Cycling Reads

I've just got back from a week break at Centre Parcs Whinfell Forest with Becky. It is our second visit and if you are looking for a safe UK break (especially if you have little ones) then I would definitely recommend it. You can read my review from last time here. Holiday time means reading time for me and I managed to read a couple of books while I was away.

Bradley Wiggins: On Tour

"On Tour" follows Wiggins through the 2010 Tour de France. It is a nice read. Bradley is a great writer: writing straight from the heart. Wiggins is open and honest to what turned out to be a pretty miserable 2010 Tour with Team Sky. At a 190 pages you'll get through it easily within the day too. It's an intriguing page turner and a managable, modern day insight into The Tour. The book is beautifully illustrated with black and white photography from Scott Mitchell which really adds to the read. If you have read Michael Barry's "Le Metier" you'll be along the right lines here (which I would recommend but having read "On Tour" I would choose that over "Le Metier").

On the subject of Bradley Wiggins, I would also recommend his autobiography "In Pursuit Of Glory" in which he documents his rise from youth to Professional to Olympics. It is a great read, well written, full of personality and you really get on side with him: which is half the battle of reading an autobiography. I would throughly recommend it together with Mark Cavendish's "Boy Racer" autobiography which is a punchy, rollercoaster of a read in typical Cavendish style. "Boy Racer" is full of great stories, especially of the British Cycling Academy System. Recommended!

Paul Kimmage: Rough Ride

A lot has been said about "Rough Ride" and I felt I had to read it to know what all the fuss was about! The book is basically an autobiography of Irish rider Paul Kimmage, who was a domestique during the late 80s and follows his journey from junior to professional. To put it into context, Kimmage, at the time, competed alongside fellow Irish riders Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche. Kimmage I believe lost a lot of respect, and a childhood friend through Roche, by speaking out and breaking the law of silence in the peloton.

The controversial aspect to "Rough Ride" is Kimmage speaking out about drug use in cycling. He is incredibly open on the use of both hormones and amphetamines. As he competes through the Grand Tours he finds that the only way many riders survive is not to sleep, massage and take vitamins but to dope.

Although Kimmage only doped a few times in his whole career it is a remarkable insight into doping, and the surprising acceptance within the peloton during the 1980s.

But lets get one thing straight. This book isn't just about doping. It is an incredibly honest insight to the life of a domestique. As such it is a hard read. I found myself deep in dispair at points at the struggle, the pain and torment that Kimmage went through. This isn't a story about successful, almost untouchable riders like Roche, Kelly, Wiggins, Simpson and Merckx. This is a story about a good cyclist hanging in there doing his job.

At times you wonder if Kimmage ever enjoyed riding his bike. I found myself getting angry. You loose count at the number of times he "nearly" wins stages, where he abandons or is off the back in agony. It is a brutal read at times.

Roche reacted angrily at "Rough Times". I'm surprised because Kimmage speaks nothing but of admiration about Roche. He never at any point suggests that either Roche or Kelly doped either. It is only a couple of team-mates that are named within the prose. I could understand Roche being angry as he is wrapped inside a book exposing doping yet he should see past that.

As tough a read as it can be in places: if you are a cyclist you must read "Rough Ride".

Time Trialling

Recently I've started Time Trialling, adding another cycling string to my bow alongside the track nights I did over winter. Dave Hinde was always saying I should get involved with club 10s and with the new season getting started I thought why not!

Time Trialling is all about you and the bike. You have a circuit and you need to get round in the fastest time possible. Simples. I quite liked the sound of Time Trialling too as there wasn't the chance of getting dropped from the bunch in a race until I get the fitness up and loose more weight.

You sign up, pay your £1.50, get your number and off you go in order with a 1 minute interval between each rider.

Weaver Valley Cycling Club hold a 10 mile Time Trial every Wednesday at 7pm on the JC19 Course. The course starts at the old Threeways Petrol Station at Lach Dennis, runs along the B5082 (Pennys Lane), past Shakerley Mere and over the motorway bridge to a sharp 90 degree left turn onto the A50. Bomb along the A50, past the Mangoletsi car garage, Whipping Stocks corner and Barclays Radbrook Hall before turning left onto the B5081 (Middlewich Road opposite Seven Sisters Road) and follow the road all the way along until the finish just before the motorway bridge.

It's an interesting course. Easy to do in the big ring throughout yet has a couple of irritating drags especially from the Mangoletsi car garage to Middlewich Road. This saps energy and really gets the heart rate going.

