Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Make your own 100% natural honey and lemon electrolyte sports drink

April 9, 2015

I’ve been meaning to share this little secret with you all for quite some time, not only to save you money, but more importantly to provide a healthy alternative to the masses of expensive, commercially available, often times near unpalatable, sports drinks on the market.

By way of quick background, I keep bees and produce my very own delicious wild flower honey in the Garden County of Ireland. The last week of July sees the Federation of Irish Bee Keepers’ Associations (FIBKA) hold its annual Summer School in Gormanston, County Meath, which I have attended over the past years. Every year, an expert in the field of apiculture is invited to attend as honorary guest lecturer and present lectures in their particular field of expertise. In 2013, it was Flemming Vejsnæs, the beekeeping adviser employed by the Danish Beekeepers Association who was this special guest of honour.

Flemming Vejsnæs

Flemming Vejsnæs

 

What does this have to do with cycling you might ask? Well, apart from making the 2 hour (60km) trip out to the venue in the morning by bicycle and then back home again in the evening, it was during one of his lectures, that he shared with his audience, information on a study conducted by a team of Finnish researches. They investigated the performance differences between a self-made and 100% natural honey, lemon and salt sports drink and expensive commercially available alternatives.

To briefly summarise, the performance of the honey and lemon sports drink was equal in measure when looking at values to indicate provision of energy in endurance sports (cycling and running) and insulin and blood glucose levels also were very similar, yet it came out a clear winner when looking at other parameters such as being better tolerated by athletes (no nasty stomach cramps any more) and resulted in fewer required toilet breaks. Nobody wants to lose a couple of minutes stopping to reduce bladder pressure during a race!

From personal experience, after well over a year of use during training and racing, I agree wholeheartedly with the above conclusions. It is not only much tastier, but upset stomachs have thankfully also become a thing of the past.

Here is the honey sports drink recipe to make up for the whole team:

• 450 g honey
• 180 ml lemon juice ( fresh or concentrate)
• 1.5 tea spoon salt
• 5.5 l water

Mix honey and lemon juice, add water and salt.

To view the entire research test results please click here: Honey, lemon sports drink

Personal tip: Use a light, milder honey for best taste, such as Acacia, Orange blossom or similar. If you prefer a stronger taste, a heather or lavender honey can be used. Generally I prefer to use locally produced, unfiltered and unheated honey, as it contains healthy natural enzymes and traces of pollen which provides very small amounts of protein and trace elements.

Happy natural honey sports drink fuelled riding!

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Downhill Road Blitz – Victory for Black Sheep Bikes in Ireland’s first DH Road Race

March 12, 2015

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Hardly back from Colorado, with a little under two weeks to go, it was time to knuckle down to tie up a few loose ends and put the finishing organisational touches to the up-coming inaugural Downhill Road Blitz race I had decided to organise earlier in the year. The past six months had been when most of the graft had been put in and so most things were already teed up and ready to go, but I wanted to make sure everything would run smoothly on the day and so made the necessary phone calls and sent out some final communications. The concept was the same as the Red Bull Road Rage races, only this time, it was with the support of my racing club Bray Wheelers CC, and Cycling Ireland. It was a world first for a national cycling federation under the UCI to sanctioned such an event. The race village venue was in the Glenview Hotel, proud sponsor and the event’s official partner hotel, at the bottom of the race course, namely the Red Lane, which was chosen due to its proximity to the course.

Downhill Road Blitz event poster

Downhill Road Blitz event poster

This promised to be an event where the competition would be as high as any other Red Bull Road Rage events that had been held across the world over the years. Top riders from Europe including France’s Guillaume Gualandi (World #1 Road Rage racer in 2008 and 2009) and Fred Mazères his Cantal Team Road team mate and Germany’s Christian Lademann (ex UCI World Champion Team Pursuit in 1999) and his former professional team mate Mathias Kahl (National German Madison champion with Lademann in 2005 – beating the reigning World Champions in the process) were already confirmed to line up. A host of strong challengers from Ireland would ensure a top level in racing.

Riders listen to the pre-race safety briefing.

Riders listen to the pre-race safety briefing.

