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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Richmond Dales Sportive

When people talk about the beauty of the Yorkshire Countryside, its a bit like saying they like birds when they have only ever heard the sound of a nightingale.
Appreciating Yorkshire in its fullest glory is best achieved by imagining you are having a 'Right royal feast'
with contrasting dishes served separately to enhance their own individual charateristics.

There are the alluvial flat lands of the Holderness plain and Vale of York, rich in Agriculture and the bread basket of the county.
The Yorkshire Wolds which if painted blue would resemble a sea swell after a violent storm, rolling through the countryside with even unbroken waves of colour.
The eastern coastline is both sharp and blunt, with high cliffs to the north, and Marshlands around the Humber Estuary.
To the South and West the great Yorkshire cities spread out along the backbone of Albion.
Perched high on the leeward side of the Pennines, the dark Satanic Mills replaced by studio flats and cooperative workshops.
Towns and villages named in such a way that they could only ever be pronounced in a Yorkshire accent.

Then finally there are the Yorkshire Moors and Dales.
If you like your scenery through the TV remote control we are talking 'Heartbeat' and 'All creatures great and small' - I prefer mine via a more primitavite form of combustion - The bicycle.

The beauty of the moors has always been known to me having lived in Goathland, but the Dales are an area that I have only previously passed through - driving a 'car', such a waste.

On Saturday I took part in the 5 Dale Richmond Sportive with high expectations.
I was not disappointed.
Sometimes words are not ill just take my hands off the keyboard
Duncan Collins and Yours Truly on top of tut Moor

Dry stone walls - made by man from what nature provided

Descent from Tan Hill


'Stay on the road lad....dont wander onto the Moor'

Thank god there is no westerly gale!!!!!!!

Raw Beauty
Ba ram ewe
Highest pub in England
One of hundreds of 'field barns'

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Golden Globe

If you ever got stuck in a lift in Leeds, London or Liverpool with three strangers what would you expect the 'Ice breaker' to be?
The answer is something that bookmakers would not even take bets on - The Weather.
We seem totally obsessed with talking about it.
Comments about the weather seem to have the same importance and promote the same passions as ones favorite football team.
When people snarl on monday morning, muttering that it was a 'bloody diascrace', its difficult to work out whether or not they are talking about Hull Citys woeful performance or that of the local weather man.
Daily courtesies have been hijacked - with the traditional 'Good Morning' being replaced by 'Hasnt it been cold lately' 

I have to confess with five apps on my phone relating to the weather I too have been influenced
Almost hourly looking to see how wet, windy and warm it may or may not be.

Whilst others might be gauging this phenomenon for the possibility of golf, gardening or alfresco gastronomy. For me its about Cycling.
The early season sportives have supplied weather conditions so adverse that I would not normally consider recreational riding.
High Winds, driving rain and plummeting temperatures were delivered in good measure, its been so grim.
However having forced myself to take part, I have now become conditioned.
Poor weather seems to have become part of my cycling arena.

If I was being reviewed by a Psychiatrist and they showed me association cards it would be easy peasy

Down hill Skiing = Snow
Beach Volleyball = Sunshine
Cross country Skiing = Snow
Sand castle competition = Sunshine
Snow ball Fights = Snow
Sailing = Wind
Kite Surfing = Wind
Wet T shit competition = Rain
Mud Wrestling = Rain
Cycling = Wind, rain , Freezing Cold

Its not such a bad thing though - It takes away any deliberation.
Before I used to talk myself out of rides.
'Its far too windy'
'Its far too cold'
'Its too wet'
I now just go out and pedal........... and let the weather take care of itself.
If its poor,
I expect it.....If its better than poor
I smile because its always a bonus.

On one such recent day we took off to Dalby Forrest in North Yorkshire.
It was a chilly start, but soon we saw this Golden Globe in the sky which seemed to emanate a greater degree of light and some unaccustomed warmth.
Coats, and arm warmers were discarded, dark lenses were clicked into eye frames and perspiration was encountered.
After much debate we decided that the celestial object might be the sun, but none of us could quite remember what it looked like.

As Bobby was wearing his Arizona Cycle jersey with the sun brazened across the chest we thought that it may have been seen as some sort of Celtic offering of appeasement to nature.
That the Gods had seen his Cycle Jersey and blessed us.
What we all agreed on was that it was welcome.

A great day was had by all and other days soon followed.
Summer may have arrived as far as the Calendar is concerned but the Winter Gloves, booties and Coat are still in the hallway.

