Over the last four years, one of the major regrets that I have had is the sport’s inability to retain female riders. I’ve seen some really promising talent appear for half a season, never to be seen again, some have been around for even less than that. Many find the sport hard, or just want to have a go to try it out only to disappear a week later. But if we want women’s cycling to grow, everybody has to stick at it, so with that in mind, I thought I would share my reasons for competing with you, in the hope that if somebody like me can do it, maybe you can too.
A bit of background
It’s been four years since I started competing again. Back then, I was working restricted hours, suffering from chronic fatigue, which meant that I had no energy to train after work and, even after the 45 minute circuit race, I fell asleep on the way home as I was so tired.
Time trialling on V718 in 2012
Following the 2011 season, I swapped medication under the guidance of my consultant neurologist. I have epilepsy, which is controlled, but my new consultant wouldn’t let me come off medication whilst I wanted to ride my bike and do all the things that most people take for granted. After being on sodium valproate for 15 years, I swapped to levetiracetam, which was a relatively new drug.
By March 2012, I had lost over two and half stone and for the first time in longer than I care remember, I could think much more clearly. I was still tired (I had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue in December 2010) but the cognitive behaviour therapy that I had had to undergo as the treatment for the chronic fatigue had helped me to manage things much more effectively.
A slow start
The first few races I did in 2012, I got dropped the first time, had a woman shout at me because she didn’t think I knew what I was doing (I did, I was just shattered), and all I could physically manage to do was ride in 9 events, three of which were men’s road races, with the rest being closed circuit races.
Racing at Salt Ayre in 2012
One of the problems, I came to realise, with losing 20% of my own bodyweight, was the loss in power and strength that came with it. We went to Majorca in September 2012, and we had to change the chainring to a 36 because I wasn’t strong enough to use the 39. The longest ride I could manage was about 60 miles, which was to and from Sa Calobra, not only because I wasn’t particularly fit, but also because of the remnants of the chronic fatigue. Looking back at it now, that holiday helped my recovery as it kick started my winter training block, and reminded me that I could actually ride a bike!
Development, development, development
One of the good things about being involved in cycling in years gone by is that it meant that turning up to races, you knew what you were talking about. However, I soon found that if it hadn’t happened on Facebook and Twitter, it hadn’t happened. At this point, I was only a third category rider, so if I suggested something to anybody else, I always got the response “what do you know?” which got on my nerves no end. So, I paid my entrance fee and qualified as a coach through the Association of British Cycling Coaches, as I couldn’t afford the pathway through British Cycling and there was no funding available for me as I live in a region where there’s a plethora of BC coaches.
By the end of 2012, we were getting a women’s road race league set up for 2013 as well as a development team for women in the North West, both of which are different stories, but it became obvious that the development pathway in women’s cycling was missing, and is something which we have hopefully started to build on now for the rest of the UK.
Coaching with Huw and Carley
National Series and National Championships
In 2013, I took part in a few National Series races, but it became increasingly obvious to me that there were limits to what I was physically capable of achieving. I was working over 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, and with the additional work that I was doing trying to develop women’s cycling in the evenings (mainly articles, meetings and phone calls about the best way to improve the women’s scene with various people) and the odd bit of coaching and mentoring, it meant that I was doing probably around 60 hours a week, including my day job. I still struggled to do any mid week training and racing in the evenings was an absolute no-go, so I was basically stuck with a small amount of time, which meant that I couldn’t do enough quality training to keep up with the better riders.
In 2014, there seemed to be a change in start times too, which saw many of the events with a 9:30 am start time. One of the problems with epilepsy is that seizures occur as a result of triggers. One of my triggers is tiredness and I find it extremely difficult to get up early to go and ride my bike (not even racing) as it takes my brain longer to wake up than most. So it came to pass that I couldn’t afford to do all of the National Series events, for three reasons – I couldn’t afford it financially (I am self-funded and therefore it becomes expensive staying over before each event), I couldn’t afford the time off work (I only have a finite amount of holidays available) and I couldn’t afford it physically (in the event that the worst happened and I had a bad reaction to the early start), which is also a massive mental obstacle for me to get over.
But it isn’t only road race events that this affects – I can’t enter any time trials on Sundays because they all start too early, which also means that (on the whole), I can’t enter National Championship events either, or the RTTC Classic events.
(c) Ellen Isherwood
What training do I do?
My training is pretty limited, as I have to keep an eye on my energy levels. I don’t get home until six o’clock and I generally have admin to do with regards to the Racing Chance Foundation (from sorting the management accounts, to writing/updating the website, to trying to organise races), so mid week it’s generally limited to 40 minutes, three or four evenings a week. At the weekend, if I’m racing, I’ll generally do a two hour ride on the Saturday (if I’m racing on the Sunday) or a three hour ride on Sunday (if I’m racing on a Saturday). If I get to do more than 120 miles or 8 hours in a week, that’s a big week for me. During winter, I tend to aim for 150 miles a week, but again that’s based on the majority of my riding being at the weekend (usually about 7 hours a weekend).