The day before the event, I had a professional road cleaning service sweep the entire section of the race course of all gravel and dirt along the sides, and especially in the bends. Safety for the riders was my biggest concern. On the morning of the event, I met my team at the race village at 7:00 sharp and got things rolling. The weather wasn’t great, with light rain falling, but it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. The first riders showed up for sign on around 8:00, where they were handed their numbers and tags and went through the mandatory bike safety check conducted by Bespoke Cycles. At this stage, the Red Bull crew had also arrived, including a team of hostesses, aka a team of Wiiings, a camera man and to set up the start and finishing arches, the technical contingent. At 9:00 I held the rider safety briefing. Once completed, the signed up riders were all shuttled up to the top of the Red Lane, where they were able to complete a number of official practice runs on a fully closed road.

Riders preparing on the start ramp ready for the qualifying heats.

Riders preparing on the start ramp ready for the open practice runs.

Lunch was served for the riders in the Glenview Hotel restaurant at 13:00, prior to getting down to the serious business of qualifying for the knock-out stages. At 14:00 sharp the riders were again shuttled up to the top of the course in anticipation of proper racing. Taking my lead from the Colorado Road Rage, I decided to run with 3 qualifying heats for all riders, mixing the riders between groups in each round of heats. I was happy enough at this stage that my able team on the ground were taking good care of the running and so was finally able to join the racing activities for the first time that day.

Start of a qualifying heat (l-r): Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers), Malcom Goggin (Bray Wheelers)

Start of a qualifying heat (l-r): Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers), Malcom Goggin (Bray Wheelers)

Racing was hard and fast, and I won my first and third round heats, but was edged out into second place during the second round heat, by an audacious move in the final stages of the run by Mathias Kahl. It was however more than enough to qualify for the knock-out rounds. Next up were the semi-finals, where I finish just ahead of Fred Mazières who took the remaining berth from our group for the final. In the other semi-final Mathias Kahl had some bad luck when his back tyre exploded coming into the last corner, causing him to lose control and crash, sliding into the perfectly positioned tyre wall. It was not long before he was back up on his feet, but missed out on a spot in the final, with Guillaume Gaulandi winning the heat and Tadhg Sheehan capitalising on Kahl’s misfortune to take the remain final berth.

The women’s final was run before the men’s minor and grand finals. Fiona Meade (Blarney Cycling Club) took top honours ahead of Joanne McCallum, with local underage rider Caoimhe Ivory (Bray Wheelers) showing her strength to round off the podium against strong senior opposition. In the minor final it was Mathias Kahl who bounced back after his earlier mishap to take the win for the minor placings.

Women's podium (l-r): Joanne McCallum, Fiona Meade (Blarney CC), Caoimhe Ivory (Bray Wheelers).

Women’s podium (l-r): Joanne McCallum, Fiona Meade (Blarney CC), Caoimhe Ivory (Bray Wheelers).

Next up was the men’s grand final, an exclusive Gallo-hiberno affair with two riders from each France and Ireland. I decided on going for a slower start to keep my powder dry by letting the other riders lead me out. Unfortunately, Fred Mazières suffered a puncture early on and was out of the running before he had a chance to challenge. I slotting into 3rd position behind Guillaume and Tadhg and bid my time to move up. Once we had safely negotiated the top section and passed the handful of bends leading into the middle straight, I rushed Tadhg from behind and executed the overtake. I knew I would need to be on Guillaume’s wheel exiting the main bend into the straight of the bottom half of the course and this is where I was now positioned. I stuck to his rear wheel like a shadow until we had about 250m to go and knew I had to make my move in order to be the first rider into the last steep section before the ultimate bend. Barring any mishaps this should pretty much guarantee the victory. I shot around Guillaume in a calculated move and took the race lead.

Leading out Guillaume Gualandi and Tadhg Sheehan down the final straight during the grand final.

Leading out Guillaume Gualandi and Tadhg Sheehan down the final straight during the grand final.

Carefully guiding my bike through the last section, I raced towards the finishing arch, around the last bend and took the chequered flag with my now customary one handed victory salute. I was delighted to finish off the season just like it had started, with a win to climb back on the top step of the podium after coming so close in Colorado. It meant that 2013 became my most successful season to date, in no small part because of the very best advice on training, injury prevention, psychological preparation and general support from world class coach Jonathan Gibson of the Athlete Clinic. It was undoubtedly the best decision I made to collaborate with him earlier in the year and my consistent results vindicated this choice.

