A Festival of Cycling – Girona Gran Fondo

logo_girona_gran_fondoGirona has long been known for the quality of its riding, its labyrinth of twisty medieval streets with hidden restaurants and bars and now comes the chance to enjoy a Gran Fondo in the greatest cycling city in the world.
Organised by Club Ciclista Bike Breaks supported by The Girona Cycle Centre the event promises a week long cycling extravaganza.

With a Nocturne lap ride through the medieval old city, a timed hill climb of nearby mountain Els angels and culminating with a 125km loop into the volcanic region to the north of the city, and plenty of après bike and partying in between this is THE Gran Fondo of 2014.

The event starts on June 16th, the organisers have a bike shop and they’re running the week long cycling festival with daily “shop rides” on the most exciting roads of Girona, they also offer a once in a life time opportunity to do a “nocturne ride”. There will be social events including a “catalán evening” in Sant Daniel with the amazing gastronomy that this city has to offer, a pre-race party and then things get a little more serious with an uphill time trial to “Els Angels” it’s a 10.4km long climb with pretty views the whole week will culminate with the gran fondo itself on 21st June which will be 125km long.

The Girona Gran Fondo will be an unforgettable week in Girona and a long overdue showcase for this theme park for cycling.

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Day 1 – World Track Championships

Women's Team Sprint Podium

Women’s Team Sprint Podium

We woke up today in a snow covered mornin in Minsk. The trainings prior the race started early at 9am and all the Countries were here with their very best exponents.

The first session began at 1pm while Sarah Hammer qualified 1st in the IP Australia did the same in the men’s TP and we were ready for the opening ceremony and the finals to begin at 6!

The opening ceremony was beautiful they put on an amazing show that was very worth watching until the presidents of belarus and later on the UCI did a very long speach ;)

We were all exciting to see some action and see medals taken, we were so excited that we didn’t mind all the security points that make us wait for hours to get insde the velodrome. But well what can we expect from Russia?

Anyway… the first event of the evening was the women’s team sprint, the German duo of Krystina Vogel and Miriam Welte; are the Olympic Champions but this is a post Olympic year and many riders can surprise us with their form.

Germany and China qualified to fight for Gold and Great Britain against the Aussies for the bronze.

In the men’s 1km Francois Pervis (France) was the fastest followed by Simon Van Velthooven and Joachim Eillers.

The programme was followed with the Women’s Individual Pursuit Finals, Sarah Hammer won in style lapping Amy Cure who secured second while Annet Edmondson was third.

The olympic champions didn’t disappoint, The German girls won the Team Sprint, China was second while Great Britain were third with their new line up.

And then the event everyone was waiting for, the men’s Team Pursuit. This intense competition between Great Britain and Australia that everyone talks about.

But it started with the race for bronze and Denmark came out to beat Spain to take the medal.

And Australia took gold and it felt like a revenge after the Olympic Games.

This is what happened on the first day of competition but there is way more to come!!

On Track in Mallorca

USA Women Training in Mallorca

A few weeks ago my boyfriend Jetse and I did a short visit to Mallorca, he had to do an intense block of training and the guys from Performance United have their training base there so I was excited to catch up with my sister Sofia!
It was impossible not to fall in love with the place, with those amazing views and all the mountains! We arrived at Sofia’s apartment in Alaró, such a nice little town.
Very close to her apartment is the Team House, the boys of the team live there and they also have a weight lifting room, with all the necessary equipment for track riders along with the fantastic watt bikes, and you can’t miss the flags of Ireland, USA, Turkey, Mexico and Spain decorating the room.

Sofia Arreola

We had time to catch up a little bit there with coach Andy Sparks while he was showing us the place and telling us all the advantages that came with training in Mallorca, he even invited Jetse for a ride with the guys.

To me it was clear why my sister doesn’t want to come back to train in Mexico after only a few hours of being there, the Island is really special for bike rides!!! But I was so excited and looking so much forward to go to the track and see the guys in action!

Andy Sparks

But that didn’t happen until the last day, meanwhile we had time to do some training, enjoy the sun and the beach and we even went for dinner with Jennie Reed and her hubby Brandon Madden, I have to admit I’m such a big fan of Jennie since long time ago when she was a sprinter but this is the first time I’d actually met her and had time to get to know her.

When I asked her, why did she make the change from sprinting to endurance she said she was looking for a new challenge and I think instead Jennie’s creating a challenge to other teams as she rocks in the team pursuit even as much as she did as a sprinter!

