ebikes – bike reviews – winter touring – news – fitness – winter products
UK’S LEISURE CYCLING AND TRAVEL MAGAZINE
The Bicycle Diaries
The Loire Valley FEBRUARY 2020 MADE IN THE UK
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Eat, Sleep, Ride, Repeat. It’s good to get away and see somewhere new. And when you’ve finished a long ride, exploring new places, it’s good to have a little bit of comfort; a cold drink, a hot drink, a microwave, gas hobs, running water, a sofa, double beds with mattresses. The things we take for granted in our own homes. The 6-berth OPUS® Camper Trailer can offer you all of those comforts, plus a whole lot more, including the ability to carry up to 6 cycles on it’s roof. OPUS® takes care of the simple things, leaving you more time to concentrate on your routes. Start planning your next route today with OPUS®
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BIKE MAGAZINE 3
INSIDE FEBRUARY 2020
08 Destination: Amsterdam I knew the time would come when I would eventually travel to Amsterdam and jump on a bicycle, the city is synonymous with the bike, around every corner and in every crevice it breathes bikes. It’s a cyclist’s spiritual home, a temple to all things two wheeled.
26 Nutrition Advice: ROAD CYCLING Don’t try anything new on race day. Always experiment with types and timing of food and fluid intake during training. Road cycling has a reputation for the widespread use of all kinds of supplements.
The Loire Valley
42 Destination: Mallorca Sipping champagne on the seafront raising a toast to Stephen Roche to celebrate his twentieth anniversary of providing excellent cycling holidays and training camps, I reflected on the four days of touring the Balearic Island of Mallorca.
54 Pro Cycling Jersey It is positioned as the American brand’s top line performance jersey, and it really doesn’t disappoint – but you do pay quite heavily for it.
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to the February issue
February is one of the coldest months of the year. This is normally the peak of the winter season. Which is why I have decided to present to you, my dear reader, a variety of warm touring destinations. Also some cycling jerseys to keep you warm. However, as you have undoubtedly noticed, the boundaries of our sport are blurring at a rapid pace. Thanks to the various electricpowered motorcycles, three-wheeled motorcycles, and electric-human powered bicycles, we have more choices than ever when it comes to fun and practical ways to move from one point to another. Se check out Jeep’s off-road eBIKE on page 6
Scot Whitlock, an amazing cyclists, has prepared for you two amazing journeys in two beautiful cycling destinations. The first one is in the inspiring cycling nation of Amsterdam (page 8); and the second one the beautiful country side of France (page 20). We have plenty of cycling destinations to choose from – personal favourite will always be Lake Como in Italy. You can find more about it on page 36 and if you are looking for cycling holidays don’t forget to check out website’s BIKE Directory for best cycling accommodation - https://www.bikemag.com/bike-directory
> Nick Branxton - Editor
Editor: Nick Branxton
Media packs available upon request.
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JEEPâ€™S OFF-ROAD EBIKE
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Powerful electric bicycle for more extreme adventures
eep’s next electric vehicle is apparently going to be a massively powerful Jeep e-bike with one of the highest-torque electric bicycle motors on the market. The news comes as the Jeep e-bike made its first appearance in Jeep’s super bowl commercial, seen below. The commercial features Bill Murray reprising his role from the 1993 hit movie Groundhog Day. The actual subject of the commercial is the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck. However, the new Jeep electric bicycle makes a short cameo part way through the ad. Concurrently with Jeep dropping the ad on YouTube, US-based electric bicycle distributor QuietKat, who is apparently working with Jeep on the new Jeep e-bike, uploaded more information onto its website. According to the site, the Jeep electric bicycle will apparently feature extrawide 4.8-inch fat tires, will be capable of achieving 40 miles (64 km) of range on a single charge, and will be available in June 2020. They also claim the Jeep e-bike will feature a 750W electric motor. That’s all the information that Jeep has released so far. But they surely didn’t realize just how e-bike nerdy we are here at Electrek. So now let me give you the specs they didn’t list, but that we can pull out of the few sparse images and short video clip. First of all, that mid-drive motor seen on the Jeep e-bike isn’t a 750W motor. It’s a motor built by Chinese company Bafang and is known internally as the model M620. Externally, it’s known as the Bafang Ultra.
It puts out at least 1,600 W of peak power with a standard 52V e-bike battery. And it pushes 160Nm of torque. Folks, that’s an insane amount of torque — a level that most gas motorcycles don’t reach. That motor can literally twist and rip a bike chain to pieces. I know this because I was riding a Bafang Ultra-equipped e-bike at Eurobike this year when that very scenario occurred beneath my feet. Alright, so that’s the motor. But what else? The Jeep e-bike appears to be packing 4-piston Tektro Dorado hydraulic disc brakes in the commercial, though the brakes appear to be Magura-style brakes in the press photos. Those Tektro brakes are some of the nicest e-bike level brakes in the business, and the best in Tektro’s e-bike line. Magura MT5e’s
would also be a very high-end choice. Either option would show that the Jeep e-bike is sporting some expensive, highperformance bike components. Between the RockShox rear suspension and inverted front suspension fork, the integrated battery likely to measure in the 840Wh range and the other highquality components like thru-axles on the wheels, the Jeep e-bike is shaping up to be more than just a simple Sunday ride e-bike. The question that remains for me is just how much is Jeep involved in the development of this bike, or did they just lend the sticker? Because to me it seems to be encroaching pretty heavily into the realm of some other popular bikes out there in the market, such as a FREY M600 with an upgraded motor, for example.
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BIKE MAGAZINE 9
I knew the time would come when I would eventually travel to Amsterdam and jump on a bicycle, the city is synonymous with the bike, around every corner and in every crevice it breathes bikes. It’s a cyclist’s spiritual home, a temple to all things two wheeled.
My hope was to experience a bike utopia but my apprehension was evident as we boarded the Stena Line service from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. My concern was that my impression of the city as a laid-back, welcoming and tolerant place might just be a figment of my always positive imagination. I have always loved the idea of Amsterdam; its pragmatism is by far its greatest attraction. The Dutch had the first homosexual marriage, the red light district is regularly visited by families and it’s synonymous with its relaxed approach to drugs, which infuriates most because in reality the liberal drugs policy hasn’t actually seen an increase in drug use. The plan was simple, immerse in all that Amsterdam had to offer, stunning museums, contemporary galleries, an intricate network of canals and vibrant nightlife. I couldn’t wait! The ferry was to be our rather romantic base for the night, not me and my bike but me and my wife (who was my official photographer for the duration). The cabin was bigger than I was expecting and we slept relatively well considering we were at sea. Over a delicious dinner the night previous I interestingly read that to behave like the native Amsterdammers I should be on the constant look out for Gezellig which is fundamentally about creating an environment that allows good times to happen. On the agenda would have to be an obligatory visit to one of the many independent cafes. There are an abundance of these infamous establishments dotted throughout the city, café-clubs, café-pubs and café-bars. Our base was on the Spuistraat with beautiful views of the Singel Canal. On the cusp of the Jordaan area, it is a mass of grandiose canal houses decorated with vibrant summer blooms. It was originally a
working class area, home to the stone masons and construction workers, wonderfully laidback and welcoming. Around every corner is concealed greenery, a secret verdant hideaway discreetly enjoying the rays of the sun. A flourishing art scene, artisan shops, modern boutique hotels and a plethora of enticing cafes and restaurants have transformed the Jordaan into a dynamic and affluent neighbourhood. The city canals celebrated 400 years last year and the old canal system forms a wonderfully intricate semi-circle around the medieval part of the city, creating a harmonious blend of cutting edge design and simple naive beauty. The city’s architecture is dominated by gables, in spout, step, neck and bell styles. The opulent houses which enjoy glorious vistas of the canals impress not so much with their size but with their overall distinguishing features and character. The vibrant colours and welcoming facades of these predominately private dwellings gives Amsterdam a wealth of architectural marvels unsurpassable by no other city in Europe. I love taking photographs; they provide a unique portal to understand a place. What we often don’t see initially becomes clear when you take the time to look and linger. The vivid colours of a building, the mundane enhanced by a simple action, the understated beauty of a fleeting moment of reality. Amsterdam’s cityscape is the ideal canvas, full of visual clichés providing a contemporary mixture of chaotic movement and relaxing stillness provided by the bike, the water and the sun shaded back streets. My first venture out on the bike took me to the southern part of the city. The bike is definitely the best option to explore, especially the canal
Scot Whitlock Twitter: cadencemag Website: cadencemag.co.uk Author, ‘Simple Words from the Saddle, Simply More Words from the Saddle & The Way of St James’ Twitter: @saddlescot
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belt. However, a word of caution, there is a recognised problem with bike theft. There are plenty of bicycle rental outlets dotted throughout which are happy to organise tours and assist with cycle maps, as well as the obvious bike hire. Crazy cycling is accepted, actually it appears it is encouraged. Bikes zipping along tram lanes, cycle paths, pavements, the constant din of the overused bell foreboding danger. They have been described as the ‘Silent Killers’ and at times I nearly succumbed in a blur of pedal power. It’s not about speed, it’s about the history and affiliation the city has with the bike and its legacy. The bike is most definitely King, long live the King! After negotiating the trams and constant stream of cyclists, I arrived in front of the ornate gates of the Vondelpark which is the most famous of the City’s parks. It offers an abundance of ponds, gardens and glorious tracks and footpaths. I halted by the memorial, the sun was strong and the shade was at a premium. The facts and numbers on cycling in the city are astonishing and definitely something the UK should aspire to. There are an estimated 881,000 bikes and 58% of Amsterdammers use their bikes daily. In comparison there are only 263,000 cars with 37% movement of traffic being by car and 38% by bicycle. The maze of cycle paths total 400km, it’s definitely a city that’s completely dominated by all things two wheeled. Cycling was accepted as the main method of navigating the city in the country’s pre-World War II days and even played a role during the Nazi occupation of the city in the 1940s. It’s believed the German hated Amsterdam cyclists with their blaise attitude full of bravado and anarchy. The locals purposely slowed up convoys and refused to give way to German vehicles. It gave the locals the opportunity to display their dissatisfaction towards the invaders and hinder their cause. From the greenery I pedalled on towards the city’s cultural heart. Once home to a stinky wax candle factory and marshy meadows, the Museum Quarter has been transformed into the City’s most affluent area. Home to the Riksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Van Gogh Museum and a diverse array of boutique outlets and specialist artisan shops, which would adequately fuel any shopping spree. The Rijksmusuem is massive and is believed to house over one million objects. Its stunning ornate façade is best enjoyed from the peaceful serenity of the expertly manicured gardens opposite, the only sound was the sporadic rush of water from the contemporary water feature set in the heart of the greenery. As we approached the entrance I noticed several cyclists emerge from the interior.
