning I took the first (and undoubtedly easiest) step by renewing my racing licence with GPM10. I’ve even filled out my first race entry form for the Davie Campbell Memorial race road in Fife. With any luck I will get a start, and it will be time to dust down the faithful old CAAD5 Cannondale – which admittedly is beginning to look a little tired – and do battle.
And if this plan doesn’t come to fruition, at least I will hopefully be in respectable shape for the Étape du Tour, which I’m scheduled to ride with GPM10 this July.
4th – 26th May 2013
This is the first time that the Giro d’Italia has tackled the Galibier, Stage 15 on 19th May. Featured countless times in the Tour de France, the Giro in May could be a challenge just in terms of the weather. This will be a great stage for the main contenders to stake their intentions, even though a shorter stage a lot of damage could be inflicted here. The focus is going to be firmly on Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali, the Galibier could prove to be an exciting test before they head back into Italy. The Gavia and Stelvio, Stage 19 on the 24th May (GPM10 Giro d’Italia weekend) and then Stage 20, Tre Cime di Lavaredo should shape up to be an amazing spectacle.
How fitting that if Brad does manage to pull off a win, that all the Podium Jerseys for the Giro this year are designed by Sir Paul Smith.
Paris-Roubaix; l’Enfer du Nord
7th April 2013
The Hell of the North as it is known, is probably one of the most famous spring classics, it is flatter than Flanders but has more cobblestone sectors. Cancellara looks the man to beat this year with an impressive win at RVV, Tour of Flanders last weekend and Boonen out with an injury after crashing.
There is a great film made about the race ‘A Sunday in Hell’ that followed the race in 1976, it has some of the best cycling footage ever filmed, if you have not seen it you have to check it out, probably the best cycling film ever…!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWTj6H2KKr4
Milan – San Remo
17th March 2013
The Poggio di San Remo, (Poggio ‘Hill’) is the last and some times the decisive climb before the sprint into San Remo. One of the “Spring Classics”, Milan – San Remo often called the Sprinters Classic is the longest one day professional race at 298 km.
Is Peter Sagan the man for it this year? With past winners Simon Gerrans, Mark Cavendish and Fabian Cancellara in the line up for 2013, it should make for a great race.
Perfs Pedal Road Race 2013
Sandy King came 13th in the the early season classic, Perfs Pedal Road Race held in Hampshire.
by Sandy King – Photography by Peter Drinkell
On Sunday morning, the emergency message boards along the M3 were displaying ‘SEVERE WEATHER FORECAST- TODAY’. I bet the guys in the control centre were having a right giggle about their ironic humour. As I aquaplaned for the 5th time and turned up the wipers to full speed, I was in a more sombre mood as I made my way to the race.
Thankfully my friend had left his mix CD in the car to cheer me up, featuring everything from Barry White to Daft Punk. Once I arrived I had a quick drive round the course to check out the features. It was exposed, windy, wet, cold (4 degrees), and had lots of hidden potholes; all the recipes for a proverbial s*#t fight.
As Perfs is the first race of the season, it isn’t really that long at 74km. I felt prepared for such a short sharp event after my recent training diet of a lot of intense turbo sessions and gym work (because of exams and poor weather). My explosive power has gone up along with my weight, which is always handy in cold, wet races. A rousing pep talk from my team manager the previous night was also crucial.
The race went just as I predicted. The crosswinds and rain split the bunch up on the first lap and I managed to make it into the front group of 8. A few people bridged across, including the eventual winner, Marcin Bialoblocki, who then proceeded to simply ride away from us like a Polish juggernaut. The UK youth team dominated the race and I was just trying to stay on terms while we were working in echelons. I felt good for the first hour but certainly overestimated my abilities and paid in the finale. I started getting some cramp in my hamstring and limped up the final climb to come 13th.
Pete Drinkell, GPM10 photographer, was there to capture us broken soles back at HQ. I actually wasn’t too cold or wet as I wore my silver boiler rain jacket the whole time. A lot of people looked in a pretty bad way though. After reminiscing about the race with some friends, I wolfed down a load of brownies and headed back home to warm up.