Racing at Tameside 2015
Why do I race?
It has since become apparent that the chronic fatigue that I suffered from between 2006 and 2012 was a side effect of taking sodium valproate. After coming off that drug, I was like a different person, mentally and physically. That being said, that drug was 40 years old and we knew what the majority of the side effects were (which is why I don’t have any children of my own). The new drug only came into existence about 10 to 15 years ago, so it’s relatively new in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know what the long term side effects of this drug are, but I intend to remain as fit as possible in order to keep any horrible side effects at bay (one side effect of taking anti-convulsants is a tendency for depression) and, unfortunately, I don’t know what I’ll be able to do when I get older as I don’t know what the long term effects will be on my kidneys and liver.
But in the meantime, I intend to support, help and persuade as many women as possible to take up competitive cycling as it not only keeps you fit, it gives you the self confidence you need to be assertive in every day life, which is where the Racing Chance Foundation comes in.
Every time I get on a start line, it’s an achievement. I’m not bothered about points – I know that I’m never going to be a world beater because I don’t want to be, I just enjoy taking part. I do know that it keeps me fit – since 2011, my resting heart rate has dropped my around 30 bpm, which I choose to take as my heart showing me that it’s fitter. Unfortunately, I need something to keep me motivated and the racing fills that gap, even if a lot of the racing I do is actually training!
If you want to find out more about how to take the next steps in competitive cycling, visit the Racing Chance Foundation for some handy information and help make a difference to women’s cycling.
In January this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Annie Glover and Karen Ager from Holyhead Cycling Club. Both had travelled all of the way from Holyhead in Anglesey to attend our women’s race training session in Tameside, just outside Manchester, which I thought was pretty impressive! But that was just the start…
Annie, Karen and their club mate, Jasmine Sharp, are all keen cyclists, and are active in North Wales and Anglesey with encouraging younger riders to take up the sport. The three cyclist is also a fan of online casinos like 666 casino, which they do in their free time. All three women are British Cycling coaches but until this year, they have only really participated in their local club time trials and, in Jasmine’s case, Audax events.
This year, for the first time, the women have decided that they want to step up their involvement in competition, and they used the Racing Chance Foundation’s women’s race training to give them the helping hand they needed. But there was also another reason for starting to race – for the first time this year, Ynys Mon (Anglesey) are fielding a women’s cycling team in the Island Games, which take place in Jersey at the end of June/beginning of July.
So, without further ado, I asked Annie what the Island Games was all about (coming from Manchester, I had no idea). Here she explains:
“The Island Games were founded in 1985 in Isle of Man and take place every 2 years. It is a friendly competition between small islands from across the world. It creates an opportunity for sports people from smaller communities to compete in international competition.
“The Island Games are a catalyst for sport & cultural exchange and aim to increase youth participation in sport. It presents an opportunity to represent the region & community whilst building links with other regions and promoting Anglesey & UK.
“Ynys Mon Island Games Association (YMIGA) was a Founder member, YMIGA was established in 1985, Island-wide consisting of Voluntary sports association – members are all volunteers. YMIGA promotes participation in Island Games sports”.
As YMIGA is run by volunteers, the each team has to fund its own way. Knowing from a personal perspective how much it can cost to get to a bike race, I asked Annie to give me some further detail about the costs involved:
“As well as training hard for these events we have to raise our own funds for the travelling, accommodation & logistics of getting the cycling team, their support team and their bikes to Jersey & back,” she explains.
“The team consists of a squad of 11 people, which includes a manager and assistant for logistical support on the road whilst competing and mechanical assistance. The cycling team needs include transport of 2 bikes per team member to Jersey & back, (via van/ferry), logistics of travel for the team, accommodation, team kit (shorts jerseys, skinsuits). Total costs have been estimated at around £8250.”
Jasmine, Annie and Karen put a lot into developing younger riders, and the hope is, by raising the profile of the Ynys Mon team both on a local level (in Anglesey and North Wales) and by attending the event in Jersey, it will hopefully in future provide the aspiration and motivation for younger riders from the smaller islands to take up cycling competitively.
The team have been busy raising funds, with team member doing a 24 hour sponsored ploughing (yes, you read that right, and it wasn’t the ladies doing it either) but any help that you can give them would be much appreciated.
If you can support the team, please pledge funds via their Go Fund Me page, which you can access by clicking here or if you can assist them with kit, van hire or anything else you can also contact the team via the page.