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Amazingly a bicycle path has allowed pedestrians and cyclists a shortcut across the city ever since the museum was built. The path is in a tunnel, separating galleries and proving a nuisance to curators, but offering a unique opportunity for Amsterdam’s cycle-loving citizens. However whilst the museum was closed for renovation there were calls for its permanent closure, the Rijksmuseum arguing it was a hazard to its visitors. At one point there was a chance the city might have to hold a referendum before the City Council jumped in and decided it would stay. Vigilance and compromise is key. Inside the highlight and main attraction is the Rembrandt floor especially the world famous ‘Night Watch’ depicting the jovial bunch of civic guards, it was great to able to sit looking at this masterpiece with the minimal distraction apart from the occasional interloper (usually American) but my personal favourite is the ‘Militia Company of District VIII under the command of Captain Roelof Bicker’ by Bartholomeus van der Helst. The images so lifelike, the painter capturing every emotion and expression. You can wander aimlessly in this rabbit warren of art. We stumbled on another high point, ‘The library’ which resembled a Harry Potter set, the only modern intrusion was the necessity for connectivity with several of a fruity brand of devices juxtaposed amidst the musty smell created by years of enthusiastic fingering through knowledge. Due to
the amount of artefacts on display, the experience started to blur and my concentration wandered. However, like a scene from the Thomas Crown Affair, the excitement level was raised from chilled to slightly miffed by the alleged action of a group of lads, a 18th century piano and a scratch. Security guards everywhere, a state of high alert and for once I wasn’t responsible! The Van Gogh Museum is only a short walk or even shorter pedal ride from the Rijksmuseum. Everybody knows Van Gogh but do they really understand the person and his constant struggles with depression and psychiatric issues? Well this is definitely the place to learn all
about the great man. It is home to a stunning collection of his paintings, drawings and letters which paint a vivid picture of his life and work. Top works on display include, Sunflowers, The Bedroom, The Yellow House and a unique selection of self-portraits, all housed in stunningly modern and contemporary surroundings The city comes alive at night; it takes on a very different personality. That evening we explored the delights of the Red Light District. What an experience, not so much seedy but a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere followed us as we wandered through the bustling streets. The air clogged with a heady mix of testosterone and cannabis, like a rather surreal Bisto trail. The interactions were good natured and at no stage did we feel unsafe or in any danger. The next morning I pedalled to the nearby floating flower market on the banks of the Singel and then onto Anne Frank’s Huis. The weather was again behaving with the traffic not as compliant. The floating flower market was splashed with early morning sunshine and is believed to be the only one if its kind in the world. The small shops are located inside a row of floating barges – a holdover from the days when flowers arrived in Amsterdam every day from the countryside by boat. The fragrance and aromas overwhelmed my senses, the colours were breathtaking. On display are plenty of fresh bunches, as expected tulips dominated but there was also a mix of bulbs and seeds (including cannabis). The bulbs are ready
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for export, so you can enjoy them at home too. In December the market also sells the ubiquitous Christmas tree and a large selection of festive decorations. I continued onwards, negotiating the busy and rather tricky Dam Square en route to the most famous canal house in the City. It’s a perfect location to people watch, but rather pricey. Several tram lines traverse and converge in the city’s main square with passengers boarding and alighting like a human conveyor belt. After weaving through the masses, I arrived outside the rather modern façade of Anne Franks Huis. For more than two years Anne and her family lived in the annex of the building at Prinsengracht 263 where Anne’s father, Otto Frank, also had his business. It was strange and emotional to walk through the doorway to the annex that was concealed behind a moveable bookcase constructed especially for this purpose. On August 4, 1944, the hiding place was betrayed. The people in hiding were deported to various concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived the war and arranged for Anne’s inspirational words to be published as a book. Nowadays, the rooms within the property, though empty, still breathe the atmosphere of that period of time, slightly eerie. Quotations from the diary, historical documents, photographs, film images, and original objects that belonged
to those in hiding and the helpers illustrate the events that took place here and allow you to contemplate the horrors of war and how it impacts on real people’s lives. During her time in hiding, Anne’s wrote a diary, developing into a talented writer and the original diary and other notebooks are on display in the museum. The whole experience is very moving and tastefully presented and made me so thankful for my life in relative freedom. I would highly recommend a visit especially if you want to see a different more refined and less frenetic side to the city. My final destination of the day was the Centraal Station, the main focal and arrival point for most travellers to the city. As I approached I was astonished by the mega cycle-racks on the western side of the ornate train station. It is built in the water, in front of the Ibis hotel. The Fietsflat (translates as bicycle building) was built in 2001 and can accommodate 2,500 bikes on three levels. Centraal Station is definitely the beating heart of the city, it accommodates over 250,000 people each day and is the hub for the transport network with several tram and bus lines converging outside. The impressive Neo-Renaissance façade is stunning and has been open to the public since 1889. The main tourist office is opposite housed in
a traditional wooden white Dutch house, It is open daily between 9am – 6pm and is where you can purchase the iAmsterdam card and as well as offering a wide variety services especially city maps. Amsterdam is the one place on the planet where fear-mongering about cycling is non-existent and it shows. With the city dominated by bikes and a self-confident assurance from the riders, instrumental in this laidback attitude is the widespread 30 km/h zones and the tight narrow streets which can only create a slowing of the traffic. There are few places I have enjoyed urban cycling as much as in Amsterdam, I challenge anybody to stand on the corner of any busy intersection and not see a bike or bikes, they are absolutely everywhere. The City’s definite major attraction is its individuality. The vision for the future of Amsterdam is perfectly highlighted by Michel Post from the Fietserbonds (the Dutch Cyclists’ Union that campaigns for better cycling conditions in the Netherlands). The city’s car traffic will decrease to the point where there won’t be a need for cycle lanes at all, as bicycles move off the curb and claim the streets. “Cars will consider themselves guests,” he says, elevating Amsterdam’s status as the world’s biking Capital to new heights.
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THAT CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE Jamais Contente (Never Happy): the name of the car that, way back in 1899, was the first to go at 100 km/h. This name could also describe Carlo Dondo (1942): he is never entirely satisfied with his creations; his first thoughts are how he can improve them and simultaneously invent something new and useful
Being an inventor is not a job, but a state of mind. It’s a kind of virus that gets into your bloodstream as a child, one that Carlo soon learned to recognise and take advantage of amid the one thousand and one necessities and surprises of everyday life. Finding in Switzerland a more receptive and productive base than in Italy, he left when he was just sixteen years old. The idea of the drop bar mirrors came from a traumatic experience of Carlo Dondo, after two serious accidents on his custom made racing bike. Two accidents that could have been avoided if only he hadn’t had to turn around to check the traffic behind him. His innate passion for cycling urged him to find a solution suitable for all road bike enthusiasts.
N SAVE YOUR LIFE
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The license plate device Carlo invented in 1984, for which he won his first Silver and Gold medals in Geneva and Brussels, was already a consolidated business at the end of the last Millennium. So much so that a few years’ much so that a few years after selling his business to a third party he started to focus on and improve every aspect of the product range that embodies his entrepreneurial philosophy: the Sprintech® Racing drop bar mirror for racing bicycles and the Sprintech® City for MTB were born. Just as had happened for the license plate device,
n his first Silver and Gold medals in Geneva and ast millennium, so much so that a few years
when the drop bar mirrors were presented at the Innovation Exhibition in Martigny in Switzerland in 1996 they won the second prize for Innovation and in 2012 the Gold Medal at the International Invention Exhibitions in Brussels and Geneva. Today, the Sprintech® mirrors have earned the reputation among cyclists as the best in the industry. When other brands rattle and spin out of position, Sprintech® mirrors hold true. Riders value the superior quality of these products thanks to their sleek design and ease of fitting. They are unobtrusive, adjustable and secure positioning when riding over cobbles or bumps. Once used, you will wonder how you navigated the roads without them! SEEING WELL is only the first half of safety. The second is BEING SEEN. Carlo understood this early on and, between one ride and another, he began to reflect on this. Something that would ALWAYS be visible while riding, especially for the biggest threat to cyclists: the car behind them. As a result, SPRINTECH® VISION 360° was created, uniting reflective power and movement. Tests carried out the perception distance at a speed of 50 km/h at dusk/darkness goes from 25 METRES without Vision 360°, to a staggering 150 METRES with two Vision reflectors affixed to the back wheel’s spokes; making cyclists visible 9 seconds earlier. This is more than enough time for car drivers to adjust their speed and avoid any danger to the cyclist. Recognition for the innovation and its usefulness again came from the panel at the Brussels International Exhibition in 2012 where SPRINTECH® VISION 360° won the Gold medal. The SPRINTECH® products are made in Switzerland. More information can be found on www.sprintech.eu
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BICYCLE SAFETY ACCESSORIES
WWW.SJSCYCLES.COM When it comes to safety and dependability, there is one choice that has proven to stand out above the rest, SPRINTECH, made in Switzerland. Easy to install and instinctive to use. Unobtrusive, adjustable and light, only 28grams including the mounting plug.