Nobody told me …! (Afterward, by Pete Drinkell)
It has been tipping it down all morning, the smell of embrocation still fills my nostrils from race HQ as every one prepared for the foray ahead. I catch a glimpse of the peleton race past in an explosion of spray, everybody grimacing, eyes stung from the spray of tyres. Sandy has positioned himself well in the front group and is looking strong.
As the race progresses, I am having a ball bombing around small farm lanes like a headless chicken at break neck speeds to head off the riders. I get some pictures, standing not so appropriately dressed in the pouring rain as they tear past. I chat to another spectator and confirm that there are 2 more laps to go before the final ascent up and out of Boarhunt to the finish.
Great, I get some more pictures around the Royal Armories and then position myself in a prime location to get the killer shot (in my mind) of the peleton and Portsmouth in the background. I sit and wait for them to come around on the final lap, jumping out of the car thinking a rider is approaching, soaking and cold I get back in as there is no sign of rider or motorbike outriders. As I sit there and look at the clock, it dawns on me that some thing is wrong, it’s nearly one o’clock, the race started at 11am and it’s only 74km!! This lap is taking a hell of a long time, something is definitely wrong. I head back towards the finish line at silly speed not wanting to miss the finish. WHAT!!! the FINISH line has gone, there are no cars and the place is deserted. With a sinking feeling I once again tear along the back roads to race HQ to be greeted by cars leaving the venue, riders soaking and drinking cups of tea.
Only for me to find out that they had cut the race short by one lap and no one had told me leaving me up on the hill freezing my tits off for nothing…!!
By Richard Simmonds
The turbo sessions below give a couple of examples of ways you can improve your mountain riding. Many people go out and do long steady rides at low intensity, then mix these with hilly rides – typically short sharp hills which actually require a very big effort to do. What people often ignore is the bit in between these two, but developing the mid range sustainable power is exactly what you need to do in order to ride well in the mountains.
1. Classic 4 minute intervals done at a mid-upper mid tempo, so it always feels quite hard but never has you in deep trouble. If you use a powermeter you’re looking at roughly 75-80% of your functional threshold power. In heart rate terms it’s more difficult to be precise as it will drift during the session, but somewhere between 80-85% of heart rate max should be in the right ball park.
Look to do 10-12 intervals of 4 mins at the above intensity with 1 minute’s rest in between each. The rest periods should be done in a much lower gear at high cadence to really ‘spin the legs out’ ahead of the next interval. A good way to vart this session is to alternate between high and low cadence on alternate intervals say 75-80rpm on one, then 90-95 on the other. The effort shouldn’t change, only the cadence.
2. 5/3/1 intervals – this sessions should be done in the same sort of intensity range as the 4 minute interval session tostart with – it gets harder for short periods but it’s still based around developing sustainable mid range power…exactly what’s needed for mountain climbs.
- 5 minutes mid range, 75-80%FTP or 80-85% MHR. Aim for a cadence of c.90rpm
- Change up 1 gear but keep the same power/HR. Cadence will drop and the legs will ‘load up’ and start to feel a bit heavy. 3 minutes for this one.
- Now for the 1 minute bit – stay in the same gear as the 3 minute interval but raise the cadence by 8-10rpm.
- Lastly take 2-3 mins easy spinning before repeating
- Aim to do 6-8 in total
The loading up on the legs then increasing the cadence develops the ability to produce a turn of speed/extra power – mountains are all about steady efforts, but even then there are times when you hit a steep section and you have to give it a bit more for a while.
Cycling + Chocolate
Sandy King, GPM10 guide, reflects on his personal affinity with chocolate.
For anyone who has rifled through the GPM10 coolboxes, maybe in a desperate search for something to fuel them up the last climb, chances are you will have found some bars of lindt chocolate stashed in the bottom. Or if not in the bottom of the cooler, then empty in the driver’s door pocket with strips of silver foil scattered all over the seat.
Eating chocolate while you are riding is a grim experience; really not great on the stomach. But for the long days behind the wheel, nothing beats it, as most of the GPM10 staff will testify.
