Winter Miles Summer Smiles!

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“Tartiflette!”

This was the response from @Jonhinio when I asked the Twittersphere what was important on a Winter/Spring Cycling Training Camp!

Not surprisingly the other answers revolved around food, sun and scenery with @SJcyclist feeding back “I loved Mallorca, quiet roads, great weather, sympathetic drivers and stunning scenery”

It is often hard to fit winter miles in around life, work and of course the variable UK weather, so a winter or spring training camp allows you clock up some serious mileage before your racing season or sportive season starts and get some much needed vitamin D!

Whatever your cycling goals the extra hours in the saddle early season will certainly help and if you are aiming for a big sportive like the Etape du Tour you will have the chance to ride climbs of similar length, which we just don’t have in the UK.

And yes the food is vitally important! If you have only been riding occasionally over winter then expecting your body to ride 4-6 days in succession is a big ask, and certainly not wise on calorie deficit!

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David Butcher, Owner of 7hundred in Windsor and organiser of Training Camps in the Costa Blanca, says
“Motivation is the biggest driver. When it’s dark and miserable in the UK it can be difficult to find the motivation to ride, that can affect endorphin levels creating a negative feedback loop. The allure of different roads and warmer climes, even if only for a short period, can help restore motivation and reinvigorate your training.”

Hundreds of options exist for organised training camps where everything is done for you, the real pro experience! Just book a flight and pack your bike (or even hire one there) and everything else is taken care of.
45 Degrees North in Morzine, in the French Alps offer a luxury chalet with a hot tub, delicious food from a professional chef, a Level 3 Performance Coach, complimentary sports massage, a bike mechanic, homemade energy bars, laundry facility and a full support vehicle to carry extra layers, tools, food and drinks (and riders who fancy starting part way up the climb or a lift home at the end of the day!).
IMG_6522I asked Chris Sellings at 45 Degrees North how a rider should choose a training camp.
“This depends entirely on you, your budget, what you want to get out of your training camp and absolutely the time of year. For example, if you are looking for an early training camp in the mountains, you can rule out the Alps, but could find several in Mallorca, Andalucia or even South East Asia. This depends on your race calendar and targeted events. Generally, athletes will attend a training camp early in the season (February to May for UK) to improve their base fitness before the season really kicks in. Athletes targeting races later in the season (August to September) can absolutely benefit from a training boost mid-season (June to August).Some people go for camps run by big name coaches and for others it’s about taking the opportunity to explore a new location. There are a plethora of training camps out there to meet every budget and time restraint. The key is to think about your race season and whether you want to attend a training camp to lay base fitness or to peak for an important race. This determines the time of year to aim for. Next think about the type of fitness you need for your race. There is little point heading to the mountains if you are targeting flat, fast crit races and vice versa. Then it comes down to your budget. If you can afford to attend a training camp run by a famous coach and staying in luxury accommodation, then get in fast and book. Otherwise seek out a good quality camp that offers great value for money and the more beautiful the rides on offer the better!”

Often riders are concerned about their ability to participate or concerned they might be the slowest and hold the group up. David from 7hundred advises “choose your camp carefully, if in doubt don’t be afraid to ask questions and be honest about your abilities when discussing pace. Why not encourage those you ride with to join you? It’s not a race! It’s also easier to ride in a group you know”.
Chris agrees “We all have to start somewhere and any self-respecting training camp will recognise this and cater for weaker riders. There are a variety of ways to do this. Weaker riders will generally ride together with an experienced guide. For longer more challenging rides such as sportive routes, they may be set off before the faster groups and even from a point further along the route. There will be a no drop policy in place so you don’t need to fear being left behind and becoming lost. Sometimes vehicle support will be offered. This means, if you become too tired you can climb into the vehicle and be driven home. This said, you should have a reasonable level of fitness before attending a training camp and be able to comfortably meet the minimum requirements set by the training camp. If you are not sure, seek guidance either from a club coach or the training camp operator prior to booking.”
Most training camps will offer a variety of riding groups, with the distance and speed of each ride varying accordingly. Helen from Twickenham Cycling Club, who make an annual pilgrimage to Majorca for Legro’s Training Camp, feels “setting expectation of the groups, advising people which group they should be in and having enough group leaders to ride with the slower riders and allowing those who up the pace unnecessarily to go off on their own” is key to a successful week.

