I get 'cross

My journal of cyclocross
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Just read this on a product, "The cup can take up to 3oz/80ml, perfect for those after meal espresso’s or to give yourself a boost in the morning."

Don't do that, ever. Blocks the absorption of iron from your meal. If we break this down into simple terms. Iron = your blood = you need iron = not ill, less tired, better riding and recovery.
Well well well. The result of two other people coming together on the opening corner and I'm the one in the hedge. Not just any hedge, a leafless, solid twig wall.
7th 9th in National Trophy from basically a sitting start. 
Happy & not happy with that. Excited about racing Essen next weekend but not about the gouge in my leg.

Thought I'd mix up my play list ready for Christmas. These tracks are best played loud through ones earphones in a fixed space. Remember kids riding with headphones on the trail or the road equals danger. 

Disclaimer: listening these tracks won't cause a  direct improvement to your VO2Max, wattage or lactate threshold, but they will help you get through the toughest of tabata's and the most painful pyramids providing a stepping stone to your next performance goal (that is, if you like drum and base, garage and dance music).

Photo: Balint Humvas report Cyclephotos.co.uk

Photo: Balint Humvas report on Cyclephotos.co.uk
I returned to Antwerp to race Soudal Classics – Scheldecross. The aim was to beat last year's 20th place but mistakes in the cut up deep sand on the opening lap forced me right down the field. The third lap a similar sand related mistake occurred leaving me floundering on the beach. The fourth lap, the jigsaw went together perfectly and I made it to a group and then rode through them to secure 29th and make up 5 places.
I know I would have been much faster and further up the field if  in the technical sand I have run the moment my Dugast touched the golden grit but in the practice laps I could ride it, it had just become alot more cut up as the day went on.

I felt tired but excited to race in Ipswich at the Southern and Eastern Championships. The course was open and flat, no climbing and a few technical wooded section, a bit of sand and a run up.
Strangely I wasn't gridded, so lined up a row back from Louise Mahe (Mule Bar Girl). When the gun went I struggled to get past the back markers on the early bends and the time gap to Louise went out to 20 seconds.
I caught up to 2nd place at the end of lap 1, but the twists of the course meant I had to sit on and catch my breath and wait until the start/finish straight to attack and overtake. The 10 second lead Louise had remained and she was motoring away on fine form. Another sand related mistake happened on lap 3 when I wasn't quite clipped in after the run up and then in the wrong gear for the little bump after, it meant I lost another few seconds. In the end she just pulled out a lead that I couldn't shut down and I felt I didn't quite have the power to eek about another 2% after riding a tough race in Antwerp.

Data from the race:
              Lap 1 - Lap 2 - Lap 3 - Lap 4  - Lap 5
Louise - 11:07  - 7:21   - 7:25   - 7:25    -  7:33
Claire -  11:24  - 7:22   - 7:33   - 7:35    -  7:31

My silver British Cycling medal to add to the other three!

Took a basic EOS camera to round 4 of the National Cyclocross Trophy in Milton Keynes. 
A cold day with splashes of winter sunshine. 
These are a few incidental shots.

I finished 11th from the field of 25. Had some annoying pedal issues on lap 1 and 3. After a muddy run up I just couldn't engage the cleat and for nearly a whole lap I balanced the right-hand pedal, occasionally kicking it to clear mud or just in angst that I was engaging. 

The first time up the steep weaving switchback I was too nervous to climb out the saddle for fear of slipping off the tiny metal surface. My calf began to twitch with the onset of cramp. A flood of riders came past. 
On the second approach past the pits finally, quietly clicked into place.
On the final lap I prayed it wouldn't do it again as I drew closer to 12th place. I was in luck and put my head down dug in as I saw 11th ahead, it came down to the final corner before the start finish, I got to the bend first, held the line and as soon as my tyre touched tarmac began to sprint. Nail the position on the line. 

December is packed with important CX races, which will make base building over Christmas alittle easier. 

1st Dec - National Trophy, Milton Keynes
7th Dec- Soudal Classic, Scheldercross Anterpen (C1)
8th Dec- Regional Championships
14th Dec - National Trophy Bradford
21st Dec - Bbank Post Trophy, Essen (C1)

"We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery."
H. G. Wells

1st Delia Beddis, ViCiOUS Velo
2nd Claire Beaumont ViCiOUS Velo
3rd Anett Deli Cycle Lab
Herbs next to a microwave
  • You can use the microwave to dry basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, chives or parsley. 
  •  Take the leaves off the stalks and discard any damaged leaves. 
  • Wash and pat dry the leaves with kitchen paper (not recycled kitchen paper as there may be metal traces). 
  •  Place one type of herb on a sheet of kitchen paper on a microwave-safe-plate and cover with another sheet. 
  •  Microwave for 30 seconds, full power. 
  • Check and repeat again until the herbs are dry - they should crumble easily. 
  • Small leaves dry quickly, so take care not to burn them. 
  •  Store in an airtight container for up to a year

Attack of the bulbous head.