Taking the chequered flag in the big Final ahead of Cantal Team Road's Guillaume Gualandi.

Taking the chequered flag in the big Final ahead of Cantal Team Road’s Guillaume Gualandi.

It was then straight back up to the race village for the prize presentations. All participants were guaranteed a prize thanks to the generosity of Black Sheep Bikes who had supplied enough high quality t-shirts and hoodies for everyone. Fiona Meade collected her prize of a Black Sheep Bikes hoodie for the fastest timed run, set in the final, along with her overall winner’s cheque (proudly presented by Bespoke Cycles who sponsored the women’s cash prizes) and her trophy. Guillaume Gualandi collected the prize for the fastest timed run in the men’s category, which he had set in his semi-final run, as well as his runner up cheque (proudly presented by The Athlete Clinic who sponsored the men’s cash prizes) and his trophy.

Elite Men's podium (l-r) Guillaume Gualandi (Cantal Team Road, France), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers, Ireland), Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club, Irleland)

Elite Men’s podium (l-r) Guillaume Gualandi (Cantal Team Road, France), Janos Köhler (Black Sheep Bikes/Bray Wheelers, Ireland), Tadhg Sheehan (Trinity Cycling Club, Irleland).

Following the prize presentation, the riders returned to the Glenview Hotel restaurant where we had our lunch-time desserts still waiting for us (we never managed to eat them in the afternoon, as the road closure times meant we had severe time constraints with a strict schedule to adhere to). It was a relaxed affair as we all discussed the day’s events reminiscing on the good times we had and talked about planning another Irish downhill road race at some time in the future.

The full event clip produced by Black Umbrella Productions can be viewed by clicking here. Red Bull also put a clip together and can be viewed here.

I would like to give a special mention of thanks to Biking.ie who supplied logistical help as well as equipment to ensure the event ran without a hitch, the Glenview Hotel for providing an area for the race village setup and top notch catering for the riders, Red Bull Ireland for the media coverage and the great team they sent down, Black Umbrella Productions for the great clip they put together, Bespoke Cycles for doing the pre-race bike safety check and sponsoring the women’s prizes, The Athlete Clinic for sponsoring the men’s cash prizes,  and last but certainly not least, a huge thank you to all the Bray Wheelers members who came and gave up their free time to help marshal, ensuring impeccable safety throughout the event for riders and spectators alike. This event would not have been possible without all their support. Here’s looking forward to another one down the road (pun intended)!

Red Bull Road Rage, Mont Ventoux – From disappointment to relief

July 12, 2013

In March of this year, the exciting news broke when Red Bull announced it was planning to run 4 Road Rage events in 2013. This was greeted with delight by the Road Rage faithful community, as 2012 had been completely barren and Road Rage aficionados were beginning to lose hope of seeing more events organised. Locations announced included Denver, France, Bosnia and Brazil.

After clarifying some communication points on the Red Bull press release, it transpired that the first event would go ahead in France, descending 6km and 445m from the top of the mythical Mont Ventoux. The excitement at a longer course was evident by the positive comments that floated about in the build-up. All the big names, including three of the top Road Rage racers from France, Guillaume Gualandi (World #1 2008/2009) along with his multiple podium standing team mates Frédéric Mazières and David Lacoste, not to mention ex track World Champion and 2 time Road Rage runner-up Christian Lademann from Germany and the most recent Red Bull Road Rage Champion Piotr Szafraniec from Poland, to name but a few of the stars, were all set to be on the start line.

Podium

Wild scences from the last Road Rage podium celebrations in France, with (l-r) Cédric Gracia, Guillaume Gualandi, Frédéric Moncassin, David Lacoste and Frédéric Mazières.

Then 10 days before the event an unexpected announcement came: The competent authorities had issued a non-favourable response to Red Bull in relation to the event and it was promptly cancelled. Naturally the riders were immensely disappointed at this turn-about, but there was nothing to be done, only wait for the next event.

