Monday, July 30

The end of the Tour

Three weeks of the Tour de France has come to an end, quite literally with a bang. This final week has been pretty eventful, to say the least! First there was Vinokourov failing a drug test, then Rasmussen's name being dragged through the mud, followed by some great duels in the Pyrenees between Rasmussen and Contador. Then the withdrawal of Rasmussen from the Tour, just as he looked to have secured victory.

I've seen many headlines over the past week, many wanting to put an end to the Tour de Farce, accusing it of being drug-ridden. So, is it as bad as they say it is? Look at the facts, rather than hot-headed opinions: only three positive drug tests (one of which is being contested - by Vinokourov) out of the countless that were performed during the three-week event and out of almost 200 riders. Hardly "drug-ridden", is it? Especially when compared to the lack of testing in other, higher profile sports - at the last (football) World Cup no tests were performed during the competition. They pick on cycling, which has the most rigorous testing of any sport but the latest round of positive tests is a sign that the testing regime is working. If only it were applied to football, rugby, baseball, American football, golf (yes, golf - apparently some take steroids!) then we would see how favourably cycling in comparison.

As for the Rasmussen saga, it has no links to positive drugs tests - he missed two tests, for which he received warnings as dictated by UCI rules. A rider will only be suspended if he misses three tests. The Tour organisers were rightly annoyed that the Danish Federation waited three weeks before leaking the news to the world (the warnings are supposed to be confidential) almost as if designed to disrupt the Tour itself. The Federation also didn't divulge the full facts, so he was allowed to ride on regardless. Then, the shocker - he was fired by his team for lying to them about his whereabouts in June. He said he was in Mexico but not according to an Italian TV commentator, who said he saw him in Italy. No, I don't buy it either - it's hardly strong enough evidence to pull a clean rider out of the Tour on the verge of outright victory. This is where the real scandal exists - the politics behind the scenes, of which we know nothing.

So, vive le Tour - only 11 months to go before it all starts again!

Monday, July 23

Spinning class - Mazamet to Plateau de Beille

Inspiration for this ride came from Stage 14 of this year's Tour de France, from Mazamet to Plateau de Beille in the Pyrenees. I know the route particularly well, as I cycle in that area every year, so I put together a compressed version. The ride starts off with the usual warm up but then it's immediately followed by a short climb - not too heavy on the resistance but something to wake up the legs before a brief descent and a long flat road. This is not an excuse to take it easy, as it takes continual effort to keep the legs turning over at a fast tempo until the start of the long steady climb to Port de Pailheres. After a welcome descent to the valley, it's then an all-out attack to the top of the Plateau de Beille, starting with two accelerations to shake off the competition and ending with an all-out effort to the finish line.

Warm up - 4 min
Moderate standing climb - 3 min
Descent (recovery) - 1 min
Seated flat - 10 min
Long steady climb - 8 min
Descent (recovery) - 3 min
Standing climb - 10 min, including 2x1min hill sprints
Cool down and stretching - 6 min

Profile: not heart rate this time, as it should be in the 75-85% HRR zone for the entire ride, higher on the final climb to Plateau de Beille. This is what it looks like on the road:

Why does my heart feel so bad - Moby
Harder to breathe - Maroon 5
Mecanix Remix - Urban Trad
Walk like an Egyptian - The Bangles
Why'd you lie to me - Anastacia
Subliminal - Sonic Cube
Past - Sub Sub
Sandstorm - Darude (the hill sprints)
The Silence - Mike Koglin
Universal Soul - Mandrake (the final push for the line)

Thursday, July 19

The meaning of determination

Have you ever wanted to give up because something's too hard, the conditions aren't right, people are against you, you're told it's impossible, that it cannot be done? Or maybe you just tell yourself that you didn't really want it anyway?

Whenever I feel like that, I remember this short clip - it gets me to keep on going until that little voice in my head starts whispering that I can do it, no matter what anyone says.

Not loading? Click here!

Monday, July 16

Spinning class - Blade Breakaway SEZ

This ride started off with me listening to tracks from the Blade film trilogy while I was in the French Alps on a triathlon training camp. I found that the aggressive music was an excellent motivator to keep working and run a 10Km loop, especially when I would rather have taken a break after a hard 4-hour ride in the saddle. Almost all of the playlist is from the Blade soundtracks and I call it a breakaway, as the aim is to keep pushing forwards without rest, much like a breakaway trying to keep ahead of the main pack.

I've split the ride into three segments, each made up of a flat road, a fast climb, and a slow heavy climb. Each has a different purpose: the flat road means a high cadence (leg speed); the fast climb is moderate on resistance but relatively quick and out of saddle; the slow climb needs a lot of work from the legs to push against the heavy resistance. Once over the top of the climb, it's back to a fast flat road - no resting! If it looks too long to attack from the start, the first segment can be taken at a controllable 70-75% HRR, the second with more effort at 75-80% HRR and the final one at 80-85% HRR, with the final set of hill sprints taking heart rate up to 90-95% HRR.