Once you have got a few circuit races under your belt, you might like to have a go at road racing, after all, it’s what many people believe that cycling is all about! However, there a few differences between road racing and circuit racing, so I thought it would be useful to explain them here.
The Open Road
Yes, that’s right, the majority of road racing in this country, whether you are male or female, is on the open road. That means that you are on the public highway and therefore have to abide by the rules of the road – for those of you who aren’t sure what I mean by this (and I have raced with a few (men and women) who don’t appear to be aware of this), it means that you stay on the left hand side of the road, because in the UK we drive on the left. With the races being on the open road, this means that you have to be aware of other road users, including cars and lorries that come in the opposite direction. If somebody goes on to the wrong side of the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle it can have horrific consequences, so you MUST be aware AT ALL TIMES that you have a duty to yourself and your fellow competitors to ride sensibly. Have a look at my Dance Space article about giving yourself room.
(c) Martin Holden Photography
Races are longer
This seems like I am stating the obvious but I will do anyway. The races are longer (generally between 30 and 60 miles for both men and women) which means that the pace tends to be a bit more consistent than in a circuit race, helped by the fact that you probably won’t be sprinting out of a corner every 10 seconds like you sometimes end up doing in a circuit race. Field sizes are generally larger as road races are more expensive to run and therefore need to have bigger fields, but that helps with the race distance as you get more shelter (in theory at least). As the races are longer, you also need to have more stamina and endurance than you would in a circuit race, and need to ensure that you carry food with you for eating during the race (see my Practice! Practice! Practice! article for advice in this respect). This can also mean that those riders who are great in circuit races may not be as good at longer road races and vice versa, so if you don’t think that the flat circuit races are for you, why not have a go at road racing?!
(c) Martin Holden Photography
There’s different terrain
One of the limiting factors of circuit races is that they tend to be pan flat (there are exceptions, especially where town centre circuit races are concerned) and usually finish in a bunch sprint, so it can become a bit demoralising if you aren’t keen on being a sprinter. However, road race circuits come in all manner of shapes and sizes, from shorter “kermesse” style races to longer circuits with a couple of climbs and descents in them. Don’t expect to be great at everything, but certainly try and have a go at different circuits to see what suits you best.
Start at the right level
The good news is that road races can be a lot easier for novices than circuit races, especially those road races that are aimed at 2/3/4 category women, due to the length of the race and there being less corners. The average speed for regional level races tends to be anywhere between 22 mph and 24 mph depending on the weather and the circuit and more often than not the pace eases up significantly, allowing you to have a bit of a breather.
Staying with the bunch is the key to success
This sounds really easy but it can be a bit of a nightmare when you are new to racing. Many people will happily let the other riders go up the road if the pace goes up a bit, never to see the bunch again, but the road race that you entered then becomes a time trial, and you don’t get the same enjoyment for spending 35 miles of a 40 mile race off the back of the bunch. Trust me, it may seem like really hard work at times when you are riding at a pace which you don’t feel comfortable with, however nine times out of ten the pace will ease off slightly and you get an opportunity to recover before the pace increases again. Road racing is supposed to be hard and difficult, where your legs and lungs are burning as you try to keep up with people who are slightly fitter and faster than you, but the feeling at the end is worth it!
Be true to yourself
By this, I mean “don’t let other riders bully you in to doing something that you don’t want to do”. There will be many occasions in races where more experienced riders will shout at you to do some work. You don’t have to do what they tell you to – it’s your entry fee and your race – but sometimes they might be saying it for good reason. Keep your common sense in tow and do what you think is right – if you’re about to blow up, don’t feel as if you have to do a turn on the front, sit in the wheels, get your breath back and you might be somewhere when it comes to the finish.
Road racing is fun, but it is hard work and is supposed to hurt your legs, so don’t give up as soon as they start hurting – battle through that pain for a couple of minutes at least (unless it is pain in relation to an injury when you should stop immediately) and you never know, you might surprise yourself!
(c) Martin Holden Photography
Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing
A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 7
Following on from my guides to racing that I first wrote back in 2013, I thought it would be useful to develop these a bit further. This guide is on circuit racing and what to expect, as it is this type of race that you will tend to do as a novice first, before venturing out on to the open road in road races.
These races tend (on the whole) to be run under British Cycling regulations. This means that you will have to have a racing licence to participate in the event, but you don’t need to have a licence in advance to race for circuit races (unless it is a National Series event, in which case you won’t be able to ride as a novice). However, you will be required to purchase a day licence for the event, so that you are covered by the requisite insurance. A day licence costs around £10 and will be in addition to your entry fee. You can find out more about the racing licence position here.
What is involved?