IMG_6527At Hotel Dory in Riccione, Italy, the 4 routes for the following day are posted up on the notice board in the bar with the distance, speed, profile and estimated time. Riders sign up for the one they would like to complete the following day and the hotel allocates the appropriate number of ride leaders to each group. The convenience of having the lists in the bar means that should you find yourself still in the bar at midnight with another glass of Italian red then you can quickly cross your name out on the 150km mountainous ride and swap to the 40km flat tourist ride!

Alternatively, how about a DIY training camp with your friends, you can then choose everything yourselves and decide your own schedules and rides, but you may miss out on the support, structure and local knowledge of an organised trip.

There are also plenty of cycling holidays to choose from the difference according to David from 7hundred being “A training camp is more focused, concentrating on building an aerobic base and while a cycling holiday may be guided and cover the same ground, it might not be as beneficial for those looking to improve. Cycling holidays are generally more relaxed and an excellent way to explore new terrain without the pressure to perform. Decide what your goals are for the year, if you intend to race or you’re targeting some big sportives then a training camp will be beneficial. If you’re simply looking for motivation to get back on the bike and rediscover your cycling mojo, or purely for enjoyment of being on the bike, a cycling holiday is the way forward.”

Just booking a training camp can be the incentive to get out and train in the winter, it gives you something to work towards and look forward to when you are slogging it out in the gloomy UK winter. It will reinvigorate your training, boost your fitness and up your motivation levels, what’s not to like!

Holly Seear
Level 3 British Cycling Coach

We’re All going on a Winter, Spring, Summer Holiday!

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 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

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

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.

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

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

    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

CHS

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Trek Travel

Trek Travel

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.

Bikeboyslim

Pendle Tandem Carrier Roof Rack Reviewed

Earlier this year my wonderful wife surprised me with a Tandem for our 25th Wedding anniversary, which does fit in the back of our people carrier however does not allow us to have anyone else in the car, which would be a bit of a problem when we head to France for our family summer holiday. The solution a tandem roof rack, but which one?

If I am honest I have never really been a fan of bike racks that clamp onto the frame, they often scuffPendle Tandem Roof Rack or damage the tube they clamp to and the the thought of only one clamp point with a Tandem did not appeal.

I scoured the marketplace and came up with three main options but the cost of two of the choices really ruled them out, so I finally plumped for the Pendle Tandem Carrier with front fork clamp. It also meant that I would be supporting a British Engineering firm, in my eyes a big bonus.

The prices direct from Pendle where not great so I placed an order via www.roofbox.co.uk a company I have used over the years to buy roof rack items at very reasonable prices and that was certainly true of the Pendle Rack.

I eagerly awaited the arrival of the bike rack, almost like an expectant father. Roofbox did not let me down, rapid delivery to my place of work in plenty of time for my test run for the Great Manchester Cycle a few weeks before our holiday.

The weekend before the ride I decided to fit the rack to our roof bars, as we no longer live in the 70’s flat pack world of missing parts and several trips backwards and forwards for missing screws and nuts, I assumed I did not need to go through the check list provided with the rack. How wrong could I be!!

I quickly and easily assembled the main part of the rack body and got it in place to clamp to the roof bars, but wait there is something missing. No maybe I missed them in the shrink wrapped packaging, surely the bottom plates for clamping to the roof bars are still in the box. After several minutes of vigourusly shaking the box nothing, they where missing, unbelievable! A quick email to Pendle to ask for the parts job sorted, but no joy ‘please contact supplier’. Ok fair enough but surely they will only contact Pendle etc etc. A quick call to Roofbox and a very helpful customer service assistant kept me on hold while she rang Pendle and got the parts shipped directly to me  (Roofbox 10, Pendle 0!).

