What it takes to fuel a continental pro cycling team

When it comes to fuelling world class cyclists, we know how to produce great-tasting performance nutrition, but how do the riders and teams actually make the most of it when it reaches the pro peloton?

We recently went behind the scenes at the UK’s biggest professional cycle race, The Tour of Britain, to catch up with Xenia, soigneur for An Post-Chain Reaction, the UCI Continental pro-cycling team founded by Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly, to ask what it takes to feed a team across eight days of competition.

Photos: courtesy of SweetSpot

 

 

Being a soigneur, or ‘swanny’ as they are colloquially known, isn’t for the faint-hearted.  Part housekeeper, part masseur, as well as driver, confidant and responsible for fuelling a team of six to perform at their very best against 114 other competitors, there’s a lot at stake.

Often on-call first thing in the morning to last thing at night, no set working hours and huge distances behind the wheel (sometimes up to 1,500k just to get to a race), it’s easy to question what could motivate someone to take on what is arguably one of the toughest jobs in sport.

For Xenia, there’s no doubt. “That’s simple. You have to be passionate about cycling,” she says.

“Right now, the thing I love the most are the races in the mountains, even if I have to be in a car day in day out. The views you have – and that combination with cycling.  You don’t become a “swanny” if you want to be in touch with “famous” riders. You do it because you love the sport. If you do it with passion, it’s the most beautiful job in the world.”

 

 

Xenia started out going along to races to support friends and became a swanny with the Lotto Ladies’ Team. It was a trip to Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April this year, the infamous one-day classic in Belgium, where she met team managers of An Post CRC and moved into the men’s peloton.

“The way I see it, I take care of the whole team – riders and staff – as if they are my kids,” she says.

“I feed them, take care of them, listen, be good to them but I’m firm when I need to be. I’m the “mummy” of the team.” We’re already sensing her warm and caring approach.

But what might at first sound a glamorous position of responsibility, beneath are endless lists of jobs to be done from driving, washing kit and cars, shopping, preparing bottles, massaging tired muscles, and repairing kit – basically, everything and anything the riders and staff ask for. Incredible amounts of passion and boundless energy are required to ensure her team has everything they need, on demand.

“It can be exhausting, but it never kills you and I just love it. We’re never alone, and most importantly, we’re like a family in this team.”

 

 

Despite a network of riders, mechanics and race staff to continually rely on for mutual support, it’s apparent that to be a good soigneur, you’ve got to be the family member with the sixth sense – the ability to anticipate five steps ahead of the game, even when you’ve no idea what the next day is going to throw your way.

What might first seem a simple task, can require meticulous attention to detail. Depending on the kind of race, be it a one-day classic or a multi-day stage race, Xenia’s main task is to prepare the race bottles for the riders.

Over the course of a stage race like the Tour of Britain, she can prepare a staggering 400 bottles or more, sometimes taking up to an hour to prepare the relentless number of bidons needed each day.

“You can never have enough of them,” she explains.

“Before the start, we give every rider two bottles with HIGH5 Energy Source or isotonic. These make sure the riders don’t get dehydrated and keeps their energy levels up. We also prepare the bottles to go in the team car; roughly four spare bottles for each rider. Then we prepare bottles to hand out in the feeding zone, and sometimes add HIGH5 Energy Gel to them.”

That’s on top of making sure there is additional water, HIGH5 Energy Source, and a raft of empty bottles in the team car, just in case.

With up to six riders on the team each day, a complete eight-stage Tour of Britain can require 84 bottles for race start, some 168 in the team car, and a whopping 210 for feeding.

“The main thing is, we need lots of HIGH5 to get the guys energised, hydrated and focused,” Xenia explains.

 

Even this in itself can be tricky when pro riders have a reputation for being rather demanding on times, albeit understandably when it’s your professional career at stake. What might seem absurd or peculiar to the everyday cycling enthusiast, a good swanny will always generally try to oblige, since it comes with the territory.

“We always try to keep that in mind,” Xenia tells us. “During the race it can be harder, but still, I try to manage!

“Some of them like their energy source to be sweeter and sugary; others just want water with the exact amount of energy that is necessary. I start to know their habits little by little.”

Demanding it may seem, when you’re pushing your body to its limits in racing, it’s important to have nutrition that you can work with.

“The important thing is to make sure it’s good and healthy, so they race well and don’t get sick. That’s why the team loves HIGH5. We always prepare start-bags for the riders, with two HIGH5 bars, two HIGH5 gels and a biscuit that they take with them to start the race.”

We were keen to learn what kind of selection makes it into the mystery musette – the infamous bag of energy-boosting goodies that teams are given permission to hand-up to riders in a dedicated ‘feed zone’ around mid-race.

“We always put in a HIGH5 Energy Bar, a Sports Bar, two gels, two bidons and a Coke. Sometimes extra, when they deserve it,” we’re told.

 

 

The feed zone is a precarious place for both riders and the swanny feeding them, usually due to the risk of riders crashing. Indeed, there are cases of relationships having been negatively affected by the failure of the swanny to connect with a rider on the feed in that defining ‘moment’ when the rider reaches for his musette hoping for a reliable exchange.

What’s the secret to getting it right, we ask?

“Is there a secret? I always blame the riders!” Xenia laughs.

It’s easy to tell how her easy sense of humour makes her the perfect fit for the job. Despite the pressure, the ability to laugh and have fun during the process is often essential.