A circuit race can also be called a criterium. They are held usually on a circuit of 1 mile or less, with the newer circuits averaging around 1km in length. More often than not, the race distance will be described in terms of minutes rather than laps, with many races being a certain amount of time plus a number of laps. Generally, the commissaires will know how long a lap takes and will tell you in advance that they expect the race to be however many laps but they will put the lap board up with a certain number of laps to go (usually 10, although this depends on the length of the circuit).
Who can enter?
This tends to depend on the organiser. There are many events which are labelled as E/1/2/3/4 and will therefore be band 4 races (this doesn’t mean that Laura Trott or Dani King is going to turn up – they could, but it doesn’t happen very often), however if categories are dropped and the race only caters for lower categories (e.g. 2/3/4 or 3/4) the race will become a band 5, meaning that there are less licence points available for the top 10 finishers. There has also been a tendency in the past to hold women’s races alongside a fourth category men’s race. This can be a bit scary, for many reasons, so if you are looking at doing your first event, check to see whether it is a standalone women’s event or whether the women’s event will be on the track at the same time as the fourth category men’s event, as even though they are listed as separate events on the British Cycling events listing, they may have the same or similar start times, which will mean that you are racing at the same time as the men.
The nature of circuit races mean that they tend to start extremely quickly, and you therefore need to make sure that you warm up properly before the event. Most riders nowadays tend to take their rollers or turbo trainer to the race so that they can do some efforts before the race – the key to the warm up is that you need to get your heart rate up to where it will probably be in the race when you warm up, so you will usually need around 20 to 30 mins warm up, although this depends on the rider. You should be looking to finish your warm up around 10 minutes before you are due to start to give you time to get the final pieces ready, so make sure you have put your number on in advance of warming up. It also helps to warm up in a separate T-shirt to that which you are going to race in, so make sure you take a couple of T-shirts in your race bag with you.
Before you get on the start line
The riders will all line up on the start line, so if possible try and do a couple of laps of the circuit before the race is due to start. During these laps, look at the corners, see whether there are any damp patches or pot holes which you may want to avoid, and ride around any particularly tricky sections a couple of times before the race so that there are no hidden horrors which you might encounter. Check which way the wind is blowing – is it a head wind up the finishing straight or is it a tail wind or a cross wind, as this will give you an idea where riders will be likely to put an attack in (most are less likely to attack in a head wind because it’s too hard on their own).
The race itself
Remember that the more experienced riders will always go off hard and keep the pace high for a couple of laps. Keep calm during the first few laps, even though your head might be trying to tell you other things, as the pace always eases off after the first 5 to 10 minutes. Many riders will try and attack in these early laps as they test each other out, but most of these attacks won’t stay away as they’re more like feints – it’s like a game of poker as the more experienced riders see who’s up for a race and who isn’t.
Corners are either your friend or your enemy
Most riders don’t like cornering and will brake excessively. Most crashes tend to happen coming out of corners in circuit races, so give yourself room but don’t ease off too much. Make sure you change into an easier gear going into the corner as it’s easier to change pace on a lower gear and therefore easier to sprint out of the bend. Don’t make the mistake of staying in the same gear as it will just tire you out. Hold your line around a corner and don’t “divebomb” other riders (cut up the rider behind you). Become a rider who loves corners and you will do well.
You will get dropped
Every rider will get left behind by the first few riders (the term is to “get dropped”) in their first few races. No matter what you think as you prepare for your first race, 99% of riders struggle with the fluctuating pace and it is only a matter of time before the elastic eventually snaps and you get dropped. But don’t worry, it is all part of the learning curve, and the next time you come back you will have a better idea of what happens and what to expect.
Don’t give up
Bike racing can be an extremely demoralising experience but don’t worry, everybody goes through that learning curve. Make sure you set yourself targets (finish the race, finish in the bunch, finish in the top 10) and you will find that it can be an exciting experience!
Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
A Time to Reflect
So it is New Years Eve and time for many of us to reflect on the past year and look forward to the coming year.
I often wonder what each year will bring and look back with mixed emotions on the year past. Learning from the hard moments and reminding myself of the successes and high points, both providing motivation for the coming year.
January is here and many of us will be looking forward to the warmer weather and riding on empty roads in the summer sun, I know I am. BUT I have a confession to make I am secretly hoping to get some serious snow before winter is over as I just love riding in the crisp cold that snow brings, and I think that there are few things more changeling then getting out on your CX bike on the cycle paths and bridle ways in the white stuff. I digress so back to the main point.
I have a few things on my list for the year and I am really looking forward to working hard to meet as many of my goals as possible.
First on my list has to be train more and eat less! Mind you this has been top of my list for several years but I have started to do something about this in earnest from the middle of last year onwards. I must now just keep it going. The Gym and Turbo training is going to play a big part of this. As a premium user on Strava I have just signed up to some CTS training plans so watch this space!
