Firstly, Happy Christmas! Hope you all had a lovely day with your nearest and dearest.
I guess it is sod’s law that Christmas Day, the day when I had no time to ride, had the most wonderful blue skies and winter sunshine. Plus it wasn’t event that cold! Fortunately I had managed to get out for a ride on Monday (23rd), although there were still quite a few flooded points after the torrential rain we’ve had recently
Having to go through flooded parts of the lanes is always a bit of a worry, you never know what is lurking underneath!
Away from the floods it was a really nice ride and lovely, mild winter weather.
Boxing Day arrived and the rain had returned so I made my post Christmas return on Zwift this morning, brushing off the overindulgence with a blast of Emily’s Short Mix and a 40km trot round the virtual Surrey Hills. As I heard several adverts on the radio for the start of the Boxing Day sales, it got me thinking about bike products that I would look to pick up on the cheap if the opportunity arises. Here’s five products that won’t be the most well known, but they are a staple part of my kit.
Squirt Bike Lube – simply the best bike lube I’ve ever used. My drivetrain runs so smooth after an application with Squirt and it lasts a long time too. I have two in my shed, the long lasting and low temperature versions and they’re well worth the £10 price point
Fabric Lumaray V2 Light – quite simply a brilliantly designed front light that doesn’t clutter up your cockpit. The Lumaray clips into your standard Garmin mount (comes with Wahoo adapters) and your Garmin then clips into the top of the light. Available for £25 in some places, the Lumaray carries a 60 Lumens LED and that light covers 270 degree visibility. Clever.
Veloforte Energy Bars – there are a lot of energy bars on the market and it really does come down to personal preference but these are by far and away my favourite. 100% natural, they are created with the aim of giving riders a balanced intake of protein, carbs, electrolytes and minerals. My favourite is the Avanti variant which are vegan and gluten free in addition to being 100% natural but you can buy a mixed case of bars to try for £16.50
Science In Sport Immune Gels – currently available in a brilliant ginger flavoured limited edition, the SiS Immune Gels are great for the winter season. The 22g of carbohydrate in each gel is coupled with a blend of vitamins and minerals to support the immune function. These are currently on offer for £9 for a 10 pack on the SiS website
Cycling Podcast Friends Of The Podcast Subscription – For those days when the weather makes you turn your back on the outside. If you have an interest in pro cycling as well as riding your own bike then the Cycling Podcast is a must in your audio rotation. Lionel Birnie, Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe (as well as many regular guests) present a regular show (daily during Grand Tours) that is full of great feature and incredibly easy to listen to. A ‘Friends’ subscription gains you access to exclusive episodes throughout the year that focus on specific aspects of pro cycling and are very enjoyable. Get rid of your GCN / CW addiction and get on board with these guys
So, there you go. 5 things that I’m positive will enhance your cycling experience through this winter, enjoy!
At the end of October, while I was going through the various health checks to determine the extent of my asthma, the nurse asked me to step on the scales. 85.1kg the digital display flashed back at me. I knew I was overweight but that number shocked me a little bit and the scale of the challenge of the Etape du Tour suddenly seemed much greater, so I set myself a target of 73kg as that would bring me into an ideal weight bracket for my height and age. Now that’s not an easy task at all as that is nearly 2 stone in old money, but I’m determined and having something to focus on usually has a very positive effect on me (my wife may say to the point of obsession). I’ve been weighing myself every Wednesday morning and logging the results with an app, I knew I was close to a stone loss so I hopped on the scales after a Zwift session today.
78.35kg! That’s just under 12st 5lbs, I don’t think I’ve been that light since I was a teenager. Don’t get me wrong, I know that is still weighty but I was delighted!
That means I have now lost over a stone in under 2 months, I reckon that is pretty good going right?!
So, how have I gone about it? Pretty simple really, I’ve cut the crap out of my diet (chocolate, crisps etc) and increased the amount of cardio exercise that I’m doing. I’m not living a monk’s life, that’s no fun, I’ll still have the odd takeaway and a beer with friends but now everything is in moderation.
