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Cycling

Girona Cycling Climbs

Classic Climbs of Girona: Mare de Déu del Mont

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Girona is renowned as a cyclist’s paradise for a reason: the city provides the perfect base from which to explore the myriad climbs of the surrounding area as well as being home to a plethora of cafes and restaurants – and as we know, cyclists love coffee and food just as much as riding bikes! This is the first of a forthcoming series of blogs on the cycling highlights of the Girona area, and what better way to start than with one of the most iconic local climbs and a real favourite: Mare de Déu Del Mont.

Let us first dispense with the problematic mouthful that is its name: Mare de Déu Del Mont literally translated, means ‘mother of God of the mountain’ and is actually the name of the shrine located at the top. A HC behemoth and one of the longest climbs in the area you would be forgiven for issuing forth a ‘Mare de Déu!’ of your own upon tackling the gradients of it’s upper slopes.

There are two ways to take on Mare de Déu, the ‘easier’ route is from Cabanelles: 18.54km with an avg grade of 5%. The gradient is more constant and less gruelling on this side but there are also short descents and flats in places, which do provide welcome breaks but can mess up your rhythm (this is true of both sides). The bottom slopes are surrounded by woodland so there’s nothing much to look at but your own stem or whoever happens to be in front. As you gain elevation, however, the trees give way to some of the most stunning views around which coincides nicely with the most painful part of the climb so you can concentrate on picking out where you just climbed from instead of your burning legs. Indeed, one of the draws of climbing Mare de Déu del Mont is the spectacular scenery from the very top of its 1,093m summit which include panoramic vistas of the surrounding area including the Pyrenees in the distance, Banyoles Lake and, on a clear day, the Costa Brava coastline.

The second route is through the Medieval town of Besalú, the charms of which make it worthy of its own blog, and I would recommend posing for the obligatory photos with the 12th century Romanesque bridge before Mare de Déu leaves you looking sweaty and knackered. From this side it’s 20km in length and the average gradient is still 5% although much of that comes from the flatter bottom section. After taking a right turn in Besalú the road edges upwards slightly before you reach the tiny town of Beuda where the climb begins proper. From there you need to choose your gear selection wisely as the narrow road can go from a descent to a 10%+ slope in a matter of one corner. After a few kilometres of this and a series of hairpins comes a junction – it will be very tempting to take a right and descend the other side down to Cabanelles but that won’t get you any glory or kudos from your mates so take the left and continue the climb following the same road as the Cabanelles side for the remaining 6.6km of 7-10% gradient to the top.

It’s worth adding that, once you’ve enjoyed your fill of the scenery on offer from the top, the descent should be treated with great respect and care as the roads are narrow, steep, and twisty and there may be oncoming traffic.

High Mountain Cycling Tour

How to prepare for your cycling tour in the high mountains

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Have you signed up to an epic cycling tour in the high mountains this summer? Use this 6-step guide to prepare for your trip.

1. Training & Recovery

When you signed up for the tour you probably had an ambitious training plan which would get you to an optimum fitness level. Often, work, family and life in general all get in the way of this.

First things first, do not worry. The most important step is acceptance of your state of fitness because it is possible to enjoy a tour in the high mountains with any fitness level.

You must travel to the tour well rested. Do not attempt to cram in last minute training because there will be no physiological benefit in this short time frame. Continue to spin the legs and do your normal social/weekend rides.
Any intense block training programs should end 1-2 weeks before the tour to allow you to recover and rest.

2. Bike set-up

The bike you use for the tour should be treated to a full race service. Although you will not be racing, conditions in the high mountains are harsh on your bike, equivalent to a race. Descending large descents wears out brake pads and heats up rims, rough roads and rain can result in punctures if your tyres and tubes are not serviced/replaced, bearings are very hard to replace remotely and you don’t want that creak for 2 hours climbing each mountain, do you?! It’s money well invested on your own bike, or go for a rental bike which will be set-up and serviced perfectly for the conditions.

3. Bike components

Gearing is the most common mistake in the high mountains. You will always want more gears, so go for the maximum: Compact crankset (50-34) and large cassette (11-32).

Carbon rims should be used only by experienced riders, who can give the rims adequate time to cool down. Disc brakes can be safer in wet conditions.

