Showing posts with label sufferfest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sufferfest. Show all posts

Les forçats du pavé

Étape Ruminations

Its Sunday morning, the 7th of July. The day of the Rapha Womens 100 has finally arrived, after looming as a mountain emoticon in my google calendar for so long. Im sat at the long dining table, trying to eat a bowl of muesli, but the 5am time is making it harder than usual.
I quietly spoon in the Carrefour cereal, and observe the group of fellow etapistes staying in this lakeside chalet in Annecy. A wide ranging mix of riders, some serious, others novice, some even self confessed non-cyclists. Some wear excited and toothy grinning expressions, others chat nervously about the events that will unfold over the day, and a couple of our group are pretty much silent. Heads down, their lowly eyes perhaps giving their secret away that they are indeed rather terrified. Their downcast body language looks as if they are almost resigned to an unpleasant experience, perhaps mulling over the possibility of… dare I say…. failure?
The challenge that lay before us ladies was to ride the 2013 Etape du Tour, a punishing amateur jaunt around what will is to be played out as stage twenty of the Tour de France on 20th July by professional World Tour riders. 125km with six categorized climbs in 30 degree heat. Oh and did I mention the finish? A Hors Categorie hellish beast at 11km long with an average gradient of 8.5%... fab!
In the starting pen, I just wanted to get going, all the stood around waiting for our pen to be released was proving a little anxious. I was riding alongside Fran Millar, and my nerves were certainly abated temporarily as she joked about the lack of loo facilities. I guess the fact she couldn’t locate a toilet gave us a little extra impetus to get to the first water stop that bit sooner!
After a breezy first 50km or so, Fran had hurt her back. I panicked as I didn’t want anything to jeopardize her etape, and I dearly wanted her to finish with me, as I needed the moral support and relief in a shared joke to get myself around! Gutted for Fran, as she had been very strong in training, I knew it would be a cruel blow if she didn't hammer the Semnoz. So I set about being an annoyingly keen domestique, shuttling up the pack to commandeer some pain relief from a classy rider named Claire in our group.
As it was, after the frankly disgustingly long laborious slog up the Revard, a 16km beast that lay as the penultimate test to the legs and head before the finale of the Semnoz, Fran was riding super strong and more importantly was assuringly positive she would indeed be able to cruise the rest of the parcours and finish. I then set off alone for my showdown avec the Semnoz, not because I was stronger or faster, but I knew I needed to be alone for the battle that lay ahead.
Photo by Yoko Akoi
I was indeed glad no one I knew was around to witness my suffering – it was not a pretty sight. I adopted a zombie like state, staring blankly ahead with a hollowed out expression, legs barely turning  and eyes sunken. My body began to cook in the unrelenting heat, and my Garmin only served to taunt to the length of time I would have to endure what was frankly a nightmare in Satans kitchen itself. The gradient never seemed to peter out, no respite to be found in a friendly flat few metres, just up and up and up.
My eyesight began to blur as if a heated mirage lay ahead, and tunnel vision crept in. To be honest im pretty sure I went into a mild hallucinogenic state – digging so deep it seemed as if I was having some kind of weird out of body experience…. I swear to this moment a man went past me Amy Winehouse's ‘Valerie’ blaring out from the rear of his jersey. I don’t know if it happened or not…. and I don’t think il ever know!
Riders vomited under the stress on their bodies, and the ditches on the right became strewn with casualties to the heat and the unrelenting gradients. Think something akin to a battlefield and your halfway there… only with more lycra and carbon. I don’t remember much of what happened in the last 5km… I think I may have sworn like a sailor, iv never had to dig so deep in my life. The heat was a major factor in sticking the boot in…
Despite all this, after a good half an hour atop the mountain enjoying the view with some fellow riders, I decided to descend back to the arrival village, freezing with the liters of water id dumped on myself to cool down. What an insanely good ride… Id love to go back and do the course again. We were treated to some of the most amazing views of Annecy, and the roads and climbs were ace. The food stops sucked because I only ever saw bananas, fruit bars ad apricots, all of which I hate (I know, fussy eater!), I never saw any of the hallowed quiche or cheese and bread my mates raved about. And apparently they had wine at one stop? Gutted I missed a quick glass of that!

