Lancashire Hills with Lucy Martin

Lucy Martin Reaching Summit of Shayley Brow Training for 2012 Lotto-Decca Tour – © Paul Francis Cooper

 

On the first Sunday of the London Olympic Games, years of anticipation, hope and preparation came to fruition for Lucy Martin. As a member of Great Britain’s Women’s Olympic Road Race team, with Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke, she gave her all on a treacherous, rain soaked, Box Hill Circuit, delivering a well orchestrated plan to help the team’s fourth member, Lizzie Armitstead, to take silver on the Mall and Great Britain’s first medal of the Games.

 

In so doing, she became the second cycling Olympian from her hometown of Widnes, Cheshire, since John Geddes secured bronze on the Melbourne track as part of a GB team pursuit team, which included Mike Gambrill, Don Burgess and nineteen-year old Tom Simpson in the 1956 Olympics.

 

Representing her country in the home Olympics marks the highest point so far in Martin’s cycling career, which started when she was fifteen years old, her potential spotted by British Cycling’s talent identification team on a visit to her secondary school. Although she had competed as a club swimmer and school runner, she had never before been involved in cycling, and, doubting that she could meet British Cycling requirements, almost missed the vital assessment session because of a timetable clash with another subject.

 

Recruited into the junior talent development team, she joined the Olympic Development Programme after winning the National Junior Road Race Championship in 2008.

 

Now an established professional women’s road racer based in Girona, Spain, with what she describes as the dream-like experience of taking part in the home Olympics behind her, she is very aware that the time is right to focus on new athletic and career targets.

Image © Paul Francis Cooper

 

I joined her on Lancashire’s lanes whilst she was out on a training ride in preparation for last weekend’s Belgian three-day stage race, the Lotto-Decca Tour. And she told me. “My three-weeks in the Olympic village were amazing – I had to pinch myself as I rubbed shoulders with the world’s greatest, like Usain Bolt. The crowds and excitement of the road race, and Lizzie winning the medal will stay with me forever. But coming home to my family in Widnes has been a really welcome chance to calm down and plan for the future.”

 

The third stage of the Lotto-Decca Tour involves two ascents of the Kapelmur Cobble, infamous as a regular feature in the Tour of Flanders. And Lucy’s training session took in an impressively fast ascent of Billinge’s Shayley Brow, which, with its 14% maximum gradient, is also a regular lung-tester for St Helens pro-rider Jonny McEvoy (Endura Racing) and Liverpool’s Mark McNally (An Post Sean-Kelly), regular winter training partners of Lucy when the three friends are home from racing and training abroad.

 

And her work on Shayley Brow went to good use in the tough final stage of the Lotto-Decca on Monday. Chasing an early break, she pulled hard at the front of the bunch for much of the stage, providing strong support for her team’s sprinter, Holland’s Kirsten Wild, who narrowly missed a podium placing with a bravely contested, but frustrating, fourth general classification position.

 

In career terms, Lucy’s next major target is to negotiate a new professional contract, having learned recently that her current team, AA Drinks-Leontein.nl, (which also includes  Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley and GB National Road Race winner, Sharon Laws on its team-list) will lose its sponsor at the end of the season.

 

Eyeing a number of options for 2013, she is hoping for greater interest in women’s cycling and the personal opportunity to switch from her current, mainly support, position to a team role in which she will be able to chase her own podium places more regularly.

 

 

 

Do Big Calves Make a Faster Cyclist?

 

Wade Wallace And His Calves - Image ©Copyright - cyclingtipsblog.com

You’ve probably noticed a lot of cyclists out there with these wicked big calves. They look great and give an impression of pure strength, but do they contribute to providing more power and speed on the bike?

My buddy, Wade over at Cycling Tips is one of these dudes with killer calves, and those are his bad boys in the picture at the top of this post. Wade also just happened to pass over this great little diagram on legs and how the pedal stroke relates to each body part.

As you can see in the diagram, the calves play a role right around the 5:00 mark of the pedal stroke and is somewhat on the low end of muscle groups used in the stroke. But I personally can’t help but think that strong calves do help make you faster… even if just slightly. The reason I say this is because all it takes is a glance down to the calves of pretty much any pro rider and you’ll see a nice set of Gastrocnemius’ on them. Not all of them, but I think that’s because not everyone has the potential for massive looking calves. But I’ll guarantee that they’re still strong even if they don’t look that way. I don’t feel that having shaved calves is what makes them appear bigger and stronger… they’ve been built up in response to the work load they take while pounding the pedals.

Just have a look at these boulders on the legs of Yaroslav Popovych… he’s just one of the cyclists with amazing calves, but his are just incredible.

Yaroslav Popovych

So to sum up, it’s safe to say that big strong quads will make you a faster cyclist… but I also feel that strong calves will help out as well. It may just be a small advantage, but still helpful none-the-less. How about you? What’s your take on calves and cycling? Let’s hear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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