Cutting out the weights in favour of more cardio has definitely helped too, as has reducing my gym sessions to once a week (the other one reverting to a Zwift based workout). I’ve started back on Zwift with the old favourite, the SST short workout. It’s great for building base fitness but I’ve dialled back the watts so I can concentrate on keeping the cadence high, as I improve I’ll move the watts up in increments and start to incorporate different workouts. This week I have done purely Zwift work, no gym at all and I feel great.
The system is already noticing the changes and keeps trying to push the FTP number back up automatically but I think I’ll keep doing it my way for now
Out on the bike I’ve focused on tackling hills that have given me problems in the past, improving my technique and testing out what this new lightweight Iain can do. The weather has been incredibly kind over the past few weekends so I’ve managed to get some good rides in, there’s been a bit of debris around where the rains have washed it into the road and I’ve been glad of my tubeless tyres!
I don’t mind the cold, or the rain to a certain extent, it’s the wind that puts me off riding my bike. Luckily we haven’t been subjected to many of the storms that the rest of the UK has seen so stomping away through a headwind has been a fairly minimal experience.
Of course Christmas is coming up and that will be a big test of my resolve when it comes to maintaining my sensible diet, but the promise of multiple rides over two weeks off is quite exciting! I just hope the weather manages dry, crisp and clear for some perfect winter (s)miles. If not, you’ll catch me on Zwift but it just ain’t the same is it….
So the weather has been good enough recently for me not to have to retreat to the shed of doom, however this morning delivered a whole lot of mist and a realisation that I’m not so good at remembering to charge my bike lights. Mist where I live can make the roads quite dangerous, especially across the north downs where it hangs low over the open fields. Therefore I went to the shed and decided to give the Alpe du Zwift another go.
I’ve ridden the Alpe before on my old Tacx Flow Smart trainer so I was interested to see what the difference would be with the Kickr. As it turns out, a fair bit!
Throughout the climb my average watts seemed to be 10-15 watts lower than previous attempts. Now, that could be a fitness related statistic but I actually think this is more likely down to the fact that the Kickr is a lot more accurate and realistic. The reason I say this is that one of the first things I tried with the Kickr was the SST (Short) workout and I had to quit halfway through. The levels were set at the watts I was quite comfortable with on the Tacx but that 10-15 difference seems to make it too difficult (at the moment). I’m glad I found that out as I was quite worried my fitness had gone backwards quite significantly! Time to start again with Zwift I think!
…….although I did complete the Ride California challenge to get the S-Works Tarmac apparently
I guess I should have seen it coming. In the weeks following spending £600 on a new smart trainer we’ve had some of the best Sunday ride weather in any November that I can remember! You can tell that winter is on its way though, I’ve been glad for a gilet and the ever sensible DeFeet Slipstream Oversocks when dry (Prendas overshoes when wet!). The temperatures may be starting to dip but the low sun has been out, making lovely scenes with the autumn colours as it goes and only a few minor flooding incidents to contend with.
I’ve managed a couple of good rides over the past couple of weeks, not long distances by any means (56km and 65km) but enough to keep the legs turning over and I’ve made the most of the weather by trying to visit some new places, see some new things or have a crack at some roads that I haven’t been down in a little while.
A couple of Sunday’s ago I planned to do something different to my usual route, where I would usually take the left fork to go to Downe I would take the right fork to Cudham and up to the Blacksmith’s Arms. For whatever reason I had not been that way since I was riding my old hybrid bike and I rediscovered a road that was actually pretty fun! It had a bit of a gradient so I’m guessing it was that which made me dismiss it as ‘not fun’ all those years ago.
It was a beautiful day following the rain the previous day so I made the most of the opportunity, fearing it may be one of the last this year, but last Sunday was absolutely glorious so I set out to do a few favourite roads and some new ones.
I’d read about a place nearby where there was an open water swimming lake so I decided to go and take a look. It is closed for the season now so there was nobody there but it is a magically calming place
I’m tempted to have a go at open water swimming when the season starts again in March/April time. I think I would be terrible at it but I can understand the appeal, not feeling constrained by the boundaries of a swimming pool.