I just happened upon Tim Kemple, a photographer whose adventure photography makes me want to grab a pair of Berhaus waterproof trainers, a hiking pole and get climbing.

Pre ride / post ride / race / post race picks for CX season 2013/14


Fiasco woollen hat (http://www.fiascociclismo.com)
Fiasco neck warmer
Use: Pre race warm up, post race podium time

Mac-in-a-Sac (£8.99) lightweight waterproof trousers. Get them from 'The mountain warehouse' don't get wet legs and a muddy butt in doing warm up laps. A must for CX put dwellers.
Use: Race 

Rapha trio: new & improved Rapha rainjacket in purple. Super close fit, super waterproof and looks good. Nice feel. 

Rapha long sleeve merino base layer.  
Use: Extremely cold training days, post race car journeys

Rapha Souesse jersey in blue - a real beaut of a jersey. Been wearing it on most training rides recently, layer up underneath when it's cooler or go short sleeve base layer underneath if your doing hill reps. The fit is superb and brushed material is both lightweight and insulative.
Use: Training rides 

Rapha Winter socks - blue - silky soft snug and toasty
Use: Darkest winter training rides, post race car journeys 

Rapha merino glove liners - I rock these under waterproof shells for insulation in the freezing wet and muddiest CX conditions. 
The liners are supple, close fitting and cozy without being bulky but if you do need protection in from wind chill creeping into the minus values the liners will serve as a perfect additional layers 
Use: Darkest winter training rides, pre race warm up

New Vicious Velo skinsuit - Bio Racers fabric use a pro mesh fabric in this skinsuit and it's is really good. Unlike solid basic Lycra it doesn't stretch and lose its form as easily. The fabric holds its form and shapes around my arms and upper body. Snagging on trees, bits of bike when shouldering is almost impossible to do. 
Use: Race, where it counts most!

Rapha mesh merino base layer - when you need a long sleeve but you don't want to wear a full merino thick base layer. Perfect winter training ride layer and race wear in the depths of winter. Low volume so I can fit neatly beneath the close fitting skinsuit.
Use: Race

Rapha Pro Team Jacket - I wear a small. Probably should have got an XS. 
It's a slightly thicker rain resistant men's version of the Soupleese. Ideal for pre race course warm and for waiting on the start line. Warm jacket for when your handing  back your number post race.
Perfect for intense training ride when the temp plummets below 5 degrees. 
Use: Training, pre race 

Raced Rapha Supercross riding in the elite race for Yorkshire.
Good to race the whole series and good that the riders in the elite women were the same competitors in the National level races.

First round was really good, Broughton Hall was a brilliant course, it had a mix of everything including forced rest sections. Here I'd grab a few gulps and ride fast for the next tough section. When you get to the tough sections you need to 'Energise'. A phrase used by Seth Smith from the Yorkshire Team. Its a good word. Its not a negative word, it sort of inspires, instead of saying 'dig in' or 'push on'. When he first said it I thought it was nonsense but makes alot of sense when you riding.

 Second round was hard and overnight my back has seized into a ball of pain. I'm not sure what caused it, maybe lifting bikes into the car at a funny angle. I think I ended up second to last. The long steep hill after the thick custard style mud didn't help. I was pretty annoyed after a good top 8 ride at Broughton.

Pain ensued for the following week. I didn't do much training which made me panic because I'm meant to be building toward riding the Koppenberg (which would be the following week).
I skipped out going to a Hen Party on the Friday night for fear of making the back feel worse and not healing.
I headed to a wedding on Saturday, was 'forced' to stay up till 2am. Luckily the clocks went back on Saturday so it wasn't too bad.
Sunday - didn't feel great. I felt worn out and tired. Aching. I got up at 8am drove to London for the Ally Pally race.

That said race was ok. Faded half way in the headwind, did a gel, got better but I'd already let the field escape me. Thinking back, this is where I should have pushed on got on the wheel of the Felt rider. Finished within the top 10. But not sure where!