Its going to be pretty amazing to watch the pro’s on this parcours on the 20th, Im so intrigued to see at what point a break will go, and if a decisive move is made on the Semnoz. Proper exiting stuff.
(photo lovingly nicked from boom)

The highlight of my Womens 100 experience? It wasn’t the seemingly endless descent off Mont Revard, and it wasn’t cresting the Semnoz to an encouraging shout from Leo, nor was it even the amazing Nutella sandwich bestowed upon me by Gemma back at the starting village…. The true highlight of my etape experience was seeing those two solemn faces at breakfast conquer the etape, bury themselves on some of the most hideous climbs in frankly brutal conditions, and finish the course. The pride I felt in their achievement at completing it was unbelievable. I don’t think iv ever felt so proud of my sport, and of the achievements of my friends, both new and old. I know that day they endured suffering with grace and a steely determination.

To say the day was inspiring would be an understatement. 

Footnote > If anyone can tell me where I can buy a big weird block of Almond Paste like the one pictured that would be amazing, I got it in Carrefour, and I swear that voodoo sweetness is what got me up the last climb... 
Extra Footnote > HUGE thanks to Fran for hooking all the Womens 100 crew up with a very special pep-talk with currently-on-le-tour Mr David Millar himself, dispatching some much needed pearls of wisdom via speakerphone. A truly awesome moment! 

La Doyenne

I had the pleasure of heading to Liege in Belgium last week with my awesome pal Ruth. Like a modern day Thelma & Louise of the cycling sorority, we packed our bikes into the rental Merc (a nice gratis upgrade, it pays to flutter ones eyes when picking it up!) and hot-footed it in the champagne-gold beast down to the 'chunnel at Folkestone, both giddy with excitement at heading to the Ardennes for the first time!
Saturday saw us tackle the LBL Challenge sportive, we plumped for the medium route, around 100 miles or so, eschewing the daddio of the full 276km route (although plans are firmly hatched to return and try the big one in 2014... now we have some idea of the bumps in the Ardennes!) Our route still featured most of the meaty climbs to sink our teeth into (and pray my knackered achilles didn't give out). We took in the Col du Rosier, the Maquisard - a 6km winding bugger falling during the warmest part of the day, Mont Theux, a cruelly placed Côte de La Redoute coming 110km into the ride, pushing onto the Colonster, before a final kick in the teeth at 152km that is the côte de Saint-Nicolas, which despite its pretty gnarly gradients, proved to be a real kick, climbing through the industrial streets glancing across to houses standing a curious angles to the tarmac we rode up. Big shout outs and respect to all those who smashed out the full distance one, especially Mr Liebo, cruising back into town ahead of us haha! 
A fair few brits were present on the ride, and was most lovely to bump into people we knew out on the course. We even spied plenty of ozzies over for the ride, most noticeable the dude in the full Greenedge garb... lets hope they werent pro's seeking a little extra training ;)
Anyway, enough of the ride, all I can say is its an event id highly recommend heading to, theres a distinctly chilled vibe to it, forget your super-subscribed euro sportive-type fare here... entries possible on the line with a queue of about 2 people. Picking up numbers and setting off from the start village easily completed in 15 minutes max! 
Sunday we headed back to the place of suffering the day before, La Redoute, making a cosy pitch armed with flags, beers, whiskey and plenty of race excitement! Dan Martin took the honors on the day, with a canny move on Purito in the finale. He rode strong and smart, and although the throngs of thousands around us, ardent if not die-hard Gilbert fans, were disappointed, the vibe was pretty awesome. I hope to be back next year, who knows, Schleck might get his scrawny arse in gear to return to the Ardennes with vigor although the season is a long one ;)