A few words about those final sprints: (a) make sure you have climbing resistance - fast legs and no resistance means no work; (b) start on a normal slow climb out of the saddle; (c) for the sprints, increase cadence as much as possible (should not be more than 20-30% extra speed); (d) 30 second all out effort; and (e) recovering for a minute while climbing at normal speed. This requires, as does the rest of the ride, a bit of aggression and determination - grrrrrrrrrrr!!

Warm up - 3 min
Seated flat - 5 min
Fast standing climb - 4 min
Heavy standing climb - 3.5 min
Seated flat - 5 min
Fast standing climb - 3.5 min
Heavy standing climb - 3.5 min
Seated flat - 3 min
Fast standing climb - 4 min
Heavy standing climb - 5 min, including 3x30sec hill sprints
Cool down and stretching - 5.5 min

HR Profile: mine varied slightly but always remained 75-85% HRR for the entire ride.

High priests - Michael Flatley (Feet of Flames)
I against I - Mos Def and Massive Attack
Thirsty - Old Dirty B**tard
Bombs Away - Paris Texas
Weapons of mad distortion - The Crystal Method
Raised in the hood - Volume 10 and Roni Size
Tao of the machine - The Roots and BT
Hard Wax - Manchild
Child of the West - Cypress Hill and Roni Size
Keep hope alive - The Crystal Method
Touched by God - Katcha

Thursday, July 12

Exercise could save your life!

Advert time again, although you may not have seen this one on TV - it was banned, for some reason (that will get you watching hehehehe!)

I'm always being asked why I exercise. Instead of the usual reasons - endorphine rush, feeling of achievement, health, better able to cope with life's obstacles, etc. - maybe I should just show them this and say that I'm in training for the day when my life will be in danger.

Not loading? Click here!

Sunday, July 8

Londres - Canterbury

After yesterday's great performances, today was yet another fantastic story to put Britain on the cycling map! David Millar was a man on a mission and broke away from the main pack as soon as they crossed the official start line. At the finish, he managed to gather enough breath to say that he did it as a thank you to the British public for making the last two days so special. As a bonus, he managed to pick up enough points on the two hills (renamed for the race as Cote de Southborough and Cote de Goudhurst!) to put on the King of the Mountains jersey. Each hill was no more than a few hundred meters but the crowds at each summit were reminiscent of Alpe d'Huez. He should be able to keep the polka dot jersey for a fair few days, as Belgium is even flatter than Kent, with not even a measly hillock in sight! And he also managed to pick up enough time bonuses to go up to third place on the general classification. A very good tactical ride to guarantee him and his team some good exposure for the coming week.

The big story is that a pile-up, 20Km from the finish, left the two favourites - Robbie McEwan and our very own Mark Cavendish - stranded behind, just as the race picked up speed. Cavendish was extremely frustrated at having mechanical problems and seemed to be in tears - not only was he a favourite but, as a Brit, he really wanted to win this stage. Back to McEwan for the fairytale ending - after a superb effort by his team, he managed to catch the back of the pack with 5Km to go. The only problem is that it was flying at approx 60kph, so most onlookers would give him no chance of going even faster and getting to the front to contest the sprint. WRONG! Not only did he work his way up to the front but he came out of nowhere to fight for the sprint and leave everyone standing, winning by a couple of lengths. A real triumph over adversity and an inspiration to never ever give up, no matter how hopeless it looks. Chapeau Monsieur McEwan!

Now the Tour leaves our shores, after a successful weekend (in my humble opinion!) for London and for cycling. Here's to seeing it come back again soon - a bientot, Le Tour!

Saturday, July 7

Londres - Londres

Wow, what a Prologue! I hope the rest of the Tour will match it. For those that didn't watch it live, it was a pity that Bradley Wiggins was only just outside George Hincapie's time, a split second he lost earlier when he took a bend too slowly. At that time, the outstanding performance was from Andreas Kloden, who'd set a time 10 seconds faster than the both of them. He's really shown he's on form and will be contender - along with team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov - for the maillot jaune in Paris.

But, although I thought Fabian Cancellara would be the only person able to beat Wiggins, I had no idea he would obliterate the opposition - his time was 13 seconds faster than Kloden's and a massive 23 seconds faster than Hincapie & Wiggins. Doesn't sound like much? Cancellara was 3 seconds per Km faster than Wiggins, the Olympic individual pursuit champion - by the time he got to the end of Whitehall and turned into Victoria Street, he was already 1.5 seconds ahead! Mindblowing, especially when you consider that a sinlge second is normally the winning margin for prologues... oh, and the man was going so quick, he caught the TV motorbikes! Chapeau, Mr Cancellara!

Chapeau also to Ken Livingstone. A good day for London and for cycling, which would have been better only if Wiggins had been in yellow tonight. Estimated benefit to London through tourism is to the tune of £115m from the prologue alone. The French organisers were impressed enough to hint that the Tour may come back to London sooner rather than later... which is saying a lot, considering how tight-lipped they normally are! A double-bill in 2012, perhaps? You heard it here first!