She continues: “Jokes aside, it’s intense, but when they try to grab it too late or another rider is in the way, it’s hard.

“The only trick I think is not being afraid to put yourself out there, but at the same time, not being a dare-all and bringing the guys into danger. If they don’t grab it, try to get to another spot as fast as you can. And always try to say to them before the race where you’ll be standing, and make sure they see you. They will come to you when they need you.”

Despite the risk, she is still busy putting her riders first.

“As long as we can enjoy making riders happy and see them race and shine on the stages, that’s the best thing,” she adds.

What’s clear is that with Xenia’s incredible support onside  – and possibly a never-ending supply of bidons  – there’s little doubting that we’ll be seeing more of the HIGH5-fuelled An Post CRC team putting in some shining performances in future.

You have until midnight on Sunday 17 September, 2017 to WIN a full set of An Post-Chain Reaction pro cycling team kit in our competition. Enter online here: www.highfive.co.uk/tob-2017

 

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Racing legend Sean Kelly talks cycling

Seven time Paris-Nice victor, nine time winner of the monument classics, and now one of Eurosport’s most well-respected commentators, Sean Kelly arguably headed up a golden era for Irish cycling that saw him emerge as one of the most successful professional road cyclists of the 80’s.

As his HIGH5-fuelled cycling development team, An Post-Chain Reaction, prepare their bikes and bidons for the start of the 8-day Tour of Britain from 3-8 September, it’s a stark reminder of just how far today’s advances in nutrition, technology and training have come since the days when Kelly scooped his Grand Tour win at the 1988 Vuelta a España.

In this interview, the Irish cycling legend tells us what he’s been getting up to and shares his views on cycling’s latest advances in the pro peloton.

 

 

Apart from helping riders to launch their World Tour careers with An Post-Chain Reaction, what else has been keeping you busy?

“I spent three weeks in Mallorca, where I’ve been involved in biking holiday tours. Of course, for the month of April, I was commentating on the classics during the weekends and I’ve been busy over summer at the big tours.”

Do you still find time to get on the bike?

“I try to get on the bike as much possible, so when I’m in Mallorca, I get on the bike most days. But when I’m away on commendatory duties with Eurosport, on big tours such as the Giro and Tour de France, you don’t really have time. The days are long, and if you take a bike with you, maybe you’ll get to ride two or three times during the three weeks. Instead, I have to do a bit of jogging to try and keep myself in some sort of shape.”

Which season do you regard as your most successful and why?

“I think ’84 was my best. I can’t remember it very clearly – it was a long time ago but I won over 30 races, as well as some of the classics. It’s really when you retire, and look back at your palmarès, you appreciate the great performances you had in your career.”

Is there a race that’s stayed clear in your memory more than any other?

“I enjoyed Paris-Nice because I had huge success, winning 7 times. It’s a race I had a lot of luck in. Some people say you make your luck as well in races, but I don’t believe that. There were years where there were lots of crashes and I just seemed to be on the lucky side of the crash, a number of times.”

 

 

Is there anything you regret, or wish you’d done differently in your career?

“Lots! I think hindsight is a great thing because you can look back and I certainly did too much racing in the early part of the season. I was riding for a Spanish team and they wanted to do a lot of the Spanish programme. At the beginning of the season – Andalusia, Tour de Catalunya, Tour de Valencia, Pays Basque – were all on the calendar, and of course the Vuelta was also at the beginning of the year in the ’80s. I think the one I have regrets about most, is the Tour de France. I should have done better, maybe have gotten on the podium, but there were just too many races in the early part of the season.”

What was a typical hard days training when you were in your prime?

“The hard days were when you were not going well in the big tours. When you are not in your best shape in the big tours, you have to suffer from fatigue, maybe half wheel through the race and look ahead. Maybe there’s a week or ten days to go and that’s when you’re really stat suffering, because you feel physically drained and that grinds on you mentally. So I think the most difficult ones are certainly the big three week tours when you are not in good shape. If you’re in good shape then you can get through it, you do suffer but it’s a different sort of suffering because you enjoy it more. When you’re at the rear of the pack it’s very difficult to keep motivated and to keep going.”

Who was your best friend when racing and are you still in touch?

“I think my best friends would be the ones I raced with in my team. Fellow Irish men, Martin Early and Acacio da Silva. Others, who maybe were on opposing teams as well, Adri Van der Poel and Stephen Roche, of course who I raced against a lot but we’re still very good friends. You meet so many people at races like the Tour de France. We don’t have contact, we don’t call each other every two or three months, but we meet regularly during the bike season.”

What was a typical hard day for you, when you were in your prime?

“The hard days were when you weren’t going well in the big tours. When you’re not in your best shape you suffer from fatigue, so you have to maybe half wheel through the race and look ahead. Maybe there’s a week or ten days to go and that’s when you really start suffering, because you feel physically drained and that grinds on you mentally. If you’re in good shape, you still suffer, but you enjoy it more. When you’re at the rear of the pack it’s very difficult to keep motivated and to keep going.”

Athletes can sometimes be superstitious. Did you have any superstitions that you believed in?

“I wasn’t a superstitious guy. I didn’t really believe in that, but sometimes before the big events you think ‘My God, hopefully I’ll be safe tomorrow’. To get through a race without any problems – that’s a big part. Mechanical problems, getting caught up in crashes. In the big races for example; Tour of Flanders; Paris Roubaix, they are races where there are a lot of crashes so, sometimes you say a little mantra.”