So, a few months ago I noticed a cool new instagram account appearing on my feed. "Leave It On The Road" had me intrigued... what was the message behind these lovely pics of two dudes riding in some pretty breathtaking scenes? Bianchista was privileged to grab a chat with Michael Tabtabai & Andrew Hudon, those 'two dudes' behind this very special project.
Bianchista - So, ‘leave it on the road’... sounds like an amazing adventure project... I mean, 3500 miles in 24 days is pretty nuts. That’s pushing some serious limits... what purpose could make you wake up one day and decide to undertake such a mammoth task?”
Andrew - For me it began with my mother’s cancer diagnosis in 2005. My brother and I were both endurance athletes, he as a runner and I as a cyclist. We felt helpless to do anything for our mother, and wanted to do something to make a difference. We came up with the idea of doing a combined event in Maine (our mother’s home state) where he would run up the coast and I would ride around the interior, 900 miles in 9 days, and then we would finish together on the top of Cadillac Mountain, raising money and awareness for cancer research as we went. We did the event in 2006. My brother “retired” after that and went to med school, but I had the bug. After that I became involved with a few different cancer charities. It became a cycle; the more survivors and patients I met, the more inspired I became, the more I wanted to get involved and ride in their honor. To me it has been my way of fighting back against an enemy that has devastated my family and friends. When I feel tired or it hurts, I know that none of the people I’m riding for ever gave up, and I can’t either. It’s a source of strength, a way to find positive energy out of tragedy, and a source of healing for us. It’s a way to inspire others, to inspire each other, and to make a difference in the world, however small it may be. It’s an experience that can never possibly be described.
Michael - For me this ride is a tribute to my father, Farzad Tabtabai, who lost his battle with cancer in late 2011. He fought colon cancer, breast cancer and bladder cancer for over ten years. I knew when he passed away that I had to do something like this ride, for my dad, my family, myself and anyone who has been affected in some way by cancer. The only question was how quickly we could make this happen. We've basically been working for a year and a half to make it happen. Going further back in history, I got in to cycling as a way to stay healthy in my 20’s. My father had already been fighting colon cancer for a few years at that point, and I knew I needed to live a healthier lifestyle now that I had a family history of the disease. Riding and raising funds for cancer-fighting causes was one way I felt I could get rid of some of the helplessness that comes when a family member fights cancer. It was my small way of doing something positive. After riding several organized charity rides and getting in to racing, I graduated to riding with Andrew on his more epic challenges. Over the years that has become a partnership, with Andrew focusing on the logistical side of the rides and me taking over the storytelling side. Leave It On The Road is definitely the most refined version of this partnership, and we've been able to bring on some amazing sponsors to support us in this effort. We wouldn't be able to do it without them.
Bianchista - One thing we at Bianchista HQ spied recently is that you Michael, happen to be a lucky little devil and have made the testing lab for the insane looking ‘Google glass’! 
Is this something you will be utilizing on the trip?
Michael - Yeah, the Google Glass is something we are really excited about. My day job deals in advertising & technology, and I had heard quite a lot about its capabilities for real time filming, posting and communicating with people. It’s essentially a voice-controlled computer with a tiny heads up display. Once you combine that connectivity with an event like this, the possibilities are endless. The act of recapping a day’s events on the bike for your supporters can see usually takes a couple hours of precious recovery time each night. Now with the Glass we’ll be able to do a lot of that stuff in real time as we’re riding. Or as we've found on previous rides, sometimes the route you've planned months ahead of time just isn't ride-able. A bridge is closed for repair and you have to spend another two hours riding around to the next one. Having navigation tools right there in your glasses, controlled by your voice could be a big help for us. Even just chatting with our wives and showing them the amazing things we’re seeing, when we see them... I couldn't be more excited about that. And of course there’s always ordering pizza from the road, too!
Bianchista - In 2010 you undertook another pretty mammoth ride with purpose, tell us about that? Did you kind of feel like there was unfinished business to be done for this ride?
Andrew - The 2010 ride was called The Resilience Ride. It was in honor of the 10 year anniversary of a woman from my home town recovering from colon cancer and inline skating from upstate New York to Colorado. The ride went from Boulder, through my hometown in New York, and finished in Connecticut. I had every intention of it being the last one. However, less than a year later, a close family friend died from a brain tumor. Within months of that, Mike’s father passed away. My worst fear when my mom was diagnosed, was that I would lose her. Now, six years later, I was watching my best friend live through my worst fear. There is no greater call to action than that. Whether Mike had wanted to ride across the country or walk barefoot across Antarctica, I was going to be there by his side to do what I could to help, and I would be there for my friend who passed away as well.