The parts arrived the following day and I fitted the rack to the roof bars, but wait I am two bolts short! A quick hunt through my own spares box and two suitable bolts later rack fitted and set up in time for the Great Manchester Ride.

I contacted Pendle direct about the missing bolts and the over all initial lack of service. I did get an email back from one of the directors offering me bolts but to be fair it was sorted. I really wanted to point out that we are no longer in the era of parts falling off cars and missing bits from self assembly furniture, and that it might be an idea to actually do some quality control on final packaging.

On a positive note the rack does do what is says on the tin and works really well holding the tandem in place very securely, which is all it needs to do. (Pendle 10 out of 10 for functionality). It is not perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing item and maybe not of the highest quality for chroming and powder coating but that does not matter too much.

When we arrived in France I noticed another family with a Pendle rack and asked if they had any problems with supply. They too had bought from Roofbox with excellent service, and yes they too had parts missing for the bike rack, you’ve guessed it bottom plate and bolts. Hmm looks like mine is not an isolated instance. Come on Pendle! Nelson, Lancashire is surely not languishing 30 years behind us all, get your quality control sorted!

jerseyRatingPendleTandemRackFunctionality 90%

Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude (Pendle) 10%

Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude Roofbox 100%

I would recommend Roofbox for bike rack and roof bar supplies, but I might just pay the extra and avoid the hassle of buying a Pendle rack again.

RRP: £162.00 for both versions

Girona Gran Fondo – A Grand Affair

Stepping out into the heart of the Catalan town in the northern region of Spain after a 2 hour direct flight from a London airport, it’s not hard to see why Girona is considered home and chosen training ground to a number of professional cyclists. Hidden in the maze of medieval buildings of buzzing restaurants and bars lies Bike Breaks Girona, a bike rental, cycling holidays and guided cycling center which quickly became my home for the week of the Girona Gran Fondo festival.

Girona Ride Neil Martin

Being lead-out into the moutains by Neil ©HayleyDavies

With three packages to choose from, there was plenty to get involved in throughout the week.  Daily rides from the shop lead by Neil Martin, ex-professional and Olympian, otherwise known as “Dan Martin’s Dad”,  welcome dinner, a nocturne, timed hill-climb, massage, pasta party and the concluding 125km Gran Fondo, the Gold group was clearly the place to be.

I can’t say Girona would have been my first cycling holiday of choice, however I was quickly shown why it should be. Within 5 -10 minutes of cycling out from the shop, we were onto quiet, pot-hole-free rolling roads into the countryside. Ask for a ‘flat ride’ and you’ll get an evil chuckle back. Nestled halfway between the Pyrenees and the beaches of the Costa Brava, flat doesn’t exist here. Not much of a climber, it took me a day or so to find my legs, but it wasn’t long before I too was enjoying the 10km climbs. I can’t thank the ride guides enough for the support throughout with local road knowledge (warnings of climbs or how long before a coffee stop), motor pacing me back on when I was dropped on climbs, and helping me make the most of the descents at speed.

On our second shop ride, we were treated to some special guests, local professional riders Marc de Maar (UHC), Sharon Laws (UHC), Lucy Martin (Estado de Mexico), Carlee Taylor (Orica-AIS) and  Loren Rowney (Specialized Lululemon) who were happy to share their training route to the coast. This wasn’t the last time we would see them either, volunteering their time to marshal the nocturne and the Gran Fondo.

 

‘You will see the angel!’