Personally my chocolate addiction started in 2008. I had read in Cycling Weekly that it was full of antioxidants which were great for recovery and general wellbeing, the caveat being that the cacao content had to be over 70%. To start with I would suffer through one, bitter square of lindt 70% (Gareth’s current favorite out of interest). Before long though my taste adapted, and I moved on to enjoying half a bar of a day 85% Lindt, then 90%, then 99%…..
I am currently at about 3 bars a week, having previously been up at around 7 a week. I guess there are far worse things to get hooked on and my antioxidant levels must be sky high.
Let me run you through my personal chocograph:
A brief introduction
In 1998, I was thirteen years old and dreamt of a career as a professional cyclist. I remember being ecstatic at the prospect of going to watch the start of the Tour de France in Ireland that year with my brother and my dad. In Dublin, I remember catching fleeting glimpses of all my heroes that until then I had only seen in photographs in my subscription to Cycle Sport magazine.
Imagine then my disillusionment when I returned home to see the Festina scandal break on Channel 4’s half-hour daily coverage of the race. As Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen mused over the pitiful sight of Richard Virenque breaking down in tears in a French café and vehemently denying all knowledge of institutionalised doping, for some reason I resolved to carry on regardless.
At that age, it can be difficult to think rationally. Had I done so, I would perhaps have thought twice about pursuing a career in cycling in the aftermath of such an event. Fifteen years later and on the eve of a possible confession by Lance Armstrong on the Oprah Winfrey Show, (I wish he’d chosen Jeremy Kyle) it now seems my short racing career spanned a period equally as murky as that of M. Virenque.
In light of this, it is tempting to think of those six or seven years in which I devoted my life to racing as something of a waste. How could I ever have expected to compete against such endemic cheating? But I’m not going dwell on the negatives and pretend Lance Armstrong’s misdemeanours robbed me of the chance of Tour de France glory as certain individuals – themselves of highly dubious integrity – have done so recently. Because they almost certainly didn’t.
Despite the pernicious drug culture that it seems existed at the time, cycling gave me a great deal of positives (I don’t mean tests obviously). If nothing else, it taught me the value of hard work and commitment, which I know will serve me well as I embark on a new career as a lawyer. Finally and most importantly, in a roundabout sort of way it provided me with the opportunity to work for a fantastic company, GPM10.
So when the director and reigning Lake Annecy road sign sprint champion Mark Neep asked me to contribute to this blog I thought ‘why the devil not?!’ The only question was what to write about, particularly as I haven’t turned a pedal in anger in a number of years.
Well, the other good thing about cycling, particularly in the amateur ranks, is that you meet a diverse range of people from the truly excellent, to the well-meaning buffoon, to the deranged, obsessive megalomaniac. And this provides a wealth of material for a good story. So whenever I get the opportunity, I will try and write a contribution to this blog – albeit probably a less useful or inspiring one than some of the other material you might read here and with more extensive use of pseudonyms – that recounts some of my experiences during that time. And with any luck, they might have the redeeming quality of raising a smile or two.
From time to time, I may also offer my humble opinion and analysis of a hot cycling topic (like Mark’s fine selection of merino headwear).
And remember, whatever sordid revelations Lance comes out with in the early hours of Saturday morning, cycling will still be cycling. It will still be a glorious and sociable way of staying in shape and getting out into the great British or American (or French, or Majorcan or Italian if you are sensible enough to book a trip with GPM10) countryside and seeing things you would never otherwise see.
© Peter Drinkell
A Guide To Winter Training with Richard Simmonds
So…it’s that time of year again. Thoughts turn to next season’s goals, and how you’re going to get through the long winter slog! It’s important to bear in mind however, that the whole winter training ‘season’ is rarely as long as it seems.
Even if you start early (by early I mean the start of October) then you’ve only got 12-13 weekends – typically reserved for the longer rides – before January. Inevitably you won’t be able to do every single weekend, so on average most of us probably only have 10 weekends to ‘get the miles in’ before January, at which point the new season suddenly appears on the horizon and the event calendars fill up.
The main aims of winter training are as follows:
• Initially to rest and recover after what can be a long season of events. It’s important to feel refreshed, both physically and mentally.