Think about your contact points: saddle and shoes. Use what has worked best for you in the past and don’t make any last minute changes or upgrades. If you rent a bike, bring your own saddle and pedals.

4. Nutrition

Related closely to training and recovery, your diet influences how you perform and your enjoyment of the tour. “You are what you eat” has never been a truer statement.

Try not to drink too much alcohol on the run-up to the tour and keep your diet consistent to what you know works well.

On the tour stick to nutrition that you have tried and tested. It’s fine to reach for a gel at a time of need but if you don’t normally use them, do not start the day with them. Eat as much normal food as possible and only reach for the sugary treats when you have to.

Straight after your ride try to take in a protein shake or snack straight away. This is when your body needs it most and is essential to effective recovery for the next day.

5. Kit

Our favorite saying is; “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. Weather in the high mountains can change quickly and forecasts are not that reliable. Even if your tour takes place in the middle of summer, at the top of the Stelvio pass (2,800 m elevation) it is cold all year round.

Pack cycling kit for all conditions, including shoe covers, long fingered gloves, a buff and a very good waterproof jacket. Laundry is normally done every other night on tours so bring at least 2 of everything.

Your daily ride bag (for the support vehicle) should contain a full-set of kit which you will cherish after a downpour.

6. Know your ride

Effective pacing on a long hard ride can be the difference between finishing the day on the bike or ending it in the van. You will often see the key climbs written on the top of a professional riders crossbar so he/she knows when to get in the right position or just when the suffering will end!

If the ride involves 3 climbs then its best to leave the all-out effort to the last one. If you know your threshold power or heart-rate, you should be staying below this to ensure you do not burnout too quickly. Don´t let other riders tempt you into the red too early, know your limit and ride within it.

We hope these 6 points help you to enjoy your epic mountain cycling tour this summer!

8 household items you’ll be glad of on your cycling holiday…

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Take care of your bike on holiday and don’t jeopardise the trip! Following our simple tips should help you get the most out of it.

We’ve just returned from a week-long cycling trip around Lake Como in Italy with 8 guests from the US.

We travelled over land and sea during the trip, had all kinds of weather and different terrain each day, so naturally, delivering these trips presents logistical and practical challenges.

However, with careful planning – and some household items we often take for granted, your trip can be greatly enhanced.

Here is a list of things you should always pack before heading away on a cycling holiday…and why

Bungee cords

Why? No support car driver likes anything moving around in the back and if you respect your bike, you should never allow anything hard come into contact with any part of it! There is no uglier mark on a bike than a pedal scraping the chainstay or seat stay, and it can all be avoided by packing everything neatly and tightly together. The best way to achieve this is bringing some bungee cords!

Bubble wrap and/or cardboard

You can’t even imagine the horror of what your bike goes through on some flights and some transfers so eliminate the risk of damage by bringing your own packing material. 9 metres of bubble wrap will set you back about €4 and this will protect your precious frame from being scratched. Bubble wrap+bungee cords = happy bike.

Baby wipes

Your hands will get sticky when that energy gel bursts, when you need to remount a dropped chain and when you’ve reached into your pocket for a mushy energy bar. You’ll get chainring marks on your right leg and probably your shoes too. Your face will be covered in chocolate – and your bidons too, so keep yourself neat and tidy with a simple baby wipe.

Masking tape

Does it even need an explanation? This week alone we found masking tape useful when building a cardboard bike box for shipping, for taping cardboard and bubble wrap to frames pre-flight and pre-transfers. We taped the day’s profile to each rider’s stem, we taped the route profile to the dashboard and we taped gels to bidons to hand out at the feed zone. Genius!

Newspaper

Is there anything worse than descending a climb in the cold with your chest taking those icy gales? Yes there is….stepping into a pair of wet cycling shoes you forgot to dry out after yesterday’s  ride. Thankfully, a newspaper forms a brilliant wind protector and it can be very neatly tucked under the straps of your bib shorts. Simply bin it at the bottom and you’ve perhaps avoided picking up a nasty cold. As for the shoes, stuff a sheet of paper towards the top of each and have bone dry feet the next day!

