Festive 500

So 2012 was the year I finally had the means to attempt Rapha's annual 'Festive 500' challenge. Being that I had four whole days off work in this period, and now have a bike at my family home up north, the challenge seemed - with a bit of planning with my ride windows, it might get off the ground. The Festive 500 is a great way to put a nice little brick into a solid winter base, get the confidence up and fight the flab of indulgence that seems to take hold over the month of December.
I rode some wicked new routes back up north in Yorkshire, with a particularly lumpy 120k on boxing day to try and work off the heinous amount of naughty food id eaten the day before. I headed out past Bolsover castle, and found some gnarly new hills that will be perfect training for my attempt at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege sportif come April.
I had to work from 27-29, so didn't get much riding in at this point, and also missed xmas day due to having a smashing time with the familia. So in order to meet the mileage I had to pull out a long 210km solo ride. I battled an energy-sapping headwind it seemed like the whole freaking way to the coast from London. Everytime I tried to up the pace, id simply red-line due to having to work way too much. The only respite came from knowing I might catch a bit of a tailwind on my return to the capital.
Hearty shouts go out to my understanding family for letting me zip off on the bike for 2 out of the three days I was home visiting, to my trusty overshoes & clingfilm (sadly bike at home is sans mudguards!) and finally to everyone on strava that racked up the 500ks... It was a wicked escuse not to give excuses for not riding, and the motivation was appreciated. Im now looking forward to the January 'Base-mile Blast' as Iv got some exciting riding coming up at the end of the month to prepare for. All the best and a happy 2013 to all readers! Hopefully we will catch up on the tarmac this coming year...

Giro Aeon Covers

Jack Bauer of Garmin was recently snapped with what appears to be a clear cover on his Giro Aeon helmet. Anyone have any info on these, or whether they might become commercially available like the Lazer covers? Thinking id like one for some crappy spring miles!

"The Three F’s"

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...  

Vittoria 1976 Bianco SPD

Spotted here. Anyone have any information on these? Looks like a really cool cute commuter shoe, perfect for some city riding action... 

Coppi Vacansoleil Jersey

Prendas are stocking this very special edition Vacansoleil jersey, with celeste highlights to honour the 5 time victory of Fausto Coppi in the Tour of Lombardia. A lovely fitting tribute from the pro-team currently riding aboard Bianchi machines, as did Fausto. 

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.

Giro Air Attack

Giro have produced a new helmet, that looks totally comedy on the first glance, but iv got to say.. the more pictures of pros I see using it, the more I want to try one! I think it was seeing Marianne Vos at the Olympics flossing one that was the decisive factor in changing my opinion on them. They look super retro, almost as if they gave a bunch of 80's helmets a respray and popped them back on the market. Giro have hit the 'aero' tech hard on the helmet, with a reported 12% less drag when compared with their current top of the range Aeon (a casque im currently in love with wearing), and the helmet will be offered with a space age looking magnetic visor to shield riders eyes. The Air Attack should be available spring '13.

The ToB Commeth...

This sunday, 9th September sees the return of the annual jewel-in-the-crown of Britisah cycling, the Tour of Britain. The exciting eight stage race sees several world tour and pro-conti level teas mixing it up with the finest of our UK based continental teams racing a total of 1350km in the week. This years edition comes riding a public interest wave of epic proportions thanks in no small part to what may in future years be referred to as the halcyon days of British cycling.  With Wiggo's recent exploits en Paris and those of the heroes of the Olympic velodrome, the cycling scene continues to thrive and grow on or fare streets. 
The Tour of Britain allows UK based fans to get out on their streets and see some amazing racing, with riders duking it out on brutal climbs, cobbled streets and contesting sprints in some amazing English scenery.

The infamous Rapha H-van will be putting in an appearance and serving up some fine brews for race fans, and will be prominently positioned at key climbs on the following stages:

·       10 September - Stage 2 
Category 1 climb at Morridge, near Leek

·       14 September - Stage 6
Category 1 climb at Brecon, Brecon Beacons

·       15 September - Stage 7
Category 1 climb at Coffin Stone, Dartmoor

For regular updates from the H-Van follow @rapharacing on Twitter. Supporters are urged to wear pink and amass to cheer on the Rapha Condor team, with a teamof talented youth riders including U23 british champ Mike Cuming, headed up by the imperious Kristian House. And speaking of Mr House… loving this vid spied over at the condor cycles blog
Personally il be heading to the Surrey stage and cheering on the various climbs come 16th September, im pretty stoked to see some world class riders smash it over our backyard training routes... and given the glorious weather we are experiencing here currently, should make for a fantastic week!
Dont forget all the action will be screened daily on ITV4 (god bless you! we've been well and truly spoilt for coverage in 2012) and you can follow updates over at the Tour of Britain homepage. Enjoy!