• To start rebuilding the lower levels of fitness that will underpin everything you do the following season.
• To keep a structure that allows you to preserve what you’ve done in the season just gone – you don’t want to ease off completely and let the hard work go to waste by starting from square 1 again.
In terms of the intensity of training, the key is not to go too hard too soon. Certainly in October/November/December there is little value in doing much work at higher intensities (unless training for specific events such as cyclo cross). Building stamina and endurance is the focus, whilst maybe maintaining a little of the top end so you don’t altogether lose the sensation of riding hard.
One of the key mistakes people make is trying to ride hard all the way through the winter with the aim of then ‘kicking on’ into the following season. Your body doesn’t like to put in 100% efforts all the time – that’s why typically pros aim to peak only twice in a season. You simply can’t maintain your best level all the time.
So what sort of riding should I be doing?
Slow and easy riding! Most of my clients (myself included!) spend the majority of their time over the winter period riding mainly at low intensity. I’ll give an example of what a typical training week for me might look like at the moment:
• 1 or 2 long rides depending on time, usually flat and staying consistently between 60-70% of threshold power, or 65-70% of max heart rate. ‘Long ride’ is anything from 2-4 hours.
• 2-3 indoor sessions on the turbo trainer, a little higher up the intensity but still only mid range rather than anything hard.
• Maybe a hilly ride with short hard efforts and recovery time in between, but that’s the exception – only 1 or 2 per month.
I’ll usually aim for 7-10 hours in a given week. The trick is to really use that time as effectively as possible, and staying within the low and mid range will do just that.
Steady Vs Erratic
Many people like to head out in a group and do a long ride in the hills. Almost inevitably this becomes competitive and whilst good fun, it can be really counterproductive in the long run. A hilly ride involves lots of short intense efforts followed by recovery period. Whilst this makes you good at that type of ride, it’s not a great way to train if you’re going to be doing (for example) The Etape, Marmotte or any other cycling trip in the mountains. These rides involve lots of longer, steadier efforts, so to train effectively for them you want to be looking at doing the same thing – longer steadier efforts starting off quite easy and gradually building up so that you can maintain a high effort over a long period. Steady (and therefore flat) riding should form the bulk of your winter miles if you’re planning to ride a big event in the mountains next year!
The turbo trainer can be an incredibly effective way of training, if you know how to use it properly. It’s an amazing way of hitting the low and mid range intensities because you don’t get any rest – no corners, downhills, traffic lights etc. The benefits from a 3-4 hour road ride can be gained from as little as 90 minutes on a turbo trainer, so whilst they may not be everybody’s cup of tea, the returns you get for your training time are superb. It’s important to use it correctly though, so getting a book with structured sessions or using a coach will help make sure you don’t just end up wasting time.
My final thought for the time being is one that is often overlooked – wrap up warm!!! It’s absolutely worth investing in some good clothing, and it’s always better to feel slightly too warm than too cold. Always – always – keep your legs covered. Anything below about 15 degrees and you should be wearing full length tights or at least knee warmers. Keep yourself warm and your legs will work better!
2013: Looking forward to a great year of riding
Sandy prepares for the new season
A quick way to cut any serious cyclist down to size is to put him through a gym workout. Their low body fat and thousands of kilometres of training count for sweet FA when trying to perform ‘swiss ball rollouts’ or ‘a trx pillar bridge’. Although according to Tony Purcell, strength and conditioning coach at www.anthonypurcellpt.com, Swiss superstar Fabian Cancellara is capable of deadlifting over 200 kilos and holding a plank for hours on end. No wonder he looks so good on a bike.
It is going to take just a little more than one winter of gym to be matching Fabian, but my new strength programme will hopefully improve my explosive power and fix my twisted, imbalanced body. I am going to be racing for GPM10 in 2013, equipped with Castelli kit and Serotta, in various races around London and the South. Almost all the races in the UK, be it National B road races or circuit races, are suited to ‘rouleurs’ with a good sprint for the finish. When I was racing last year, I found that I had the ‘rouleur’ aspect but was found wanting in the sprint department. This led to a good number of top 10s and but no wins. My plan is to combine the weights programme with some on the bike explosive training and then proceed to annihilate the fields at Hillingdon, Hog Hill, Richmond Park, and beat Mark Neep in every town sign sprint around Lake Annecy.