Sprintech® Racing and Sprintech® City mirrors have AWARD W earned the reputation among cyclists as the best in the industry. When other brands rattle and spin out SPRINTECH® R ® bar mirror for r of position, Sprintech mirrors holdRACING true. SPRINTECH® drop bar mirror
When it comes to safety and dependability, there is one choice that has proven to stand out above the rest, SPRINTECH, made in Switzerland. Easy to install and instinctive to use. Unobtrusive, adjustable and light, only 28grams including the mounting plug.
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and SPRINTEC city bikes and invented and p the Innovation invented andfrom presented at the Innovation The idea of the drop bar mirrors came two in Martigny, S traumatic experiencesExhibition of Carlo Dondo. Two in 1996 where in Martigny, Switzerland serious accidents on his tailor made racing bike. the prize for I in have 1996 where they won the prize for and in 2012 at t Two accidents that could been avoided if only he hadn’t had to Innovation turn his head to check and in 2012 at the BrusselsInternational E the traffic behind him. His innate passion for Belgium wher International Exhibition in Belgium where the gold m bicycles urges him to find a solution suitable for all racing bicycle enthusiasts him.the gold medal. they like won
for racing bikes and SPRINTECH®
SPRINTECH® RACING and SPRINTECH® CITY are made in Europe. CITYoffor city bikes and74MTB were They are all original creations Carlo Dondo, cyclist, years old.
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Helsinki to Singapore: POLAND
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Eastern Poland provides an idyllic setting for a bike tour, whichever type of cyclist you are.
Poland was on our path from Helsinki to Singapore and so we had to cross it from North to South. Having, in our heads, an unfounded stereotype for Pole’s bad driving, we decided to cross the border using a small dirt path near Berzniki (just off Highway 16 NE of Augustow) as to avoid the busy main road where, we imagined, catastrophe surely awaited. We were immediately plunged into bike touring heaven; small, quiet, well paved country roads (in Latvia and Lithuania it’s always a coin toss) which lazily go through hamlets and small villages and casually drive you pass small shops and local restaurants which are not only cheap, but also incredibly tasty. Oh, before we continue any further, just a quick tip about this corner of the world; smoked meat. We always refrain from wild camping the first couple of nights in a new country and our first one in Poland was spent in a campsite in the Biebrza National Park, the biggest of the country. Similarly to The Lake District, it’s well known for its fresh water reserves and wildlife and offers water based activities left and right. We spent a delightful afternoon swimming in a crystal clear river, which went straight through the campsite, and tasting local beer in the bar. It was, after all, a Sunday! Next morning we followed a solitary trail to Augustow, a local tourist
resort, where we withdrew money (lucky in the campsite we could pay by card) and had early morning ice cream which Poles seem to be dearly fond of. Very yummy. Our intention was to make our way to the centre of the country to Warsaw, but while licking our way through our ice cones we came across a sign about a cycle route and our minds were set; we wanted to see more of the East! The Green Velo route is quite simply an amazing way to discover a huge, less known chunk of Poland. Although it mostly shares its path with cars on small roads, with the occasional odd kilometre on main ones (bridges don’t grow on trees), we were happy to discover that Polish drivers are more than courteous with cyclists, hard shoulders are plentiful, wide, and in good conditions and that Poles, in general, are just the best! It’s technically not part of the Euro Velo network but it definitely is much better than what we had experienced in the Baltics where it’s still pretty much a working process. We also had the feeling
Aurelie and Marco Instagram: @421adventure Web: 421adventure.wordpress.com
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almost anyone out of trouble! With the occasional night spent in campsites, we spent most of our Polish nights either wild camping in clean picnic areas next to refreshing rivers or in someone’s garden, having been preinvited, of course! The Green Velo accompanied us through some surprisingly interesting small cities such as Bialystok and Bielsk Podlaski, whooshing us along the Bielorusse border and regularly providing useful guidance by means of well maintained, purpose-built bike rest areas (with recycling facilities and sometimes even basic tools!) where signs and maps informed us of local sites every few kilometres.
that it was being highly promoted by local authorities as a clean and rewarding type of tourist and we were welcomed in the Tourist Information Centre of Bialystok with open arms by a friendly team who even went to such lengths as to invite us to coffee and biscuits and called the local campsite to make sure they were open and fully operational. They had plenty of bike specific brochures with all the bike friendly accommodation, etc. and a mind blowing tool box which would get
One of the prettiest discoveries, for us, was the small wooden orthodox churches scattered around this part of Poland; their bright blue wooden walls (and grave headstones) with either golden or silver details always popped out of nowhere and made us slow down, or often stop, just to admire their simplicity and striking beauty. The only reason we ultimately, after about 10 days, decided to get off this trail and go back to using our Garmin for some real navigation, was Krakow. You can’t be in Southern Poland and not visit Krakow! Not too bad though, again, Poland ranks very high in our “safe cycling” chart, so we slowly made our way diagonally towards the country’s
cultural capital discovering astounding places on our way such as Lublin and Sandomiers. Due to its hilly topography, cycling in the south of Poland is a pleasure. It’s also very agricultural and, riding around here in June, we got our faces regularly stuffed with berries of all sorts! We spent a few days in Krakow just walking around eating ice-cream whenever we could. Unfortunately Krakow is one of those cities where you can spend a week and still leave with the feeling of not having tried everything there was to try. In fact, not having had enough, on our way out we stopped at the Wieliczka Salt mine (the biggest in the World) which is definitely a must! Finally our Polish adventure was about to end with its final leg being mostly uphill towards the Bieszczady Mountains and the Slovak border. After a stopover in Novy Sacz, we avoided the busy Route 75 and discovered a solitary EV11, took some pictures of our bikes on a sleepy, grassy ski resort and had one last ice-cream before crossing the border on a cold, rainy Saturday. Whatever you’re looking for, Poland is a huge country and an almost infinite universe to discover. Unfortunately we only had time to cycle a small portion of it but we will, in time, make sure that we cover those regions still unexplored by our wheels. It will amaze you by its friendly people, diverse landscapes, architectural styles and rich cuisine.
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THE LOIRE VALLEY
The Loire Valley
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THE LOIRE VALLEY
Once again I found myself in the heart of the Loire Valley, unsurprising my expectations were high and this area (in and around the Loire Valley) never fails to impress with a mix of glorious surroundings dotted with picturesque villages and countless chateaus, and simple isolation. It didn’t disappoint!
The plan, there was no plan! I hadn’t been provided with an itinerary which was refreshing. I was to meet my contact Olivier Bouchereau in Angers and we would discuss then, how clandestine. So after a 1hr flight from Gatwick to Nantes, then a taxi ride to Station, followed by a train journey to Angers. I finally alighted to the heat of Angers. I had met Olivier Bouchereau before, he hadn’t changed, noticeably his beaming smile caught my eye. Over a drink, we discussed possible routes and finally agreed on a plan. Take La Loire a Velo out of the city in the direction of Bouchemaine, before finally arriving in Béhuard, with another option of north-west towards to Terra Botanica. I liked both. If you have time to explore and trust me you will need that time! The city is full of history, the site has been occupied for thousands of years and was a prominent Roman settlement. Unfortunately, a large number of buildings suffered devastation at the hands of the allies, but thankfully the Chateau and Cathedral remained unscathed. The Château d’Angers is emblematic of the city, its undoubtedly a stunning structure and the promontory has been the location of fortification since IXth Century (but the present building dates back from the XIIIth Century) Throughout history the building was expanded and grew to its current
stature, the highlight and world famous attraction is the Tapestry of the Apocalypse, the World’s largest known medieval tapestry. Housed in modern surroundings, in complete contrast to the hand-stitched beauty on display, it evokes a slightly emotional reaction. The area is partially lit to protect its colours which are more pastel, the vibrancy long gone. It’s a dramatic adaptation ion of good versus evil, beautifully presented and has to be seen in person. Nowadays with technology and endless access to literature, some feel the remote experience is sufficient, I disagree, to be able to completely immerse, interact and treat your senses cannot be underestimated, especially with this exceptional work of art, so put down your iPad and get out and explore. I also recommend a visit to the Cathedral Saint Maurice, in the sun the clarity of the light enhancing its beauty. Its interior is stunning, the only light provided by the ornate, colourful Renaissance stained glass windows. At its rear is La Place Saint Croix, the ancient heart of the city lined with a lovely array of historic buildings including the 16th Century Maison d’Adam, a merchants house believed to be the oldest in the city, its lower floor houses a contemporary boutique style shop. The upper floors contain an exquisite collection of wonderful ornate narrative carvings set amongst its splendid timber frame. They bring the building to life, if you look hard enough you will see the
Scot Whitlock Twitter: cadencemag Website: cadencemag.co.uk Author, ‘Simple Words from the Saddle, Simply More Words from the Saddle & The Way of St James’ Twitter: @saddlescot
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THE LOIRE VALLEY
thing was to explore the grounds, which I did alone. The Château was built in the 17th century and rebuilt in the 19th century. The park with its current design was created around 1850. It has a long line of female winemakers, starting with Marque de Las Cases wife of Closel. His niece, Michèle Bazin de Jessey developed the vineyard. It is currently her daughter, Evelyne de Pontbriand, who runs the estate and she explained animatedly about the diverse types of soil and the terroir effect which creates the vineyards distinctive taste. You can sample their white wines, red and rosé, and fine bubbly, exposing your palette to the chenin blanc and the cabernet franc grapes.
cheeky figure of a man who appears to possess three testicles, a point of hilarity amongst the locals.
briefly by the Lac de Maine to dodge a brief shower, before breezing through Bouchemaine.