Having booked my flight tickets 2 months in advance, I decided I would go anyway to test out my newly rebuilt Black Sheep Bikes Road Rage Custom 2. After riding the original bike for nearly two years, I provided feedback to the guys at Black Sheep and wanted to have a few things changed to be able to go even faster. The modifications were discussed and the bike sent back to the BSB HQ in Fort Collins where the rear triangle was rebuilt. I got the bike back the day before I flew out and so would have to wait until I was in France before I could unpack it and test it out.

Road Rage Race Day

Saturday 8 June was the planned race date, so I thought it would only be fitting to venture up on the same day for the first test run on the new machine. I drove up to Bédoin, with the intention of making one ascent to the summit of Mont Ventoux followed by a full descent. The weather had turned by the afternoon and not long into the start of the ascent, it started to rain. I toiled on up the climb until I emerged above the tree line only to be surrounded by thick cloud cover and ever increasingly strong winds. It was a struggle up to the top as winds gusted strongly between 80-100km/h, the rain driving down in sheets and the temperature barely 6 °C at the summit (not including the wind chill factor). My hands were completely numb at this stage and I was nearly blown over several times on the summit so strong was the wind.

To watch the clip to get a true sense of the terrible conditions on that day, please click here.

Under these conditions, the descent was incredibly dangerous, and on several occasions I got blown across the road without warning. Visibility was down to about 30m due to the thick cloud cover and the wind was driving the rain so hard it was cutting painfully into my face. It became abundantly clear to me that the competent authorities in the sous-prefecture of Carpentras had made the only sensible and correct decision by cancelling the event, which in hindsight was a big relief. It would have been irresponsible to hold the race under these conditions and emergency services would not have been able to respond effectively had someone gone over the side of the road. I was relieved to get back down to the shelter of the tree line. From here on it was business as usual taking a little extra care due to the wet road.

Black Sheep Bikes Road Rage Custom 2 Test Day

Two days later the weather had turned for the better and I decided to embark on a triple assault of Mont Ventoux, that is to say, climb every one of the three sides. Well, I really only wanted to cycling down each descent, but that inevitably meant I would also have to cycle up each side. I commenced in Bédoin and nearly failed on my mission before I got started. 2.5km into the climb I realised my bottom bracket was creaking a bit. Upon quick inspection I realised that the previous ride had probably been the nail in the coffin for my bottom bracket bearings, so I turned around straight away and went to the Bédoin Location bike shop to have a new set of bearings and cups installed. I received friendly, quick service and 45mins later it was mission on again and I commenced the trip in earnest. A little under two hours and the summit was reached. A short break later and I was plummeting down the western descent towards Malaucène a breakneck speeds. 20min34sec later I had completed the first descent of 21.6km at an average speed of 62.9km/h, currently 44sec faster than the next best time. I checked my Garmin to see I had hit and maximum speed 117.5km/h! Going in the right direction I thought, having bettered my previous PB of 115km/h set back in 2008 during the Ötztaler Cycling Marathon race in Austria while descending the Kühtai into Innsbruck.

To watch the full clip of the descent from the summit of Mont Ventoux to Malaucène, please click here.

After refilling my water bottles at the village fountain, it was back on the saddle for the slog back up. Again, it was around two hours of steady climbing before I would reach the top. It was also the first time I was able to admire the stunning views on the way up, that I had missed on the way down due to having to concentrate fully on the road. Again a short break was afforded, before I plummeted down in the direction of Sault. This is the longest descent at 25.1km, but with the least elevation difference, making the gradient somewhat gentler, a welcome relief after the first two tough ascents. Unfortunately my progress was interrupted by some roadworks which killed any chance of grabbing a triple crown of Strava KOMs for the descents. Well, it’ll leave something to aim for on my next visit.

Again a quick bottle refill was made at the village fountain, before the last climb back to the summit. With about 6km to go from Chalet Reynard, another cyclist I had passed at the beginning of the climb fell into pace with me. He had been shadowing me at about 100m back or so the entire time. As he drew level with me, my unusual looking bike caught his eye and was enough to start us chatting and I got to know him as Bernard. It turns out he is the cousin of a famous former professional road and track rider and multiple national French champion Charley Grosskost, from the era of  Eddy Merckx and Luis Ocaña, at one time even riding for 5 time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil. Bernard was no slouch in his day either, winning the Alsace 100km team time trial title and taking podiums in other notable races. We exchanged many cycling stories before we reached the summit for the last time that day. At the top he took the only photos I have of the day as he luckily had a camera with him. We exchanged emails and he left before me while I sent a quick text to my friend who I was going to meet in the village, to let him know I would be down in about 20mins. I also tucked in anything that might fly out on the super fast descent that was to ensue.