There are some great images on Build, Rinse Repeat
Reports are here: Round 1, 2, 3
Image: Build Ride Rinse - Erik Jonsson

No offence to British Cycling, but Rapha Super Cross had the elite field of the National Trophy's but it brought the atmosphere and crowd too. The National Trophies, I think are a bit of a joke. It is not the organisers fault, gosh, I'm thankful they step up and organise. It is the lack of support they receive from the governing body....

Link: http://www.feeldesain.com/famous-business-cards-2.html 
I didn't have the first IPod. A boy (now dating one married to one of best friends) in my year at Sixth Form did and I thought it was very futuristic and odd, I saw it and thought this wont catch on, Mini Disc is much better.
He now designs race tracks for people who own super cars and need some place to drive them. Smart lad.
Image via: http://kirtan.tumblr.com/post/44724227630 
"I love vulgarity. I am very attracted by bad taste – it is a lot more exciting than that supposed good taste which is nothing more than a standardised way of looking a things..."

"I rode so hard to break my riding companion, I nearly broke my lungs.
I just sat on the front and kept the pace high, she stuck in there, while I made a poker face.
Half way through the 10 minute interval I managed to drop her but she got back as we stopped at a red light in Regents Park.

When the 10mins was up she could hardly talk, I tried to chat loudly, repeating the weather forecast. Simple repetition. The only thing I could get my brain to compute. First victory to me.

Then we began again, she was on the front this time, then the next rider rolled through and then me, face muscles as relaxed as possible, my body upright rather than hung over the bars, hands on the tops. My heart working hard echoed like a monstrous beat in my ears. I focused on fighting the need to stretch my face.
Each time I passed my other riding 'companions' as we rolled through and off, I tried lifting my eyebrows to stop them instinctively burrowing into a deep frown. Another victory chalked.
I wanted to rock my body, I wanted to wrestle the bike over the dragging hill to release the tension. I wanted to get out the saddle.
By the last interval I managed to put some daylight between us, then proceeded to ride as hard as possible to lap her. Final game awarded to me.
I win, the set, three games to love.
I got in at 8pm & went to bed at 8.40pm"
note: this artistic contribution was sent in to blog HQ. This is what I look like when riding in regents

The Poker Face, as vital to a cyclist as it is to James Bond sitting at a green baize Baccarat table. I believe it can be used three ways.
1. To discourage your competitors from attacking. If they see you starting to fade, then they will attack you and you will need to respond. The longer you make them wait wondering if you are weak then less time they have on the road to attack.

2. Double bluff to encourage support from the crowd. This is where you want to reverse your calm tranquil poker face into a contorted ball of anguish. After attacking your group of competitors, over exaggerate everything as your ride out front battling on for victory. Spectators can really see you are digging at every ounce of energy and putting it out there for the victory, they will salute you for it.

3. Double bluff your competitors - I don't advise this. This is a tricky one to make work it has the probability to back fire. It is a tactic Lance has used. His ruse involved pretending he was suffering on early climbs so when Ullrich road harder earlier in the stage Lance go ride with him when Ullrich used up his energy, only then did Lance uncurled his pained face, give Ullrich a long stare and attacked on the Peyresourde. Ullrich had no answer.

A Poker Face must be practised. It is a difficult thing to pull off because you cannot see your face as you pedal, unless you have a mirror on your bike. The weather has an effect on the Poker Face, a bitter wind can pinch and freeze ones skin. With some many muscles in your face and so much to concentrate on the face can be difficult to control.
Lance Armstrong is one of the best Poker Face makers the world of modern cycling has ever seen.

Below we see Bradley Wiggins, the underdog in 2009 is grimacing while Lance appears to be contemplating his next more. As the supposed weaker of the riders, this plays well for Brad as spectators should side with the Brit as he heroically struggles. Tyler Hamilton waxes lyrical about how great he was at Poker Face, but I disagree, he was pretty useless at it.

A standard evening training session in the park is not part of a formal competition, so why would we be using our Poker Faces?
Sport is a social institution because of some key characteristics it exhibits - this has inevitably lead to ridiculous behavioural norms and the creation of the 'The Cycling Poker Face'
Cycling particularly has a ranking system (one of the characteristics). Within all institutions, groups and societies, a hierarchy exists. This is often based on something of value. In business, positions are valued. In sport, a hierarchy exists based on skills, ability to perform and to a lesser degree how long you have been involved in the sport (seniority).
Secondly the need for social control has created a large number of rules in sport. All organisations have formal written rules as well as informal rules.

As soon as we entered Regents Parks and began the training session we all informally agreed to a form of competition and a set of informal rules.