Lights

Tunnels are common in Europe, especially in the French Alps and Italy. Many have ways around them but some are unavoidable. They can be scary places as there’s often no hard shoulder. Solution? Front and back lights. They weigh nothing, cost a pittance, and could save your life!

Adaptor

Is there anything more frustrating than running out of charge on your bike or worse, your computer dies six hours into a seven-hour day? Don’t expect hotels to supply the adaptor so bring your own.

Sandwich bags

Keys, cards, cash, phone and map. Keep them dry and keep them together by using a sandwich bag.

Tin foil

Keep those feet warm and dry on icy cold days by packing some tin foil into the top of your shoes, over your socks. Yes, the Galibier and the Stelvio can be freezing, even in July, so take no chances!

Gravel Cycling Girona Ridley Ignite Bike

5 reasons why you should consider Gravel Cycling

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Let’s face it, once a roadie always a roadie. Or not? Read on to see why you should seriously consider gravel cycling as a new discipline to add to your repertoire of excuses to ride and reasons to go to new places.

  1. Gravel cycling can be really fast. If you are a roadie you are probably a speed junkie – hurtling down descents at uncontrollable speeds and trying to do the same up-hill. On the right gravel tracks, and with the right set-up you can pull upwards of 30 Km/ hr. The gravel bike you’ll want in this instance is basically a road bike with disc brakes and wider tyres, so you can still get aero, tuck into the drops for descents and lean into the corners, with the added joy of keeping those tyres the right way up!
  2. Zero traffic. This has to be experienced to be appreciated. Imagine a road training ride without a single car, lorry, even pedestrian. Only the tweeting of birds and that lovely mechanical sound from your bike. Not only does it make for a far more enjoyable ride, it’s far safer too. You get points with your better half because you are partaking in a safer style of cycling.
  3. Many more routes and combinations. Have you run out of roads to ride? Come on, we all get tired of the same road leaving town or slog back home. Imagine taking away the need for your route to be tarmacked. Having wheels on your bike to enable you to jump up on the curb and skip through a park or around that dodgy roundabout (put your posh carbon rims to one side for once). You will see where you ride in a completely different light. From our Hub in Girona, we ride the gravel paths around Rocacorba, a famous road climb in the area. On road, there is one way up and one way down. You see the mountain from the same angle every time. On the gravel bike, you can duck and dive around the beautiful landscape taking it in from every angle. It’s unreal!
  4. You may not actually need a new bike. We all love a new bike and we hate to break the n+1 rule but we will. Around Girona, we ride many of the gravel routes on our Ridley road bikes. The trend in road already is wider rims and wider tyres. With a 28mm rim and nice wide tyre, setting the pressure right will have you hurtling down gravel paths like they are a road. For the more technical ascents and descents you may need more clearance for a wider wheel, so why not have a through axle set-up that you can change from road to gravel wheels. BOOM – 2 bikes in one!
  5. You can still ride in a group. One of the drawbacks of mountain biking is it takes away the social aspect of riding together, which we love on the road. 2 abreast is not possible on a technical trail if you’re going up or down. But on many gravel trails, it is still possible. In Girona, large groups take to the gravel trails for their Sunday social rides.

We’re sure that if you try you too will get the gravel bug! In Girona, we have gravel bikes for rent and can show you the best trails. Watch this space for exciting gravel tours over Europe coming soon!

Cycling in Spain Top Destinations

Top 10 Must Ride Cycling Destinations in Spain

By | Cycling, ESC Explore, Girona, Picos de Europa, Pyrenees, South Spain | No Comments

There’s much more to cycling in mainland Spain than sunshine and smooth roads. From the highest paved road in Europe (Pico de Veleta in the Sierra Nevadas) to the green countryside of the País Vasco, Spain’s vast and diverse landscape will have you begging for new adventures. Be sure to tick off these cycling destinations from your bucket list.

1. Girona

There is no doubt that Girona is the cycling capital of Europe. Home to hundreds of professionals, the old town has a charm that is hard to not fall in love with. Riding is the perfect mix of flat, rolling countryside and some challenging climbs in the foothills of the Pyrenees. If you want character, culture and good food alongside high-quality cycling, look no further than Girona.

2. Andalucia

South Spaniards are very laid back (and who can blame them in the roasting temperatures of the Summer). But visit Andalucia from October through to May and you’ll have a spring in your pedal stroke. The rustic towns of Antequera & Ronda both provide a great base to ride from and are easily accessed from Málaga airport.