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Summit of the Col du Mont Ventoux (1912m)

Once ready, I clipped in, switched into downhill race speed mode and let rip. A nice 50km/h westerly tail wind meant that I had a wind assisted descent on the exposed top part, the same section the Red Bull road Rage would have taken place on. I picked up speed quickly and passed the Col des Tempêtes not long after, continuing to accelerate hard. I quick glance down at my Garmin where I spotting 108km/h on the screen and I was still picking up speed rapidly. I passed Bernard after a short while later flicking him a quick wave of the hand as I negotiated the bend. As he was in my racing line, I had to go wide in order not to cut across him. This also pushed me wide on the exit and made for an additional adrenaline rush. Back on the power and flat out the rest of the way, slowing marginally for the ensuing bends. Chalet Reynard was reached rapidly and from there on it was a roller coaster ride to Bédoin. 21min19sec later I had completed the final descent of 21.3km at an average speed of 59.8km/h, a mere 3sec faster than the next best time. Now for the moment of truth as I checked my Garmin to see my maximum speed: 131.8km/h! I could hardly believe it! Total trip distance was 139.3km, including 4463m of total elevation gain, taking me 7h18m to complete.

It was only then I not only understood, but could also fully appreciate just how significant the improvements and modifications to my second generation Black Sheep Bikes Road Rage Custom were in terms of performance. The guys in Fort Collins worked their magic like only they know how, using their decades of experience to pull the best out of the machine following the feedback I provided. In addition to the bike now being much much faster, it is also more stable at high speeds, handles better in corners, doesn’t lift the rear end under heavy breaking on extremely steep descents, but the nicest and most unexpected added bonus was that the bike is now also super comfortable on longer rides. To find out more about their wonderful two wheeled, creations of working art, just visit the Black Sheep Bikes web page.

To watch the full clip of the final descent from the summit of Mont Ventoux to Bédoin, please click here.

Red Bull Road Rage, Israel – Back on track with 4th place

July 3, 2010

A view of the course

Ready to put the disappointments of Latvia behind me, it was off to round three of the 2010 Red Bull Road Rage season. Another first in terms of venue, this time it was off to Israel. The venue could not have been better chosen, with the steepest road in Israel the course. A spectacular twisting descent including no less than 7 switchbacks along the Syrian boarder down off the southern Golan heights towards Jordan far below, would test the skill and nerve of every rider brave enough to take the high speed plunge.

Early morning sign-on

It was a 6 o’clock start to try beat the imminent afternoon summer heat that opened the day’s proceedings. The list of riders read like the “Who’s who” of Israeli cycling, with many past and current national road racing , cross country, marathon cross country and downhill mountain bike champions present. As an Irishman, I was the sole foreign rider to venture over for the event and was made feel most welcome from the outset. A pre-race safety briefing was held, with the most important information kindly translated from Hebrew for me by some of my co-competitors, including the following: “To the left of a road is a fence, behind which lies a mine field. If you land on the other side of the fence, don’t move! We will come and get you out. To the right of the road is a cliff with over 100m drop. Stay to the left of the barrier. If you fly out, you will truly fly. Just take care!”  Ironically the flying reference was not linked to the ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ slogan, although one might wish for those wings in this situation.

Pre-race safety briefing

Next up was a controlled pace course inspection and safety run, with scheduled stops to point out the most dangerous spots, including the signs that warned of mines and the tank crossing point where the road had been slightly damaged. Nothing was left to chance and every potential danger was address. Once done, it was time to start with the official practice runs, of which I got a couple under my wheels to properly familiarise myself with the course. It wasn’t long before it was time to get ready for qualifying. I was first up and so took up my position in the start gate. Heart rate sitting at 151bpm, my mind had informed my body of what was to come and yes, I was evidently ready for action! 5 beeps, the gate dropped and I was off.