My base was at the perfectly located Hotel de L’Europe which consists of 29 newly renovated rooms where every detail has been designed to bring you comfort and well-being. My room was clean, comfortable and contemporary.
I stopped briefly in Savennières for a coffee before continuing the extra kilometre into Béhuard. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Béhuard is the only municipality to be an island on the Loire. About twenty kilometres south-west of Angers, the village is lined by two arms of the Loire. The “Small City of Character” as it is known has only a hundred inhabitants yearround. The Notre Dame de Béhuard, a small royal chapel perched on a rock is both, beautiful and understated.
That evening I ate at Brasserie du Théâtre in the wide esplanade of La Place du Ralliement. The area was buzzing, the noise echoed from the fine buildings, that dominate the square. The food and service were excellent, the entrecôte was delicious. Unfortunately, I had to succumb to my bed earlier than I’d hoped. My first adventure involved leaving Angers following the La Loire towards Bouchemaine, my destination was Béhuard with a detour to Savennières, where I was to meet a well-known vintner. As I left the city the grey skies threatened an imminent delivery, my hope was for some rain cover as I explored the river bank. Almost immediately the urban surroundings were replaced by greenery. The La Loire a Velo hugs the river in a similar vein to the Mayenne and the La Velo Francette. It’s impossible to get lost. It’s a haven for hikers, walkers and cyclists with a wealth of tidy, well-signed trails. The route was empty, no sign of life and well maintained, I halted
The lives of the locals are dominated by the elements, the island floods from December to May which conditions their daily life. At the entrance to the village and on the church square you will find two slate stones on which are engraved the coasts of the great floods from 1904 to the present day, testament to the power of the River. I wandered slowly through the narrow streets, the only noise from workmen manicuring the greenery. Olivier had told me it was special, but it was more than that. It evoked an inner peace, it was the most relaxed I had been for a while. I sat and sat, with my wonderful mindfulness session complete I headed back to Savennières. I arrived at Château des Vaults/ Domaine du Closel wine estate. First
The river is home to a wide diversity of fish, grass snakes (eekk) and plenty of frogs. Its riverbanks are popular with local fishermen attempting to land that big catch, the most common species are the sea trout, salmon, zander and the flathead mullet. There is something romantic about La Loire, it’s hard to identify or explain but it evokes a wave of inner peace and contentment. The rigours of modernity banished, only simple nature and exploration remain, it’s a wonderful phenomenon and should be experienced by everyone, regardless of age or physical condition. I was now on my way to La Pointe and lunch with Olivier. La Pointe it a glorious sleepy domain that feels like it is at the end of the world as the La Loire and Maine rivers converge. You will be hard pressed to find a better, more loved cycle route across France and even Europe, that’s how much I enjoyed my short but hypnotic journey. Lunch consisted of locally caught fish and the noise of the river tickling the riverbank. (Café des Piplettes) As you make your way back to the city, it’s hard not to notice the slate. The ‘Blue Gold’ of Angers is renowned worldwide for its quality, it was extracted in the slate quarries ‘officially’ as early as the 15th Century, but probably exploited since Neolithic times in and around Trelaze, however most recently there has been a significant decline in production but ardoise slate has left a legacy on the city, adorning many fine buildings. I was exposed to the colourful palette of its history as I pedalled back towards the city centre and the confines of La
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THE LOIRE VALLEY
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Place de Ralliement, and a coffee.
Next stop Terra Botanica which a short pedal ride north-west out of the city on La Loire a Velo. Europe’s first theme park for plant life and nature (it doesn’t sound that interesting especially for the less green-fingered like me but I was and you will be surprised). It offers over 40 differing interactive attractions and plays on your senses, the aromas and seductive tranquillity are overwhelming. The highlight is a trip on the ballon, the tethered attraction allows 30 passengers to soar above the park to the dizzy heights of 150m, the panorama of the city and river basin is tremendous, definitely not to be missed.
If you have time I suggest you take a visit to the local market on Lafayette square. The square is dominated by the hustle and bustle of commerce, the smell and colours of fresh fruit and vegetables is hypnotic.
Nantes Atlantique International Airport is served by a selection of UK airports and you can reach the city centre in 20 minutes with the airport shuttle (possible stops: Neustrie, SNCF train station, Le lieu unique/Cité des Congrès, Downtown/Centre ville/ Commerce).
That evening was a most memorable dinner at La Reserve, they offer seasonal and fresh products, tapas and a selection of wines. The greatest asset is the sublime rooftop location with stunning views of the beautiful chateau. I was exposed to local and creative gastronomy set in a contemporary setting. I highly recommend the steak, it was cooked to perfection. This section of La Loire a Velo is not just a cycle trail, it’s a stunning portal into rural France, I have pedalled many of these exceptional routes throughout France but the isolation I encountered between Angers and Béhuard was astonishing. The mystical stillness was overwhelming, the river laid-back as it reluctantly meets the Maine in Angers. The river is the lifeblood of the area and conceals some beautiful, relatively untouched villages and towns, the jewel amongst many jewels was undoubtedly the gloriously sleepy Béhuard.
Jean Lurçat museum is located on the other side of the Maine river (housed in a very beautiful building, the St John’s Hospital). It was built in the XIIth Century by Henri II Plantagenet. It houses the biggest contemporary group of tapestries. the highlight is the famous tapestry The Song of the World (Le Chant du Monde), the masterpiece of the famous painter, ceramicist and tapestry creator Jean Lurçat, has hung since 1968. Musee des Beaux Arts (in the cultural district), the modern facade belies the history within. The collection includes some fine examples of paintings, sculptures and objets d’art. BIKE HIRE Velo Horizon offers a short-term rental service (they are labelled Loire by bike) for visitors wishing to discover this beautiful region with hair in the wind. They provide bicycles and take care of the transfer of your luggage from Guérande to Orléans. Vélo Horizon also offers a long-term electric bike rental service (LOA). In July and August, the tourist office runs a kind of “bike station”, just near their office in front of the castle. With a range of services for cyclists: secure racks, boxes, bike pump etc.