The other reason that I am doing gym training is to bring some sort of evenness to my one dimensional body. Cycling is great for the knees (compared to running), the heart, the legs, the mind, but as with anything in excess it can cause problems. Over the last few racing seasons I have had several serious aches and pains because I have neglected to do any other exercises- it’s a bit depressing at 21 years old. I mean nothing’s worse than back pain spoiling a ride? I’m not biomechanically blessed either so I can’t get away with doing nothing as some people do. By training the correct movement patterns in the gym, I will learn to engage more muscles, more symmetrically, whether I am climbing or sprinting.
So far the training is going very smoothly. I get some odd looks from meat-head t-shirt trainers in Loughborough uni gym but years of wearing lycra have made me impervious to such peer-pressure. The exercises that Tony has set me are a combination of specific cycling strength moves (such as squats) and some really effective core and shoulder exercises to address my imbalances and posture. I am now in the second phase where I am focusing on lifting high weight at low repetitions. This builds power without gaining muscle bulk, which is not helpful when climbing cols. I try to slot the training in at the start of my 4 day training cycle, so that I am not fatigued when trying to do max weight efforts. I feel a lot more solid on the bike, especially on climbs, and max sprint power is up which is promising.
I am looking forward to doing a training camp out in Majorca at the end of February. Those overload weeks seem to be really good at preparing for the longer early season races and losing weight. Mind you, the classic season opener down in Hampshire, Perf’s Pedal Race, will have come and gone. My plan is to get in a small breakaway and attack at the bottom of the finishing climb. We’ll see how that goes.
Happy riding in 2013,
Client – Sandy GPM10
Elite level domestic pro competing in south east Winter Criterium series.
- To improve overall strength and power for cycling criterium races.
- To increase core strength and cycling stability.
- Improve overall range of movement in cycling specific muscle groups.
Functional Cycling Screen – ( Analysing muscular Imbalances / length tension relationships / weak or inactive muscles)
- Tight muscle groups – hamstrings / hips / up back / chest
- Inactive / Weak groups – Core / Gluteus / hamstrings / shoulder complex
- Single leg stability on right side weak
- Shoulder complex weak
Aim of Plan A ( Base Conditioning )
- Improve core strength
- Increase total body strength
- Improve cycling specific strength
- Increase range of movement in tight muscle groups
- Develop base for Plan B
Aim of Plan B ( Power and Max Strength)
- Continue work on core strength
- Increase load and total body strength.
- Introduce power development
- Continue work on flexibility and range of movement.
We work with elite level athletes to someone looking to compete in the first cycle sportive.
- FTP Power Testing
- Cycling Functional Movement Screen
- Cycling Strength and Power development
- Training Plans
- Weight Management.
Your ticket to two wheel nirvana:
‘Instrument of pleasure or torture, the bicycle leaves racing cyclists with memories either exalted or painful but, once they have dismounted, each one of them retains an indistinguishable affection for the two wheels ’
Robert Chapatte, former pro rider – 5 Tours de France, three abandons – later a journalist.
Sandy King, GPM10 guide and mascot, is undergoing some serious weight training in preparation for the upcoming race season. Anthony Purcell, Personal Trainer and Strength Conditioning coach is putting him through his paces, www.anthonypurcellpt.com.
We will follow his progress and upload programs and images for your entertainment, you never know you may learn something.
An extract from ‘Tour De France-The History, The Legend, The Riders’ by Graeme Fife.
chapter 17, 2007 Sunshine in London…Squalls into Paris
Pau rest day
Nigel and I go to the press hall in the Palais Beaumont just after Rasmussen and his cohort had left. The goon on the door wouldn’t let us through, of course, but, as I strolled back from the loo, I noticed a side door standing ajar and strolled in. (You already know what boyish delight I take in skipping the plastic.) I had a chat with Steve Farrand of Cycle Sport and then Jeremy Whittle of The Times. Rasmussen looked shifty, ducking questions, like a man with something to hide. A damning story had been promulgated: Whitney Richards, an American with whom he’d ridden MTB before turning to road racing , claimed that Rasmussen had asked him to bring a favorite pair of shoes across to Europe in March 2002. The box delivered anonymously to Richard’s back door, was bulky. Richards decided to unpack the shoes and carry them separately . The box actually contained eight cartons of Hemopure, a human blood substitute , a haemoglobin-based oxygen carrier comprising molecules removed from the red cells of cows’ blood. On request, a doctor of physiology examined the contents and agreed that they should empty the cartons down the sink.