3. ‎Picos de Europa

Hugely underrated, the Picos de Europa or “Peaks of Europe” were named by Columbus for being the first mountains he saw on his return from America. They are beautiful rock formations comparable to the Dolomites. Don’t miss Lagos de Covadonga, a stunning series of lakes over 1,000 m up in the sky. Puerto de San Gloria is a hidden gem of a climb that will leave you wanting to find more “off the radar” climbs and there are plenty of those in the area.

4. ‎Cantabria

Los Machucos was the climb which sparked rider protests in the 2017 Vuelta España. It’s brutal kicks are rewarded by stunning rural views all the way up. Cantabria is home to many other feature climbs of the Vuelta such as the Peña de Carbaga and Puertos Alisas & Ason. There’s no wonder that when the Vuelta reaches Cantabria things get exciting.  Close proximity to Santander & Bilbao is helpful for logistics but you are better off avoiding the big cities and staying out in the lovely countryside.

5. ‎Sierra Nevada’s

You are just as likely to see a skier in the Sierra Nevadas as you are a cyclist. Often used for altitude training by professional cyclists, you’ll need your climbing legs on because it’s up or down with not much flat! There are plenty of authenticly Spanish places to choose to stay in the region, from the cultural hub of Granada to tiny villages in the mountains.

6. ‎Asturias

Oviedo is a bustling city with all the culture of Asturias and its wonderful food, friendly people and interesting architecture. Ride for just 5 km south and you meet what can only be described as a theme park for cyclists. Scores of short steep climbs scattered over several valleys, the Big One being the Angliru. Often stated as the hardest climb in cycling its something every cyclist should do, but just once.

7. ‎Basque country

With its own language and Spanish-Basque and French-Basque regions, the Basque country is a mixing pot of cultures which creates the best food in the world. Rolling green hills line the distance with characteristic white and red chalets. It’s a treat on the eyes and lushness that of course warrants some occasional rainfall, typical of the north Spain area. Whilst the climbs are not long, some are steep so you can easily rack up plenty of climbing metres over a days ride.

8. Costa Brava

The Costa Brava runs from France down to Blanes (a town just northeast of Barcelona). It’s one of the most unspoilt coastlines in Spain, with no billboards or high rises to distract from the jaw-dropping views. Easily accessible from Girona and coastal towns like Begur and the more popular Tossa de Mar, the winding and hilly road that hugs the coastline provides hours of sun-kissed enjoyment. Whilst traffic is never that bad, in the winter you’ll be lucky to stumble across other cyclists, let alone cars.

9. ‎Calpe

Whilst Calpe is not the most charismatic cycling location in Spain, it makes it onto the top ten list due to its popularity for training camps with professional teams. Miles in the sun on smooth roads are sometimes all people look for and this is a good place for that, with affordable hotels plentiful. Test your legs on the likes of the Cumbre del Sol and the Col de Rates.

10. Andorra

In at number 10 (because it’s technically its own country and not actually in Spain) the tax haven of Andorra is packed with slopes to delight the most hardened of cyclists. Every year Andorra hosts La Purito, the toughest sportive in Europe, and thousands flock to attempt 5,200 meters of elevation in one painful ride. Andorra is best enjoyed over 2 or 3 days (or 1 if you’re feeling sadistic). Must ride climbs are La Gallina, Collada de Beixalis, Col D’Ordino, La Rabassa and Els Cortals D’Encamp.

Years in the making, a potential finally being reached

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Knowing the guy a little, he’ll probably hate reading this. He’ll probably say it’s pointless, unnecessary and way over the top. In his eyes, it’s just bike racing. It’s not war, or death or famine. Or the All Blacks in a Test match.

Paddy Bevin is the guy who crashed in the opening minutes of his first Tour de France last year and slammed into a steel barrier so hard that he broke his foot – though the fracture may have occurred as he skittered along the slick tarmac before coming to a shuddering halt.

An eerie silence followed a rapturous applause as he picked himself up and trundled to the finish among the last finishers.

It was sickening to watch and it could have very easily ended his career. Over three weeks later he hobbled into my house for some well-deserved burgers and post-race beers.

