Wednesday, October 29

Spinning class: Halloween

Okay, I know it's cheesy and I'm not one known for his theme rides... mainly because I only do them at Halloween, Christmas and whenever it's carnival in Brasil. But I do draw the line at fancy dress - not suitable clothing for exercise - nor do I compromise on the amount of work to be done on the ride. I may be no fun but I don't care - you'll work hard and LIKE IT... or else we do some interval training instead! Hehehehe

So, here's how it works. After a long warm-up that gradually builds up HR, we start climbing, gradually adding resistance to prepare our legs for the onslaught. The main block of work is a pyramid. It starts with a slow, heavy climb before picking up the cadence by approx 10%. A slight drop in resistance may be needed if it's too tough - we can't let our HR get too high.

This keeps going until the "point" of the pyramid - a very fast climb or a hard flat road, depending on your point of view, where we're running away at top effort (HR 80-85%). Without thinking, you may find that the level of reistance at this faster cadence is higher than you'd otherwise have - your legs have gradually got used to working at heavy resistances, before easing off some of that resistance, increasing cadence and then maybe adding some of that resistance back on again.

A quick, 30 second break, before we resume our way back down the pyramid - slower leg speed, which means higher resistance. Cadence drops by 10%, so resistance acts as compensation. Again, you may find yourself working harder than you'd have thought - just when you think you can't work harder at a set cadence, it drops and your effort level drops... so you increase it some more!

Just when you think you're safe from harm, you realise you still have a final climb to go and, along the way, you'll be chased by demons and goblins blah blah blah (can you tell I'm no good at this cheesy talk?). Anyway, the reality is that we have three sprints on a hill - 40secs, 30secs and 20secs, with about a minute in between. The sprints may not be easy but the recovery in between certainly won't... as you have to keep climbing! Resistance remains the same throughout and the sprints - accellerations, really - are achieved by increasing cadence as much as is possible with all that heavy resistance. Recovery, well, you just slow down to a steady climb.

Time the last track well and, at the end of the final sprint, you'll hear a huge sigh/gasp/breath of relief from the riders... just before the voice of the tracks kicks in with "There is hope!"

Happy haunting, fiendish friends!

Warm-up - 9 mins
Steady climb - 6 mins
Climb @60rpm - 4 mins
Climb @65rpm - 4 mins
Climb @70rpm - 5 mins
Fast climb / hard flat road - 5 mins
Climb @70rpm - 4 mins
Climb @65rpm - 3.5 mins
Climb @60rpm - 6 mins
Sprints on a hill - 5.5 mins
Cool down - 8 mins


High priests - Michael Flatley
Riders on the storm - Snoop Dogg ft. The Doors
Somebody's watching me - Beatfreakz
Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Jr
Breathe - Prodigy
Nightmare - Brainbug
Voodoo people - Prodigy
Firestarter - Prodigy
Vater Unser - E Nomine
Thriller - Michael Jackson
Keep hope alive - The Crystal Method
Spirit's lament - Michael Flatley
Angels will help you - York & Ginger Macenzie

Sunday, October 26

Giro d'Italia 2009

Hot on the foot of the announcement of next year's Tour de France route, the rumour mill is already in top gear regarding the route of its Italian cousin, the Giro d'Italia. A notable newspaper as La Stampa has even gone so far as to publish a map of the likely route - they usually do so, with great accuracy, a few weeks before the announcement in December. It's a long way to December but... they must be confident of its accuracy!

NB - the rest days are down as 18 and 26 July but I think they mean May!

The 2009 edition of the Giro marks its Centenary, so the idea is to follow the original route while including a few classic stages, such as the Cuneo-Sestriere stage that in 1949 saw Fausto Coppi win after a 150Km escape (no, that's not a misprint - think of Lance Armstrong attacking that far in advance!). His greatest rival, Gino Bartali, finished 11 minutes behind him.

The 1949 Giro is probably the most famous among Italians, with arch-rivals Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali battling against each other against the background of a newly united nation (the Italian Republic was still in its infancy after the ravages of war). It's difficult to imagine the impact they had on the morale of a nation. Think of the effect of Lance Armstrong and the hope he gave (and still gives) to cancer sufferers... now match that with Greg Lemond's effect on the USA's interest in cycling. Now imagine the race being held in a post-Depression US and you start to get the idea!

How good were they? They completely dominated that year's Giro and Tour - all else being equal, nobody else stood a chance against them. Some will remember how Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond tore up the field in the Tour, some hark back to Eddy Merckx and Luis Ocana. For the present generation, imagine Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador...

The 2009 Giro may well turn to be just as much of a classic 60 years after Coppi's and Bartali's exploits.

Saturday, October 25

Chrissie does it again!

I didn't report on it at the time but Chrissie Wellington continued her unbeaten pro Ironman Triathlon career by thrashing the opposition at Hawaii - the event that acts as the World Championships of the long distance triathlon.

If you're thinking "Chrissie Who?", read my post last year of when she won this same event.

Where last year she was the surprise winner, this year it would have been a shock had anyone else won it. But she almost didn't! She suffered a complex puncture without a support vehicle to help her out, used up her CO2 cartridges trying unsuccessfully to inflate her spare tyre, and waited for almost 15 minutes before one of her competitors gave her one of her cartridges in a worthy show of sportsmanship.

Shame it's not an Olympic event - triathlon gets very little coverage anyway, so long distance tri (like Ironman) is mostly overlooked. Britain seems to rule the world in the sports that the media prefer to ignore, in favour of sports where we constantly lose... usually to Australia!