 

 

What would be your ultimate training tip for younger riders?

“First of all, follow what your coach tells you. Most youngsters who are serious about cycling have a coach nowadays, from at least junior level. At times, I see a lot of riders try and do more despite what their coach is telling them. When you’re feeling good, you think a bit extra will lead to you getting a bit better but that’s when you make mistakes and can potentially over train. It’s like a race, when you’re having a really good day, that’s the time you can make a lot of mistakes and it’s the same in training.”

And would you have any advice for someone new to cycling?

“I suppose you need patience. If you’ve come from other sports then you have a basic fitness and that does help a lot, but if you’re somebody who hasn’t done a lot of sport, you have to give it time. Biking is something that you have to build up slowly. If you really charge into it, you can get fit very quickly, but you don’t hold that. Fatigue and all those things can be a problem so you have to build up over a number of years to get to a high level. It also depends on what you want to do, what sort of level of racing you’re at; if you’re racing as a fourth category or third category you don’t need to be doing a huge amount of training. So there are a lot of things you have to consider before you can give advice to a person beginning his or her cycling career.”

What’s your opinion on the technological advancements now in cycling compared to when you were racing?

“Well, there are huge advantages. First of all, the bike is the biggest one, they have improved so much over the years. Carbon fibre, the wheels, everything is rigid and also aerodynamic. I think the performances are much better because of that but the way the athletes prepare has also improved. I think they are much better looked after. As I said, everybody seems to have a coach and that is something which is important because they can follow a programme and they can build up over a number of years. At the beginning of the season, you can begin to build up your fitness level. All of this has improved the performances of riders, so I think those things have been big improvements in cycling but not only in cycling but in other sports as well. You look at rugby and other similar games, now you can monitor performance a lot better, such as how far the players have ran during a match. It’s all development and it’s improved the performances of the athletes enormously.”

Disc brakes? Yes or no?

“Well I think disc brakes are the thing for the future. We’ve been hearing a lot about the dangers when the riders crash and if you fall down on the disc you can get badly burned. Also, the disc is very open if you crash into it. There are still a lot of improvements to be made there but I think the most important thing is that everybody involved in racing should use disc brakes, rather than normal caliper brakes, due to the huge difference in braking performance between disc brakes and normal calipers.”

 

 

What are your thoughts on the nutrition athletes adopt in today’s peloton? 

“Back in my day, we didn’t have the nutrition which cyclists have now and it is one of the biggest improvements. The energy bars, the gels and all the recovery shakes have improved the performance of the riders. The recovery in cycling, as we know, is of huge importance because cycling is such an endurance sport and when you’re in a big tour with four or five on the bike hours every day in very warm conditions, having the right nutrition is a huge benefit to bike riders.”

What’s next for Sean Kelly?

“My commentary job with EuroSport. I’m enjoying it and it keeps me involved in cycling – that’s a great thing. To stay involved in the sport is good for mind and for body and I hope to continue.”

Are there any plans you can tell us for the team’s future?

“We have had a lot of plans for the team and going back on the past number of years; we have always been trying to move up to Continental Pro after many years at the Continental level. However, there’s no point in being at the bottom of the rankings because then you are only following the races and you’re not getting success. I would prefer to stay at a good continental level than to be at the bottom end of the continental pro ranks.”

 

 

 

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Tips for multi day cycling events

The physical demands of any multi-day cycling event are extreme, let alone one that takes 9 days and 969 miles to complete. The Deloitte Ride Across Britain is an iconic must-do event for anyone serious about cycling. There’s just something spectacular about saying you made it to the other end of 9 gruelling days of back-to-back physical exertion across some of Britain’s toughest hilly terrain, breath-taking scenery and some of the best and most famous cycling routes in the country. But it won’t be easy.

Here are some tips for conquering the RAB:

1.) Do your prep work

Have you trained long and hard enough to handle the demands of the race? It may sound obvious, but making sure your fitness level is up to par is pretty important. If you feel utterly exhausted after 5 hours in the saddle and thousands of calories down, it is going to be a struggle to get up and going every morning. Make sure you know the demands of the event you’re getting into. The Journey doesn’t start at Lands’ end, but the moment you sign up.

 

2.) Commit to your nutrition plan and stick to it

Finding out what works for you and what doesn’t is extremely important. Different sports drinks contain varying amounts of carbs and electrolytes, and some can contain protein. If you haven’t trained with these products, it’s not wise to consume them during the event, as you risk causing stomach issues.

HIGH5 Nutrition is a great choice for those with a sensitive stomach, as it uses mostly natural flavours and colours, and has many products within the range that are gluten- and sugar-free as well. HIGH5 undergoes rigorous testing in both the lab and with athletes in the real world, which means it won’t let you down when it matters most. It’s also Vegetarian Society approved.

 

3.) Eat with the next day in mind

The most critical aspect of stage race nutrition is getting in enough nutrients to maximise your body’s ability to repair and recover from one stage to the next. The RAB is particularly tough since it involves extensive climbing, which requires considerable energy expenditure. Avoiding fatigue means proper pre, during and post-race nutrition.

 

If you’re used to training for single-day events, not getting in enough nutrition can be a common mistake. If you empty your carbohydrate reserves in one day’s riding, it’s almost impossible to fully re-fuel by the next day and you will start with a part-empty tank. You must make a major effort to focus on fuelling your carbohydrate reserves during and after each day’s riding. This is critical to consistent performance in multi-day events.