Another possibility is the airport shuttle to Neustrie (free), then the tramway (line 3) to the city centre (Ticket Tram, also included in the Pass Nantes, available for purchase at the airport). From there you can take the SNCF to Angers. ROAD Like most French cities Angers can be easily accessed by motorway. The A11 connects Angers to the French capital Paris and nearby Le Mans. By car Angers lies roughly 295km west of Paris and 95km west of Le Mans. Angers is also close to Nantes, Tours & Rennes, all of which are connected to Angers by motorway. Many of the motorways charge a toll which can vary from €2 up to €25. TRAIN TGV offers frequent rail-links between Angers and many of France’s major towns and cities. The trains are generally of very high quality, offer very comfortable seating and have suitable storage spaces for luggage. Trains are quite regular and generally depart on time. Ticket checks take place on every journey, as a result, it is very important that you are in possession of a valid ticket at all times. Smoking is not permitted anywhere on the train and the use of mobile phones in the seating area of the carriage is frowned upon by other passengers. https://www.tourisme.destinationangers.com/en http://www.atout-france.fr/
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ROAD CYCLING Don’t try anything new on race day. Always experiment with types and timing of food and fluid intake during training. Road cycling has a reputation for the widespread use of all kinds of supplements. Often there is no scientific justification and the supplements are usually not necessary. For advice on supplements for cycling, make an appointment with an expert – an Accredited Sports Dietitian. About Road Cycling Road cycling encompasses a continuum of both team and individual events including time trials, criteriums and road races of varying distances, from 10km to 250km, held as a single day or over several consecutive stages. A high aerobic capacity and ability to sustain high power outputs is advantageous. Anaerobic capacity is also essential for performance in breakaways, hill climbs and all-out sprints. For road cyclists the majority of training occurs on the road, with distances of 400-1000km covered each week at the elite level and 300km or more per week for serious club level cyclists. Training programs are planned to peak for specific races or tours within the season. For elite cyclists, little training may occur at the height of the competition season because they are continually racing. Interval training and altitude training may be used to enhance performance. Indoor sessions (on rollers or wind or resistance trainers) may be undertaken when the weather is unpleasant or specific training is required (e.g. high intensity sprints, starts, technique). Elite cyclists generally only undertake other types of training such as strength
training and cross-training during the ‘off season’. Depending on the specialisation of the cyclist and their role in the team, physical characteristics vary. Timetrialists and sprinters typically have more muscle mass so to generate more power. Time-trials require an ability to sustain high, constant power outputs for the duration of the race. In road races, a high power-to-weight ratio with low body fat levels is favourable, particularly for hill-climbers as being smaller and lighter makes efforts easier. Some cyclists deliberately under-eat during high-volume training blocks but this is not conducive to performance and increases the risk of illness and injury. Instead, cyclists need to find a realistic body weight and nutrition plan that can achieve desired body composition without sacrificing health or performance – a Sports Dietitian can help. The off-season and early season allows riders is often used for making adjustments to body composition as this is more difficult once competition starts. Training diet To support the long hours of training for road cyclists, a nutrient rich diet
is necessary. Carbohydrate needs should match training loads and timing of meals and snacks should be planned to ensure adequate refuelling, repair and adaption. This is especially when there are multiple training sessions in a day, during high-volume training blocks. Daily carbohydrate requirements depend on training demands but typically range from 4-7g/kg/day for club cyclists to more than 8g/kg/day for elite cyclists. Frequent meals and snacks can help meet energy and carbohydrate needs when requirements are high. Including protein rich foods spread evenly over the day helps to promote adaption and recovery. Athletes with a restricted energy budget should plan the timing of their meals to be able to eat soon after training to maximise recovery. Recovery snacks or meals should be nutrient-rich (carbohydrate, protein and micronutrients) – for example fruit, dairy, wholegrains and lean proteins – to ensure that nutrition needs are met within energy budget. Hydration needs for road cycling Road cyclists should aim to drink enough fluids each day to replace fluid losses, adapting their fluid intake
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to factors which impact fluid losses such as temperature, wind, sweat rate, training intensity, duration and altitude. The aim is to start any session well hydrated. This requires drinking regularly throughout the day leading up to training or competition. Having a drink with all meals and snacks and sipping on fluids regularly during training is a good start. It is not necessary or practical to replace all fluid losses during a training session or race. Instead, aim to replace 150% of the fluid volume lost over ~4-6 hours following the session. Sports drinks can be useful for meeting fuel (carbohydrate) needs as well as fluid needs during long or hot training sessions and in competition. Drinking water while consuming salt-containing foods (e.g. bread or crackers) can be as effective as specialised rehydration drinks for replacing fluid losses in the recovery period. What to eat before cycling The body only has a limited supply of carbohydrate in the muscles and liver. Since carbohydrate is main source of fuel for the body during high intensity exercise, muscle fuel stores should be topped over in the 24-36 hours before competition to enhance endurance performance. Depending on the length of the race, a cyclist may need a high-carbohydrate diet for 1-2 days leading in to an event. Choosing low fibre foods and making use of of compact carbohydrate foods or liquids in the last 12-24 hours before an event helps to reduce the stomach contents to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset. On race day, the final pre-event meal should be eaten ~3-4 hours before the start. Foods chosen should be rich in carbohydrates and low in fat and fibre to to aid digestion and prevent stomach issues. If the athlete is nervous or solids don’t sit well a liquid carbohydrate (e.g. smoothie) is a good alternative. Some other suitable ideas include: •
Porridge with milk and fruit
Rice based dish (e.g. risotto)
Pasta with beef mince in tomatobased sauce
A smaller snack may also be eaten 1-2 hours before. Some suitable pre-race snack ideas include: •
Yoghurt with banana
Fruit toast with peanut butter
Muesli bar + fresh fruit
What to eat and drink while cycling Cyclists should aim to start events well hydrated. Not sufficiently replacing sweat losses can negatively impact cognitive performance and reduced power output. In road races, sipping on fluid regularly throughout the event will help to top up fluid levels. During short criteriums and time-trials, usually no fluids are carried to reduce bike weight so pre-event hydration is particularly important, especially if hot. Water is suitable for short sessions, but in long events or in hot weather, sports drinks helps to simultaneously replace carbohydrate and electrolytes. The amount of carbohydrate needed during events will depend on the distance and time taken to complete the race. For short high-intensity events, regularly mouth-rinsing with a carbohydrate drink, may provide performance benefits. In longer events (beyond 90 minutes), consuming ~30 60g carbohydrate per hour is recommended to prevent muscle fatigue, maintain power output and cognition. Higher rates of carbohydrate (up to 90g/hour) may provide additional benefit at high speeds and events longer than 3 hours, but this must be a mixture of glucose and fructose and will need to be practiced during training. A range of foods and liquids can be consumed during races including bananas, energy bars, gels, sports chews, fruit cake/fruit buns, jam sandwiches, dates or sports drinks.
Post-race recovery To adapt to the physiological effects of training sessions and competition, recovery is crucial. Recovery meals and snacks should contain carbohydrate (fuel), some protein (for muscle repair and development) and fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses. Nutrient rich-choices are more valuable than nutrient-poor choices to meet nutrient goals, reduce inflammation and support immunity. When energy needs are high and appetite is suppressed or gastrointestinal problems occur following exercise fluids may be preferred (e.g. fruit smoothies, flavoured milk). Other recovery food suggestions include: •
Bircher muesli with nuts and seeds
Chicken, avocado and salad sandwich
Burritos with beef, cheese, avocado and salad
Other Nutrition Tips Practice: Fuelling strategies should be tested during training to ensure food and fluid can be consumed at speed while moving and/or in a peloton Mix & Match: Try different food options for different situations – e.g. gels or sports products for races and long rides and everyday food to fuel short to medium length training rides Caffeine: An Accredited Sports Dietitian can help to be use caffeine strategically to help performance
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Could this be your dream cycling holiday?
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With the long winter slowly falling away, it’s only natural that your thoughts are turning towards the summer and how soon you can get away. The fantasy of sitting in the Mediterranean sun, experiencing the beauty of nature and after a long day of soaking up the scenery, resting in a comfortable home from home, is drawing closer.
What’s more exciting is the idea of something like a cycling holiday for a chance to cover a path well beaten whilst having complete travel freedom. Well, when globe-trotting with Ilperlo, the adventure is no longer just a daydream! Whether traveling with your own familiar equipment or wanting to hire out some of our reliable and trustworthy gear, we have a package for anyone who wants able to spend their time cycling across the breathtaking Lake Como, ride the roads of Il Lombardia or travel with champions like Alberto Elli as your main guide. Your dream cycling holiday is just a click away (?). As part of an original fantasy cycling holiday with Ilperlo, cyclists can travel across the southern Brianza hills and along the shores and mountains of Lake Como, where you will have the opportunity to experience one of Italy’s finest cycling regions. Cyclists will have the chance to witness unforgettable gorges, discover ancient paths and embrace the natural world. The equipment Whether traveling with your own equipment or wanting to rent, we understand everybody’s needs and so we can also supply you with bike rentals if you need it. Be like a local and test the Italian style PINARELLO bikes with Comolagobike, the only full-service bike rental and guiding service in the area. We take away the worry of hiring equipment and from the blue waters of Lake Como to the green meadows of the valleys, we make travel even easier. For those up for a challenge, more experienced cyclists can attempt the Ghisallo and Muro di Sormano (wall of Sormano), a road famed for having a gradient of up to 25%. But at the end of the day, whether
expert or novice, holidaymakers can sleep in a First Bike Hotel on Lake Como. This is a great chance to combine a cycling getaway with romance for that perfect memorable holiday. – can put more on ramance if wanted. Your cycling companions Our knowledgable and welcoming staff are just as passionate about biking as we are. They can provide you with more than just the best routes, they know the ins and outs of the area like the back of their hand and they can’t wait to pass their knowledge on to you. On your adventure, you can get to know our staff who also offer weekly guided tours. Not only do the guides have the knowledge, but they have the personality too. They are intuitive companions who are happy, friendly and always up for a laugh. Our guides don’t shy away from adventure and are often known to make spontaneous detours to show you something special, making your trip just that bit more unique. As an added bonus, they act as your personal paparazzi and at the end of the tour they will feel just like family. All the guides are certified with AmiBike.
Experience a once in a lifetime trip along Italy’s beautiful Lake Como on two wheels this summer.