Els Angels Hill Climb

‘You will see the Angel!’ ©HayleyDavies

Unlike many cycling holidays or training camps, the festival also allowed some competitive battles. The timed hill climb on Thursday morning was a tough 11km climb up to Els Angels. The hottest day of the week so far, the ascent of 404m was tough… for those competing (yes, I chickened out!). But with a Tag Heuer watch on offer, there was a lot to compete for. Setting off in 2 minute  intervals, the men’s winner Raul Castello Garcia (Bike Esplugues) beat local favourite and bike lead Neil Martin by 32 sceonds, finishing in an astounding 22 minutes and 16 seconds. Adel Tyson-Bloor, English national rider for Mulebar-Girl Sigma Sport was pipped to gold by Katrina Grove in 26 minutes and 2 seconds. Was it worth the climb? For the pasta party at the top over-looking the Pyrenees and the coast, it certainly was.

 

The rescheduled on Thursday night nocturne (postponed on Tuesday night due to a storm – thankfully reducing the humidity), was quite possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ridden. Not your usual nocturne format, only 300m of the 2.5km course was timed. However, this 300m section also happened to have an average gradient of 7.4% (with a steeper section of 12%). And as if that wasn’t challenging enough, it was cobbled! With recovery between timed sections riders were able to take the 10 laps at their own pace, although it wasn’t long before I was lapped. This was truly a unique experience, not only for the cyclists who took part, but the locals too, who had all taken to the streets, including Garmin-Sharp’s David Millar to cheer us on, and Lucy Martin, Sharon Laws and Loren Rowney handing out water and energy products as well as words of encouragement at the top of each timed section. I don’t think I would have completed the 10 climbs if it hadn’t have been for the cheers!

Girona Gran Fondo

Enjoying the views from another false-flat ©HayleyDavies

The week came to a close on Saturday, following Friday night pre-race drinks, with the Gran Fondo. Along with 200 other cyclists all wearing the commemorative jerseys, we really were treated to a tour of the region. We were sent out into the Garrotxa region, famous for its prehistoric volcanic activity – this says it all – climbing a total of 2000m over 125km, majority of which happened in the first 60km, making it a tough start to the day. Once we’d broken the ascending barrier however, we were treated to corn and sunflower fields, panoramic views, woodlands and some fantastic winding descents, accompanied and guided by our very own police escort. Although it was a challenging route, the beauty and serenity of the area made it worth the exertion. Rolling across the finish line with two others after 5h20 in the saddle (just under 2 hours behind the fastest man, Neil Martin), we were treated to well-deserved medals, a BBQ and beers.

This had been a truly unique week. It’s not often you’re ride-guided by professionals, treated to some fun competitive events with lucrative prizes and get to meet and mingle with so many other cyclists in what is truly a beautiful area perfect for cycling. And although I write this with 500km and 7200m of climbing in my legs, I can’t wait to get back there next year.

To find out more and to keep an eye on dates for next year, check out http://www.gironagranfondo.com/ or follow @bikebreaks.

 

Our rides:

With thanks to:

BikeBox Online Windsor for rental of a BikeBox Alan

The Windsor Bike Company for loan of a Garmin bike computer

Osmo Nutrition for fueling me through the week

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Review – One Man And His Bike by Mike Carter

 

One Man And His Bike

A life-changing journey all the way around the coast of Britain
by Mike Carter

 

One Man & His Bike

I must confess, I didn’t pick up this book with a great degree of enthusiasm – I’ve read motorcycle-based travel books before and found some can go on long after they run out of interesting things to say. So imagine my surprise when I picked up One Man And His Bike and was almost instantly drawn in – the tagline is simple enough (“what would happen if you were cycling to the office and just kept on pedalling”?), but it’s the execution that makes it fantastic. You can almost see it – a man desperate for escape, for change; he’s cycling to work and reaches a junction. One way – towards work is; traffic jams, road works, blowing horns and exhaust fumes – the other runs alongside the Thames, and onwards out to the sea. Who wouldn’t be intrigued at the possibility, the promise? It’s almost poetic.