One of our American Mules Dani Hochleutner recently summoned up the weather far better than I ever could :-
The COLD just makes me angry, so I have learned to be well equipped.
The RAIN makes little difference to me, surprisingly. I simply adjust my speed and feel a bit like a little kid again.
The WIND. I looked up the definition of wind and it said "air in its natural movement" which sounds harmless enough. But HEAD WINDS and CROSS WINDS batter at my confidence and have me question my resolve. Thoughts like "go home", "just quit", "turn around" hit me with each peddle stroke. And then that infamous TAIL WIND whispers false confidence that I am better than I actually am.
So I learn something about myself every time I get on my bike. I learn how to be with the reality of who I am, in a world I can't control, and to adjust. Easily, calmly and thoughtfully I move into alignment with the elements of my resistance to becoming something better, faster, and stronger. And eventually I make it back home.
Happy Cycling

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Next Generation

Picture: (left to right) Ciara Horne, Elinor Barker and Amy Roberts

Apart from the Mule Tales I believe it is important to feature all new aspects to cycling. Just as Victoria Pendalton is polishing up her Dance moves the next generation of Velo princess are already on the production line.
Here is a short Interview with the most promising of New Riders

Amy Roberts

18 year old Amy Roberts is fast making a name for herself in the world of cycling. Having started training for triathlons at the age of 14, within a year she had become the Under-16 Welsh National Cyclo-cross Champions, which also earned her a place on the Olympic Development Programme. Now signed to the Welsh Cycling backed Team USN, she has become part of the team that most recently scooped up the Bronze medal in the Women’s Team Pursuit at the UCI Track World Cup in Mexico.
2012 was Amy’s most successful year to date, seeing her become Junior European Champion in the Team Pursuit and winning her first medal at an elite World Cup; Team USN triumphed with a silver medal.

Elinor Barker

Elinor Barker, also 18 and currently studying for her A-levels, took up cycling aged 10 to get out of swimming classes.
Fast forward several years, and she is the reigning junior world time trial champion – a title she claimed in 2012. Due to this, she was subsequently crowned Carwyn James Junior Sportswoman of the Year at the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year awards in 2012.
Currently riding on the track for Team USN, she is also in the British Cycling's Olympic Academy Programme, but remains based at home until she has completed her studies.
At the end of February 2013, she became a senior world champion for the first time as a member of the Great Britain Team Pursuit squad at the UCI Track World Championships.

Ciara Horne

23 year old Ciara Horne, a successful cyclist at international level, rides on the track for Team USN.
Horne began her sporting life at the age of 7 as a swimmer and competed at national level until the age of 16 when she suffered a serious shoulder injury. This prompted her to switch to triathlons, getting onto the world class start programme and competing at Salford Junior world cup where she finished 8th. However, plagued by injuries, Horne found that the majority of her training would be in the form of cycling and her love for the sport was born.
Juggling her physiotherapy degree studies at the University of Birmingham with her rigorous training regime makes Team USN’s achievements, including a Bronze medal in the Team Pursuit at the Mexico Track Cycling World Cup 2013, all the more rewarding.

Q Hi girls, what has been your greatest career achievement in your mind so far?

AR: I haven't got one greatest achievement; as a junior, I was happy to get two individual bronze medals in the Junior World Track Championships and also win the Junior European Team Pursuit title. In my first year as a senior track cyclist, to get a silver and a bronze in the Team Pursuit at the UCI Track World Cups was a major achievement.

CH: Same, getting silver and bronze at Cali and Mexico World Cup plus finishing second overall in the World Cup series for the team pursuit was amazing.

EB: Mine is definitely winning the world title in the Team Pursuit recently in Minsk, Belarus. It just blows everything else out of the water!

Q Elinor, were you prepared to come home to Wales with such a prestigious title?

EB: Not at all! I was concentrating on the process of the event. I wanted to ride a really good Team Pursuit event, which is what I was thinking about that rather than what I would come home with!

Q Now that the track season has come to an end, what are your goals for the summer?

EB: I will be on the road for the summer. I would like to do well in the Omloop van Borsele time trial in the Netherlands, and hopefully get a ride in the Team Time Trial at the World Road Race Championships in Italy in September. It is really close to the start of the 2013/2014 winter track season so not sure if it will be realistic. There are also a lot of good international riders in my road team, such as Emily Collins from New Zealand and Georgia Bronzini from Italy, so there will be a lot of competition before the competition itself!

AR: My main aim for this season is to gain experience and learn from being part of a professional road team (Wiggle-Honda) which has such talented international riders. I will want to help out as much as I can to get results for the team and then maybe later in the season get a result for myself, and do well in the National Road Race and Time Trial.