Bianchista - Retul and Over The Top Productions held a colon cancer discussion panel at which you both spoke recently, how was that? Do you feel that awareness of this disease is something that needs improving upon? I know in the UK the past couple of years was a big push to highlight the awareness of prostate cancer in particular, and they do a few bits with British Cycling..
Andrew - Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the US. The American Cancer Society estimates that 142,820 people will be diagnosed in 2013 and that 50,830 will die from colon cancer in the United States. But the disease is entirely preventable through proper screening. Unfortunately, it’s not something people want to talk about. In fact, I didn't find out until after the show that my own family has a history of the disease, meaning I need to start my screenings earlier than the typical age of 50.
Michael - The saddest part about colon cancer is that it can be completely prevented if you’re regularly screened. Part of our awareness campaign is to help tell the stories of young people who have fought the disease, like Brian Novak, who was on the panel discussion. He was diagnosed with stage IIIB colon cancer at just 36. If we can get people thinking about colon cancer screening at a younger age, we can really make an impact on the disease. It’s that simple!
Bianchista - You have quite an awesome roster of sponsors, and its great to see such a roll call of companies on board. Can you tell us a little bit about the support you guys will receive for the training period and also the actual ride?
Michael - We've been so fortunate to land our amazing sponsors, we literally could not do this ride without their support. When we first started planning for the ride Andrew and I decided that we only wanted to work with people and brands that were as passionate about our cause and our story as we were. We really needed to be able to leverage that passion through social media to help tell the story of the ride. There are so many more social tools available to us on LIOTR than when we did the Resilience Ride just a few years ago. And all of our sponsors have big followings in places like Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. So it is a huge help for us to have them passionately talking about what we’re doing through their communities. As far as financial support, we’ve been able to fully fund the logistics of the ride with early sponsor contributions, which means that 100% of the money we raise goes directly to the Colon Cancer Alliance and The Colon Club. That is huge for us! Material support is immensely important as well, Rapha has supplied us with the best cycling clothing in the world for our training and the ride itself. World renowned frame builder Sacha White will be building fully custom Speedvagen road bikes for our journey, and component sponsors SRAM, Enve and Chris King Components will outfit our bikes with their best pieces. Our timekeeping partner Tudor has some special products in the works, as well as helping us tremendously with fundraising and social media support.
It takes a lot of fuel to cross the country and one of the first things people ask is “what the hell do you EAT?” - Skratch Labs and Justin’s have been fueling us throughout the last several months of training, and they’ll be providing nutrition for the ride as well. Of course, the other important fuel source for cyclists is coffee; so Grimpeur Bros. Specialty Coffee will be roasting up special beans for the journey. Sponsors Wieden+Kennedy and Legwork are helping to build the social campaign and digital live tracker for the ride. Poler is helping us with gear and social support, and Retul and The Sufferfest have helped us through training with bike fittings and training videos. Our coach Aidan Charles Coaching has been working with us to make sure we are physically ready to tackle an undertaking like this. Phew... I think that’s everyone... for now! Be sure to head to our page for more info on our sponsors and their gear.
Bianchista - So what are the goals of the project? (Financial and otherwise) Wanna hook us up with a way people inspired by your story and vision can assist you in reaching your target?
Andrew - The monetary goal is to raise $52,000. The previous three rides have summed to $48,000, so this will round it out to an even $100,000. For me personally, my goals are to help Mike on the road and be there as he goes through this process, and, with this being our last ride, to inspire someone else to take up the cause. I would love for someone to reach out to us after this and to help them do their own ride!
Michael - My personal goal is to pay respect to my father’s time on this earth. He was a quiet, humble guy who taught me a lot about strength and love through his battle with cancer. Every single training ride for this event has been a therapy session for me - a way to cope with his absence. I hope to leave the negatives on the road and create some space for the positive. And I hope my father’s story and this ride provide some help and hope to others who are going through the same experiences mine & Andrew’s family have gone through.
To get involved, see our story as it happens, spread the word, and most importantly to donate, go to and follow us on Instagram at