In each hand were crutches, his fingers holding the race number he promised he’d bring back for our shop in Girona. ‘Bevin 183’. He didn’t care much for the numbers.

“Mate, I’m not that tough. It was fine,” when a few of us asked how the hell do you finish the Tour with a broken foot.

Paddy Bevin most definitely is not Phil Gaimon.

“How the f*** do you get bottles for Uran? How the hell do you sprint? How is it possible to wake up after two weeks and face a Pyrenean stage knowing your foot is fucked and Contador is going to go bonkers from the gun?”

“Honestly, it wasn’t that bad; you just suck it up and get through it. How’s all at Eat Sleep Cycle?” he says in one unbroken sentence.

I should have punched the guy.

Paddy doesn’t jaw about on social media like others do. He won’t use three words if two will do. Hence his Instagram description of BMC winning the opening team time-trial at Tirreno-Adriatico yesterday. ‘Get on bike. Pedal fast. Win race’.

Humble to a fault is how I’d best describe him.

He’s right on one thing, though. It’s just bike racing, but today he took the leader’s jersey in Tirreno after he finished fifth in the sprint and such was his high-placing that he deposed the two teammates who were before him across the line yesterday. And THAT is a result he has been a lifetime chasing.

OUCH: Bevin picks himself up off the floor after an horrific high-speed crash on the opening stage of the Tour de France last year. 

 

His last day as leader of a GC race was the 2.2-ranked An Post Rás in Ireland four years ago. There might not be a next time.

“It’s a nice feeling,” he told reporters today. “It’s a really weird feeling to take a jersey off a teammate, especially one that’s here to lead the race. I don’t mind babysitting it for a day, but as we hit tomorrow nothing changes.”

There’s that humility again.

He’s a guy I first came across at the aforementioned Rás in 2014 riding for the New Zealand national team. There, he won a brutal stage two from four chasers by almost two minutes, despite a furious chase.

There were sizeable groups four, ten and twenty-five minutes down by the finish.

I recall the time gaps we got in the press car that day from when he attacked on his own with 40 kilometres to go – and the category one climb of Doonagore still to come.

I just thought ‘this isn’t normal’ but neither was the way he won another stage a couple of days later, chasing down a breakaway with just two teammates for help after the two others became ill.

Nobody else was willing, or able, to assist but that didn’t stop Bevin doing much of the driving over the 10 climbs that day, leading out the sprint into Caherciveen and then blitzing it.

That he didn’t win the race outright – or even finish in the top 10, did little to sway my thinking that the guy was simply world class and had to be at a higher level.

It took a year of mopping up wins for Avant Racing in Australia to really get noticed but fast forward a couple years and he’s at the Vuelta, riding for Cannondale and dying under a scorching Spanish sun.

For 10 and a half days he hauled himself around the country, only to climb off with illness on stage 11.

A day later I received a message, “You in town bro?”. The Vuelta had spat him out and he was back in Girona with his tail between his legs.

Sitting down to dinner that night he struggled for words, yet to his enormous credit, didn´t touch a drop or any of the sweet things I´d laid on. A weaker man would have folded and devoured the lot.

Then, life showed it wasn´t so much unfair as mean when an update on TV gave breaking news of a massive earthquake in Gisborne on New Zealand´s North Island – exactly where Bevin´s parents were at the time. He tried to contact them to no avail, but they were fine.

Still, an ugly moment where a man was kicked while already on the floor.

 

HANDS IN THE AIR: Bevin celebrates winning the fourth stage of An Post Ras in Ireland in 2014.

 

Every rider goes through misery but for a rider whose career was really only taking off, Bevin fell off a cliff and that month was a real slap in the face. His DNF at Eneco Tour a month later no less of a blow.

There have been many setbacks in the interim; injuries at the worst possible time – such as before the nationals this year when he was a banker to win the time-trial, the Tour de Suisse in 2016 was a disaster, riding on bikes clearly not up to the mark would crack any rider, missing an entire Classics season last year (except Paris Roubaix where he finished outside the time limit) to name but a few.

So, at the end of two years, aside from an amazing ride in the Paris Nice prologue (3rd), a few sniffs of victory at the Tour de Suisse, winning the NZ nationals, his only win was in a TTT in the Czech Tour, the latter NOT coming in contract year and in a field stacked with low-budget conti teams.