CH: I have a list of goals for the season, but would particularly like to perform well at the UCI time trials and the British Time Trial championships in June. I'm also keen to retain all my British University Championship titles as it's my final year at the University of Birmingham and I’d like to leave on a high! Looking ahead to the end of the road season I’d like to perform well at the British Track championships.

Q How do you train in order to retain your extreme range of endurance and power?

EB: I alternate between track and road cycling. At different times of the year I prioritise either track or road, where both have different types of training. I have just finished my track season for this winter, so I train at the velodrome 3-4 times throughout the week, and then I try and get a long road ride in at the weekend.

AR: I have had a winter on the track, so I have been mainly training on the track with recovery rides out on the road. To get the endurance for what I will need this season on the road, I have had to get in the longer rides since completing the track season. In a way, I will treat these first few big races as training to improve my fitness as well as gaining experience and helping my road team in any way possible. A lot of the power I need I have gained from the track, so that will help a bit throughout the year.

CH: It's a combination of road and track training (with additional gym sessions) with specific sessions according to the race season (track or road). For example, during the winter season when we were preparing for World Cups on the track, a typical day may entail specific sessions looking at our starts (and the power and strength element achieved through repeated start efforts using bigger gears) with a road ride in the morning or afternoon too to maintain a good level of endurance.

Q Can you tell us about your diet on a regular training day? Do you conform to the high carb endurance approach or have you trialled higher protein or fat diets?

AR: I don’t really have a specific diet plan. I try and get a range of everything to cover what I need for when training a lot, and supplement my recovery with USN shakes and protein bars. I try to keep away from eating a lot of foods high in sugar and fats, like takeaways, but you have to treat yourself every once in a while!

EB: I have high carb diet because I’m so busy with training and school work that I
need to eat all the time! I try and eat little and often rather than having everything in one big go; it just keeps me going. When I am cycling full time, after my A Levels this summer, I will have more time to think about my diet and specific requirements to improve my performance. I try not to eat too many carbs so that I don’t put on weight though!

I haven’t tried a high fat diet and I intake most of my protein in one meal a day. I have USN recovery shakes after every session or I mix it up with a USN Pure Protein bar - they are so nice!

CH: I think it’s very important to have a balanced diet and I try to do so by having a good balance of carbohydrate and protein. On long training rides I will use products from USN’s endurance range and post training a personal favourite of mine is the Protein Fuel 32 RTD (in particular the chocolate flavour!).

Q What kind of snacks and drinks do you find work well for you?

CH: I love fruit and yogurts. Also homemade mixed berry smoothies are amazing!

EB: After a track session I need something really salty to replace the salts I have lost through sweat. I generally like to have some salt and vinegar rice cake. I just tend to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables throughout the day to snack on!

AR: I have only just started to use energy drinks at races, like USN Epic Pro All-in-One - in the past I’ve stuck to squash! It’s definitely good in hard races to have USN Vooma Gels to hand as well; they give you a bit more energy when you really need it! A big factor for me is the taste of the products, if they give me energy and taste good, they’re perfect!

Q How has being a part of the Olympic Development Programme helped your performance?

EB: Massively! Going to things like Junior European Track Championships, which is tied in with the Under 23 Competition, is really good as you see how the older athletes prepare and perform. The first time I went to Junior Euros, Philip Hindes was there as an Under 23 and just over a year later he won Olympic gold in London! So it’s good to see how riders like that prepare for competition. It was a great opportunity to share experiences and learn from all the other riders and coaching team.

AR: I have learnt so much from going to different races abroad and have the opportunity to experience major events such as World and European Championships. The training camps on the programme are also good as they push your body, so you get a hard work out from them but you also familiarise yourself with the environment and the sort of lifestyle that you could have as a professional bike rider – including everything from how to ride your bike and read a race, to how to recover in preparation for the next event.

Q What’s next for you all?

AR: I want to represent Great Britain at the European Track Championships in the summer!

EB: I’m having a bit of time where cycling isn’t my priority until about June. I’m going to focus on my A -levels and learn how to drive; just generally have a bit of a normal life! But I will still be training, hopefully six days a week and doing some races in Europe as well.

CH: Above everything, I’d like to just carry on being consistent with my training and continue to learn and develop as a cyclist.