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As part of our services, we supply suitable biking holiday equipment and accommodation for anyone wanting to visit the area of Lake Como on their dream holiday. We understand that everyone has different needs and so we have a package suited to everyone. Full Gas For the ultimate cycling holiday on Lake Como, if you want, we can take care of all your needs, giving you more time to do what you wish. Our PRO package is for those wanting an all-inclusive trip and from sports massages to guided tours, has everything you want to make your stay just that bit easier. Our professionals will take care of all the planning and bicycle care, meaning all you have to do is ride and relax as part of your dream cycling holiday at Lake Como. Come evening, you will be able to stay at Hotel Il Perlo Panorama, the region only Italy Bike Hotel which is located along the famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb. The hotel’s terrace overlooks lakes and mountains, which you can observe every morning, giving you a taster of the luscious greenery you will experience in the day ahead. This is possibly the best fuel you can have to get you started in the day and you will be taking part this rare beauty in the best way possible: on two wheels! Rates for this experience start at €582 per person for double occupancy, making this package perfect for a romantic getaway or simply as a memorable trip with friends. Amateur For those that want to enjoy the professional services available on our daily
tours, but want to bring your own bike, we have the perfect service for you in the form of our Amateur package. With this deal, our experts can help you to explore mountains and experience the beautiful Italian countryside at Lake Como whilst still being able to bring your own, trusted bike. As part of your dream cycling holiday, you will be able to stay at the region’s only Italy Bike Hotel located along the legendary Madonna del Ghisallo climb! Enjoy the view from the hotel’s terrace overlooking lakes and mountains each morning and use it as fuel for your ride ahead. Rates for this package are from €325 per person in a double occupancy room, giving you and somebody close to you the opportunity to enjoy this amazing trip together. Do It Yourself If you have your own bike and are simply wanting a self-sufficient adventure where you can explore the amazing Lake Como in your own time, then the Do-ItYourself package is for you. Make your dream cycling holiday your very own experience. At the end of the day, you can stay in the only hotel located along the legendary Madonna del Ghisallo, a place that is a member of the Italy Bike Hotels Consortium. Each morning, you can enjoy the breath-taking view from the hotel terrace, giving you just a taster of what the day head will hold for you on the spectacular journey you will embark on in the best way possible: on two wheels! This package can be enjoyed from €253 per person in a double occupancy room, allowing for both solo and couple travel.
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DAY 1 WHITEHAVEN-THORNTHWAITE 5a.m. and London was still resolutely snoozing and about as placid and peaceful as it gets. Moderate to heavy whisky consumption the night before with rider Bill Kenny made for a fuzzy head compounded by a lack of sleep from giddy excitement about our impending ‘micro-adventure’. I also had just about recovered from shellfish poisoning (never force open a closed mussel!) so was not really in A1 physical shape but I knew that if managed correctly the next five days of exercise, fresh air and good food, it would restore body and soul. On our heavily laden bicycles (I chose my solid friend Thorn Sherpa, Bill on his shiny Dawes Galaxy) we snaked through near empty Hackney streets to rendezvous point Euston station where we met Jon Fieldhouse (riding a fine glittergreen build of his own touring bike brand ‘LPY’), Matt Wright (also on an LPY rig albeit with fatter, off road tyres) and David Sherrington (aboard his custom Condor tourer also known as ‘Luscious Lugs’). Our racks strained under the weight of panniers stuffed with cooking gear, clothes, tinned fish, tents, tools, cameras, a drone (yes that’s right a drone) and a coconut. As we board the 06.45 Virgin Pendolino EustonCarlisle the guard jokes “Are you sure you have enough stuff?” and the answer as always is no. Four pendulous hours later and we are in Carlisle, eat a massive fry up (Dave has a pint) and we transfer to a Northern Rail service to our official ride start point Whitehaven. Another rider obliges and takes the mandatory photo of riders and bikes next to the C2C sign with back wheels dipped in the Irish Sea. Its 2pm, hot, sunny with a tasty tailwind and the beautiful former railway path gradually rises urging us eastwards into the stunning Lake District. We pass through tiny sheep farming hamlets, signs warning of red squirrels and weave around the shores of small pineforest-shrouded, sparkly lakes and the inclines increase to up to 20% at
times. ‘Keep hydrated’ I tell myself as I’m prone to overheating and end up splashing around in a mountain stream like an animal to cool off. Weather report from the girlfriend confirms that the monsoon like rains are moving north so we call ahead to book pitches on Lanefoot Farm campsite in Thorntwaite. The fast dry fire roads of Whinlatter Forest are the perfect end to our first 25 miles of riding. We pitch up at the excellent site, freshen-up, ride to a local pub where the local ale goes down oh so well.
DAY 2 THORNTHWAITE-PATTERDALE Woken early by rain pattering on my Vaude tent’s roof, I climb out into mud that wasn’t there the night before and I’m surrounded by friendly sheep who have escaped from a nearby field. I feel a long way from my Medway home with misty rain clouds hugging the steep hillsides. I sense the familiar dull ache of muscle sets re-awoken, not used since the Dunwich Dynamo a couple of months earlier. I could moan about the assault of midges, the lumpy ground, the under-geared state of my bike’s drivetrain and the atrocious weather, but an overriding sense of purpose and ‘joie de vivre’ takes over particularly when presented with a tasty tent-cooked bacon buttie…thanks David you ledge. So a COBRA style meeting is called and we decide to avoid pitching sodden tents in a wet campsite, instead booking a room in YHA Patterdale. This slight detour off the C2C route would give us the chance to ride along the banks of Ullswater Lake and have a place to dry our gear and sleep in warm dry beds. Luxury dogs! We set out. A meagre 20 miles lay ahead but 20 million raindrops stood between us and a hot shower. I fully appreciate now why the Lake District has lakes. After only eight miles a very welcome break is had in the ‘Saddleback Café’ in Keswick where they obviously are used to serving
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great food and drink to C2C riders and walkers. We eat cake, get caffeinated whilst giggling at classic satirical cycling book ‘The Rules’ and gear fan David gets waterproof socks from the bike shop next door.
downhill to Patterdale on the southern bank of svelte Ullswater. I only nearly fell in the lake once when trying out a lakeside off-road short cut.
The run out of Keswick is one of the finest sections of bike friendly infrastructure I have experienced. Again Sustrans have done a great job of recycling a disused railway line into an efficient multi-user path. Clear signage, bridges and shelters are provided en route. We pass a derelict station and cross a bridge over an angry, swollen River Greta and are treated to Jurrasic Park style vistas minus the dinos. So often we forget we are in the UK. My main regret on leaving Keswick is that we didn’t factor in time to visit the Cumberland Pencil Museum having been a heavy user of pencils from the age of four; next time I promise myself with my own four-year-old.
Hands start to wrinkle from absorbing rain and a pub appears with a roaring open fire: it would be daft not to stop for refreshment and warmth. The Troutbeck Inn is a sanctuary placed an hour before the final push up then fast
We awoke refreshed with sunlight blasting into our comfy YHA room. Bill yoga-waved the sungods on the balcony, Jon and Matt dried things and Dave ‘fry-up major’ Sherrington and I donned our tasteful lycras and fixed breakfast. We needed to fuel up and get real. Today was to be a big-riding day (up to 35 miles...heroes!). David and I, I guess because of the lycra, took the lead north along the lake’s bank towards Penrith. A wee bit jealous of David’s speedy Condor but I kept pace. After an hour on quiet rural roads a bustling metropolis such as Penrith can be hazardous. Dumb bypasses and overcrowded junctions conspired to cause our first and only collision; me slamming into Bills panniers. No damage, just buddies intertwined on a busy roundabout for about 25 seconds and happy I brought my skid-lid along.
A very steep climb out of Penrith sees us leave the stunning Lake District, I’m sad to see it go and will return for more cycling with the family I promise myself. David nearly leaves us! Although C2C way-markers and signs are very clear, descents can be fast and this was the first of a few occasions when Luscious Lugs has careened off with our pal in completely the wrong direction. But soon we were back on track and eating one of our epic luncheons on a beauty of a village green at Langwathby. I enjoy eating almost as much as I enjoy cycling. We demolish avocado, chocolate, sausage rolls, crisps, dates, coffee, sardines, fruit and cake. With greed-fed grunts we start climbing the foothills of the Pennines. Along the way I spot the words ‘Not on my Watch!’ daubed in red (blood?!) on the tarmac shortly followed by a series of voles or moles strung up in a sacrificial manner along a barbed wire fence (please contact CW if you know what this is about!) Then the sheer face of Hartside presents itself. The 756m elevation felt like three Ditchling
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C2C’S DOS • Carry a guide. We relied on ‘The Ultimate C2C Guide’ by Richard Peace when planning or lost. • Leave room in packing for luxury Items as they greatly enhance fun. At the very least a camping chair; you will feel like a king/ queen. • Leave room in your schedule to relax, visit museums, waterfalls, country houses and eat a proper lunch. • Make sure your bike is serviced before leaving. Distances between towns is significant but if needed you can find good shops (e.g. North Pennines Cycles, Nenthead). Off road bikes are good choices or 32mm+ tyre widths at least. • Use the cafes, hostels and campsites catering to C2C riders; they are great and look after you well.
Beacons on top of each other, for those of you familiar with the London to Brighton ride. At one point a car pulls over in-front of me and a man climbs out, gestures to me and asks “Are you ok mate??… we are concerned” “A-OK thanks” I reply “I always wobble at altitude!” I then snuck up a short but steep off-road short-cut (the C2C has plenty of such options) beating my 700c wheel-equipped friends to the summit. ’You laugh at my small wheels and bar-ends boys but who’s laughing now?’ I think to myself! A great café sits at the top where you can admire the view and the expensive motorcycles parked up. The tap water is brown on account of the moorland peat but it’s fine the staff tell us and Jon’s luxury ‘Ricqles’ peppermint oil drops mask any brown taste. Then we saddle up and it feels like jumping out of a plane as we descend all the way down the western side hitting 40mph. Then along to the highest market settlement in England, Alston, and up again through picturesque, cobbled streets decorated with yellow bikes anticipating the
arrival of The Tour of Britain. Finally towards Haggs’ Bank Camping and Bunkhouse near Nenthead. We then get eaten by midges, have a pasta cook up using stream water, watch a perfect sunset, see dancing revellers dressed as hot-dogs and strawberries party below, get a little drunk ourselves, go for a pointless walk (but it is so good to walk off riding legs), watch the millions of stars come out and count satellites zooming past and go to bed cold but contented. DAY 4 NENTHEAD-CONSETT As you can tell, we are ‘making a meal’ out of the C2C. Most make it in three days, a few do it in one and some club riders we meet claim one of their members did C2C-C2C in under 24 hours! Today would be the hardest day…at least for me. Hills, hills and more lovely hills. And rusty orange Northumberland moors and so much epic silence, not even a breeze, only broken by occasional superbikes roaring past. It feels really isolated;
• Research alternative routes; options exist for starting in Workington and ending in Sunderland or do it east to west. • Check out Jon’s fine bikes at lpycycles. com. • Waterproof clothes and bags essential! • Support sustrans.org.uk so that the routes and network continue to flourish.