Next is to consider going abroad to get some early season miles in, I do not really want to head out to a full on training camp but would rather hit something I can tailor to suit mine and my friends needs. (I have a feeling that Mrs Bikeboyslim might have an impact on this goal!)
Finally, I want to make sure I hit the French Roads in the summer, for my four week block with leading rides in the Vendee, will reduced weight improve stamina and top end speed, ready to get my big block of training in before I ride the Keswick Adventure X Monster Miles.
So what better to talk to friends and hit the internet to do a little bit of research and find some possible companies and destinations that fit the bill.
Cycle San Remo
I am sure, if like me, you love getting out and about on your bike in classic cycling countries then where better than the town at the end of one of the all time best spring classics, Milan – San Remo.
Cycle San Remo offers all this and more, including riding over to the Monaco sea front for lunch or being in Italy for the Giro.
The city of San Remo, which was founded in Roman times in a large inlet on the western Ligurian coast, is known as “The Pearl of the Riviera of the flowers” and is famous throughout the world for its perfect climatic conditions.
The climate is mild all year round, due to a privileged geographic location, protected from the north winds ensuring a lowering of the rainfall quotient. Added to this, this stretch of coastline experiences temperatures which allow the growing of tropical plants in the luxuriant botanical gardens which extend the length of the “Riviera of the Flowers”.
The climate, the cafes, restaurants and the classic roads, what more could a cyclist ask for?
Cycle San Remo holidays on the Italian Coast
Cycle San Remo is run by Mark Newman and Andy Marsden.
Mark lives in Italy, near to San Remo, with his wife Julie. They moved there full time in 2006 after buying a house there in 2001. Mark has worked hard at building up contacts with businesses, politicians and locals in the area and has extensive knowledge of the terrain, roads, culture and history of the region. He is a good Italian speaker, with some knowledge of German and French too. Mark has been riding a bike since his early teens and also managed teams in various guises taking them to leading events in the UK (Girvan, Tour of Lancashire etc.) and also many European races. Mark was also the manager of Andy Marsden when he was racing on the indoor velodromes in Ghent and Antwerp. Julie runs her café bar in the mountains of the Argentina Valley behind San Remo catering to mostly local clientele who are very demanding in their quest for the best coffee in the region.
Andy assists Mark with groups of cyclists when they visit Italy, plus manning the stands at the various trade shows such as Eurobike in Friedrichschafen, Germany and Bike Motion at Utrecht, Holland. Andy has raced extensively in the UK as an elite, plus rode in Belgium for the small professional squad Asfra Flanders.
Cycle San Remo is a holiday on the bike, riding in beautiful scenery, taking in much of the Milan – San Remo final miles such as the Cipressa, Poggio and sprint finish along the Via Roma in the heart of San Remo. Cycle San Remo’s aim is to share with clients some of the culture of Italian life, with the best cafes, restaurants and the warmest hospitality in the region, including forays into the areas around Nice & Menton, which was ceded around 150 years ago from Italy, and the elegance of Monaco nestling between the two countries.
San Remo coastal cycle route
Distances covered vary, but around 100km per day is the norm. It all depends on the group dynamics and we never, ever leave anyone behind. Julie (Mark’s wife) also offers trekking in the mountains and is more than happy to take people either on a tough walk to the summit of Saccarello at 2200 metres or more gentle strolls through olive groves and chestnut forests.
Cycle San Remo use two hotels; a small family run business in the mountains, some 10km from the coast at Montalto and a much larger modern hotel directly on the beach, this too is family run. Both offer outstanding food and a fine selection of wines.
If this has whet you appetite then Andy and Mark hold an informal presentation at the Tandem House cycling café in Stockport on Friday 16th January. Guest speakers as well as Cycle San Remo will be Barry Broadbent, a former UCI commissaire and head of the anti-drugs testing at several Tours de France, Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta plus many of the top European one day classics, Ryan Bonser, Team Sky mechanic and also Darren Kenny.
If you can’t make the presentation Mark is available on UK mobile 0774 705 4293 until the end of January then on his Italian number (0039) 346 372 6542
Check the website for full details www.cyclesanremo.com. Riding in Italy is certainly on my bucket list and I am sure we will be heading over to ride with Mark and Andy in the not too distant future.
Cycle San remo’s 2015 programme starts with Milan – San Remo, flying in on the 21st March for the race the following day. Then we have Like Bike Monaco over the Easter period and the opening stages of the Giro d’Italia with the Grande Partenza opening with a team time trial along the bike path in San Remo.
This year they are also running six Darren Kenny Cycling Schools throughout the season. Darren is an O.B.E. and gold medallist in several Paralympics.
The season starts in March and runs through to the end of October so groups can book either a long weekend, flying in Friday mornings and leaving Monday late afternoons or evenings, or for a full week from Saturday to Saturday. The airport of choice is Nice, just across the border in France and just about an hour transfer time. It is served by most UK airports by several airlines, including Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways etc.