Check out HIGH5’s Advanced Nutrition Guide for Multi-Day Events

 

4.) Hydration is key

“The best advice to start with would be to ensure that you hydrate as often as possible. Often, you’ve already passed the point of no return in terms of being dehydrated if you wait to drink only when you are thirsty,”

Dehydration will severely affect energy levels. Your muscle cells are almost three-quarters water, so if you’re short on fluids, you’ll feel the strain. Drinking little and often will give you the best chance of hitting your targets.

But what should you be drinking and how much? During endurance exercise, you need to focus on both hydration and energy to keep you going for longer. Carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions enhance the absorption of water to optimise endurance performance. HIGH5 EnergySource is a scientifically formulated carbohydrate and electrolyte sports drink designed for use during exercise to both replace key electrolytes and supply energy to your muscles. HIGH5 Nutrition will be available throughout the course of RAB, so it may be worthwhile getting your body used to it now. They’re also the official on-course nutrition partner for a large number of the European IRONMAN events, should you be considering the next big challenge.

 

Even with a good hydration strategy, you often finish exercise mildly (or more severely in hot conditions) dehydrated, so it’s important to continue drinking after exercise. You should aim to replace 150% of your fluid lost through exercise within 3 hours of finishing. This means that if you finish exercising with a one litre fluid deficit, you should drink 1.5 litres. A drink that contains carbohydrates and protein, like HIGH5 Protein Recovery, can help to rapidly restore muscle carbohydrate stores and also help with the dreaded onset of soreness.

 

Thirst is the initial sign of dehydration. Symptoms of intermediate dehydration include: dry mouth and lips, reduced sweat output, muscle cramps and light-headedness.

 

5.) Don’t faff around

When the riding is done for the day, don’t just stand around in your sweaty kit. The sooner you can get cooled down, clean, fuelled, hydrated and off your feet, the better. Anything else is just delaying valuable recovery time.

A dirty, sweated-in chamois is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria – E. coli, salmonella and C. difficile, to name a few. The pros’ shortcut is to hop in the shower, kit and helmet on. The padding of your helmet accumulates bacteria and sweat just as quickly as your kit, so don’t leave it out. When you’re done, you can just remove your gear and hang it out to dry for the next day.

A post-ride rubdown can also work wonders. Nothing too vigorous or hard, just a light massage to help increase circulation and assist the muscles in clearing lactic acid. RAB will have massage facilities available for riders in need of that extra recovery boost.

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Draft-Legal racing and how to train for it

Draft-legal racing in a triathlon is one of those subjects that when discussed always brings out opposing opinions in people. As one of the growing number of events to offer a closed road draft-legal bike leg, we recently caught up with Brighton and Hove Triathlon to get some background information and their opinion on draft-legal racing in a Triathlon

DSC_8019Although drafting has been legal in Olympic and ITU Elite races for some time, the format was only introduced into Age-Group racing last year. It is still a controversial topic since it has been argued that drafting is less physically difficult and has instead made way for tactical racing. When athletes draft during the cycle leg (and it is also possible during the swim), they can save a lot of energy. As a result, the winners are often decided purely on the run course since there is very little chance of them getting a head start on anyone off the bike. This can make it far more exciting for spectators and TV, but is arguably defeating the original point of triathlon, that it is an individual race won or lost based on individual speed over the three disciplines.

The 2016 Age-Group World Championships in Mexico had the sprint distance in the drafting format so regardless of opinion, drafting is becoming a very prominent aspect to Age-Group racing. A draft-legal race entails different knowledge and skills to a standard, non-drafting format. It also requires a change in training to be race ready. We spoke with Brighton and Hove Triathlon Race Director, and Olympic Competition Manager, John Lunt:

Q.: What are your thoughts on the new draft-legal format for age groupers?
Lunt: “Draft racing gives you the ability to cycle a very fast bike course in a group and whilst this can make the cycling section very exciting and a lot of fun, it does require a level of technical expertise and experience. Drafting adds variety and another type of competition.”

IMG_6283Q.: Why is it more technical to non-legal races?
Lunt: “Cyclists ride in a tight bunch or in a single file line which allows the non-leading riders to expend less energy as a result of the slipstream created by the front rider. However, drafting requires a different set of skills and an increased awareness within the race, with a need to communicate with others around you in order to draft safely and effectively. As a general rule, it should be performed by more experienced cyclists who can react quickly.”

Q.: How can athletes train for draft-legal races?
Lunt: “Training for a draft-legal race isn’t massively different to the standard Age-Group format. However it helps to train within a group in order to get used to cycling in close proximity within the group which you race in. It’s important to be confident in your abilities when riding with others around you.”

Q.: Brighton and Hove Triathlon is a draft legal race. What was the thought behind that?
Lunt: “The Brighton and Hove seafront is blessed with wide, closed-roads which increases the safety of our draft-legal sprint race, allowing less experienced drafters to feel comfortable competing. The flat course should see some very exciting racing indeed.”

For more information and guidance on draft-legal racing, check out this handy guide from British Triathlon.

For more information about the Brighton and Hove Triathlon or to sign up, visit www.brightonandhovetriathlon.com.

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Winter Training Blog – Part 2

Winter Turbo Sessions

When winter draws in and the weather gets less inspiring, spending time outside on the bike seems less appealing and sometimes, not possible owing to floods, ice or snow. Turbo training is a great way to keep your fitness ticking over.