Hardly a CV you’d go to an interview sure of landing the job.

This is what makes today special for Bevin and anyone who knows him. Cycling is a puzzle that takes figuring out and because the pro game has become so specialised, that only specialists can really win on the big days.

Bevin is not a climber, or a sprinter, or a tester, but he can hang with the very best on his day.

He has been hammering on the door for years now and not had a huge amount to sing about.

Today, that all changed, and if he loses the jersey tomorrow, the day after or the day after, at least he can look at himself and say ‘today, I realised my potential’.

And isn’t that all any of us want to do with our cycling?

 

I went off coffee for 3 months. Here is what happened…

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This blog has been a while ´brewing´ but I wanted to see for certain whether abstaining from drinking coffee in Girona for three months throughout winter would make any difference to my life, hence waiting a month to write anything.

So, the idea was to completely go off coffee from November 1st, 2017 until January 31st, 2018 and compare my mood, concentration, behaviour and performance (sporting!) from before to after. 

Briefly, I´ve been drinking coffee solid ever since I first sipped a mug of that magic juice in summer of 2005 while living in the US.

At my best/worst I would have five cups a day, that period of excess coming during my years working a night shift in a newspaper between 2010-2014.

I guess you could say I was addicted because I couldn´t start the day without coffee and I fell into an all-too-lazy attitude of believing if I wasn´t productive or useful I could gulp coffee and everything would be okay.

I think we´ve all been guilty of saying “I neeeeed a coffee” on more than a thousand occasions.

So, for this abstention, I wanted a challenge as much as anything and going off the stuff when the finest coffee I´ve ever tasted is brewed across the street from us (at Espresso Mafia) in Girona, was a fair enough test.

So on November 1st I quit. Period. I didn´t even drink decaf because I´ve been suspicious about that in the past and when I discovered the process of how beans are decaffeinated I swayed further away from it and went back to my roots, tea.

Initially, the hardest thing to get used to was the actual ritual involved with making coffee. I liked setting the alarm a little earlier, I enjoyed grinding the beans and I even revelled in the high-pitched crashing and crunching sound the grinder makes.

I thrived in the whole process of brewing coffee from a French cafetiere; listening to the water bubble up from below, through the percolator and into the holding area above which the most wonderful scent filled the crisp morning air.

Coffee is a love affair, and I´m no different, but we went on a break for three months and here is what happened.

The big thing I learned was that I don´t “have to have coffee”. I just let the moment pass and when I came through the craving or the tiredness, I was okay. My brain wasn´t being fooled into thinking I´m not tired by a quick blast of caffeine. No, I just slept if I was tired.

Gradually, the cravings and tiredness subsided and before I knew it, they were a thing of the past.

I worked long days up to 16 hours on 5-6 hours of sleep. This was longer than I´ve ever done before.

I sometimes stayed up until 3am answering emails or writing a blog or speaking on the phone to someone in a different time zone.

I didn´t have spikes or dips in energy during the day and aside from the first week to 10 days, I did not have any headache during the afternoon.

I saved around €250 over the three months which went on the most beautiful Specialized cycling shoes you´ve ever seen.

And that´s pretty much it. It was a LOT easier than  I thought it would be and now, four weeks into returning to coffee, I feel indifferent towards it. I don´t need it, but I enjoy it. I´ve found it´s not necessary AT ALL to be productive.

However, in the last month I discovered just how powerful coffee is and for the first couple of weeks I was struggling to sleep at night and this was probably down to the coffee I had during the day.

I now drink one a day and I think that is how it will stay for the foreseeable future. Coffee is fun, it´s trendy, it´s a sociable drink…but so is tea!

Now, sporting performance? Well, I had hoped to be race fit come February 1st but a combination of a hectic winter and not enough time to train meant any perceived benefits would be negligible.

So we´ll have to adjourn the verdict on that.

And for my next challenge? I´m going off ALL chocolate until June 1st! Yep, dark chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate ice-cream, chocolate croissants…the lot!!!

Now THIS will be a real test!