When Richards explained, Rasmussens’s initial reaction was wheedling – ‘I am not educated, if I don’t win there is no other way for me’ – then acrimonious: ‘Have you any idea how much that shit costs?’
Mud, sweat and gears
By Lionel Barber
The FT editor joins a group of ‘mamils’ – middle-aged men in Lycra – for a gruelling weekend ride through Tour de France territory in the Pyrenees
Climbing past the village of Le Sarrat ©Peter Drinkell
When I revealed that my annual “boys’ weekend” bike trip would take place in October in the Pyrenees, the reaction at work was mild consternation. In the rugby heartland of southwest France, the terrain is rugged and the weather fickle. But what really messes with the mind is the length and severity of the road climbs. This is Tour de France territory, where grown men have been reduced to tears.
Over the summer I worked hard to build stamina. No alcohol for six weeks; more roadwork in the gym, including 20km stints on the bike; and an increase in my regular 4km run to 6.5km, twice a week. Then the carefully calibrated finale: two consecutive 80km solo bike rides from Dulwich in south London, to Westerham, Kent, culminating in a gruelling climb up Toys Hill.
A week later, here I am on a chilly Saturday morning at the local inn (Le Manoir d’Agnès) in Tarascon, a hard-scrabble town roughly 110km from Toulouse, where we flew in to the previous night. I have shed 5lb but my fellow riders look much leaner and fitter as they munch through hard-boiled eggs on toast, washed down with black coffee and orange juice. They also look the part: tight-fitting “bibs” (Mick McManus-style wrestler pants with shoulder straps); arm-, knee- and leg-warmers; and branded shell jackets, with heavier waterproof apparel in reserve.
Mark Neep, our tour organiser, stares at my kit, then suggests something more suitable to keep out the cold. It’s 9C outside and, despite forecasts of sunshine, cloud cover is heavy. That could spell rain, and greasy roads on a 120km route that includes 2,700 vertical metres of climbing. I meekly agree to change and, five minutes later, rejoin the group, a cosmopolitan mix of money brokers, accountants, a QC and a public relations executive, all of whom work in the City of London.
Lionel Barber before (left) and after the 242km weekend ride ©Peter Drinkell
At 57, I am at least 10 to 15 years older than the rest of the group, many of whom race regularly, whether from London to Paris (three days) or Chamonix to Nice (four days). What brings them all together? “Enthusiastic amateurs in search of the professional experience,” says Andrew, the QC. “Middle-aged males trying to avoid a mid-life crisis,” clarifies Robin, one of two super-fit accountants.
After a group photo, we set off at speed along a flat road following the Vicdessos river, past the village of Niaux and its prehistoric caves, towards our first Tour de France col: the Port de Lers (1,571m). It is an 11.5km climb, with gradients of up to 10 per cent, a good opening test.
I am riding a Scott bike provided by GPM10, Neep’s tour company. It is light but nothing like the Parlee ridden by another member of the group – an expensive, featherweight contraption in matt black, which I dub the Stealth bike.
As well as clothing and a bike, GPM10 also offers support on the road. Extra food, clothes and spares are transported in the Mercedes sedan that is tracking us all the way. This leaves me free to ride carrying only one water bottle (filled with High Five energy mix) and no backpack. Nevertheless, as we ascend, I soon fall off the pace and become the “leading laggard”, accompanied en route by one of the company’s expert young riders.