Rapha Supercross

Today I got my arse out of bed and out into the freezing air that's suddenly decided to drop over London and made my way across the city to Alexandra Palace, for the third and final round of this years annual Rapha Supercross cyclocross race series. Rather ashamedly, for the decade i have spent living in London since leaving home a bright eyed and bushy tailed 18 year old northern lass, this was my first ever visit to the iconic north London venue. And what a great visit it turned out to be. A festival of all things cyclocross had landed in the damp and hilly park, all beset against a stunning backdrop of the London city skyline.
The course was extremely tough, with plenty of leg stinging climbs, off-camber slippy-like-banana-peel sections and gates and jumps aplenty. And that's before we even get to the insane foam-wall-of-doom and "Tequila Shortcut" present on the novice category race!
Straight out of the start line riders were whipped around up a nasty uphill section, and on the first lap for seniors and novices made their way up by the palace building to negotiate a series of tight turns and a wooden jump.
The ladies and vets race was great, with some real strong showings. Delia Beddis smashed the ladies race, waiting until almost the final lap and hooning it out from second place to come home to the finish a good 10 seconds clear on her rival. Thrilling stuff watching the top girls pelt it past guys, and be cheered by the dropped men heartily.
The atmosphere was amazing, with the crowd really getting behind the riders, whether it be via furiously shaken cowbells or some good old fashioned heckling. The crowds were great to say this has been one of the first freezing days London has seen this year, with everyone turning out, tucking into belgian frites and espressos aplenty.
A crazy addition to the racing, as if the course wasn't hard or technical enough, was the 'Foam Wall of Doom", which essentially was a massive thick foam blasting cannon shooting an avalanche of foam at one of the hairiest crosses on the course. Think back to those dodgy 1990's foam parties, imagine a rider careering through that and heckling aplenty and your beginning to picture the scene! 
Most riders loved the foam pit and the crowd bent nuts, cheering anyone to emerge looking like a yeti mounting a bicycle. Respect to those who braved it! 
The "Tequila Shortcut" was a stroke of genius, with riders offered a cheeky shortcut on the course in return for downing a shot of tequila on bike as they passed through. Handed a shot glass by a gold lamé be-decked bandito, riders were precarious in downing said shot then pelting up the hill, christ knows how some of those dudes managed it because I promise I saw several riders pass through three times! Pure carnage, and the crowd loved every minute of it, taunting those who dare not partake with a rousing chorus of boo's & cheers.
Next year iv promised myself id like to get hold of a cross bike and give it a blast, novice category for sure (il be bringing my drinking A-game!). Thanks to all at rapha supercross for staging an incredibly fun day out for riders and watchers, Cant wait for next years!

Iv shot a heap of photos on my wee compact, go and check them out on my flickr here and help yourself to any for your blog/facebook etc.

A Manual for Speed: Driveway Time Trial 2012

The Art Of Climbing

The able-legged mountain goat that is Phil 'The Danger' Deeker has written a wonderful guide to the art of climbing. A stunning sphere of cycling that comes unashamedly easier to others, but is something  simultaneously and universally appreciated by each and every cycling enthusiast. The reward and accomplishment of conquering both the physical and mental mountain-scape is the ultimate elixir in cycling (or it is in this girls humble opinion) Anyway, here's a sneaky photo I snapped of Phil looking ever the dandy in Italy this Spring. I suggest you head on over to the 'Art Of Climbing' feature and enjoy.

Rapha Womens Prestige


Speaking of which, I am seriously pumped for the HOTN londres this weekend...

Stoepid Riding

Milan San Remo

Check out the Getty Images gallery of the 2012 edition of La Primavera, Milan-San Remo, shot by good friend and all round photo ace Bryn Lennon. Below are some snips from the set...

A Thank You!