Sunday’s ride was beautiful. I did my usual route back in to climb up to the top of the North Downs and the views were as good as the middle of summer, I do feel lucky to have this on my doorstep
Then, on Monday, on a still cycling related note, Adam and I attended the live tour show of the Cycling Podcast. We’re big fans of this podcast, it becomes a soundtrack to the summer especially during Grand Tours when there are daily updates. It is presented with a wonderful balance of knowledge, humour and special guests from the world of cycling who have a massive respect for the way this is presented. We joined regulars Richard Moore and Lionel Birnie as well as the wonderful Francois Thomazeau and Mitchelton Scott DS Matt White to listen to some great stories and thoughts on this season. Thomazeau crooned La Marseillaise in a lounge style that could gently send anyone to a peaceful slumber, while Matt White told a story about Niki Terpstra and Luke Rowe that I will never forget!
Wonderfully we were able to get our books signed by all four of the participants that evening….
The cover photo is the wonderful Matt White, running to get bikes and riders onto and into team cars after Stage 19 of the Tour de France was cancelled due to extreme weather and landslides this year. Bits I have read of this book are brilliant, a great Christmas present for any fan of pro cycling
I’ve always been an outdoors person, from my childhood days of playing football in the park till there was no light left to my present day excursions on my bike, I’ll always prefer to be outside in the fresh air. My boys are the same, Zac especially is an outdoors kid who can spend hours in our back garden pottering about or playing football without really feeling the cold. It’s that commitment, family, that prompted my first purchase of a turbo trainer (a Minoura setup with a hand operated resistence wheel) rather than the desire to run and hide from any sign of inclement weather. I hated using it, it was boring and shifting the resistance yourself was a chore so it never really got used and ended up in the shed, gathering dust.
Fast forward a couple of years and we’d signed up for the London to Paris run. I knew that I had a lot of work to do on my fitness to be able to complete the task we’d set ourselves so I invested in a new trainer, a Tacx Flow T2240 Smart Trainer, and hooked it up to Zwift. This is where the game changed for me, the visual appeal of Zwift combined with the computer controlled resistance and the availability of set workouts gave turbo sessions a bit of focus and reduced the boredom factor. I purchased some bluetooth headphones, constructed some playlists and off I went.
I’ve never advanced very far on Zwift, I’m still only on level 14, because any chance I get I will go outside (or to the gym). I like to vary my activities so I’ll normally only go on the trainer once a week, meaning it took me ages to unlock bits of the map like the jungle and the Alpe du Zwift, but now I have a goal to focus on in the 2020 Etape du Tour I will use it a lot more. I made several changes to my turbo setup, including the addition of some clip on tri bars as I struggle with finding a comfortable position on the bike after a while
……there was just one problem, my trainer started to intermittently cut out from the Zwift connection and then, on Sunday, it carked it, refusing to connect at all. Now the casing at the back of the unit has taken a whack somewhere along the line and I have no doubt that is a contributing factor in its demise, but this leaves me in a spot with the winter approaching and less light to play with. I decided to invest in a new direct drive trainer as my usage will go up considerably in the coming months and so, following a bit of research on good sites like GPLama, I purchased a Wahoo Kickr Core.
The RRP for these is £699 across the board online but I found a deal with Wiggle, including a cassette, for £635 so that was good enough for me. The Kickr Core arrived today and is simple to put together and connect to my Macbook Air. So far so good…..
…..it also has quite a nice freewheel noise!
While I will never be one of those on a Tron bike (I’ll certainly not be cheating to get one!) I am a fan of the turbo/Zwift combination and I have only heard good things about other apps like Trainer Road and Sufferfest. However, given the chance (and the time), you’ll always find me outside enjoying the fresh air.
If you want to add me on Zwift my username is Iain Sisson
When I look back over the last few years I’m always pretty shocked about how much I’ve accomplished on a bicycle. From the London to Brighton and London to Paris to the Ride London I’ve completed things that, 10 years ago, would have been impossible for me. I have got fitter, but I haven’t been one of those people who has a diet that takes all the fun out of life and I certainly don’t deny myself treats or nice meals or the odd takeaway.
I’ve had a bumper year this year; Paris-Roubaix, cycling in Sweden, Ride London and a visit to the UCI World Championships have made for some brilliant experiences so my mind started to turn towards 2020 and what I could possibly do as a new experience. The tests with the doctors on my breathing and the subsequent assertion that I have no lasting damage from smoking made me dream big, a big adventure or challenge to really test myself and raise some much needed money for a deserving charity that is, as yet, to be determined.