Anyways back to the track… The Palma Arena is such a cool place, the track is beautiful and you can feel the great atmosphere at their training sessions, you can hear everyone cheering for each other while they’re doing there efforts and giving tips to each other to improve… its just priceless! But I have to say the biggest supporters at the track are Brandon Madden and Kirk Bausch (husbands of Jennie Reed and Dotsie Bausch) you can hear they screaming “GO, GO, GO!!!” during the whole training.

While Sarah Hammer and Jennie Reed have basically made Mallorca their second home the rest of the Team Pursuit girls (Lauren Tamayo and Dotsie Bausch) come in special periods during the year, this time they were all together as they’re getting ready for London and yes… they are looking STRONG!

Other riders in the team also preparing for London are Martyn Irvine (Ireland) and David Muntaner (Spain), while Recep Unalan (Turkey) and Sofia Arreola (Mexico) are making next year’s World Cup season their major focus.

Coach Andy is looking very optimistic about the Games and I’m sure the boys and girls will get amazing results there, so excited to see them racing and I even got special t-shirts to support them along the way!

 

Thanks for reading!
 
 

It’s Christmas Time!

1st Snow Ride Of The Season By Will_Cyclist

Santa is coming with many gifts for all of those who have been good this year and I’m sure everyone is getting ready to have a nice dinner and spend time with their families this weekend. But how is Christmas in the life of a bike rider??

For road riders this is the off-season, they don’t have any races at this time of the year, its more about recovering and getting in shape for the next season. But for track riders and cyclocross riders this is where they need to be 100% and really focused on riding their bikes and pushing themselves further in races. Don’t ask me much about MTB, BMX and other cycling disciplines because to be honest I really don’t know much about those disciplines!

Lets start with road riders; I think the hardest thing for them is to stay in shape, at Christmas there’s a lot of good food and people tend to gain weight in the winter, that’s something that a bike rider and especially a road rider can’t allow themselves to do as weight does matter!

Drem Airfiled Snow Ride By Jason Liddell

There are usually training camps with their team to build up relationships with new and old teammates and to get a nice block of training for the next season under their belt, they need to stay focused to achieve their goals for the upcoming season and manage their time wisely to also be able to spend quality time with the family.

It’s harder when you live in one of those really cold countries in Europe where there is a lot of snow and rain during the winter and you need to go to other places to train, my boyfriend, Jetse Bol had to go to Fuerteaventura for training last year and couldn’t spend “Sinterklaas” (it’s what Dutchies celebrate over Christmas) with his family in Holland.

Things are a bit more complicated for the ‘cross and track riders, they are in the middle of the season right now and they do have to train and compete at the highest level in the World. The cross riders have a World Cup on December 26th and plenty of other races after that which means they probably won’t be out celebrating on New Year’s Eve!

The track riders don’t have big races close to Christmas but for example, the case of my sister Sofia; she is based in Mallorca during the winter because it’s better for training than Mexico and because it’s easier to travel to all the races but she was lucky that there was a World Cup in Colombia this month so she could come over to Mexico to spend Christmas at home but she is flying to Mallorca on the 26th in order to get ready for her next event in Beijing.

Sometimes you need to make some sacrifices and sometimes you are lucky enough to be able to do it all but in the end all that matters is achieving the goals set for the season, the Olympic year is coming!!!

 

Merry Christmas!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy talks to Manuel Ferrara

Manuel Ferrara pictured centre

Manuel Ferrara is a rider from Monterrey, México. He normally trains with me and my sisters in the Velodrome of Monterrey, I wanted to do an interview with him to share his story with all of you who are passionate about cycling but are not competitive riders. Arni (as we call him) rides in the Master Category and he was a multi-medalist in the Master Pan Am Champs this year.

 

How did you get into riding  a bike?

I actually started riding some years back due to knee injuries, the doctors gave me an option between swimming and biking as rehab and, since I swim about as good as a heavy rock I decided to bike. At first it was just for my health, and then I found a local cycling group, the Biscauch, that took me in after one of my friends invited me to join them, this was still recreational even though I had to actually train to even do the Sunday rides with them and not get dropped! After some time I got the hang of it but never really saw myself as a competitor in this sport, mostly because of my build. I am 5’6” and weigh 165 pounds, mostly due to weightlifting, a bit too heavy for all the uphill’s you know.

 

What made you take up cycling as a competitive sport and not only as a hobby? 

