Seb’s head coach

Some of you may have noticed the following comment on one of my previous posts:

I feel it is my duty to suggest your next event.
Lavington Hill right on your door step ideal for training, far fewer hours in saddle required practising for a ~6 minute effort.
You’re welcome.
The comment was written by ‘Seb’s head coach’. You might be wondering “Who on earth is Seb?” and on finding out he’s our 12 week old son you might think “Why does he need a head coach?” and… “Who is this coach?”
Well, there’s no need for Ollie and I to be pushy parents, because he’s got his uncle (A.K.A Seb’s Head Coach) for that!
On hearing of Sebastian’s birth, my brother sent him a training plan to faciliate him in “turning pro by the age of 20”, “winning his first monument at 24” and a “grand tour or major stage race win by his mid 20s”.
So without giving too much away to his 12 week old competitors….his uncle is expecting him to be confident and competent with a balance bike by the age of 18 months. To have his first bicycle at 4 years and to do exercise five times a week.
But the plan doesn’t start at 12-18 months, oh no! The plan started at the age of 1 month, with exercises to do each day, except for Wednesday and Sunday- the days of rest!
One of the days is put aside for Yoga, which Sebastian has taken note of; he is beginning a Yoga class tomorrow!
He also has a balance bike and a bike with stabilisers just waiting for him to be (nearly) big enough.
So, watch this space, in 20 years time, it will be “Chris who?, Seb’s the man in Yellow!”
I’ll address his actual comment in another post.

All change.

It’s been ten months since I wrote my last post!

After Vätternrundan and my last post, I planned to take some time to decide what to write about next; but I didn’t intend to take quite this long. The weekend after Vätternrundan I thought I had found my new topic; cycling in pregnancy!

 

Yes, it turns out that I was cycling for two during those 200 miles.

 

However, cycling whilst pregnant is just too scary. There’s the ‘not getting too hot’, the ‘not raising your heart rate too high’ and then there’s the crazy drivers, the pot-holes and the cleats. All-in-all, I was too scared to ride.

 

We took our annual trip to France to see Le Tour, and I did some short rides and even climbed some hills but generally I left the cycling to the boys whilst I read books and chilled out.

 

My bike hasn’t been out since then.

 

I did some short turbo sessions – fairly pathetic efforts really. But time was also against us – our house renovation was taking longer than planned. So exercise time was limited.

 

We are now in our house (no it isn’t finished – I’m told that they never are) and we have our little boy. So, the next challenge is starting all over again and fitting it in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A change in perceptions

I think I would generally consider America to be the home of the motor car. Why? Well, the wide roads, the drive-thru’s (banks, food, pharmacies etc…), Henry Ford, and the general necessity to own a car in a country so broad. Surely riding a bike on these large roads, with huge trucks steaming past just doesn’t happen. 

On the other hand I consider England to be one of the big cycling nations. Why? I grew up knowing about cycling; my Grandad is a cyclist, my uncle was and as he grew up my brother became the next generation cyclist. The UK has some cycling greats: Wiggins, Froome and Cav; Before them: Hoy, Boardman, Simpson and Holland. And the girls… Pendleton, Trott and Armitstead. We have the Tour of Britain and compete strongly in the Tour De France. The Olympics of 2012 brought a renewed passion for the sport, and the launch of the Ride London sportive. 

But these were just my perceptions, based on exposure.
In reality, Canada and the USA have an extensive network of cycle lanes, multi-activity lanes and cycle-specific routes. Toronto has a cycle map which enables you to plan a safe cycle route through the city and some of these lanes even have their own traffic lights. But they have implemented more than just an infrastructure, the drivers have complete respect for cyclists; they yield to cyclists at junctions, or when a cycle path crosses a road. 

Conversely, with exception to London, the cycle network in the UK is either non-existent or unreliable. Road cyclists avoid cycle tracks due to the likelihood of them turning to gravel or becoming unrideable. Cycle lanes are shared with BUSES! And outside of the main towns and cities, nothing exists. We probably have slightly quieter roads, but they are smaller and have faster speed limits. Finally there is a complete lack of understanding, and thus respect, between cyclists and drivers – probably due to them having been thrown together in uncomfortably shared circumstances. Something which has caused a vicious circle or self-fulfilling prophecy to develop in which drivers and cyclists expect each other to exhibit certain behaviours and thus act defensively or aggressively in anticipation. 

To sum up, our two holidays this year have both left me wishing we had the cycling infrastructure of our foreign cousins – extensive, pleasant, well-kept and accessible. 

I wonder how NYC deals with cycle traffic…

Tour de COL round-up

On Friday we returned from a great holiday, just in time to get some sleep and then go to the wedding of the year on Saturday. Congrats to Nicky and Gary!