The following sessions offer some variety to keep boredom at bay and make the sessions more appealing. You can achieve a lot in a short time. Try to make a turbo session a regular part of your winter fitness programme. However, always get a check up from your GP before undertaking strenuous turbo training sessions. The reason that turbo sessions are so effective is because they are hard!!

Just like the rides you do outside, you should think about fuelling and hydrating. Before you do a high intensive session you need to be in the right state of mind. For additional focus and extra kick you can take caffeine drink like HIGH5 ZERO X’treme or a caffeine gel like HIGH5 IsoGel Plus Citrus.

With no air resistance (except maybe a fan), you will be sweating a lot on the turbo. If you’re not, then you’re not doing it right! The below sessions are all around 1 hour long. Refuelling with carbohydrates is not essential so a zero calorie electrolyte drink like HIGH5 ZERO will keep you hydrated.

Don’t forget to take a HIGH5 Protein Recovery drink straight after your session. We like to prepare it before we go on the turbo and have it ready in the fridge for immediate refreshment and to kick start your recovery. High quality whey protein isolate contributes to muscle growth and maintenance.

We’ve prepared 4 sessions to get you sweating…

Session 1

This session is designed to raise your lactate threshold and help you perform near it.

Warm-up

5 minutes spinning while increasing gearing/resistance, followed by 5 minutes of 10 seconds sprint and 50 seconds recovery.

Main set: 3-6 x 5min with 3min recovery

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Shift to the big chain ring and work hard for 5 minutes. Aim for a heart rate 15-25 beats below your maximum or, if using power, your FTP. The trick is not to go out too hard at the start so that you can maintain the pace for the full 5 minutes.

At the end of 5 minutes, drop back to the small chain ring, drop the resistance and spin easy for 3 minutes.

Depending on your ability/fitness, repeat this work/recovery cycle for three to six reps.

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

Session 2

This session is designed for building hill strength, as well as mental toughness!

Warm-up

10 minutes easy spinning, including some 10-20 second seated sprints in the second 5 minutes.

Main set: 3 x 6min of ascending difficulty with 2min recovery

Select the big ring but with a moderate sprocket (for example, 22t) the resistance should be at about a third of your turbo’s maximum. Ride moderately hard. After 3 minutes, shift up two gears and try to maintain the same cadence for a further 2 minutes. Finally, shift up another two gears and ride hard for a minute out of the saddle.

Drop to the small chain ring, drop the resistance and recover with easy spinning for two minutes. Shift back to the big ring but this time perform the ‘3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute sequence with two more clicks of resistance.

Recover for two minutes again and then work through the ‘3, 2,1, again cranking it up by two clicks/gears.

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

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Session 3

This session is designed to develop climbing strength and pacing.

Warm-up

10 minutes easy spinning.

Main set – Up & down the gear block in 1min intervals

Zero your trip computer and select a fairly heavy resistance on the turbo along with your bottom gear (for example, 39 x 25). Ride sustainably hard, remembering you’ve got a long drag ahead and it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. Every minute shift up one gear all the way through the block. By the time you’re at the 11t or 12t, you should barely be turning the cranks. Keep going until you’ve been up and down the entire block twice.

The workout should take 33, 37 or 41 minutes depending whether you have a 9, 10 or 11 speed groupset. How far did you cover? Try to beat it next time!

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

Session 4

This session is designed to do a bit of everything! Pedalling technique, leg speed, strength, power and sustained effort.

Warm-up

10 minutes easy spinning.

Main Set

10min spin-ups

With resistance and gear fairly low, stay seated and spin up to maximum cadence. Hold the cadence up to 30 seconds and recover at an easy spin for the rest of the minute.

10min mixed climb

Crank up the resistance to high and find a gear that allows you, when working fairly hard, to maintain a cadence of 80-90rpm. Climb seated for 1 minute and then, having clicked up a couple of gears, climb out of the saddle. Alternative between seated and out of saddle riding every minute.

10min big gear sprints

Recover spinning easily for 1 minute at the end of the climb, and then select a high resistance and a big gear. From a standing start, sprint out of the saddle to get on top of the gear and then sit down and maintain the sprint. It should be a 100% 30 second effort. Rest completely for 90 seconds between efforts.

10min time trial

At medium resistance and gearing that allows you to work hard, but sustainably, at 90-100rpm ride a consistent 10 minutes. Try to make your effort constant without any tailing off.

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

So there you have it, four super awesome turbo sessions to bring pain and suffering back into your training schedule.

Enjoy!

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10 Reasons to join a RIDE IT event in 2017

If you’re looking for a challenge or just need some extra motivation to get out on your bike in 2017 then here’s 10 reasons why you should check out the Evans Cycles RIDE IT series.

1. Explore new areas
RIDE IT events take place right across the country, so offers a great way for riders to explore some new regions with the knowledge you’ll be riding routes designed to take in the best cycling those areas have to offer. There are some real bucket list riding spots on the schedule that every cyclist should experience at least once; Such as the Yorkshire Moors, Brecon Beacons, Peak District, North Wales and South Downs to name a few.
2. Ride with others
Sometimes things are better together and that’s definitely true for cycling, whether it’s the friendly encouragement to get over that hill, the thrill of riding in a group or the wheel that brings you to the finish when your legs are tired, you’ll usually find some new RIDE IT friends along the way.
3. Try another cycling discipline
RIDE IT events feature a choice of road sportives, off road MTB rides and increasingly popular mixed terrain Sportive Cross rides aimed at those with cyclocross or adventure road bikes. If you only ever ride on the road or you’re a die-hard mountain biker that never ventures on to the tarmac you could be missing out on some of the fun so why not set yourself a goal to try something different in 2017?

