This season my winter training manifesto will comprise of the three F's. Fortitude, Food and FUN! Adorning the inside door of my locker at work are three photos to represent each of the three parts to comprise a solid finale of riding to the year. Placed not in the teenage-heartthrob fashion, they serve as an everyday reminder of my statement of intent as we enter the last part of the year.
The first photo captures perhaps my most classic moment of the past season, a screaming Marianne Vos crossing the finish line in the London Olympics, in a torrential downpour. To me this grey and miserable image represents ‘Fortitude’. The fundamental dedication required to get out there and complete my planned riding is conjured up by this awesome victory. To avoid excuses ditching riding for the warmth and comfort of the armchair, one must decide to battle with the elements. Preparation for the slew of crappy weather is key - ensure the bikeparts are well lubricated, and look to fit mudguards and decent brake pads. High spoke wheelsets become a trusted companion for those long and steady base-building roll outs, along with a good winter compound rubber encasing them. The art of layering kit is a skill to learn - add in layers of merino for insulation, and think about a protective shell on those days when precipitation is heavy and prolonged. Look after extremities, fingers and toes once painfully numb will break but the hardest of riders. A great idea is to 'embrace the chartruese', not only providing a bit of fun colour to wintry kit choices, but key in increasing visibility of parts of yourself and bike. Likewise look to invest in a decent set of lights, for those city blinkers probably won’t do on the darkest of nights on the lanes.
The second photo shows a particularly lean and healthy looking Jan Ullrich. Now it was no secret that Der Kaiser suffered with maintaining a decent weight in the offseason. A past team-mate once famously recanted the story of Jan microwaving whole jars of nutella to consume in liquid form after a ride!
This time of year can traditionally become a time to fall into the trap of gluttony, but instead find some hours in the week to dedicate to reading up on the various nutrition techniques out there and cooking to fuel the mileage. Avoid Big Jans yo-yo weight control and seek to get a head start on busting the annual January gut by implementing simple changes in diet. Look to take on the correct amount of carbs, fats and protein, without indulging excessively in the xmas puds or festive beers. Perhaps even keep a food journal, there is an abundance of excellent meal tracking apps available for smartphones. You may be surprised by the content of the food you eat, so educate and look to indulge in moderation - its a guaranteed result you will cycle faster as spring approaches. Prep healthy comfort food meals ready to heat up upon return from a freezing temperature session on the roads, avoiding the temptation of a sin-laden takeaway as the easy option.
The third and final photo reminds me the importance of having fun on a winter training ride. An awesome photograph of Le Mevel pulling an audacious wheelie on the 20%+ gradients of the brutal Lombardia climb, the Passo Sormano, serves as a pointer that cycling with friends in the winter should be about fun, about social pace, and about enjoying the company of good friends eager to share the winter journey. Coffee and cake (one slice though, with regards to the previous point!) are essential components to the long early morning weekend ride. Search out a new tea room, test out a new route, or even work an existing route in reverse with friends. Perhaps instigate a road sign sprint competition; loser shouts the espressos in the caf stop. Its infinitely harder to bail on a ride when your letting down 3 other riders, and not just yourself...