….but what could I do?
A conversation between myself and an old friend, Ben, including some cajoling and light-hearted teasing led me to the answer. Next year, in July, I am going to be taking part in the Etape du Tour where c.16,000 riders complete a stage of the Tour de France a few days after the pros have rolled through town. This will be the single biggest and hardest thing that I have ever attempted, I am both scared and excited in equal measure.
The 2020 edition of the Etape starts and finishes in Nice in the south of France. The 177km route sets of from the Promenade des Anglais and circles round in a loop including three key climbs; the Col de Colmiane, the Col du Turini and the Col d’Eze meaning a total of 3,570 metres of climbing! Time to lose some weight!
Ben and I have booked our trip through Lovevelo so that all our accommodation and transfers are taken care of, a couple of easyJet flights later and we’re locked in! Ben has completed the Etape before, on the Col d’Izoard in 2017, so this holds no fear for him as he’s a proper mountain goat but I think he’s pleased to have me along for the ride (until he drops me after a kilometer anyway). For me, however, this route is going to present some serious challenges…..
The Col du Turini is fairly fresh in the memory as it was a mountain-top finish in this year’s Paris-Nice stage race. Dani Martinez (EF Education First) rode away from a group with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) to take the win
It is also an incredibly popular destination for cyclists from around the world
Now I know from my recent visit to the nurse that I need to lose some weight. It will help not having to carry as much bulk uphill but it will also help with the breathing element as less fat around the gut means that there is more space for the lungs to inflate when breathing in and therefore a greater capacity of air can be inhaled. I weighed in at 85.1kg which, according to pretty much everything, marks me as overweight! For a man of my height (5’8″) I should be weighing in between 55kg – 75kg
…..so I have at least 10kg to lose (1st 8lb). Pretty scary, but I have a target and I know that will give me such a boost.
The story starts here. From here to Nice, with all the bumps along the way, the Etape du Tour is calling. I’m incredibly excited about scaling some of the Cols that I’ve seen on the TV over the past few years in the Paris-Nice week long race but I know there’s a lot of hard work to put in before that
….stay tuned for updates!
So, a few weeks ago I went to the doctors to talk to him about my breathing. His initial thoughts were ‘exercise induced asthma’ so he prescribed me a Salbutamol inhaler, he also gave me a peak flow meter and asked me to measure my breathing (morning and night) for two weeks. The results of this are below
The numbers mean very little to the common man, the only analysis I can give is that 460 was the high and 340 was the low. To put them into context the below shows a peak flow measuring chart
So, for a man of my age and height, the normal peak flow number should be in the region of 620, clearly not what I was producing! I will caveat my numbers with the information that I have had a cough and a cold pretty much since I got the device so I don’t think that helped!
What was interesting, however, was the impact of the inhaler. After exerting myself on Zwift with the use of the inhaler I measured the peak flow again and my reading had jumped to between 550 and 580!
I returned to the doctor and he referred me to the nurse for a spirometry test which I took yesterday. All my resting readings were normal, with a slight rise in performance with the inhaler, so she asked me to return after taking some more pre, post and post inhaler exercise. Her initial thinking was that I have a slight form of exercise induced asthma that is brought on by one or more factors like pollution, pollen etc.
Probably the best thing about the appointment (aside from a good blood pressure and oxygen check) was the nurse telling me that my readings suggest that there is no lasting damage caused by smoking. For that I am relieved as I have some pretty big plans to tell you about soon……..
On Sunday (13th October), Adam and I ventured over to Yorks Hill near Sevenoaks to watch the 124th running of the annual Catford CC Hill Climb. While not the longest, it is the oldest continuing hill climb competition in the country and therefore has a prestige associated with it for hill climb aficionados.
The climb itself starts at Yorks Hill Farm and extends for 0.4 of a mile at an average of 12.4%, but that really doesn’t tell the whole story. The climb is a narrow, tree covered affair with steep banks either side of the road. Rain washes debris into the road and leaves can cover a multitude of watt-sapping imperfections in the road surface. The members from Catford CC did a great job of clearing the road the day before and, thankfully, the rain looked like it would stay away.