 

Ridley Helium SLX

First ride: Ridley Helium SLX

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The brand new, custom painted Ridley Helium SLX had been sat staring at me for 3-weeks. I’m a bit funny with riding a new bike without a proper fitting session and I simply hadn’t had time. But when Tiesj Benoot won Strade Bianche on it, I dropped everything, put on the nearest cycling clothes (lucky for you no photos of that catastrophe) and headed out into the Girona sunshine.

A new bike normally feels strange on the first ride. Especially because this time, I decided to trial a new saddle. I’ve had some numbness troubles downstairs and determined to fix that, will test the Eat Sleep Cycle Fizik saddle fitting programme (Test any saddle before buying). I am starting with the Antares which is wider than my previous Arione. Idea being the sit bones rest on it rather than that important nerve which eventually causes numbness. For the first few rides, the sit bones hurt a bit, but that’s a sign of a good position.

In addition, this was the first time I’d used Rotor cranks. Since they are manufactured in Madrid it seemed fitting to have them on our rental and race bike fleet. I know, you can’t fault Shimano, but I wanted to give it a go. I’m not sure if it’s the shape of the Rotor cranks or if they genuinely are better but they felt good from the offset.

Other upgrades on the bike include the legendary Fatboys, the creation of Drew Gill at Spin On These (http://ridefullgas.com/). I could write a blog just on these wheels which have broken the age-old idea of narrow tyres and high pressure. The opposite results in more comfort, more grip and a better looking bike! Finished with the new Ultegra shifters, brakes and derailleurs, what is left is a very light and attractive looking bike.

From the off-set the bike felt stable, if not a little high at the front. The Helium has a reasonably large stack and I´m used to riding slammed race bikes. Due to a combination of back problems and more riding in the high mountains, I’m open to giving a higher front end a go.

Instantly I noted great responsiveness when accelerating to beat the red lights out of town. The bike felt super stiff. Once into the countryside things started to speed up and in the aero position, I was pushing 50 km/hr easily. A great start!

It was the first climb that signed and sealed my decision to ride the Helium this year. As the bike is the race choice of our sponsored race team “Rocacorba Racing” it only seemed fit for that climb to be Rocacorba. At nearly 1,000 meters it’s tough, with gradients of over 14% in places.

As soon as the slope steepened the bike just seemed to ride away from me, begging to be ridden faster, jump out the saddle on the bends instead of cruising around and keep the pace up all the way to the top. Wow, the bike is light and yes I noticed a big difference from last year’s race bike (a Guerciotti).

Chatting to several other professional riders in Girona who also ride the Helium, we´ve heard plenty of stories of the bike being under the legal limit of 7 Kg. But us amateurs don´t need to worry about that and every gram in our favor is potentially more kudos!

All that was left was the ride down and a combination of the Fatboys and bike stiffness made that very enjoyable. The slightly higher stack was not detrimental to the descent.

Last and not least, the bike looks great. Ridley´s custom paint jobs are top notch, with a full colour palette and several designs to choose from. I went for a stealth look, with a touch of Rocacorba Racing blue, but below you’ll see just how adventurous you can be with it…

Bonked Again

By | Cycling, Race Diaries | No Comments

I bonked very badly on Sunday. I haven´t ridden much, well at all, over the last 2 weeks as we have been flat out getting the new Hub ready. So, when let loose, a ride to the coast seemed like the best idea in the world. I grabbed a banana and apple (my favourite natural gels) and tore out of Girona at sunrise.

First 30 Km; way under an hour, first climb; easy (still burning off the morning’s porridge). Second and more difficult climb; starting to get tired. Better eat that banana at the top… the apple had already been demolished an hour earlier.

20 Km from home and I really started to feel bad. A tiredness that stopped my legs from spinning, head dipping, a little dizzy, confused and generally unhappy. Such a sudden change from “wohooooooo I´m the Tour de France champion” to “I hate cycling!” How can this be?

Since I have clearly not learned a lesson since my previous blog: https://www.eatsleepcycle.com/i-think-i-bonked/ we decided to ask Gemma Sampson, Accredited Sports Dietitian & Performance Nutritionist (Dietitian Without Borders www.dietitianwithoutborders.com) for an expert opinion.

What is the bonk in nutrition terms?