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4. A day out with the family
At all the RIDE IT events kids under 16 can ride for free when accompanied by an adult so they’re a great way to get the family out on their bikes and enjoying a ride together. At many of the events there are fun route distances of around 15 miles that are ideal for novice and younger riders.
5. Set yourself a challenge
One question the RIDE IT team often get asked is “Am I good enough to take part”? With this in mind the event series is designed to cater for riders of all abilities. The events feature a range of route options which make it easy to find a challenge that’s suited to your ability whether you’re a novice or experienced rider. There’s everything from 15 mile fun rides and local rides from Evans Cycles stores rides right up to 100 mile plus epic challenges such as the King of The Downs.
6. Ride with an Olympic legend
Riders taking part in the HOY 100 sportive could find themselves riding alongside Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy. The ride is based in Cheshire and features a choice of 100km or 100 mile routes that offer a great mix of flat and fast lanes across the Cheshire Plains as well as some challenging climbs on the edge of the Peak District.
7. Be king for a day
For those looking for a real challenge then the King of The Downs is the flagship event of the RIDE IT series. It’s harder, longer and hillier than the rest, offering cyclists a chance to test their legs against some of the toughest hills in the South East. The 115 mile route has over 9,000 feet of ascent and takes in 10 iconic climbs that will be familiar to many cyclists with them having featured in events such as the 2012 Olympic road race route and the RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
8. Well stocked feed stations
Every cyclist knows a decent bit of cake can make a ride. The cherry loaf and lemon drizzle at the RIDE IT feed stops gets regular compliments from participants. As well as the cake the feed stops are supported by HIGH5 so there’s a selection of their sports nutrition products alongside a range of regular food on offer to fuel you to the end of your ride.
9. Mechanical back up should things go wrong
Hopefully your ride goes smoothly and you never need the services of the support van but it’s great to know that should you have a mechanical or your legs just decide they’ve really had enough then there’s someone to call on to come your aid. Often they’ll be able to fix mechanical issues at the road side so you can continue your ride but if not they’ll bring you and your bike back to the event centre.
10. Enter early for some HIGH5 freebies
The RIDE IT series is supported by HIGH5, not only are the feed stops well stocked with HIGH5 sports nutrition products, all riders who enter an event more than 8 weeks in advance can claim a free HIGH5 Bottle pack at the event.

For more information on any of the RIDE IT events visit – http://www.evanscycles.com/ride-it

To find out how you and a friend can win one of five pairs of free entries to an Evans RIDE IT of your choice, simply click here.

 

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winter nutrition

Winter Training Blog – Part 1

Winter offers a great opportunity to spice up your training and to try new sessions. We asked our friends at Andy Cook Cycling how to keep yourself riding through those cold winter months.

  1. Try riding your usual routes the other way round for a change and to add variety.
  2. Devise some small road circuits for use in the winter months, around 6-8 miles long. This means you are never too far from home should the weather turn or you run out of energy. Time yourself and try to beat it on the following lap!
  3. Commuting to work on a bike is a great way to utilise your travelling time and will keep your fitness ticking over.
  4. Keep motivated by looking back on your season and evaluate what you have achieved. Then look ahead to next season. Identify your goals and plan accordingly. Think about the events you want to enter.
  5. Join a club or go out with a group of like-minded friends. You’re more likely to get out of bed if you’ve arranged a meeting time and point. Riding in a group with the inevitable banter and competitive edge will make the miles more enjoyable and the hours pass far quicker. Other benefits include the fact that you’ll always have someone with you should you run into trouble to give a helping hand with mechanical issues. Sprint up the hills and then regroup at the top. Joining a club is also a great way to learn from experienced cyclists. You will learn the etiquette and skills of group riding. This will help at your next events.
  6. If you like to use events to keep you focused and motivated, try some winter sportives, reliability trials or Audax events.

zero-in-the-snow

If you don’t get the chance to ride during daylight, it can be daunting to ride in the dark but there are still options to stay on the bike:

  1. Try some of your local industrial estates. They are usually well-lit and traffic-free in the evenings: great for an hour’s tempo ride or intervals. It’s also a good opportunity to perfect cornering/gearing technique. Sprinting out of corners on a short 1 km circuit is great interval training.
  2. Try the Velodrome (if you live near a velodrome – there are more and more popping up around the country), they often have winter track leagues or sessions on during the evenings. It’s a great way of completing a good session in the warm and dry.
  3. Outdoor velodromes or cycling circuits often put on training sessions during the winter months. A great way to get some riding in on traffic free roads!
  4. Hit the turbo. High intensity interval sessions are very effective for maintaining and improving your fitness without needing to spend hours on the bike.

There are a lot of tips and tricks to keep you riding throughout the winter. It is after all the best opportunity to improve on areas of weakness and test out that new bike you want for Christmas.

In part 2 of the winter training series of blogs we will delve into some great turbo sessions for those days that you just to want to stay indoors.