Friday, October 24

Lifetime bans for drug cheats

As reported in the Italian media and (in English) in VeloNews ACCPI, the Italian pro cyclists' association, is calling for a lifetime ban for pro riders caught doping. In a letter sent to UCI President Pat McQuaid, they said:

Dear Mr. McQuaid,

A few days ago your statement regarding the opportunity to implement severer sanctions for doping appeared in the press. To this end, we in our role of an association with more than 250 professional Italian cyclists would like to inform you that we are regrettably convinced that the way to combat doping is not just tougher sanctions but indeed lifetime bans i.e. expulsion.

The situation has now become so serious that only with extreme measures can we have any hope of giving credibility back to our beloved sport and – even more importantly for us – to our cyclists. The positive tests of Riccò, Sella, Piepoli, Schumacher, and Kohl are damaging, even more so because they are winning cyclists. Their conduct fuels the fires of those who unjustly sustain that the only way to win cycling races nowadays is by means of doping. This is why the UCI needs to act to eradicate every possible illegal temptation from the movement, and thereby send out the message that anybody who willfully cheats is out of the game for good.

The main reason why we demand this action is to protect the cyclists who race in full compliance of the rules and who – we firmly believe – make up the majority of the group. However, punishing the riders is simply not enough! If doping exists, it is mainly due to the fact that there are people out there encouraging the cyclists to take these illegal measures. So we need to unmask “the pushers and the doping scientists”. And the only way we can do this is to encourage the cyclists to really and effectively cooperate with the sporting authorities and with the police and legal systems.

The WADA 2009 Code agrees with our hopes, but we believe that the UCI can and must support these measures even further. On the one hand by instituting sanctions to expel cyclists that are found guilty of using prohibited substances or prohibited methods in the future, and on the other hand by offering them the chance to return to racing after shorter bans if they provide evidence that they no longer have any connection with those who encouraged or helped them to use prohibited substances or methods.

Mr President, if you decide to promote this initiative, you can be assured of our full support.

The letter was signed by ACCPI President Amedeo Colombo and the association's secretary, former world champion Gianni Bugno.

So lifetime bans - previously advocated by others in the cycling profession - but also with an idea that cyclists who cooperate with authorities should be offered the chance to race again after shorter bans. This would work well on two fronts: (1) the risks of cheating would be MUCH greater - one strike and you're out for good; and (2) would allow the authorities to offer a "plea bargain" to those who provided names of the managers, doctors, etc. who were running the drugs program.

After all, cyclists are victims - maybe not innocent ones but they would be pressured by managers to perform better by taking drugs and also provided those drugs by their doctors and coaches. THEY are the ones who should be taken out of sport - cycling would do much better without these drug peddlers...

Rant over!

Thursday, October 23

I'm sure they make it up as they go along...

A while ago I opened a thread on Pedal-On about a blog I'd found that had me in hysterics but for all the wrong reasons. Today, I had reason to refer to it so I thought I'd put here my original post.

I came across this site while browsing other blogs. I'm not one to overly-criticise other people's technique unless clearly unsafe but this certainly caught my eye!

"Purpose: strengthening and toning the hamstrings, glutes, and butt. First, add a lot of tension on your bike. Then a bit more. This set is not about fast legs, but about form, technique, and isolation of the hammies/glutes/butt. (already looking suspect) Then rest on your forearms. (here we go...) Lean forward forward as far as possible and get into a comfortable position. (did he say comfortable???) Most of your weight should be supported by your forearms resting on the handlebars. (WHY?? Why do something so utterly stupid?)

Next, thrust your hips back as far as possible, “Like you have to go to the bathroom in the desert and you are afraid a snake might bite you.” Thrust ‘em back! Then, mentally, make sure you are landing on your toes. Lasly, lift your butt up as high as possible. “Moon the moon!” Your goal is to try and get your butt higher than your shoulders. Even if you cannot do this, aim for it. In sum, you are leaning forward, hips back, butt up. (WTF ?)

Focus on keeping that butt-up! It takes 30-45 secs to explain this (try a 2-hour lecture on biomechanics) to the class and to have everyone get into proper position. When they do, remind them to breathe slowly and deeply and to keep the butt up! Climb like this for 3-5 minutes. You should feel a bit of a pain (really?) behind each of your kneecaps which will slowly crawl up the hamstrings and settle in your lower butt. Pain is good! (only if you inflict it on someone else, I bet!) Halfway through the set, carefully have the class increase the tension. (so I presume they take one of their load-bearing arms off the handlebars to do this?) Remind them of maintaining proper form (hahahaha - unintentional irony!) — lean forward, hips back, butt above the shoulders. It is easy to get tired and sloppy with this set. When you are done, your bootie and hammies should feel like they have been thrashed… in a good way! "

You can see the replies on Pedal-On in the thread here.

I think I would truly want to hit him if he ever tried this in a class in which I was participating. Yet, people think he's "awesome" - perhaps meaning to say "awful"....

Wednesday, October 22

Tour de France 2009

Forgive me, it's been almost six weeks since my last post. Excuses to come in later posts but, for now, I've been following the rumour mill about the route of next year's Tour. After some difficulties with video streaming, I managed to see it live and get hold of the map of the official route.

The keen-eyed will spot two things that stand out: firstly, the return of the team time trial; secondly, and this is the biggy, the mountain-top finish on the Mont Ventoux the day before the finish in Paris! So, like in the year when Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon on the final time trial into Paris, it all comes down to the wire. Knowing that the next day will be procession into Paris, expect riders to go all out to grab the maillot jaune.

Roll on the carnage!