It’s like running out of fuel when you’re driving in a car. Your body stores carbohydrate as glycogen in the muscles or glucose in the bloodstream to use as fuel during exercise. When you bonk, your blood sugar levels are low and you’ve used up most of your muscle glycogen.

You’ll feel lethargic, lacking energy, sleepy, slightly confused with jelly legs, reduced power and a higher heart rate. It may be difficult to talk and you may feel quite emotional.

What should you do when it happens?

You need to get your blood sugar levels up quickly, so it’s important to eat something with carbohydrate that’s quick and easy to digest. For example an energy gel, dried fruit or some sweets. Follow this up with an energy bar or something more substantial to keep you going longer.

Is it dangerous? Should you find food very quickly?

If your blood sugar levels get extremely low it can be dangerous to your health. But the biggest risk, particularly when riding on the road is the possibility of crashing or injury when feeling lightheadedness, dizzy or confused.

Getting some carbohydrate into your system quickly and getting your blood sugar levels up to normal will help improve your concentration to keep you safe on the road.

How to avoid it?

Prevention is always better than cure! Eating carbohydrates in the form of foods or drinks during your ride will help keep your blood sugar levels up and maintain your glycogen stores.

Exactly how much you need will depend on how long or how hard you are riding, as well as how trained you are.

For rides over 60 minutes aim for 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour. Make a note to start eating early and often, every 20 or 30 minutes rather then forgetting to eat or drink until it’s too late.

As for me, I cycled past a few groups of cyclists before finally swallowing my pride and asking the next couple for a gel. They didn´t have one. I just made it back to the hub, where I inhaled a Coca-cola and swore never to ride again without an emergency gel in my pocket.

Stay tuned for more useful tips on riding and nutrition from Gemma!

Happy pedalling!

To learn more about nutrition with Gemma Sampson visit: http://dietitianwithoutborders.com

Girona cycling news

Vision for a new type of Bike Shop

By | Cycling, The Eat Sleep Cycle Journey | No Comments

It’s just under 4-weeks until the opening of our new Girona Hub and you are all invited! https://www.facebook.com/events/157923644829501/

The Hub, as we are calling it, is the culmination of learning from 2 previous smaller shops in Girona, hours of debate, benchmarking, research and endless sketches by our more creative third, Louise. We love keeping our old sketches and notes, because often, our initial concept which is based on pure imagination and passion, is the one we end up going for. As soon as we start thinking about the cost of rent and reform, persuading the right brands to be there, ideas normally get downscaled and it’s easy to lose the ability to think big. For the Hub we are thinking very BIG.

Everyone at Eat Sleep Cycle is a passionate cyclist and has their own childhood memories of their local bike shop. A place they went to gaze at a bike they couldn’t afford, ask about the latest frame material (oooooh carbon fibre!), or persuade the mechanic that their bike is more important than the other 8 he has to do, to make that weekend race.

What is happening to our poor local bike shops? Just like many other digitised industries, it’s getting harder and harder to make a buck and many are forced to close. The brutal truth is a bike shop can not sell clobber and compete with online retailers. It’s definitely time to rethink the local bike shop, so much so that we´ve come up with a completely different name for ours.

The Eat Sleep Cycle Hub will be an inviting space to hang out, meet your friends for a ride, or chat to us about anything to do with cycling. You can break your legs in our “Pain room” or enjoy a massage in our “Recovery room”. Top class mechanics are on hand to solve any problems with your bike. If you do fancy a new bike, make sure it’s the right fit with our Retul fitting service. Or maybe you just want to try another discipline and rent a gravel or mountain bike for one day. Whether you are a pro, weekend warrior, or just starting out, we want to meet you. This is not an elitist center for the fittest but a place to go if you love cycling.

Plan your dream holiday escape anywhere in Europe with our trip planners. Of course there will be bike clobber, but it will be carefully selected by us so you’ll only see the best and latest stuff on our shelves. It will be like a cycling heaven! Is that thinking big enough?!
Of course we couldn’t deliver all these speciality services without working with other local businesses and experts and that’s what makes the ESC Hub a collaboration with the community. Through our club and mens/ womens race teams we will continue to give back to the community and develop cycling in Girona.

Don’t take my word for it. Come and check it out for yourself! https://www.facebook.com/events/157923644829501/

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