To give an additional idea of how difficult this ride is, the course record of 1:47.6 has stood since 1983, over 35 years!
Nearly 150 riders attempted the climb on Sunday and we cheered every single one of them on to the top. Young, old, male, female – they all made it up this brute with many going on to compete in the Bec Hill Climb that afternoon! Nutters! Enjoy the slideshow!
The overall competition was won by Calum Brown in a time of 1:49.0, the closest we’ve seen to the course record for those 35+ years. A great ride and fully deserving of the title.
Bill Bell was the fastest male veteran, Amy Marks was the fastest female senior, Alice Gilmore the fastest female junior and Theo Tadros the fastest male junior.
The greatest thing for me was still to come, Cycling Weekly picked up my pictures on Twitter and used them in one of their online articles. I was pretty stoked about that!
It’s a great event, plenty of people on the hill to cheer the riders on and a special mention for the guy on the PA who kept us laughing throughout
It was September 1982, at Goodwood Motor Circuit, when the cycling World Championships were last held in the United Kingdom. 37 years later, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see the pinnacle of the cycling season first hand after being invited by Alpecin Cycling. I’d already missed some pretty sensational performances in the time trials, especially from Chloe Dygert and Rohan Dennis, by the time that I travelled up on the Friday. The rain was bouncing as I reached Leeds so I pushed on the next train to Harrogate to meet some of Cycling Twitter’s finest in the Alexandra Pub
I’d not met most of these people before, only conversing with them through Twitter on our mutual love of cycling, so it was great to be able to buy a few drinks (to have mine spilt – Jamie!) and share a few laughs with a great bunch of people.
As the evening went on we headed down to the Old Swan Hotel where the Alpecin Cycling ‘Caravan’ was parked up, we’d also heard that the Dutch and USA teams were staying so I was hoping to grab a few words with Mike Teunissen to say hello and wish him all the best for the Sunday coming. As the hotel was located right by the Flamme Rouge we headed outside to watch the U23 race come by, what we hadn’t banked on was watching the end with Dutch great Annemiek van Vleuten on a mobile screen. Pretty surreal.
Our joy at Nils Eekhof winning was short-lived however, as he was subsequently disqualified for illegal drafting behind the team car on his way back to the bunch after a mechanical. A real shame for the lad.
I managed to grab a few words with Mike in the hallway after he’d given an interview to the Dutch press, we (he) had a laugh about Arsenal beating Forest in the cup and he told me he was feeling good but (and I think the quote was) “it’s all about Mathieu, eh” referring to the great Dutch hope, Mathieu van der Poel.
My best efforts to go to bed early in preparation for Saturday’s Alpecin ride out were, at best, incredibly poor but ride we did and we met some great people along the way
We covered 65km which was more than enough for me following a few beers and a week with a sore throat! Thankfully the rain gave way to some lovely sunshine, albeit coupled with a fairly stiff breeze. I got to ride a Canyon Aeroad CF SL which was lovely, I’d never ridden on rims that deep before and they did cause me a few issues in the wind but it was a lot of fun.
After lunch we headed into town as the Alpecin Cycling team had got us places in the UCI Hospitality Tent to watch the end of the Women’s Elite Race. Our own cycling done, we were free to sample the free food and drink including some pretty amazing pies! We watched, amazed, as Annemiek van Vleuten attacked with 100km to go and rode away from the rest of the pack, soloing all the way to the line. Our fortunate placement meant that we were on hand to see that close up!
It was a quite phenomenal ride, a ride worthy of the Rainbow Bands. We headed back to the Old Swan to join in the celebrations and to meet up with the rest of the Alpecin team. While we were there, Annemiek van Vleuten rode back in sporting the rainbow jersey and her gold medal to rapturous applause from the gathered fans
Not even a rogue fire alarm was going to spoil her day!
The rain returned with a vengeance for Sunday’s Mens Elite race, so much that the race was shortened and the possible attack points of Buttertubs and Grinton Moor were removed. It looked appalling from the pictures, many of us wondered whether the race would go ahead at all. We headed down to the Old Swan to see what the craic was for the day, first stop a haircut!