Giving it all in qualifying

After qualifying, I waited in the racers paddock at the finish as the riders came down one by one. My time held for a long time until one other rider was finally able to snatch the top spot. It remained so until the end of the qualifying session, after which we were all bussed up to the start paddock again. It was decided to hold some pre-qualifier 4cross heats for the slowest riders only, to whittle it down to the desired 32 fastest riders. The top 16 fastest riders were able to rest as the others fought it out for the remaining 16 spots. This way it still gave everyone the chance to ride at least one knock-out round before the real racing would begin in earnest.

Ripping a hairpin bend.

Through the early knock out stages my tactic was simple: Use my power coupled with a 54-11 conversion to blow out a gap early on and then sit on that advantage conserving my energy for the next rounds. It worked well and I was still as fresh as an Irishman can be in the wilting 35°C heat by the time it came to final. With no weak riders left I really needed to be on top of my game to ride this one to victory. I sat in amoung the bunch watching for the danger men before I timed my attack in the chosen location. It stuck as I blew out a gap of 30m within a matter of seconds. So far so good! Around the next hairpin and down the steepest part of the course at 18%, around another couple of sweeping bends and into the next hairpin. Still holding my advantage I tackled one of the slight uphill transitions bringing me to another hairpin. As I entered it, my rear wheel monetarily lost traction as it slipped on the white line and out from under me forcing me to release the brakes and counter-lock the steering to catch myself… Saved! I desperately tried to get around to the exit of the bend, but the momentary releasing of the brakes had meant I was off trajectory and couldn’t avoid rolling with my front wheel into the gravel on the outside verge. The inevitable happened as my front wheel washed out on the ball bearing-like gravel stones and I was caught up by the protective straw bail that blocked my path to the guardrail and over the other side 100m down into the ravine. As I jumped back up onto my bike, I watched as my three competitors raced by. I started pedalling frantically, only to realise I had derailed, costing me an additional few seconds of valuable time. By the time I got going I was about 100m behind and faced an uphill battle if I was going to pull this back. Out of my rhythm and my concentration disrupted I mistimed the following right hand hairpin on the exit of a blind left hander. This cost me more time which didn’t help my cause. I gave it my all, but only managed to halve the gap before the finish line and so it was not to be this time as I took 4th place in what has to be the best Road Rage I have ever ridden.

Red Bull Road Rage podium, Israel (l-r): Janos Köhler, Daniel Eliad, Ohad Ben Hamo, Eli Wexler.

The prize presentation took place down in the valley, just across the Jordanian boarder in the hot water spring resort of Hamat Gader, where riders had a chance to refuel, refresh and relax. What a fantastic day!

7Stanes – Scotland’s biking heaven (Part 1)

November 16, 2009

Following my Red Bull Road Rage escapades thanks to The Cycle Inn bike shop in the past months, I have temporarily ditched the road bike in favour of returning to my cycling roots in mountain biking. Currently in Scotland, I am doing a tour of the 7 Stanes mountain bike trail centres. (www.7stanes.gov.uk)
On Saturday I rode the Ae trail centre red course. 24km in length, comprising 65% single track, it is a solid 1.5 hour ride (even though the shop manager was unconvinced it was possible before I set off). He even offered me a free meal, well a recovery bar, if I lapped in less than 1.5 hours. Exactly 1h29m44s later I cruised in to pick it up, including negotiating the last downhill in falling darkness without lights! Not recommended for minors – Do not try this at home!
Flooding on the path just after the very start led to the latter 2 thirds of the ride being completed with no feeling in my feet, which detracted somewhat from the comfort factor of the ride.
Today I rode the Kirroughtree trail centre black course. 31km in length (17km red with 14km black section) with 75% single track, it is a physical 2 hour ride. Arguably one of the best trail centres in the UK, the highlight has to be McMoab, huge slabs and ridges of exposed granite, linked by boulder causeways. A good technical level of riding skills is necessary to negotiate this feature, especially in the wet.

McMoab

Over the next couple of days I will be riding Dalbeattie, Mabie and Glentress & Innerleithen trail centres with updates to follow.