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Nutrition tips to get you through the winter

With the cold frosts and shorter days setting in, a lot of us need that little bit of extra motivation to get out there and train. Winter training is the time where we can all work on our weaknesses to make us a better, stronger athlete. With time away from competition, we can introduce fun training sessions and even get more experimental with our approach!

One very popular training component which athletes should focus on during winter is their nutrition. The right nutrition will give you energy for your training sessions, help you recover better and strengthen your immune system. This is especially important in the winter, where we are more susceptible to becoming ill.

One myth which certainly needs putting straight is that “protein is just for body builders”. Protein is an essential component of any diet, no matter what your age, gender, ability or activity level is. Essential for many functions in the body such as repair and growth of muscle tissue, protein can also help keep us fuller for longer, meaning we’re less likely to reach for the cookie jar. Your immune response requires rapid cell replication and the production of proteins to ensure that we can fight off illness. Therefore, being slightly deficient in protein can increase your risk of becoming ill.

winter nutrition

Athletes who exercise three to five times per week would benefit from consuming 1.4-2.0g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight(1). As an example, if you weigh 70kg you should aim to consume 98g-140g of protein per day. Your protein and fat intake should stay fairly consistent on a day-to-day basis and it is best to periodise your carbohydrates around training.

As far as protein timing is concerned, it is best to spread your protein intake evenly over the day(2).Consuming protein at every meal and snack seems to work best for recovery rather than consuming a large amount in one go or at the end of the day for example.

We’ve put together our top five products to make your winter training hours a little more warming both physically and mentally!

1. HIGH5 Protein Hit

This is brand new to our healthy snack range and is already a firm winner in our office. In three mouthwatering flavours, Protein Hit is packed full of nutritious goodness. Drop this into your bag as a convenient source of protein, fats and carbohydrates for on the go. Alternatively, it serves as an ideal pre-training snack to keep you radiating energy all session long.

2. HIGH5 ZERO

Light and refreshing, ZERO provides the essential warmzeroelectrolytes and minerals to aid hydration, ZERO is the perfect drink to go with your high intensity training sessions, whether that’s in the pool, gym, fitness class or on the turbo at home.Versatile in its nature, owing to both its sugar and calorie free make up, you can also use ZERO to add some flavour to your water throughout the day.

A special favourite in the office is to make warm ZERO. Simple boil your kettle, fill your mug with warm water and drop your preferred flavour in! Delivering a dose of Vitamin C to help support a healthy immune system and protect cells from oxidative stress, ZERO also helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue.

3. HIGH5 Protein Recovery

Most of you will probably know that recovery is vitally important to stimulate the training adaptations you want through training. With the perfect combination of whey protein isolate and carbohydrates for refuelling, this drink will serve as your saviour after a tough session in harsh winter conditions.

A top tip for really cold days: reward yourself with an indulgent hot chocolate recovery drink. Simply warm up some milk (but don’t bring it to a boil) and mix it with our Protein Recovery Chocolate powder. For an extra treat, chuck on some marshmallows.20161108_165712

4. HIGH5 EnergyBar

Feeling peckish? EnergyBar is a must in our top 5 products for winter training. A natural mix of fruits and grains, this easy to chew bar is perfect for those sessions where you need to fill a gap and keep those energy levels up. In fact, we’ve added so much fruit, it provides you with one of your “five-a-day”! Our bodies burn extra calories in the cold to keep our bodies warm and maintain homeostasis. Don’t get caught out by not having enough energy, keep an EnergyBar in your pocket.

EnergyBar is great as a healthy snack throughout the day or to use before and during training.

5. HIGH5 EnergySource 4:1

Last but not least, this all in one sports drink, with 4 parts carbohydrate to 1 part whey protein isolate, helps to maintain endurance performance and contribute to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass. Our go to drink for longer training sessions, the SummerFruits flavour will bring the sunshine back into your training routine.

There you have it, our top five products for your winter training to help you enjoy building the base that you need going into 2017.

Reference:

(1)Kreider et al. (2010). ISSN exercise and sport nutrition review: research and recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 7:7. http://www.jissn.com/content/7/1/7

(2) Areta, J.L et al. (2013) Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of Physiology. 591.9. pp2319-2331

 

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MTB: 5 tips on how to improve your speed

Going fast off road can be a work of art if you get it right. If you don’t you could be spending a lot of time going into rocks or trees! We spoke with #HIGH5fuelled Kargo Pro MTB Team to get some top tips to help you hit your next trails. So what can you do to go faster off road?

1. Picking a line:01
This is the most important thing when it comes to negotiating that gnarly downhill. Firstly, your line of sight should not be directly looking down at your front wheel, but rather a good few meters ahead of you. You want to be able to plan what you are going to do before you arrive at that first rut or rock.

Secondly, look for the line that’s going to make your life easiest. For example, if you have a choice between a tight squeeze in-between two rocks or a ride-able line over one of them to the side that might require a bit more momentum, opt for that line over instead. It could save you ripping off your derailleur and allow you to keep up your speed rather than slow right down.

If you are constantly looking down the trail, you will almost always be able to anticipate what you need to do. If  you ever get in a situation you did not plan and it has caused you to completely deviate from that plan you had, don’t panic. Just let the bike find its own flow, stay relaxed, control your speed with your rear brake and gently revert back to the first step. Picking good lines comes with experience, so the more you ride, the better you will get at it, until it becomes second nature.