C2C’S DON’TS • Drop your gel wrappers, inner tubes or buddies. Littering is ugly and has no place on the C2C. Losing friends is a pain. • Worry if you are doing the ride solo as you will meet lots of other riders en-route. • Forget to book your bikes onto trains as spaces are limited and it can get busy. • Listen to anyone who says the route is easy; it is a challenge which is fun especially when bike packing.
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snowmarkers and the road the only signs of civilization. We launch Jon’s drone to get footage and a better view…it was worth the extra weight! We have a great coffee-stop in Allenheads and check out the community-owned lead-mining Heritage Centre and for the next five or so miles we ride through a ghostly steep-sided valley peppered with mine-relics, broken bridges; the echoes of abandoned industry. We stick to the on-road option to lunch stop Stanhope, after passing a ghoulish woman dressed in Victorian garb pushing an ancient pram in the middle of nowhere. I stuff myself, foolishly with Co. Durham’s tasty but heavy chippy chips with optional ‘batter bits’ and then smash out a steep, long climb to the top of Stanhope Common. From Parkhead Station we can just about make out the finish-line of the North Sea. A long descent on a well-surfaced, disused railway track drops us down ‘cruise control style’ to Consett where we camp for the night; a good caravan site making an exception for a polite group of C2Cers with tents. After civilised coconut, rum and Lilt drinking we sleep so well.
DAY 5 CONSETT-TYNEMOUTH We wake to bright sunshine and no animals fried for our breakfast this morning; all yogurt, muesli and fruit. Our final leg was not hard or as scenic as the rest of the trip. Mostly downhill to Newcastle, we practically coast to the coast (see what I did there!) Matt nearly crushes two dozy dogs under his knobbly tyres and much of the route along the Tyne’s banks is busy and shared use, so we drop our pace further. I love a good ‘cycle-café’, ever since my many years of spanner service at London’s pioneering ‘Look Mum No Hands!’ So a visit to Newcastle’s ‘The Cycle Hub’ is a perfect last stop for good coffee, tyre pumping, info, maps and mixing it with other bikeniks. The final section to Tynemouth is a touch lumpy and less photogenic but South Shields is a pretty bustling fishing harbour. We round the corner
of the headland and we reach the Tynemouth finish! Tide is well out so no front wheel dipping unfortunately. I neck a disgusting caffeine shot energy drink (first of the trip; adrenaline and EPO sustaining me most other days) and we turn tail; due to Metro trains no non-folding bike
policy it’s back to Newcastle for us! A beer at the station and champagne on the train. We are glowing, fit(ter) and definitely merrier than five days ago. We swear to plan another bike adventure soon; my body and soul craves it and I implore you try the C2C too…it is mega!
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MALLORCA Lighthouse Tour
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Sipping champagne on the seafront raising a toast to Stephen Roche to celebrate his twentieth anniversary of providing excellent cycling holidays and training camps, I reflected on the four days of touring the Balearic Island of Mallorca. Maybe it was the alcohol flowing through my dehydrated veins that was responsible for my feeling of euphoria, or maybe it was the fact I’d enjoyed fantastic jovial and friendly company of fellow cyclists from across the world, including that of cycling icons. But I suspect, it was most probably due to the immense satisfaction of finishing the 430 kms, including over 7000m of climbing in one of the best and most beautiful places for cycling in the world.
The experience had been a taste of what it must be like to be a top professional. I had been supported by a full Mavic service crew, team cars that were in touch by radio to each of the ride captains, and been treated to motorbike outriders that stopped traffic at junctions. I had also lived out of a suitcase for four days, experiencing four different four stars hotels and the luxury of massages at the end of each day (at a small extra charge). To top it all the Triple Crown Champion of 1987 rode with us, together with his youngest sons, Alexis and Florian, and his special guest Maurizio Fondriest, the Road World Champion of 1988. Four days earlier I had studied the route cards that were amongst the official jersey, High Five race pack and other goodies in the bag that was to be used as a musette. Stage One was to be a fairly flat ride to Cala Millor, Stage Two would include the classic ride to and from the Cap de Formentor, and the following two days would be spent in the Tramuntana mountains, including the iconic Sa Colabra. This is probably Mallorca’s most famous climb and attracts both professional and amateurs alike. Indeed some cyclists come to the island just to ‘pit their wits’ against this climb alone and to compare their Strava times to the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sky’s David Lopez. It is definitely the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the island and the tour.
After the briefing session, I inspected my Pinarello Razha hire bike, that had been set up prior to my arrival, (having forwarded my bike fit details), packed my bag and retired to bed like an excited child waiting for Christmas. The next morning after signing on, we were split into three groups, with the fastest riders in Group One. I chose Group Three, not wanting to overdo it on the first day. Before long the three groups set off at ten minute intervals, under the instructions from our ‘Director Sportive’, Michelle Smyth of Trois Etape fame. The 137 km route from Palmanova to Cala Millor was picturesque as we rolled through olive and almond groves with the sun on our backs. By the time we reached the first lighthouse of the tour at S’Espanyol, we had begun to bond as a group as we chatted and got to know each other. It soon became apparent that the guests (Stephen ensures all that attend his cycling holidays and training camps are treated as a guest and not just a customer or client), had come from all over, including America, Canada, Dubai, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland as well as England, Scotland and Wales. Although there were some language barriers we all spoke the ‘language of the bike’ and a friendly atmosphere ensued. As my Garmin ticked over to 74 km we entered Sa Rapita for lunch at a restaurant right
Keith Gilks Twitter: @KeithGilks Website: gilksgaragecafe.com
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on the sea front, affording stunning views of the Mediterranean. The intervals between the three groups had worked well, ensuring the groups didn’t all arrive at the same time. Once refuelled we set off on the final leg of the journey for our overnight stay at the four star hotel, Hipotels Mediterraneo.
more calories and had instructed his staff to prepare paella for us. If that wasn’t enough the sweet course followed, consisting of cake. I’ve had less food at a wedding! Indeed it was the first time I’ve seen cyclists refuse food and ‘complain’ of having too much.
And so the scene was set for the next three days, breakfast, ride, hotel, massage, dinner, repeat. Bliss!
Climbing out of Port de Pollenca was my first introduction to the gradients that were to become so common over the next two days. I had joined Group Two for the day and although we had reached the start of the ascent before Group One, it wasn’t long before some us were being passed by stronger riders and a couple of world champions. I engaged the lowest gear and started plodding up the ascent at my own pace, resisting the temptation to try and keep up with the faster riders. The first ascent, the Coll de la Creueta rises to about 200m from sea level with ramps of up to 15% and an overall average gradient of 6%, before plummeting back down to sea level so you can start ascending all over again until you reach the lighthouse. Therefore within the 40 km ride you climb four moderate ascents with total climbing of about 1000m. I found it a challenging route that gave little respite, but I can see why it has a reputation of one of the ‘classic rides’ the island has to offer. The views are sublime both from the top of the climbs and as you sweep round the bends that link the uphill bits together.