Well, Mike Carter was, for one. Instead of heading to Argentina, he decided to load up the bike and follow that road to the sea, and the result is an amazing, epic travelogue, 5000 miles around the coast. It’s not written as a travel guide, or a “how to do your own epic ride”, it’s purely Mike’s story – as a consequence, he doesn’t get bogged down in detail and the narrative fair dances across the page. If you’re looking for his in-depth thoughts on your coastal town, or want a useful guide to an interesting seaside destination, you won’t find it here. But what you WILL find are 350 pages of the most wonderful snapshots, of places, landscapes, history, cycling, beer, cakes, camping, and most of all, people –  Mike will clearly speak to anyone, and it’s his encounters with the broadest variety of the populace that really bring the book to life. On almost every page, it seems, there’s an artful vignette of a meeting between any kind of random person you can think of, and some bloke on a bike.

What makes this a stand out book is that Mike is first and foremost a writer, rather than a cycling enthusiast. His prose is wonderfully measured and efficient, a deftly-wielded artist’s brush picking out beautiful detail rather than a housepainter’s roller covering everything in stodge, so it races along, but it still leaves you with strong impressions of the many things he saw and did, so you get a wonderful sense of the country and its people in a nutshell. And it’s funny, too – proper laugh-out-loud-in-public funny, as well as wistful, insightful and informative.

If you’re a hardcore racer who’s only interested on the inside story from the peloton, this may not be the book for you.  But if you’ve a love of cycling in general and you’re looking for a good read, whether it’s to pass the time whilst winter rages outside, in a hammock on your summer holidays, or even (dare I suggest) on a cycle tour round the country, I highly recommend it. This is a book that has the power to inspire.

CyclingShortsOneManAndHisBikeReviewRating
Title:
One Man And His Bike 

Author: Mike Carter    

Published by Ebury Press

Available in Paperback & eBook

Price:
RRP £7.99 (Paperback), RRP £7.99 (eBook)

Calling all over-40s – a holiday with a difference

There is a new stage race on the calendar for over-40s this year – the Santa Susanna Masters Vuelta, hosted by Poco Loco Cycling

In association with the Hike & Bike in Santa SusannaTourist FoundationHotel Aquamarina. This new race will take place on May 23-25 inclusive in Costa Brava, Spain.
 
There are 4 stages over 3 days, incorporating the following format…
  • Masters only forming 3 races; (1) 40 – 49 (2) 50 – 59 (3) 60+  *TBC*
  • Teams of 4 – Club & Composite accepted (individual entries will be placed into composite teams)
 The proposed stages are as follows:
  • Stage 1. 9 km Team Time Trial – Flat (road bikes only)
  • Stage 2. 90 km Road Race (up & down day with 1 main climb, highest point 430m)

http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=5725956

  • Stage 3. 8 km Individual Time Trial – Flat (road bikes only)
  • Stage 4. 95 km Road race, (with 3 main climbs, highest point 650m)
 
 
So, what else do you need to know?  For starters:
  • Generous Prize money will be on offer across all age groups (over €3,000 cash)
  • Overall Race leader jersey, Combative Jersey & Best Team Jersey (tbc)
  • Luxury hotel accommodation, packages & prices – see below
  • Entry fee: £83 per rider (includes £13 day licence for all stages for non-UCI licence holders  IMPORTANT: Day licence supplement of £13. This day license will cover the insurance for all riders for the whole event that do not have a UCI licence
  • UCI, LVRC & TLI licences accepted

So there’s the “difference” part, but what about the holiday?

Well, Poco Loco Cycling have secured an excellent deal:

Hotel Packages & Prices

Hotel Aquamarina:
Arrival on Thursday and departure on Monday: 4 nights at £30 per night = £120 standard half-board package, free use of the Spa (previous booking required)
5 nights at £30 per night =  £150
7 nights at £30 per night =  £210

Extra lunch=  £5 per person per lunch

Supl. Premium room=  £4 per person per day

Supl. Junior Suite=  £7 per person per day

Guests that want to have full board can do so at an extra cost of £7 per person per day. Extra cost for a single room: £10 per night

Any enquiries should be made via: nick@pocolococycling.com
The hotel can be reached via Girona or Barcelona airports, which can be accessed from most airports.
To keep up to date with news on the event, check out the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/santasusanna.mastersvuelta
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