My first escort is Soren, a sinewy young man from Oregon. Along with two other twentysomethings, he supplies the pedal power to both assist riders in need and to test the more competitive members of the group, above all Bo, a shaven-headed Danish broker. I am too breathless to talk much but Soren and I exchange biographies as we pass sweeping ravines on the next climb to the Col d’Agnès (1,471m). My Garmin sports watch is buzzing at regular intervals to record time and distance. One of my co-riders wonders, (seriously?), if it denotes I have a heart problem.
After three hours, we begin our descent to Aulus-les-Bains, a rejuvenated spa town. The mist has closed in and the roads are moist and strewn with gravel. As I freewheel downhill, my hands and face suddenly freeze up. I am gripping the brakes far too hard for my own good. My legs slowly lock. Soren glides alongside and orders me to spin the wheels. Good advice, but that means going faster – a serious mental stretch. Finally, and thankfully, we arrive in Aulus to be greeted by hot chocolate and French onion soup. Even the experts agree: that was one helluva hairy ride.
After lunch by a log fire, I make a fast early start only to be overtaken by all but Charlotte, the sole female rider on the trip. Still, it feels good to be ahead of her until she reveals she has recently pulled a hamstring playing hockey. I plough on past several bends and then it’s downhill, fast. My confidence is growing as I reach for the drop bars and keep my pedals in parallel, riding high in the saddle to maintain maximum flexibility until the next bend, when I switch weight to complete the turn. Textbook stuff.
At the bottom of the hill, we gather in peloton formation and race through the valley at upwards of 45kph to Massat. This is the highlight of the day, a glorious collective endeavour temporarily interrupted by the appearance of a flock of sheep on the road. That could have either led to a nasty accident or ready-made supper. At any rate, we rapidly shift gears and head for the final pull up to the Col de Port (1,249m). By now I am struggling: my legs are leaden, gas has built up in my stomach and I am quietly whinging. Sandy, my new escort, hands me a lemon sugar gel shot, which offers temporary relief. Now it is all down to willpower.
As dusk gathers, we sweep past the signs for the mountain principality of Andorra and re-enter Tarascon. My Garmin records 6,982 calories consumed over a distance of 119.4km in six and a half hours: a personal best. I take a 20-minute hot bath and stagger down for supper – a mix of amuse-gueules and local fare that I cannot remember eating. The group conversation turns from the Lance Armstrong scandal to great bike accidents of our time. By 9.45 I make my excuses and head for bed.
Day two begins with a paradox. The forecast is for rain but we set off in blinding sunshine along the Route des Corniches, east of Tarascon, a stunning ride through close woodland that merges, at its eastern end, with the approach to the Col de Marmare (1,361m). But I am in no mood for scenery: my knees are desperately stiff and I am sweating under too many layers.
Soren is beside me once more and asks what are the most interesting places I have visited in the world? It’s a transparent manoeuvre but I am glad to be distracted. So I answer, in no particular order: Ethiopia, Colombia and Syria – and Jerusalem. The crack of a rifle shot echoes across the valley followed by the beating of drums. This is fox-hunting territory, as well as the scene of an infamous massacre in 1244, when the so-called Albigensian crusaders burned alive 200 heretics, known as the Cathars (“the clean ones”). But none of this registers, as all my energy is focused on finishing the pre-lunch lap.
The peloton in formation ©Peter Drinkell
By noon, I am close to surrender. I grab a baguette and a bottle of water. The tour organiser suggests a rest and a consultation. Then one of the “Mamils” (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) declares that the peloton is about to regroup. The invitation is irresistible and for the next half hour we speed along together, covering 25km or more. And even as I suffer another wall of pain on the 8km uphill ride to the castle of Montségur, I can see the end in sight. The wind picks up, but two of the guides form an arrowhead to protect me on the run home.
It is hard to describe the feeling of exhilaration on completing the 123km ride along the banks of the Ariège river. This is as much mental as physical achievement. I pose for photographs, naturally. And now for 2013.
Lionel Barber is editor of the FT
Lionel Barber was a guest of GPM10, which arranges bike tours throughout Europe. The Pyrenees weekend trip costs £795 including airport transfers, half board, guides, support car, energy drinks and mechanical assistance.
This post is reproduced with permission from an article by Lionel Barber published in the Financial TImes: click here to read the article as it appeared