Buying a Garmin, Part 2: My cycling just got more interesting

It only took about five minutes in the end. Once I had my mind made up I knew I couldn’t hesitate. Not over that amount of money otherwise I would tell the bloke behind the counter, “I’m going to think about it and come back,” before driving home as fast as I could, burying my head under the sheets and convincing myself it was okay and that I would go back to the shop a braver sole the next day. So I walked in, demanded the product, slapped the cash on the counter, and stormed out with it under my arm. Okay, not quite.
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Buying a Garmin, Part 1: The maps are key

For the past year or so I’ve come to accept the current computer on my road bike is long since out of date, long since past its best and long since needing replaced. The thing has served me well enough, but about halfway through my riding year in 2011, it all but stopped working, leaving me to go on Map My Ride following a ride to see just how far I went. I could only guess at average speeds. So, this winter it was my goal to get myself something high tech and something I could have a bit of fun with. Step forward The Garmin.
Continue reading Buying a Garmin, Part 1: The maps are key

A daddy on a bike

My winter training took a big hit this week, though you won’t hear me complaining. Not even when the weather has taken a turn for the beautiful with temperatures even touching the 20 degree mark on the thermometer. Why? Well, on Wednesday evening of last week at 9.16 p.m. my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. All 6lbs and 13oz of her. We’ve spent this week getting her settled into her new home and getting ourselves accustomed to our new way of life, but it generally explains the lack of writing on here for the past little while.

18 miles and went nowhere

All winter my training has been indoor, on static bike machines, treadmills, weights or in the swimming pool. It’s been a mind numbing ordeal and it’s been a struggle to get myself to go along. I had planned to go almost every day but that I have went as often as I have has even surprised me. For the most part it has been short but hard interval bursts aimed at shedding weight rather than building stamina, but last night I moved it up a level by continuing to ride intervals, but throwing in a decent spin either side of it.

Continue reading 18 miles and went nowhere

The race to the sun

Sean Kelly in the Paris-Nice, a tour he dominated in the 1980’s

The call is the “Race to the Sun” though it’s officially known as the Paris-Nice. I prefer to refer to it as the “Sean Kelly Classic” given the Irishman dominated it for seven consecutive years from 1982 to 1988. It begins this weekend, it lasts eight days and it holds a little more interest for me given I was in Nice last summer for my Honeymoon and it’ll be interesting to see the race finish there as I try point out as many familiar sights as possible. Sad, but we all do it when the TV cameras show a foreign place we’ve been to before.

At first glance you might think that winning this race bodes well for your chances at the Tour de France given that three of the last six winners have gone on to cross the line in Paris in July with the Yellow jersey upon their shoulders. Floyd Landis in 2006 and Alberto Contador in 2007 and 2009. Of course, it doesn’t take much further study to quickly realise that Landis was later stripped of his title and Contador of his 2009 crown following positive doping tests which means this years winner ought to watch his step. Also the 2008 winner of the “Race to the Sun”, Davide Rebellin, has since failed a doping test himself.

Anyway, we’re in a new era now right? Tony Martin won it last year and look how badly he did in the 2011 Tour de France. He’s back to defend his crown for 2012, though if you’re looking a good man to throw your hard earned cash at look at none other than a man who has already come out his doping suspension over with, Alejandro Valverde. The Spaniard has been in fine form earlier this season what with his teary eye’d stage win at the Tour Down Under, and second place overall, and well as a stage win and overall win at the Vuelta a Andalucia.

If not him then Luis-Leon Sanchez, the 2010 winner of Paris-Nice, or someone like Levi Leipheimer. I could rattle off half a dozen more names but that still won’t necessairly make me any closer to being right. This race is wide open, it’s the first week long stage race of note of the season and for the traditionalists, this one tends to mark the true start to the European road racing year.

The day I biked up Alp d’Huez in 45 minutes (including two photo stops)

Not many people have the opportunity to take a bike up Alp d’Huez, tackling those 21 hairpin bends and grinding it right to the top. Most people cycling it take over an hour to get to the top and the best of the Tour de France can do it in 40 minutes. I did it on a bike in just 45 minutes and here’s the story.

It’s amazing how you get into one of those rhythms. You’re focused in on the road and it’s only after a while you realise you have zoned right out and if you don’t look up you’re going to miss the world around you. That’s forgivable on many rides, but on this one, on the Alp, you dare not get to the top and forget having seen anything on your way up. It was after 22 minutes of cruising at a slow pace that I realised I had covered 9 hairpins and not looked around me at the spectacular sights of the Alps of Western France.

I pulled over at the side of the road, took my helmet off, took a sip of a water bottle and gazed at the panoramic scenes around me. I even took the time to take several photos before hopping back on the bike. Yes, the clock was still ticking.

I moved on, spinning the wheels, taking the turns tight to the inside, feeling good about the elevation gain. Several corners later I noticed a fantastic vantage point and pulled over once again for a few more snaps. After a brief word with some cyclist who was on his way back down I pushed off again and navigated the final half dozen turns that took me up to the summit. One look at my watch confirmed I had made it from foot to top in exactly forty-five minutes and while I was sweating a bit, I wasn’t that burnt out. If only the men of the Tour could do it like me.

You don’t believe me? Well, that’s your choice I suppose…

After half an hour chatting to a few folk who had cycled it up, making small talk about the hardest parts of the climb, of the history of the climb and, as we all do, some talk about the fine weather, I turned around and headed for the bottom.

I got down much quicker than I got up, naturally, but I only put that down to the fact I didn’t stop. Instead looking around me as I went and because of it, only narrowly avoiding an oncoming car. It was still morning when I rolled off the incline and into the town of Bourg-d’Oisans below. I had half an hour to spare before I had to get in my car and return to the hotel, so I returned the moped bike back to the rental shop and eased into a local pub for a quick cold pint as a reward for my lack of effort.

The sugar test

Two days until I undertake perhaps the toughest personal challenge of all — tougher than someone riding the Tour de France route twenty-four hours behind the actual athletes: The abandonment of all sugars (baring those found naturally in healthy foods) from my diet for the next forty days and forty nights. Yes, I’m giving up chocolates, biscuits and other assorted treats for Lent.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy chocolate and in the more general sense, sugar. It’s not going to be easy, there’s going to be mood swings and there’s going to be many tempting moments when I try convince myself that just one Twix won’t hurt anyone, but all being well I’ll come through and in a couple of weeks get used to the fact it’s not going into my system.

This hasn’t really got anything to do with my winter training — I give something up most years for lent — but it won’t hurt either. Sugar is a big hinderance to me when it comes to shedding a few pounds and getting as fit as possible in the gym. When you don’t have the weather to go out in mid-February and knock out 50 miles worth of calorie burning, you have to be more cautious with what goes in your mouth and when, like me, sugar is one of the last things to go, you’re only slowing down progress.

All being well if I come through it I’ll come out the other end feeling much better for it and I can spend Easter Sunday treating myself to a big milk-chocolate Easter-egg.