Their success as a team continues into 2013, with every event providing them with invaluable experience in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Thoroughbred Mules untouched by Godolphin Scandal

On the eve of the first Classics of the season, racing was rocked last night by one of the biggest doping scandals of modern times when the British Horseracing Authority announced that 11 horses, all trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni under Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin banner in Newmarket, have tested positive for steroids.
The immediate consequence is that the 11 horses have been banned from running and one, Certify, the unbeaten filly who is vying for favouritism for the 1,000 Guineas, will miss the fillies’ Classic at Newmarket.
The long-term the implications for Al Zarooni are serious. While Godolphin might one day just recover from the taint this brings to Sheikh Mohammed’s organisation, Al Zarooni is facing a long or possibly lifetime ban from the sport after admitting administering prohibited substances to his horses. His employment prospects within Godolphin must be under threat.

This is a clear indication that even the wealthiest of stables can not always produce the goods!!!!!!

HP News caught up with Race Trainer Paddy Shrimpton who heads the more modest 'Mules Stable' in Houston, Texas.
'Some of these big racing teams bring too much pressure on themselves. There is an expectation from the owners, Sponsors and anyone else that buys into such regimes'

The Mules are a million Miles away from such stables as Newmarket, Sky, and Orica Green Pastures but they feel they have got it right.

Paddy Shrimpton again.
'Our stables are empty on events day with all taking part in various events around the globe.
Somebody has to come first and somebody last but participation is equally important.
Without an event there are no positions to be gained'.
The only stimulus our entries get are Gatorade and Mule Bars 

Paddy a colourful character speaks modestly as recent results show that this approach has its merits.
Within the Mules Stable there is actually some real class.

Meridith Bunkers a young promising Filly is new to the Mule stable but has already shown off the Mules colours in the winners enclosure - competing and winning the Houston Grand Criterium
Cat 3 is surely within reach now

Meridith on the Top Podium Step in full Mule Livery -
'We are so proud' Paddy Shrimpton
Paul Wakefield has been racing for sometime in the highly competitive men's Crit racing and has a handful of podium finishes.
Paddy has the last word:-
I don't want to comment on dolphins they belong in the sea not stables.
I just want to talk about my Mules.
All of our stable are special, we are like a big family.
If one wins we all win

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Wind in the Willows

In Kenneth Grahame well loved children's story the Wind in the willows he depicts a tale of four anthropomorphised animal characters in a pastoral version of England.
The novel is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie things that I both like and appreciate.
The story opens with Mule ............sorry I was meant to say Mole
For those unacquainted with such a creature a Mole is a bit like a Vole, which in turn sounds a bit like Vowel
As O and  U are both Vowels and the difference between a Mule and a Mole, in essence they are very similar, and permitted in my story.

Anyway Mule - the Mole is a mild-mannered, home-loving animal, and the first character to be introduced. After hibernating all winter and waking a bit early he passes the time away cleaning his house and completing any other chores that he can think of.
 Eventually he gets fed up with this and ventures out onto the riverbank where he meets other adventurers in Toad, Badger and Ratty.
I feel for Mr Muley the Mole.
This winter my bikes have done less miles than in any previous winter.
Our fair Isles have not been fair.
We have been battetred by severve Gales, Snow right through and out the other side of easter, and enough Ice and Cold to attract Eskimos for a weekend break.
When we have ventured out...its been Grim.
So grim that rather than have a latee afterr my ride at The Corner House I have been forced to consume The Full English, washed down with Guiness and a Brandy Chaser.
Is it any wonder that Im now in deep Therapy at slimming World.

Like Mr Mole I understood the frustrations of having to stay in, and wait for the time to be right.
From the comfort of my now overused sofa I took some comfort from watching the proffessionals 'Man up' and ride in some dreadful weather.
I am sure some of the sponsors would have been wincing
I felt especially sorry for the grim faced Vacansoleil riders.
Their distictive livery depicting the sun with their main sponsor a Holiday company.
I dont think Vacansoleil do winter breaks.
As all good things eventually come to an end, well thankfully so do the bad ones.
Although the road ahead may sometimes be bumpy there is always a destination at the end of it.
Just ask Fabian Cancellara he gets a free shirt to boot.
With clothes chosen from the winter catalogue a small handful of Mules undertook the North Lincolnshire Sportive our first of the year. With modest training under our expanded belts we opted for the 100km route.
If it had been a training ride I am sure there would have been no takers as the wind was up to and gusting over 40mph......It was grim.
Despite that, and in our usual masochistic way we all got something positive out of it.
Congratulations to Ben (One of our New Mules) for completing his first Sportive and Metric Century.
For part of the Route we were joined by Carl pictiured below also on his first sportive. Great riding!
For me it reminded me that the season is now upon us and that I need to start blogging again.

So wishing you all great riding and I am pleaed to confirm that normal service has resumed