Throughout the training session we all tried to establish ourselves at the top of the ranking system by obeying the informal rules, in this example the task was through and off so to shake my companions I would not be able to suddenly start sprinting or nip through a set of lights that were changing to red. That would not be fair. I would also not be able to side swipe my companion to take them down to exclude them from the game.

Thus we rode applying pressure, slowly sending the pace up and up. Until someone cracked. No one wanted to crack because they would automatically slipped down the ranking system. When we eased up after the interval the rider who showed the most weakness heavy breath, inability to converse would slip down the ranking system.
The Poker Face serves to keep you high in the ranking system. If you appear to your riding partners that you can hold this pace almost indefinitely while they are finding it harder and harder, they will eventually give in .

In our heads we all tallied up our victories and evaluated our performances. 
As we left the park I knew I was top of the tree thanks in part to my ability to play the Poker Face.

This blog acts as a visual guide through internet wanderings’s while maintaining a focus on clothing your body & feeding your stomach.

Rapha Condor JLT hosted a Q&A after a ride out event earlier this summer.
The questions came in thick a fast about all the menial things that I've heard time and time again. The topics of nutrition came up and some off the cuff comment about some riders seeing better affects by using gels with added nitrates.

I took that away and scratched my head.
Then at a recent cyclocross race one of the prizes for those lucky enough to stand on the podium was a bottle of 'Beet-It' beetroot juice (as well as the all important cash).

I tried it, it tasted like filth, really really soil-y. Not like the preserved acidic taste of beetroot often found sliced on your nans dinner table.

I wondered who could stand to drink this beetroot juice and just how worth it was to endure the taste versus improve performance.

And so here are some findings:

2007 & 2009 English Journal of Applied Physiology found a 10% decrease in oxygen consumption after taking 600mg of sodium nitrate (per day) for three days. The affects were found for athletes working at medium intensity e.g. not a criterium or cyclocross style of race
600mg is roughly 0.5litres of beetroot juice.

In 2010 the American Journal of Physiology reported that nitric oxide enhanced the efficiency of muscle contractions.

A double blind study of which the results can be found in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise found 0.5 liters of beetroot juice led to an improvement of 6% in the power generated in a trainer-simulated 16km time trial in a group of mid-level cyclists.
Though 6% sounds low, it roughly translates to 48 seconds - according to Tyler Hamilton's recent tell all book - that is roughly the improvement found when transfusing a pint of blood.

and the application:

There are no hard and fast protocols that have been set, so I've applied some of the research.

Considering beetroot juice tastes (to me) very foul. What else contains nitrates?

Nitrates are found in green leafy vegetables (spinach, chard, arugula, lettuce, celery) and beetroot. They have been used for centuries as a preservative in meat sausages - hence why John Herety was amazed to see Russian riders in the 1980 Olympic Road Race stuffing themselves with salami.

The ingested nitrates are absorbed in the intestines, Nitrites are then partially converted to Nitric Oxide (NO) which is mainly responsible for the effects of nitrate on metabolic functions.

After eating food rich in Nitrates it takes 1.5hour to 3 hours to see a rise in nitrate levels in the body and affects will last up to 15 days.

Nitrates naturally contained in plants are preferred to synthetic products (sodium nitrate) as in vegetables there are antioxidants (vit C in particular) that are able to counteract the negative effects of nitrite in the stomach.

I'm unsure how much vegetables like celery and spinach contain, I can seem to find a definitive answer so I don't know how much one needs to eat to hit that 600mg level?

BUT: it worth noting that a high ingestion of nitrates can cause stomach upsets especially among vegetarians who tend to suffer from low stomach acidity and those with asthma also suffer from this too.
Note: Eating more 6g will kill you. 

Don't like vegetables? A synthetic version is available. According to the SiS website:  "To achieve the optimal performance boosting effects of nitrate, consume 2-3 gels daily for 3-5 days prior to your event. Given that the SiS GO Gels + Nitrate is to be consumed in the days leading up to your event, you should also ensure that you consume other carbohydrate, hydration and caffeine products of the SIS GO Range on race day in order to ensure maximal race day performance."

2-3 gels! yeh thats alot. Each gel contains 250mg.
So, I may have to stick with the beetroot juice after all.
Start from Weir Wood (Layhams Lane). 20 mile route takes about 1hr 40mins to ride.
80% off road trails, single track and paths.

Additional loop can be added from Jackass Lane up to Keston via some really good stairs.

The North Downs Way is a bit rubbish, so I started on it but then turned back and road across the Warlingham and into more bridle ways I knew.

Map of ride here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/376012318