Your dad and coach Rolando Arreola actually did. He saw me sprint against one of the elite track riders during a Sunday ride and started sending me videos of track sprints… Chris Hoy, Theo Bos, you name it, big names that at the time meant nothing to me. Heck, I’d never even seen a track at that point, and this was only two and a half years ago…! I think it was mostly the adrenaline that lured me… that and the fact that my oldest daughter Karla is a competitive swimmer and the young one Sara started cycling. She had stopped Diving due to heel problems and one day Armando (Mandy) Menendez, her coach, and your dad insisted she had good potential for the track; this after looking at her once in street clothes at the bike shop and her never having ridden a bike! I believed them and convinced her to try track cycling and when she did I decided to try it myself. What the heck I figured we would both be new at it…

 

Tell me the challenges that you had to face to start racing.

Well, first of all, it was not easy to organize my time around work; I had to incorporate the specific leg training into my lifting routine twice a week which meant doing heavy squats at 5:30 in the morning if I wanted to do them at all. From there it was straight off to the Track and then shower and eat to be in the office at 9:30am. Second, I had to fend off old knee injuries to strengthen my legs and get into shape for the events I was aiming for. And then there was the bit about learning to ride a track bike… no brakes? No free wheel? Bankings, really?!?  These were all new to me and all things I was advised not to start trying at my age… ha! Finally, the awkwardness of being the only one not under the age of 23 trying this sport, at least here in Monterrey. There was no Masters Track Category to go race in!

 

Manuel Ferrara, Sofia Arreola & Rolando Arreola

What was it like to compete with the elite riders in Mexico?

Intimidating, scary and exciting!!! Where is the Masters Track League when you need one?!?

My first challenge was to not looking foolish in a sport they’d all mastered already. I did not want to be the old man that comes in way behind the young bunch but receives pity applause just for trying; I wanted to be like them, and even be one of them one day. These kids have no fear and still think they are made of steel or rubber, I don’t know, but nothing can faze them! So for me a decision had to be made, it was either put my fears and worries aside, think like they do and get on the track… or stay home! So I took to the track. Fortunately I seemed to resemble the image of a sprinter, so that helped a little at first… until the first race! A flop, but at least I did not come in last, which was comforting and gave me the motivation to go on with the project. Of course I would never have dared to do so without the support and guidance of you dad and you girls. I put my trust in him as a coach and fully believed he would not ask me to do anything I was not ready to, I left my pride aside and put up with being dropped by your sisters (Sofia & Chely) and you at training and just worked at hanging in there. Of course I’ve made my share of rookie mistakes along the way as the pressure of the events still gets to me, and my abilities have yet to be polished up, but I am slowly getting better; your dad has been very patient with me.

All in all it’s been a great experience… you have all taken me under your wings, your dad, the other coaches and the elites have taught me a lot about training and racing and I now feel like a part of the track community, all though it still feels funny to be called Tío (uncle) by every racer out on the bike.

 

How do you handle cycling and working?

It’s tough at times; I have made an effort to organize work around training and training around the meetings, and so forth… to do this I have to start the day early and get it all in before I go to the office, so I am leaving the track when the Elites are only starting their morning practice. I make it into the gym by 5:30am so I can fit it all in, they lift in the afternoons. I have no time to rest, let alone sleep after heavy work outs or even eat at the right times, but I try and do my best and live with what I can manage. Fortunately I have had a lot of help and understanding at the company and they have tolerated and even supported my efforts with rescheduling meetings and things when necessary which has been a life saver for me since there is a lot of training that needs to be done and the track is not exactly around the corner.

 

Team BICIS AH

What does your family think about you competing at the track?

Well, they worry for me since they have seen their share of bike crashes, they have seen me come back from the hospital after one of them and they know that it is all part of the sport and a risk that will not go away. But they understand of course since they are all athletes themselves; my wife was a European Champion in swimming, my oldest daughter will soon be going to Boston University on a Swimming scholarship and is a National Champion in her discipline and, my youngest daughter has made her mark in cycling by winning at Track Nationals in her age group as well. So it follows that they understand my need to be competitive and, even give me a hard time for being the only one in the family without a gold medal. Something I hope I can change in the upcoming seasons.

 

What are your plans for next season?

I will work to get stronger and faster, continue with the ongoing schedule we have laid out and either go to the Masters Pan Am Games in the fall or aim straight for the Masters World Championships in Manchester. It all depends on the number of team mates we manage to round up and the dates of the events. I will probably participate in some Elite Track cups during the spring and summer as well where I will try to better my times and the 8th and 10th places I have managed so far. A top 5 at the Elite Nationals would be sweet although it seems ambitious; hey, one has to have goals and dreams!