Ben (the barber) was a genuinely good lad, loves his bikes and racing and is a bit of an Instagram star as well as running a few barber shops in London, nice fella so give him an Insta follow @ldn_brbr
That done we were headed back towards the UCI Hospitality which we were all glad of due to the weather, but Kirsty from the event team had one more surprise for us. We had been given the chance to go out in the lap cars that follow the riders around on the Harrogate finishing circuit. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I wasn’t going to miss that. It was everything I had hoped for and more – despite the rain the crowds were absolutely AMAZING. Cycling fans are a hardy bunch and they know how to have fun while passing the time till the riders come round again!
Back in the hospitality tent I watched as Mike Teunissen followed some attacks and made his way into the front group, I started to get a bit excited about that. He looked in good shape, however with 2 laps to go his legs deserted him and he drifted back to the pack. It was that moment when MVDP made his move and took Trentin with him. We planned our move outside to perfection, securing prime real estate on the finish line….
When MVDP bonked on the Otley Road I don’t think anyone really believed it. Trentin was definitely the fastest finisher so he was definitely going to go on and win the rainbow jersey, wasn’t he? Well, Mads Pedersen had something to say about that. He sailed past Trentin, arms aloft to take the jersey at the ripe old age of 23.
It was a great performance and a deserved win, any rider who wins in those conditions fully deserves their title. I don’t know why it was such a surprise, here’s a lad that finished 2nd in De Ronde last year.
I left Yorkshire that evening, having had a great weekend. I’d cycled, watched cycling, talked about cycling, dreamt about cycling, drank some good beer and ate some pretty nice pies.
As I said, I met some great people on my travels so give these people an Instagram follow:
@glorious.cc, @danevanscycling, @jess_rides_bikes, @ldn_brbr
Those who have read this blog, or who know me well, will know my history with cycling, how I gave up smoking nearly 6 years ago now after 20 years on the fags. It was that event that caused me to find this hobby as a means to get fit and find something to focus on. I never imagined it would lead to what my wife would term an obsession.
As I approached the end of September, which will mark that 6 year anniversary, I started to look back on how far I had progressed. I’ve done some wonderful things that I never would have believed possible; London to Paris, Brighton and back, Ride London x2 were huge achievements for me, but I couldn’t help but feel that I should be better than I am. At the top of Clarks Lane, a couple of weeks back, I slumped on my bars and gasped for some air. I’d ridden this short and gentle climb numerous times, it’s only 1.3km at a 4.1% average gradient, yet it always knocks the stuffing out of me regardless of whether its the first or last climb on my ride
I made the decision there and then to go to the doctors to get myself checked out, if I had been 2 years into non-smoking I may well have felt differently but I have trained and worked hard on my cycling over the 6 year period and my gut told me that I wasn’t improving. I fully understand that my smoking could have done irreparable damage to my lungs and breathing but I wanted to get checked out, just to be sure.
This morning I went to the doctor’s surgery and sat down with him to discuss my situation. I think he was quite impressed with the wholesale changes I have made to my lifestyle and he hypothesised that I am possibly suffering from exercise induced asthma. He prescribed me a peak flow meter which takes readings of air flow out of your lungs and I have to do this when I wake up and before I go to bed for two weeks in order to collect data that may help to determine whether I need full preventative asthma medication
In addition to this he also prescribed me a Salbutamol inhaler, the substance at the centre of the Chris Froome scandal last year. This is reserved for the days where I do exercise, I’m to take it before I go out cycling and carry it with me in case I feel the need to ‘top up’.
This is my ‘Icarus moment’ (for those who are unaware, Icarus is a Netflix documentary where Bryan Fogel explores doping to win a cycling race), however mine is completely legal! I am at the point where I know my abilities inside out, I really do think I will be able to spot any changes in performance and overall condition from the introduction of this medication. I’m thoroughly therapeutically exempt, I have the signature! Flippancy aside, I am both interested and excited to see what happens and whether my cycling improves as a result. Clarks Lane will be my ‘control’ segment, I know how to ride it and changes will be easy to spot.
Last thing on this, the UK NHS service is a wondrous and amazing thing. Anybody trying to tamper with it or dismantle it should be ashamed.