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Nicky and Gary 

So, before the dreaded return to work in the morning, here’s a wash-up post summing up the past two weeks.

The planned itinerary was a gruelling combination of hills and miles; some were achieved but in the main we did less than planned! In the first week we had planned to cycle 304.60 miles, with 19,099 ft of climbing. The rides would have taken in Lacets de Montvernier, Col de L’Iseran, Alpe D’Huez and two flattish rides. In reality, we all had differing mileage counts at the end of the week; I did 220.10 miles and 13,389 ft of climbing. Everything took much longer than we had planned for, and therefore we arrived in Albertville later than planned and so cut down our 70 mile Montvernier ride by driving a short part of the way (good job really, as we still had to do some riding in the dark with lights on).

  • I posted about my Col de L’Iseran experience, where I had to give up – part way up.
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Broken!

Shade!

Shade!

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  • We all made it up Alpe D’Huez, but only one of us cycled back down.
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Chris, Ollie and I

Steve, Andy and their gang

Steve, Andy and their gang

After D’Huez and the accident, the second week began in the same way; we were supposed to be having a day off anyway and then the following day we were scheduled to make the climb up Colle del Ghisallo to the Madonna del Ghisallo.

Madonna del Ghisallo

Madonna del Ghisallo

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Chris’ bike was being repaired, so we changed our plans and decided to do the ride in the evening. However, in the end we saw the museum on our day off (we drove up there) and when it came to the evening of the ride, Chris wasn’t feeling up to it, and Ollie and I went for a shorter ride.

The next day, in the Bolzano area, we rode up an unexpected Dolomite, but I think we had probably provisionally planned to do something longer and possibly hillier. The Tour de France rides were as planned, and then we ended on a high with my third century and my longest ever ride of 127 miles.

So, the holiday stats were as follows:

  • 2430 car miles at an average speed of 44 mph.
  • 54 hours and 57 minutes spent in the car travelling.
  • 441.60 miles ridden.
  • 21,298 feet climbed.
  • One 650g tub of Nutella, with two bags of biscuits devoured within a week.

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Over all, a fantastic holiday, with its ups and downs! 😉

The caravan experience

Ollie and I fully embraced our first experience of Le Tour de France ‘Caravan’ from the sidelines today…

Those of many hats

Those of many hats

Chris mainly watched in embarrassment, but did suggest another selfie..

Hat selfie

Hat selfie

We ended up with a decent stash of freebies, including enough crisps to feed us until we return home 😀

Stash of freebies

Stash of freebies

There were some riders too.. (camera photos to follow once home)…

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Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg…Belgium

Since I last posted we have stayed in, possibly, the most beautiful area of the entire tour (and that really is saying something), had one of the longest car journeys we could stomach and we have witnessed the greatest event of the cycling calendar.

The mountainous area surrounding Bolzano is stunning and the campsite we stayed at, Camping Catinaccio Rosengarten, was fantastic even for someone who isn’t keen on camping, like me. We arrived at the campsite mid-late afternoon; set up camp and did some laundry before heading out on a ‘make-it-up-as-you-go’ ride (or so I am led to believe). The ride took us up a mountain pass to a lake. The climb was tough; hot and longer than expected, particularly when undertaken on very little food. But we got there, looked at the lake and began the extremely chilly descent, stopping mid way down for dinner.

Teeth chattering, we continued back to the campsite, for what turned out to be another late night. However, having seen the amazing views around the area I got up early and took my camera out for a ride so that I could catch some of them in photographic form (I will share photos once home). Bonus: whilst I was out, the boys packed up camp!

We then embarked on an INCREDIBLY long day! Just short of 12 hours in the car, driving from Italy, through Austria and Germany and finally arriving in Luxembourg, where we stayed in the Campanile Lux Airport. Luckily they had some computers, so we did some overdue Strava and Garmin admin, which meant we had yet another late night!

Refreshed, we continued on to Namur, Belgium and immediately set out from the hotel, on our bikes to watch Stage Three of the Tour de France. At roughly ten miles into our ride, we became part of the parade, riding directly behind the ‘caravan’; cheered on by the waiting crowds we embarked on the first categorised climb of the tour; Cote du Bohisseau, which seemed relatively easy due to the atmosphere. We pulled in at the top, just past the climb finish line and began what was likely to be an hour or so wait for the riders to come through.

After sometime a motorbike pulled in, and it had a Radio Broadcasting in English… From which we were able to hear about the crash. Twitter went mental; Simon Warren stating that it was the worst cycling crash he had ever seen. And then the radio saying that the race had been neutralised. Texts from the Grandbeings who were watching on TV. The crash had happened just before the hill, and the riders were stopped at the bottom of the hill. The race wasn’t able to be restarted as there were not enough ambulances. All random information being fed to us from various channels.

