Wednesday 31 March 2010

Warm Weather Training Camp?

It's that time of year when various cycling and triathlon buddies go missing from UK soil as they head to a warm weather training camp somewhere, usually in Europe - Lanzarote, Mallorca, Cote d'Azur, Cyprus, Southern Spain. There are lots of choices.
I often envy them, as I always welcome any pretext for getting on foreign soil with my bike. I can't help noticing though that March temperatures in these places seem to be dropping with each passing year, while temperatures in more northerly countries including the UK seem to have stayed the same or even gone up (barring today of course!).

Last year in April I had to choose between going to Mallorca or going to Belgium for the Tour of Flanders. Not wanting to put myself through rainy, windswept plains (or rattling my bones) the decision was a no brainer. Sadly, on our arrival in the "sunny island" we were greeted by showers in Palma. The second day was not so bad, but I still had on longs. The third day was the best day, but after that things went downhill again, with the last day being a complete washout. Although I really enjoyed being in our appartment, it felt strange that I constantly had to put the heating on and I couldn't walk barefooted on the freezing floor tiles. Meanwhile from Brussels to London people were enjoying heatwaves!

Some folks who were in Lanzarote this year talked of how they cycled all day through showers. Ok, it's not really a big deal, but when you've paid £400+ for the priviledge and you have to deal with unfamiliar surroundings without your usual home comforts plus other incidental expenditure it makes me wonder if it's worth it.

Looking at the BBC Weather worldwide average temperature charts, London is shown to be colder than other Mediterranean towns in March and April - naturally. But it's not that much colder. Average maximum temperatures in Marseille and Nice in the south of France are only two or three degrees higher than in London during March. Both towns are wetter, experiencing significantly higher amounts of rain during these months!

So, with that in mind and also the wish to avoid being messed around by British Airways and any other airline that's threatening to go on strike I am doing my "warm weather" training camp in Surrey and Kent. I don't need to plan it too far in advance. If the weather's really rubbish I can postpone it till the next day without losing out on valuable time. If I do get caught in a shower, no worries I just dry off and get out other warm clothes. No need to get annoyed at realising I've left behind my favourite base layer or fleece! I've got my home comforts, and I won't be penalised with a mountain of work to do on my return from a week of cycling - because I won't have been away anywhere! And it goes without saying that my purse will not feel the Euro strain, from a week of bike riding around - just my old legs!

Tuesday 30 March 2010

League Opener

Sunday was a big day for women's racing in the London/SE region.
This was the culmination of a project we started working on last autumn as a way to encourage women of all levels to take part in cycle racing.

The London Women's Cycle Racing league finally got underway with the first round being held at the Goodwood Motor Circuit. OK, not quite London but we wanted the first round to be a race that would encourage new riders.

The Surrey League Cat3W/Cat4W races seemed the best option, but due to them being unable to secure the traditional test-track venue at MOD Chertsey, we had to go with Goodwood. To be honest the historic motor racing circuit is a great place to race around, even if it is over 60 miles from London!

Lots of women were gathered at the sign-on desk, which is always a good omen. I just hadn't quite expected so many women on the start line. Thirty-eight women lined up rearing to race at 9.30am on Sunday morning.

I was amazed - it wasn't just the number of women, but also the fact that a) the women were mainly from London so would have woken up at stupid o'clock to get there b) we'd already lost an hour's sleep due to British Summer Time starting c) there was another women's race taking place some miles away at Thruxton motor circuit on the same day.

Racing got underway after one neutralised lap of the 2.4mile circuit. It all happened in earnest with girls trying to breakaway, but with not much success due to the windy conditions.

There were various tactics going on among the girls from the different clubs.

While the women at the back end were chaperoned and made to feel comfortable by the roving marshalls, those at the front raced as aggressively as you will get in an all category race.

The race was won by Pearsons rider and former olympic rower, Elise Laverick-Sherwell, as she managed to edge out the highly experienced Hannah Reynolds of Team MuleBar Girls.

Speaking to all the other girls they had really enjoyed the racing and look forward to more racing.

I was really pleased that the event had gone well and the sun even came out for the race - which is always a bonus.

This was a really good day for women's cycling, and it just goes to show that with a little application it is possible to get a good turn-out for a local race. It was the first of twelve rounds of the London women's league, and was a great launch pad for the subsequent rounds. Next rendez-vous is at Hog Hill on 10th April.

photos by Gavin Percy

The Chicks are Out!

The road racing season is upon us. I still haven't done any road races this year, but with a little "luck" I should be on a start line near me some time soon!

I might not have done any racing but I've been keeping an eye on what's been going on. What I've noticed is the palpable sense of people gearing up - not just talking about races, but talking about team/club strategies, kit, tweeting about training regimes and gadgets - and this is just to do the local circuits!

There have also been team launches. This year we have a few London-based women's teams starting up. A couple of weeks ago was the launch of the Team MuleBar Girls.
We've now got a revived women's Rapha Condor team, and Pearson Cycles have become serious about their women's squad. It's not just women's teams that are getting organised, but even the local cycling clubs are beefing up their women's sections. A couple of years ago London Dynamo club was the place to be if you were a female road racer.

Now, you've got the pick of few clubs - Twickenham CC, Kingston Wheelers, London Phoenix, and of course my own club Dulwich Paragon. It's all happening. The girls are getting put through quite rigorous training regimes (well from what one reads on Twitter!) and there's a real race on to be the Queen of the London Peloton. Yes, the London girls are out there and it's all getting rather exciting. Now, where's my turbo trainer?

Bottom two photos by Gavin Percy

Tuesday 9 March 2010

A nICE Bike Ride in Surrey

A big group of us from the club went to ride the Twickenham CC Surrey Rumble. It was my first cyclosportive outing of the year and I saw it as a good chance to get in some miles during an event and also to catch up with people I hadn't seen for a while.

Although the ride started within reach of the Surrey Hills the route didn't actually venture that far through them. The nearest we got was the descent of Whitedown and a stretch through Holmbury St Mary before heading on to Cranleigh and out towards Farnham, Hogsback, Woking and then back to the HQ. We therefore didn't have to toil over many stiff climbs, but the rolling terrain was still quite energy sapping, especially when we spent alot of time riding into a head wind!

The day was pretty pleasant as we had wall to wall sunshine the whole time. But boy, was it cold. Spring is apparently round the corner, but it's going to take a bit more convincing! The temperature can't have been more than about 5 degrees C, and it got even colder when we were in the wind. In fact, there were a number of stretches where we had to dismount from our bikes and walk round icy or slushy sections. Thankfully we didn't get this on the steep descent at Whitedown.

The organising club did a great job in putting on a well organised event, and it was especially considerate of them to have laid on hot drinks at the feedstations!

Most of the Dulwich riders set off as one big group, and then we split into smaller groups as we found our own natural paces. I rode with my club-mate Peppi, who was around the same speed as me. We then parted company at the intersection when she did the 75-mile long course and I opted for the shorter 57-mile route. I wasn't on my own for too long though as I was able to latch onto different groups that went by. Finally, I settled with two riders from Crystal Palace Triathlon club. They were training for an Ironman, so this bike ride must have been a stroll for them! It was good to have people to share the work with and keep each other going towards the end, when we were all beginning to feel it.

Back at the HQ was a chance to endulge in more hot drinks, plentiful sandwiches and that all important element, cake! All in all, a nice, if a little chilly bike ride.