Fingers crossed now for a Mark Cavendish win at Canterbury tomorrow. Bit much to expect from a 22-year old but he is the sprinter with the best record this year. If he can follow the wheel of Robbie McEwan, Tom Boonen or Thor Hushovd, he may be able to beat them to the line at the last minute. It's definitely going to be won by a sprinter though - the course is as flat as a pancake. What with this stage, the Wimbledon men's final and the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, tomorrow's going to be wasted as an armchair sports fan!

Friday, July 6

The Tour has begun!

The teams have been presented to the public in Trafalgar Square. Although it looked cold (the presenters put on their coats and some of the cyclists wore leg warmers) at least it didn't rain - probably for the first time in a fortnight! Let's hope it stays dry tomorrow for the Prologue, or it could be carnage - I've cycled some of those roads before and the accumulated diesel oil from the tarmac really makes it slippery when it rains. Looks like Fabian Cancellara will win it, as he's the man on form, but fingers crossed the whole country will push Bradley Wiggins to go faster and to wear the maillot jaune on the road to Canterbury - what a sight that would be and what an advert for British cycling.

Roll on tomorrow....

Tuesday, July 3

The Great British Summer?

Managed to get home just before the sky turned black and the mayhem began!

From BBC News: Freak storm batters south London

Parts of south London were hit by flash floods following a massive storm that swept across the South East. The storm broke out at about 1700 BST on Tuesday and lasted about 20 minutes. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the sky suddenly turn dark before the torrential downpour of rain and hailstones began. The weather caused travel chaos and delays for commuters as roads in south London struggled with the heavy rain.

Olivia Young was in Battersea when she saw the storm developing. "We had lots of thunder and then the hail began," she said. "They were really large pieces of hail the size of 20 pence pieces which tore through the sky, ripping leaves from the trees and flowers from plants. I have never seen anything like it."

Spinning class - The Race

The title says it all - no drills, no breaks, just hard work for the whole ride with attacks thrown in. Not for faint-hearted and requires a good level of fitness, although you judge your own effort levels and so don't have to push yourself to your limits.

Start warming up with relatively quick leg speed and gradually add resistance over the 4 minutes while slowing your legs to match the rhythm of the music. You should feel like you're starting to warm up by the time you hit the climb and settle into a steady rhythm - from here, neither resistance, effort level or leg speed should drop (apart from temporarily slowing down your legs while taking a drink of water). The consistency of effort is vital - whatever your desired effort level, keep it there as a bare minimum.

For attacks 1 & 2 you're trying to split the pack of riders and get rid of the hangers-on. To apply this extra pressure - the equivalent of increasing your road speed - add a lot of resistance, enough to make it too hard to keep your rhythm in the saddle, so that you have to stand up to keep climbing. A heavy effort, spread over 3 minutes, but try to keep it constant to stretch the pack until it breaks, building a time gap. When the attack is over, resistance returns back down to the climb, i.e., no easy recovery - the important thing is to not relax afterwards or the riders left behind will start to catch up again. For the first minute or so, keep pedalling until your legs adapt and start to recover from the attack. Then settle into the rhythm again before taking a drink of water.

By the time we get to Attack 3, we're left with the hardened climbers. To shake off these guys, there's no point in applying more pressure as they'll just stay with us. So we need to spring a surprise attack by keeping the same resistance but jumping out of the saddle and accelerating as much as possible for the full minute. You shouldn't be able to double your leg speed as resistance is quite heavy: 10-20% is realistic and is enough to create a small time gap. Then it's back to the saddle for a minute of normal climbing - don't take it easy or that attack will have been for nothing - to regain your breath (no time for water!) before Attack 4 and anothe acceleration to shake off the remaining riders.

Finally, a sustained 3 minutes of seated climbing before we start working towards the finish line with a final 3 minutes out of the saddle. Up to you whether you keep the same resistance or decide to up the pace a little by increasing it. Then, for the final minute, it's as much resistance as you can possibly handle while still keeping the same leg speed - reach for the line with your final burst of energy and cross the line with nothing left to give. Well done, you win! Just make sure you don't do anything hard that day (or the next, if you can!), as you'll need to recover fully.

Warm up (to 70% HRR) - 4 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 5 min
Attack 1: Standing climb @80-90% HRR - 3 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 9 min
Attack 2: Standing climb @80-90% HRR - 3 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 7 min
Attack 3: Hill sprint @85-90% HRR - 1 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 1 min
Attack 4: Hill sprint @85-90% HRR - 1 min
Seated climb @75-85% HRR - 3 min
Standing climb @85-90% HRR - 2 min
Final push for the line @90-95% HRR - 1 min
Cool down and stretching - 5 min

HR Profile:

Saltwater - Chicane
Invisible - Tilt
Home - Chakra (Attack 1)
Everyday - Agnelli & Nelson
Please save me - Sunscreem vs Push (Attack 2)
Rapture - IIO
Sandstorm - Darude (Attacks 3 & 4)
The Silence - Mike Koglin
Universal Soul - Mandrake (final sprint)
The Lonely Shepherd - Zamfir

Sunday, July 1

V is for Volvic

Raaaa! Whatcha doing Mister VolcAAAAAAno?

You'll find this much funnier if you grew up with Sesame Street!

Not loading? Click here!

I'm off to eat someone's parents!