 

Do you have a favorite quote that you read or think about before racing? 
I actually have many, I have always liked quotes as they provide good motivation, but my all-time favorite is still:

“Because talent alone won’t take you to the top and luck won’t last forever… perseverance is what winners are made of.”

Of course a new found one due to my present age and the contrast to those around me is this one:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

 

Can you give any tips to other people interested in cycling who don’t know how to combine it with their work?

I have found it to be true that in cycling the time you spend on the bike is directly proportional to the level you can acquire; so go out there and bike, have fun, figure out where you are at and what you want out of this sport and then do what it takes to get there. Whether it’s recreational, to get into shape and maintain health or to be competitive, the main thing is that you enjoy it, then, it will not be such a sacrifice to find the odd hours you need to fit your rides in, train and still make it to work on time.

 

Thank you very much for your time and for sharing part of your story with us, we will keep following your progress in cycling and wish you all the best! 

Sofia Arreola in the pursuit of her Olympic Dream

We are in the sprinting line on our way to the Olympic Games of London. Sofia has to participate in the four World Cups, Pan American Championship and the World Championship in order to make enough points to qualify.

The qualification system its complicated, it’s a ranking for Continents. The American continent has 5 places for the women’s omnium and we have Sarah Hammer (USA), Tara Whitten (Canada) and Marlies Mejias (Cuba) that have secured their places for the Olympics in the last season. The big dispute is between Angy Gonzalez (Venezuela), the Colombian Maria Luisa Calle and Sofia Arreola (Mexico).

Sofi hopes to finish in the top 10 of the World Cups and World Championship in order to finish within the first five in the Pan American Ranking.

Training base in 

Mallorca
Mallorca is a perfect place for training; it has high mountains as well as flat and safe roads to do nice and long rides to improve the endurance. Mallorca has 2 different tracks where you can train and improve different things.

Sofia is currently training under the direction of Andy Sparks in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Supported by the Mexican Cycling Federation and the National Sports Commission.

The training objectives are to improve power and endurance for individual events of the omnium. Training with Sarah Hammer and riders from Turkey and Ireland has made significant changes in Sofia as she has improved both her power and her endurance on the track. In the last Pan American Games in Guadalajara 2011, Sofi showed the progress when she won the silver medal.

First World: Astana


In Astana, as in all World Cups, you need to do a points race of 40 laps in order to qualify to the finals in the omnium, they have 2 heats and the best 12 of each heat get to ride the finals. Sofia was 4th in her qualifying heat, showing again her progress in her endurance.
The omnium started with 24 riders, all the best girls of the world were there only two big names were missing: Tara Whitten and Sarah Hammer they both decided to start their season in the 2nd World Cup in Cali. 

Sofia was looking strong but performed poorly in the elimination race and finished 13th overall at the end.

2nd World Cup: Cali, Colombia


For this World Cup Andy and Sofi planned to do the scratch race in addition to the omnium. The scratch race is an official event in the World Championships but not in the Olympics, this is one of Sofia’s favorites events and she can perform really good in it as well.

You also need to do a qualification ride before riding the finals, 2 heats where only the first 10 of each heat can go to the finals. Sofia was second in her heat and was ready to give everything in the next race.
The final had 20 riders, the best riders in the world for sure. She was trying to control the race from start to finish and maybe worked too much, 4 riders went into the break away and she managed to win the bunch sprint to finish 5th place, this complies in part with the goal set by Andy for this World Cup.

The next day begins with the qualifying for the omnium. Sofia had to ride the heat with the best two riders of the specialty (World Champ Tara Whitten and multiple World Cup Champ Sarah Hammer) She managed to qualify and had a very regular start in the first event (250m flying lap). In the second event (points race) she finished in 5th place, Sofi improved her chances in the general classification and she was getting closer to the top 10 she wanted.

In the next event (elimination race), a race that is usually very complicated as every rider starts the race full gas because every 2 laps the last rider gets eliminated. The excitement of the riders as well as their desire to win caused several crashes, Sofi was involved in one of them. She hit the wall of the track injuring her back, right arm and finger and so had to end her participation in this World Cup.

Sofi is currently in 3rd place in the world ranking of the scratch race and she is looking forward to top that at the World Championships in Australia but her main focus is to make more points for the Olympics, she still wants to secure top 10 in the next two World Cups in Beijing and the Olympic test of London.

There are now four more races where she can collect Olympic points: the next two World Cups, the PanAm Champs and the World Champs it will be a hard and close fight between the riders because everyone is working harder than ever before to get there but we are sure that Sofia can achieve her goal and make her Olympic dream a reality in London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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