And then they came past, relatively slowly. The race was restarted at the top of the hill. The hill no longer counted.

Once they had passed, we jumped on our bikes and legged it down to the next spot, just outside of Huy, where we were able to see them again. They did not look happy, it had been a hard day; ripped jerseys, exposed flesh, tears and frustration. This was in contrast to the party atmosphere which we then found in Huy. If you are into that sort of thing, then I think the party in Huy last night must have been amazing!

A quick snack of frites energised us to try the Mur de Huy, which had hosted the finish line, a few hours before. It was hard! It seems mean to put such a hard climb right at the end of over 100 miles of racing! But I managed it, much to the surprise of the boys. There was no way that I was going to give up, with all the people along the sides cheering me on “Allez Allez”.

The boys are riding today but I am having a day off. Now I have to go and get ready so we can catch the Tour coming through Namur and maybe get some free Haribo from the caravan.

Laura

Drama aplenty (Mum, panic not)

Yesterday was challenging.

We got up super early, and arrived in Le Bourg-d’Oisans to start riding at 10.00 hrs. All to plan so far! And apart from Ollie thinking he had lost me, and searching town for me whilst I was making my way up the mountain, the ascent went well. I passed five people in the first two miles, which was a confidence boost!
Ollie found me at the first town, where I was busy standing with my head under a tap, and went on ahead as planned, following behind Chris who had started the ascent first. I continued at my own pace and stopped in shade at regular intervals. At one such stop, a particularly picturesque one, I met Steve and Andy from San Francisco – on their first trip to Europe. They asked me to take a picture of the two of them and then returned the favour, taking pictures of me in front of the view. I continued the climb with them for sometime and Steve ‘interviewed’ me on his Go Pro. At the next stop I headed to a shady spot and took a slightly longer break, so I next saw them in the final two miles and was able to get a finish line picture with them. It’s good to have company on hills, but I hate holding people back, so meeting new people of my standard to get up the hill with was a winner!

So, at the top…we had all made it – which made it more successful than L’Iseran! image

imageStill feeling relatively good we decided to continue up to the lake a little higher. However part way up I decided it wasn’t sensible to continue and I found the only shade available at the top of a mountain at 1330hrs; the shade created by a camper van. I huddled into the shade right next to the back wheel, and called over to the (French) owners, who were sat a little bit higher up the mountain, and pointed at the shade. I think they were suspicious but I needed that shade.

The boys went to do the final mile or so up to the lake.

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It’s at this point that the day became challenging due to two unrelated, unfortunate events occurring in parallel.
As I sat quietly sipping water, in the camper van shade, I got the shock of my life, screamed, panicked and then chased…

The camper van was rolling down the mountain.

The owners shrieked and the man started scrambling across the rocks towards the van, but fell. The van stopped against a rock but was perched in a precarious position in which it could easily have fallen on to its side and rolled. With the van stopped, the focus turned to the man, whose ankle had swollen and was bleeding from somewhere.

I called the boys and asked them to come back immediately, but only Ollie arrived and he wanted water because Chris had fallen off; I had given all of mine to the man.
Then Chris arrived and catastrophe corner consisted of a unstable campervan, a broken ankle (man), blood, more blood, an unrideable bicycle and a midday sun.

Chris' elbow

Chris’ elbow

Damaged shifter

Damaged shifter

Pringle shaped wheel

Pringle shaped wheel

In France it’s supposedly a legal requirement for drivers to carry first aid kits, however I flagged three cars and got:

A few sips worth of water
A small plaster
A small saline solution
Toilet paper
In the end we decided to leave the campervan couple, as we did not understand each other and they were on the phone to emergency services. As Chris said…

They are French people in France, we need to get down off of this mountain.

So the three of us walked the short way to a restaurant, which was shut but agreed to sell us water, and then Ollie went to descend the mountain and fetch the car. Chris and I continued walking, with the intention of finding some shade to sit in and wait.

We hadn’t walked very far when we saw a car with British plates coming towards us, so we flagged it down and asked the guy for a first aid kit. He had one, but offered us the use of his apartment to clean up instead. So Chris loaded the bike into his car and Paul drove him to Huez village, and I followed by bike. We cleaned and bandaged Chris’ arm and then went back to the car so that Paul could drop Chris at a nice cafe. Again I followed by bike.

Ollie made good progress down the hill but had a blow out on a corner, luckily it didn’t cause him to crash though, and we were all reunited at the finish line and were finally able to eat some lunch and then set off on our 5 hr trip to Italy.

Only to end up back where we started the day, near Albertville, about an hour later due to an unexpected road closure!

We finally arrived at our BandB at around 2300hrs, tired and smelly!

Now to find the local bike shop…