Just a small post to thank every person who very kindly donated to see myself & my father run a half marathon in aid of Parkinsons UK, a cause close to our hearts. We had a modest target of £250 to raise, and smashed it by achieving a total of £1030!!! I was really touched by some of the message left on our justgiving page, so thank you from the bottom of my heart! For now, its back in the saddle for a nice 8 week block of riding before heading off to Italy for a jaunt in the Dolomites.
Big shout out to my old man for running it - dad I know what a struggle those last few miles were for you, and I told you id come good on my promise not to drop you, was ace to cross the finish line arms aloft. Forza Atkinsons!

A Running Interlude

Apologies for breaking normal wheel-based service here on bianchista, just wanted to give a quick mention to a challenge il be undertaking in March. As some of you know, as well as ramping up my riding these past few months, iv been doing quite a bit of pounding the tarmac with my feet, with the aim of completing the 2012 bath half marathon in aid of a very worthy cause, Parkinsons UK. 
Dad & I shortly after our first 5k parkrun - shattered!
In New Zealand when away on assignment I became the butt of many jokes, after appearing very fit, I was literally in pieces after a tiny 2k run! I walked like John Wayne and could only manage a shuffle along the floor for days after. However, sticking with the suffering and forcing myself to run, i have slowly been able to increase my mileage and hopefully pitch myself to rise to the occasion of a suitably epic challenge for a complete novice runner like myself. 
Never employ the services of your mother as official race photographer
My dad and I have trained religiously (I ran into work on new years day in the pouring rain, rocky eat your heart out!) for what we believe to be a really worthwhile cause, and something very close to our hearts (my grandfather is a parkinsons sufferer). 
Getting to meet & run with Mo Farah recently and get some tips! (avoid fried food mainly!)
If any readers feel like chipping a pound my way to sponsor what I can assure you will be a gruelling physical and mental test (sadly my body is used to years of cycling and it growing to hate me, the pressure im putting on it by taking up running!) then it would mean so much, not only to me and my old man, but to anyone touched by Parkinsons. I also promise that if we reach our really modest target of £200 we will sign up and run a marathon! so think of it as an investment into my pain and discomfort!
Chilling with Mo
Please head over to my just giving page, and throw a loose coin my way. No worries if not, even an encouraging message via twitter would be awesome! Thanks so much and again, apologies for this non cycling interlude... I assure you normal service will now resume!


U.S. National Cyclocross Championship 2012

PBP 2011

Story over at Rapha. Epic seems such an understatement... so il go for 'Hard as NAILS'

Nürburgring Race

I recently had the privilege of riding the crazy 'Rad Am Ring' event for Rapha. Kieran had asked if i would be up for it during my visit the the cycle club Mallorca earlier in the year, and to be honest I thought he might of forgot. How wrong I was when the email came through with the details in July... no backing out now! The racing format was simply an 8 man relay around the Nürburgring race circuit... for 24 hours! We managed to come 4th out of 49 teams, not a bad feat when riding the bulk of it with only 6 bodies.
The vibe was amazing, haning out at the mobile cycle club and slowly poisoning my insides with an unhealthy amount of their nudie espresso's and generally enjoying some epic banter. Come 2 am those coffees were sorely needed. You can read a blog on the team and how we fared over at Rapha. I rode the acciaio as I couldnt bear to leave it at home and it miss such a special event, and im so glad I did. The thing truly excelled at cornering and descending. 
A huge shout out to Ben, Jack, Strefan, Florian and Michael for what was one of the most fun days/nights I have ever had. And so many thanks to Kieran for organizing such an amazing experience....(and the extra photos) alles klar! ;)
 Kieran leads us out on a reccy
 Pit Lane
 Jack brews up
 Ben awaits the transponder
 The relaxed handover
 Keeping warm
 attempts at sleep
 Banana boy
 Stefan of 8bar bikes
 Kierans recovery program
 The mist over Nurburg
 Jack does his best cheeky barista pose
 Ben makes a new friend
 The boss fires up the bbq
 Stefan waits for his lap
 Lost in Germany thanks to minimal trainline understanding
 Michael warms up
 Some race number adjustments
 Clocking up on the descent
 The rain starts
The ring. Beautiful