Your Bike Travel
Alex Dowsett with members of team YBT
Your Bike Travel (YBT) was set up by cycling enthusiast Gareth Stonier in 2013. When starting the company Gareth wanted to do so alongside a current top level professional rider who could help him choose the best locations and rides for YBT’s clients, as well as being available to ride with their guests whenever possible. In fact YBT claim it is the only cycling holiday company set up with the help of a current World Tour rider.
Thus YBT began their relationship with Team Movistar’s rider Alex Dowsett. Alex helped the company choose the
YBT’s support car with Team Belkin.
locations, hotels and different rides available to meet all levels of cyclists. The company has run two annual ride with a pro events where guests get the opportunity to ride alongside Alex and gaining many handy hints and helpful riding tips from him.
I had a chance to talk to Alex about the new business at a round of Revolution in Manchester. It became very clear during our conversion that he is really passionate about making sure they are the best in the business and that they offer a wide range of opportunities for all.
YBT run holidays from two locations, Alicante and Majorca, which is no surprise as around 80% of the current World Tour cycling teams run their winter training camps at these two locations. Both locations offer great winter weather and selection of quiet training roads.
YBT’s Mechanical support
The company offers a choice of three or four star hotels along with self catering apartments for those who prefer a bit more freedom. YBT offer both guided and non-guided holidays at their range of locations. The neat things about YBT is that you can get a group of friends together or organise a bike club week away and YBT will tailor the week for you.
YBT’s packages range from non guided breaks from 3 to 14 days, guided 7 or 14 day breaks and specialist triathlete packages which include everything a triathlete could need, and of course carbon bike hire for those who don’t want to travel with their bike. Packages are available all year round and normally they can be arranged for guests within 48 hours.
YBT’s website has great information about the possible rides and includes ever important ride profile. They use some top quality hotels in each destination, all fit for a World Tour rider.
Unfortunately you won’t always be able to ride with Alex, just check the website for details of opportunities to train or ride with him. However YBT has four great riders on the ground to offer help and support:-
- GarethStonier, Cycling enthusiast and amateur timetriallist. Also works as a guide forYourbiketravel.
Excellent quiet roads
- Jario Armando Losasa, Ex professional rider from Colombia. Armando has ridden in Europe, South America & the US at the highest level. Great people skills and riding experience are his strengths.
- Fernando Perez, Fernando currently competes in the Lubricantes Benacantil amateur team. Another affable and intelligent guy. A real asset for Yourbiketravel.
- David Gomis, Fernando’s team mate at Lubricantes Benacantil and a great descender. Friendly and always willing to offer help and advice.
One of the bonuses of choosing YBT is that you can make travelling easier by hiring one of their bikes for as little as £69 for the week, possibly cheaper then flying/traveling with your own pride and joy.
Chatting with Gareth the other day he was very proud to tell me,
“This is only the company’s second full year since its inception and bookings are already being placed with guests who visited in 2014. Which means we must be doing something right!”
If you want to find out more then take a trip to YBT’s website at www.yourbiketravel.com planning and booking your trip is ultra simple.
Cycling Holidays Spain
“We have been training in this part of Spain year after year, its amazing”
— Mark Cavendish
If you want to train like a pro and ride where the pros ride in the winter then CHS is the company for you.
Since 2000 CHS have been providing bespoke training camps for cyclists of all levels.
Based in the beautiful marina Alta mountains of the Costa Blanca within easy reach of Alicante and Valencia airport, CHS have proved themselves as a leader in cycling training camps and holidays.
Relaxing evenings by the pool.
CHS is owned and run by Nozad Nawras an Englishman who with his parents moved to Spain some 20 years ago,
Nozad used to live in London and was a Special needs teacher (Science and PE teacher) covering a wide spectrum of
Team CHS support car.
disabilities. His passion had always been sport and although being a footballer, when he made the difficult decision to give up football having played at almost the top level, he made the transition to endurance events, ‘which was tough as I was genetically a sprinter!’
Nozad has represented his country in Athletics, qualified for the world champs in triathlon a few years back, and regularly hooked up with the odd pro rider out in Spain as well as the Brownlee brothers who train in the region. He now races road bikes in Spain.
The first training camps started back in 2000 during his holiday times as a teacher. He saw huge potential as the conditions are the best with perfect roads and perfect weather.
It was when his dad passed away 4 years ago that he moved over full time. Nozad says ‘I owe him everything, His hard work has allowed me to continue a passion of mine and provide a great training camp and service to many cyclists who now are great friends of mine.’
Team Astana on winter training block.