At my first attempt I clocked a 30:22. I was happy with the time on my first go but I rode terribly. I didn't get a sufficient warm up due to arriving late from work and set off too quickly. My heart rate went through the roof within the first couple of miles, and being a Time Trial, I couldn't get it down again comfortably due the constant pace. My legs were everywhere too and I just wasn't pushing the pedals around smoothly.

My second attempt I clocked a 28.02. I was delighted. I had time to warm up, get the heart rate up beforehand, attached some aerobars and was able to control myself a lot better. I raised my seat slightly and turned the pedals nicely.

You learn a lot from Time Trialling, especially setting up your position and riding smoothly to get speed. The Weaver Valley Club 10s have been excellent, really nice atmosphere before and after with everyone offering support and advice.

My 3 top tips.

1) Get some aero bars. You can buy clip on aero bars for around £40-60. They make a huge difference both aerodynamically and performance wise: I found that I could breath easier and position myself a lot better on the bike, which resulted in a better pedalling action.

I bought some Deda clip on aero bars. These are raised at the ends so I'm not over stretching.

2) Warm up beforehand. Push yourself and get your heart rate up. Make sure it's not surprised and up for working beforehand. If it's been at a high level beforehand it will be settled when riding at a constant tempo.

3) Pace yourself. Reece the course beforehand, understand where the drags are, and where you need to preserve energy. Keep a nice steady tempo during the first 5 minutes, listen to your heart and then have faith in your reece. You want to be hitting it hard in the big ring in the last mile. If don't finish exhausted you've not tried hard enough.

Road Race Cheshire - Sunday 5th June 2011 - John Boote Memorial

Following hot on the heals of the Women's Road Race back in April, the Men's Road Race hits the Weaverham / Acton Bridge circuit on Sunday 5th June.

Promoted by Weaver Valley Cycling Club the event takes in 105km of racing around the 7km Cheshire circuit near Northwich. The circuit has a nice mixture of flat bypass to open on before hitting the notorious Acton Bridge Cliff.

The event is classed as Regional A open to 2nd, 3rd and 4th cats. You can find all the info on the British Cycling website here.

The day when common sense provailed.

I woke up to news that the Alternative Vote (A.V) was rejected by 69% this morning. All of a sudden, I had this great sense of pride for Britain. I was worried that we might have had a close call as there was lots of talk on Social Media channels to vote for A.V simply to annoy knock out the Tories. This is because David Cameron had come out earlier in the week and said (in basic terms) "if you don't want to see the Conservatives again then you need to vote against AV". At the time I thought it was a ridiculous thing to have said and I imagine the Spin Doctor smacked his forehead as Cameron said it, however it seemed to rally the troops and the recent election saw a good turnout from Tory Supporters according to The Times.

A.V was never going to work, it was a ridiculous solution to a none existant problem brought to life by sour faced losers. The"First Past The Post" system was quite straight forward, the candidate who has the most votes wins. Simple. Be it by one vote. The most votes wins.

What is the problem with that?

A.V was too much of a complex system, the only parties who would really benefit would be 1) the Lib Dems. The majority of the UK are either Labour or Conservative (red or blue if we were to relate it to Football) so in this case many people would consider the Lib Dems a second choice at the vote. Or 2) independents or parties such as UKIP or Green due to the ethical vote.

The fact hardly anyone understood A.V didn't help either. I stood at the Polling Station for a while and there were many voters discussing the system as they went to vote, not understanding it at all. If you don't understand what you're voting for you're not going to vote for it are you? Due to it's complexity anyway it was going to be open to mistakes at the count too.

All in all it's not been a bad week, the Royal Wedding was a great achievement for Britain, a great example of personality and spirit and I feel the result of the AV vote adds to this.

For the Lib Dems it's been a bad week at the office. Their AV vote went wrong and then lost a huge amount councillors in the local elections.

One has to feel sorry for Nick Clegg, he has gone from hero to zero in a matter of months. One minute Lib Dem supporters love him for getting them into government, the next they call for his head. Although I'm not a fan of the coalition I feel Nick Clegg did the right thing at the election, anyone would have done it in his position. 12 months on and things just aren't working out with even Vince Cable today saying it was "ruthless, calculating and throughly tribal".

Mr Clegg will feel sore loosing votes around Sheffield but I think we can all feel positive to hear that BNP lost 11 of 12 councillors in this round of elections.