2. Climbing Switchbacks:
When it comes to climbing switchbacks or 180 degree uphill turns, line choice is still very important. The idea with a switch back is to make room for yourself. Switchbacks are normally so tight that you always want to be hugging the outside of the trail when coming into one. For example: if it is a left turn, come into the switch as far to the right of the trail as possible. This will now give you as much space as possible on your left side to play with. You can now point and steer your bike into the turn giving yourself the most space possible to find the most graceful line.

Avoid standing going into the switchback. When you are seated your weight is already nicely centred over the bike. This will make sure you have have grip on the back wheel and weight on the front wheel, reducing the chance of wheel spinning. Once you’ve made the tight turn you can then go as fast as you like up the climb until the next one, where the above applies once again.

033. Build an aerobic base:

Winter is fast approaching and so are the December holidays. Use this time wisely and instead of dropping your riding buddy up every climb, use it to get to know your mate better. Ride together at a constant, steady speed. Give your heart an opportunity to beat regularly and steady for long periods of time. This is sometimes refereed to as ‘TITS’ or  Time In The Saddle.

Let your heart pump like a diesel engine at a steady 2000 rpm. Your body is going to get stronger while operating in this state. Building more capillaries to support this steady flow of blood to your muscles. This can be thought of like giving your car engine more valves. More valves mean more horse power when it’s time to light a fire on your mate in the new year.

4. Hold the Power04
When the new year arrives put those ‘TITS’ into practice and start getting the newly upgraded engine into the power phase. Practice holding the intensity for different durations with time to recover between each interval. Alternate what you do in the week and choose a day to do interval sessions on the flats and a day to do them on a climb.

If you are looking to become more explosive, intervals of 30 seconds to 2 minutes is a good duration. If you are wanting to burn off your competition on a longer climb practice holding the power for 4-8 minutes on repeat. Keep this sort of training session to around 90 minutes. Short and sweet.

5. Get a bike fit by a professional:
The most important step in the whole equation. None of the above is really relevant unless you’re sitting on your bike optimally. Weight distribution and power transfer are some of the most important factors when it comes to riding your bicycle efficiently and with style.

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Tour of Britain 2016 Preview

Quite arguably the most prestigious UK cycling event, the Tour of Britain returns to the UK this month. Starting in Glasgow on the 4th September and ending in London eight days later, the 1296.6km race is set to be a great preparation for those competing in the World Championships in Doha this October.DSC_4955

Last year’s race was won by #HIGH5fuelled Edvald Boasson Hagen from MTN Qhubeka (now Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka). It was a thrilling battle between him and Team Sky but Boasson Hagen came out on top to be the first rider to win the race twice overall. This year’s route offers something for everyone: five stages could end in a sprint with big names like Manx Missile Mark Cavendish and German Powerhouse Andre Greipel battling it out at the front, there is a tough summit finish atop Haytor in Dartmoor and the 15km time trial on Stage 7 could decide the overall title. The Tour of Britain 2016 is set to be a thrilling race.

10 World Tour teams. including #HIGH5fuelled Team Dimension Data. and seven British teams will set the race alight as they jostle for the top step of the podium. Kurt Bogearts, DS of Irish Continental team An Post Chain Reaction is looking forward to the race: “We like to ride aggressive by going for breakaways and try to win stages this way. With that in mind it’s an ideal opportunity to also go for the sprint or king of the mountains jersey.

We are very happy to participate in the Tour of Britain and it is our main target for the second part of the season. We even went to Livigno in Italy to get some quality training in preparation for the race.”

Let’s have a look at the different stages and how we can expect the race to unfold:

Stage 1: Glasgow to Castle Douglas
The first stage of Tour of Britain is more than likely going to end in a sprint finish. The major teams will want to assert their authority and grab a hold on the leaders jersey. But can the underdogs break away and steal victory!?

Stage 2: Carlisle to Kendal
Unlike stage 1, stage 2 will offer the first uphill finish of the race with a tough climb of Ambleside in the closing kilometres. Our tip is a breakaway finish here.

Stage 3: Congelton to Tatton Park, Knutsford20160714_MS_TDP_835
Moving further south, stage 3 will still offer some challenging terrain including the ascend of The Cat and Fiddle, one of the longest climbs the UK has to offer. Perhaps another stage for the punchy breakaway hopefuls.

Stage 4: Denbigh to Builth Wells
The race now in Wales could potentially hold the second sprint finish of the Tour with a finish in the Royal Welsh Showground. Can the sprinter teams keep it together for the finish?

Stage 5: Aberdare to Bath
Heading from Wales to Bath, stage 5 looks like another sprint finish, perhaps the only one until the final stage in London.

1D4_0086Stage 6: Sidmouth to Haytor, Dartmoor
Heading towards the finish of the race, Dartmoor will offer a stimulating race for the line as the terrain rises up to the top of Haytor. Spectators will crowd the barriers as they cheer the riders to the line.

Stage 7: Bristol presented by OVO Energy
The penultimate stage, split into two parts: a 15km Individual Time Trial and a circuit race in the afternoon. Recovery will play a key part here to prepare for the stage in the afternoon. The rider who can recover the best could potentially blow the race wide open with one stage to go or will we see another sprint finish?

Stage 8: The London Stage presented by TfL
The race now reaches its Grand Finale in central London with a 14 lap, fast paced circuit race. This stage will be a stage for the sprinters, but who will ride away with the Leaders Jersey?

 

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