So what are you looking for from a training camp? Maybe CHS might just have the answer for you. They certainly know how to make you feel at home, in fact CHS provides you with a real home from home, from the healthy home cooked food, using local fresh produce to the post ride massage and spa, everything you could want is on hand. When you are out on the road, there is no need to worry about mechanicals as the CHS team car is on hand to support all your needs on the excellently guided rides, and you never know you might just find yourself mixing it with some of the pro teams out on their winter training block.
Being able to put your passion to the test without compromise is what CHS is all about. They cater for cyclists of all levels and base their philosophy on the fact that given the right conditions and support, you can train to your max and improve every area of your cycling from fitness to technique.
The CHS model is based around how pro teams train during their winter blocks. Everything is taken care of allowing you to focus 100% of your time on riding and development, it’s all about the bike! CHS pride themselves on their outstanding reputation and client feedback. At CHS they strive to make your training experience the best it can be and they have a true passion for cycling.
So if you’re a cyclist, no matter what level and you want the best in training camps, with the extra special personal touch, then C.H.S claim that they can and will deliver.
This appears to upheld with their full, all inclusive Pro Package cost £475 for the week, offering great value for money. Just add in travel and bike transportation or hire one of CHS’s full carbon bikes for an extra £100.
If you want to find out more then visit www.cyclingholidayspain.co.uk and start planning your holiday today.
This company came to my attention via the guys a Bikechainricci in Cornwall, who have used them before and rate them very highly. Bikechainrici had invited me along on one of their trips, which sadly I could not join as it was in term time (the joys of teaching!).
Trek Travels website makes the following claim:-
TREK TRAVEL MAKES EVERY MOMENT MAGICAL.
YOU MAY NEVER WANT TO GO HOME.
Sipping wine off the coast of the Mediterranean. Lounging in the finest hotels in Europe and climbing the most epic mountain passes you could ever imagine. At Trek Travel, we’ve custom-built the perfect vacations for lovers of luxury, disciples of cycling, and families who want to see the world like they’ve never seen it before.
A Trek Travel vacation is unlike any bike trip you’ve ever taken, from first clip-in to final farewell. Why?
They claim the reason’s are simple
OUR GUIDES ARE TRAINED TO MAKE YOUR TRIP MAGICAL.
They aren’t just experts in riding; they’re trained in delivering uncompromising service in ways you won’t believe. We know that it’s the unexpected surprises that make a trip magical. That’s why our guides pride themselves on anticipating your needs before you ask. It’s their job to provide you with moments of “wow”.
WE INCLUDE MORE.
When you choose Trek Travel, you get so much more than the experience of a lifetime. Added benefits like discounts on bike purchases, special Trek jerseys or arm warmers and socks, a dedicated travel coordinator and exclusive events to connect you with your fellow travelers are just a few of the special touches to make your trip even better.
WE ARE THE BIKE TOUR EXPERTS.
One look at our travel calendar and you’ll see: travel options abound. We offer cycling trips around the globe, from Zion National Park to the Croatian coast, and everything in between. And since we’re the world leader in bicycle tours, we know the best hotels, dining, excursions and rides. All with that special “insider” twist.
TREK BICYCLES SET US APART.
It wouldn’t be the perfect vacation without the perfect bike. That’s why we’re proud to offer a complete selection of Trek bikes, from the race-ready Domane with electronic shifting to the cruiser-comfortable Trek 7.6 FX hybrid. The best part? Your perfectly tuned-and-ready bike is already included in the trip cost. Upgrades are available as well.
YOUR DAY. YOU DECIDE.
Perhaps you want to spend the day taking a quiet ride through the Tuscan hillside or touring the local village, but your spouse has always wanted to ride the famous switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez or the moonscape of Ventoux. At Trek Travel, our vacations are built to deliver the ultimate in flexibility. Our guides can accommodate the most hard-core roadies while delivering unparalleled attention to the needs of all vacationers, all at the same time. You pick your mileage, itinerary and experiences. We take care of the rest.
GUARANTEED TO RUN*.
Rest assured when you book with us your trip will run.
*For most trips this will apply, but some trips are so special we need a few more people to run them.
Some very bold claims and looking over the website Trek Travel certainly seems to much more like the Kuoni of cycling holidays. They have a multiplicity of destinations from Majorca to Moab. Just be aware when you are looking at prices on the web, Trek list the total cost and it is only when you open the specific holiday will you get an idea of the price per person. Trek certainly caters for every type of rider including some family holidays and they make it very easy to select the holiday that is right for you.
So if you want a package cycling holiday then get in touch with Trek Travel at www.trektravel.com
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions! Who would I pick? To be fair I would probably rule out Trek Travel. This is purely and simply a personal preference, I really do not like the big corporate look of Trek and to be totally honest I like going with the smaller and maybe more personal businesses, the companies where the employees have much more of a stake in what they are doing. However I know that have always had excellent service from Trek Travel.