Cinelli Caleido EVA Tape

Check out this beaut Cinelli bar tape over at UrbanHunter ... loving the perforated detail! thinking this for the winter rather than the current Fizik patent number on my Acciaio (damn that gets slippy in the rain!)

Vuelta a Espana

So! Bertie seems back to his incroyable former self... although todays climb of Fuente De suited him down to a T, with smaller steady average gradients, not the ball busting 20%+ summit finishes of stages past. He stamped his authority over the pack and asserted his climbing prowess, collecting not only the stage win but also claiming 2:38 seconds on little Purito, catapulting him into the 'camiseta roja'. Purito drops down to third place underneath Valverde. Its kind of game over with a mere two flattish stages remaining, so it looks like Contador is back with fire in his tail. Riis did state at the beginning that AC simply had to win, I can see this as paying some form of thanks to Saxo-Tinkoff for indeed standing by their man during his 'pequeñas vacaciones' of recent months (WHICH i still think is bullsh*t but il explain that when you next see me on the road). Seems whatever Bjarne said on the rest day helped Bertie....

Rise Above: Robert Gesink's Climb to Victory

Giro 'Empire'

P-R 1988

Not only an excellent video of the '88 edition of the 'Queens of the Classics', but also check out Liggett in his flasher-mac. Epic opener!


The Finish Line

I wait aside the finish line in Paris. The 2012 tour is a mere twenty minutes away from completion, its 99th incarnation capturing the hearts of many a hardened fan, and also enticing those with merely a scrap of interest. Bradley Wiggins sealed a historic first in British cycling folklore, sealing the tour in exemplary fashion. Never looking in trouble throughout the three weeks, Sky's air of control never wavered.
A thunderous roar erupts around the finish line of the Champs-Elysees stage as Mark Cavendish holds aloft four fingers as he seals yet another dynamite win on the famed central parisienne cobbles. And with that ultimate display of power, the tour over for another year, and thus our lives bereft of daily antics on 'les routes françaises'. Riders roll across the final white line to close the curtains on our french adventures. 
How odd a feeling it must be for these riders, for the race to be over. I think about the spectrum of emotions they must be experiencing today, and I can read each and every one on the various faces of the peloton as they meander around the technical zone.
It must be strange that after living so closely with eight other riders, and a nucleated support staff for the three weeks, the riders will leave this environment and return to some semblance of reality, whatever that may actually entail for a professional rider. I see happy faces, a Cofidis rider beams at me proudly on a backstreet as he rides to his hotel. I spy Mick Rogers, as he congratulates several riders ahead of the processional laps. He looks across and I offer him my broadest smile, as if telepathically thanking him and the peloton for their feats that fed my passion as a cycling fan this summer. I don't doubt I just looked like a grinning loon, but my respect for these gents is fortified every time I see their suffering in real and tangible sphere. They are but humans, with emotions, pain, a willingness to push their own boundaries of suffering. 
A day before in Chartres, I find myself mingling with fans as Alexandr Vinokourov rolls through. A loud cheer erupts in recognition for what will certainly be his last tour. A chequered past foreshadows him, sure, but the respect shown from the fans is palpable and deafening. Every story needs hero's and villains, and the tour is a theatre not exempt from this. 
I see faces that display the realisation dawning on them of their endeavours. I see pride, relief and I sense determination. I think I see faces that are already thinking to the next goal. The next hit of this circus.
The finish line is always such a melancholy place for me, tinged with sadness that its over for the next year. Sure enough, there's the Vuelta, and a slurry of late season races (Lombardia in particular is a fave) but it just seems like nothing can quite capture the magic of pro cycling like the Tour can. I remember 5 years ago being laughed out of the office for asking to watch the tour at my workplace, this year I walked in to pretty much every flatscreen dialled onto the live coverage daily. Oh how times change! Here's to the 100th Tour de France in 2013... I know I will be ensconced in your bubble yet again

Jersey Style

So, Alberto is back with fire in is belly in the Vuelta. Loved his 7 or so attacks on the Arrate, whilst he perhaps struggled to maintain the veracity of each dig, its clear the is a man on a mission, and it made for a very exciting finale indeed. Anyway! can anyone reveal the interesting scallops on the bottom of his jersey? I know the kit is manufactured by Sportful but I was unable to find any info on this pattern... and wondered what it might be in aid of. If you can shed any light, feel free to comment!

Spesh x Adidas

Yellow Fever By Prendas

In homage to our very own pride of Britain and king of the cycling mods taking theTour de France in emphatic form, the fellas over at Prendas have produced these wicked yellow socks and caps. Perfect for any Wiggo fan out there...