So for me it would have to be Cycle San Remo, CHS or YBT and to be fair I just can’t split the three. For the full on chilled riviera experience it would have to be Cycle San Remo, however if I wanted to train like a pro it is impossible to split CHS and YBT. But at the end of the day, as they say, ‘The choice is yours!’.
All I can say is whoever you go with I hope you have an amazing time. Remember It’s all about the bike!
Happy Cycling Holidays.
It’s always good to get out on a bright Autumn day.
I love this time of year as the Summer turns to Autumn, the leaves begin to turn some of the most amazing colours and winter gradually gets its claws into the land as the frosty mornings start cold and bright. However if I’m really honest I hate the cold dark dank days that also come in late autumn and winter. However on the bright side it is a great time to get out and play in the mud!
As many a great explorer has said “there is no such thing as bad weather just poor preparation” actually I’m not really sure who said that maybe not Scott! But seriously you can ride in any weather if you are wearing the correct clothing or have some of the top tips below to keep feet and hands warm.
So do not be afraid of the weather hug it tight and be a conquering hero of Autumn and Winter riding.
I noticed just this last week that the number of CX Sportives is on the increase and a quick trawl through the events list suggests that they are very popular in the South, come on you guys in the North make sure your events are publicised.
I rode my very first CX Sportive this year, the amazing Adventure X event based around Keswick. What an experience it was, don’t forget to read my review of the event elsewhere on this website.
So if you fancy trying a little bit of cyclocross but don’t have a CX bike, well don’t worry most events are open to wide range of bikes, pretty much anything will do, except perhaps your pride and joy the full carbon road bike!
From my experience riders will turn up on any bike from a full carbon CX bike, hardtail MTB, Full suspension MTB to a flat bar hybrid. The only thing I would recommend is that you check the ride profile and make sure you have a suitable range of gears for the event unless you are riding single speed! I got caught out on the Mini Monster Adventure X in Keswick.
CX Sportive (www.cxsportive.com) has several good rides available this season:
CX Sportives are the fantastic new mixed surface events that are combining the thrills of on and off-road riding into one awesome experience!
•Sportive style events on fast, mixed surface courses
•Courses from 40-80km
•Full sportive support and infrastructure
•Great for all kinds of bikes: CX, MTB, Hybrid, 29er, Singlespeed & even Road!*
Riding a mix of road and off road is so exhilarating.
Big challenge rides tend to come in two flavours; massive road sportives and hardcore MTB enduros. But why not mix it up, take on the best of both and spice up your riding?
CX Sportive is an exciting new ride format. It’s ideal for your cross bike, but equally suitable for your XC MTB or even road winter training bike, tweaked for a little rough stuff!* The course mixes back roads, interwoven with byways and a few short tougher off road links that will certainly bring on the heat!
Your choice of steed will define your ride. Will the versatility of a MTB offer the best performance over mixed terrain? Will the pure speed of your road bike make up for time lost on the short, occasional off road dismounts? Or will the CX bike give you the best return where it counts?
To prove a point (or just let you fly the flag for your tribe), they even include your bike choice in your results listing; so if you insist on tackling the route on your mum’s folding shopper, they’ll credit your lunacy!**
You’ll have a range of time targets to aim for, with age and gender adjustments; including full route marking, RFID timing, top notch catering and first class, friendly organisation and support.
*Not recommended for your beloved, super-light carbon road thoroughbred!
**Disclaimer: Don’t tackle the route on your mum’s folding shopper!
Ride X the Evan CX rides
The bike supermarket that is Evans have also added CX Sportives to their list of Ride It events this year. They might well be worth checking out if you live in the South (Evans Ride it CX Sportives).
For the Autumn/Winter season they’ve added 4 exciting mixed terrain routes to their existing Sportive offering. As with all of their road sportives, all routes will be fully way-marked with GPX files published pre-event. High5 sponsored feed stations will help you tackle a variety of riding surfaces (tarmac, mud, grass & more!) whilst clocking up some worthy mileage in this new format. The routes are best suited to cyclocross and adventure-road bikes that are up to some off-road exploring.
All rides include: Fully way-marked routes • Well stocked High5 feed stations • Mechanical support • GPS files published pre-event • Free High5 pack worth £10 when you sign up 8 weeks in advance • Free Garmin hire • Times published post-event
Cycling Weekly Adventure X Series
Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for next years Adventure X series promoted and run by Cycling Weekly with the support of changing sponsors. The event I rode in October was amazing, one of the best challenges I have have ever taken part in (more details can be found in my report on Adventure X Lakeland Monster Miles)
With so much going on on the cyclocross sportive scene surely it must be time for you to ditch the winter rode bike and get yourself a CX bike and rise to the challenge. I did and I haven’t looked back :)