This was my first experience of living out of a suitcase for four days and my status as ‘tour rookie’ showed. It appeared my suitcase was the biggest and heaviest amongst the riders. Others, more experienced or organised, took the bare minimum, some even washing their kit each night. However using a company where the guest comes first, if you took everything bar the kitchen sink, no questions would be asked. Although I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the luggage handlers. I awoke to a glorious sunrise for the start of Stage Two, 114 kms from Cala Millor to Port de Pollenca. The day started easily enough with a gentle climb for the first 30 km, then it was virtually flat riding along the coast with fantastic views across the windswept bay. Lunch was to be at the famous Bar Tolo’s, Sir Bradley Wiggins’ favourite restaurant on the island and where his 2012 Tour de France and 2014 World Championship bikes are proudly on display. After the second course consisting of pasta and salad, most of us were adequately fed and started to think of the testing route ahead, to and from the lighthouse at the Cap de Formentor. So it came as a surprise when Tolo had decided we all needed
This ‘must do ride’ certainly whetted my appetite for the other classic rides I was to experience over the next two days. We returned to Port de Pollenca with heavy black
clouds gathering and although my group tried to beat the rain to the four star Club Pollenntia Resort just outside the Port, we failed. If only I was quick enough to join Group One, I would not have had so much drying to do overnight. Stage Three, 90 km from Port de Pollenca to Port de Soller, had all the makings of an epic ride, incorporating the iconic Sa Calobra and a fantastic descent from the highest point on the island; Puig Major. The first 17 kms as we left Port de Pollenca were fairly flat. Then the real work began and I did not get a rest from climbing apart from one very short plateau until I reached the cafe under a viaduct 23 km later. The rain hadn’t finished with us which made the climb that bit more challenging. At first I kept in touch with the main peloton but it wasn’t long until the ‘elastic’ snapped and I was dropped off the back. I was soon to experience what became known as the ‘Mavic Express’; a gentle hand on the back from the Mavic motorbike support rider pushing you back to the group. I wasn’t the only one to benefit from this ‘Nibali type’ manoeuvre, and although one might expect some to be disappointed they didn’t conquer the climb independently, the riders I spoke to were only too pleased with the help, me included. We all regrouped at the café and had a short breather before climbing again to the top of Col de Reis; the start of the famous Sa Colabra descent. The descent of the man-made twisting strip of tarmac that
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plunges to the sea was optional, and some sensible soles who listened to their screaming legs, stayed at the top and took part in coffee and chat. Those that had chosen to go down seemed to relish the laborious climb back up. I guess there were Strava segment times to beat. Lunch was consumed at the cafe by the famous arch before the short and final ascent to the top of Puig Major. The fast flowing descent was glorious, but concentrating on your line gave little chance of soaking up the open views or the pretty orange groves near the town of Soller. However it was well worth the 2000m of climbing we had achieved earlier. Needless to say I was passed by two generations of Roches and one fast Italian. What was needed after such a terrific ride, was a high quality hotel that gave massages, a complimentary drink on arrival and luxurious rooms and surroundings. And that is exactly what we got. In fact the Hotel Esplendido is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at. We arrived at 15:30 which gave us plenty of time to carry out the rituals of preparing for the next day, before attending a presentation and questions and answer session by Stephen about his career. It was great to hear how he approached the races in his Triple Crown winning year, and hearing stories about behind the scenes, and his views on the modern era of racing. Dinner was held at the restaurant Es Canyis and even though we had only known one another for three days, there was a team spirit and a celebratory atmosphere. Proof that the doubters who were certain Stephen’s vision twenty years ago of providing facilities and rides for all nationalities to mix and cycle together were wrong. As I chatted to Maurizio Fondriest it was obvious he shared the same passion for cycling as Stephen. He remarked on how he was enjoying the tour and how remarkable it was to attract seventy riders from across the world, and went on to say ‘’it’s very, very interesting, my wife is here, and it is the first time she has cycled four days in a row with people, different people, different mentalities. I think that only the bike can do that, because when you can ride with old people, young people, like Stephen’s son, you can ride at 20, 30 or 40 km per hour, then on the top of the climb wait for everybody|: this is great.’’
I would have loved to have stayed and continued to mingle with the late night revellers, but my bed was calling so I returned to my luxurious room, took one last look across the harbour to the third lighthouse of the tour, closed the shutters and retired to bed. The last day was another classic ride in the Tramuntana Mountains around the Corniche, and into Palmanova. This is probably the most scenic ride on the island and the most up and down. After just 2 km out of Port de Soller we started climbing for about 4 km. This was to be typical of the many climbs of the day with the longest being around 6 km. For me it was hard to keep up with the group for two reasons; my legs were telling me to slow down and my head was telling me to stop and take photographs of the wonderful coastal scenery. Riding into Estellencs for our lunch stop, the views around each corner became prettier and prettier. Again the weather wasn’t kind to us and the roads were quite damp and greasy in places, leading to the inevitable - a couple of riders coming off. Thankfully their injuries were not serious. The riders were promptly attended to by the first-aid-qualified ride captains before being dealt with by the tour medic. Nevertheless it was a wake-up call for me. For all the years I’ve been cycling, I’ve never carried a first aid kit. I guess I never wanted to think of coming off, after all, ‘it’s never going to happen to me.’ The truth is it could happen to any of us, and it was comforting to think that at least on a well prepared tour such as this, the accident side of cycling was covered. For the rest of day the group took corners and descents very cautiously, everyone wanting to make it to just outside Palmanova for the massive group ride into the town for the celebratory glass of champagne. The magnificent sight of seventy riders, and nine ride captains all attired in the official bright green and white event jerseys being escorted into Palmanova by the police, stopped holiday makers and Mallorcans in their tracks. The spectacle of the two large pelotons was further enhanced by the following motorbike outriders, team doctor, three team support vehicles and the bright yellow Mavic support van, car
and motorbike. An unforgettable and dazzling end to this inaugural tour. The event was rounded off with a short presentation of an award from the tourist board of Calvia, recognising the significant contribution Stephen has made to the tourism of Mallorca, before a gala dinner, enjoyed by all. The tour had been one of the most enjoyable four days of cycling I’ve experienced. It certainly showcased both the island and what Stephen Roche cycling holidays and training camps can offer.
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THE BICYCLE DIARIES
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THE BICYCLE DIARIES
One woman’s solo cycle from London to Tehran: Stage 1 Awake at 6am, then 6.15am, then 6.30am. Today’s the day! I try to ignore it, but I know it’s time. My arm doesn’t even hurt too badly anymore – my last surviving hope for delay. I had a typhoid jab a week ago and since then it’s felt like I’ve had nightly wrestles with Floyd Mayweather. For the past few days, I’ve had vivid images of me as the heroin addict in Requiem for a Dream, my bicep going mushy and gangrenous as I cry out deliriously, heroically, that I’m going no matter what – only to be dragged off by medics and sedated. But sadly it isn’t to be. It feels fine. I feel fine. The weather is good. It’s all a complete disaster. The last time I had to cycle 50 miles was in 2009, when I was a young, lithe 20-something. That was also the last time I went up a hill. I feel my buttocks shrivel in anxious anticipation. Luckily I am fully intending to start as I mean to go on: by cheating outrageously. After packing up the bike – two heavy front panniers, two elephantine back panniers, one lead-lined bar bag, one unliftable rucksack, one totally superfluous ukulele – I take most of it off and leave behind for P, my boyfriend. We are due to meet at my sister’s, in Bolney, before I get on the ferry at Newhaven. Having stripped down to my bare essentials, I hit the road. And except for a wisp of a hangover from last night’s bottle of celebratory Chateau Labegorce Margaux 2001, it feels pretty good. I power thunderously on, energised and invincible. This is easy, I think to myself. Chris Froome eat your heart out! Then I reach my first hill. It’s in
East Dulwich, and not particularly long or steep. I stop afterwards for a half-hour sit down and croissant, and ring P. ‘I just did my first hill,’ I say. ‘How did it go?’ he asks. ‘I can’t feel my legs. I’m shaking. I think that typhoid has come back.’ ‘Pull yourself together. By the way, I bumped into C (our neighbour) in the hall. She thinks you’re crazy to be taking all that stuff.’ ‘Right.’ ‘And seriously – a ukulele? I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous.’ I protest vehemently, knowing of course that he’s right. If this trip doesn’t already scream gap year tragedy meets mid-life crisis, that’s
Rebecca Lowe Rebecca Lowe, a human rights journalist, started a 10,000km, 20-country ‘bummel’ through Europe and the Middle East in July. Her aims are threefold: cultivate a pair of toned, shapely calves that will be the envy of all she meets; survive; and shed light on a region long misunderstood in the West. She hopes to reach her final destination, Tehran, by March.
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surely enough to tip it over the edge. But before I can dwell on this too deeply, I enter Croydon. And I hope I never have to say those words again. Does it ever end? It reminds me of Montana in the US, which I travelled through by Greyhound bus in 2005 and where time goes to die. I remember falling asleep on Tuesday and waking on Thursday to the same rusty pick-up truck and piece of rolling tumbleweed outside my window, and vowing never to leave home again. Croydon has a similar effect. You also have to climb a god-awful hill to get out of it, which may explain why so many people end up staying there. It’s almost exactly how I imagine Purgatory to be, and I wonder if this could be the mountain Dante refers to in his Purgatorio, with its seven levels of suffering followed by Earthly Paradise at the top. Probably not. But I challenge anyone to find a feeling more glorious than finally leaving this godforsaken borough on a bicycle. I celebrate my escape with a wonderful swoop down Bug Hill – before getting a slap in the face in the form of the ominously titled ‘Long Hill’. I suddenly get a hint of what I’ve let myself in for. This hill is a menace, and halfway up I stop. I can’t go on. Dismounting, I assess the situation. Options are: go back down, return home and sleep for the rest of the day. Tempting. Satisfying. Maybe a tiny bit shameful. Or continue. I neck an energy gel and suddenly feel the terrifying power of sugar over the weak human psyche. Twenty minutes later I struggle to the top, and allow myself to indulge in a truly humiliating sense of achievement. The truth is, I’ve actually forgotten what a hill looks like. I wonder if it’s a similar phenomenon to childbirth, when a heavy dose of hormones helps women forget the intensity of the pain so they’re not discouraged from getting knocked up again. I mean, the two are pretty comparable, aren’t they? The sweat and the exhilaration? The pain and the release? Except I bet no amount of childbearing can beat that feeling of finally escaping Croydon. At 2pm, I finally pull into Bolney. My sister, her partner and my parents shower me with champagne, fish pie,
gifts and advice on how to dislocate a man’s thumb if attacked. I feel immensely touched. This is what it’s all about! But how can I convince them to join me the rest of the way? Sadly I can’t. So an hour later, P takes me to the ferry. We load up the bike and try it out for the first time in the car park. It’s just about ride-able, but completely impossible to steer. I start working out how I can get from Dieppe to Tehran without turning any corners or plunging into the Mediterranean. It might just be feasible, I ponder, as long as I plot exactly the right trajectory to start with. Tom Hanks and co-managed something similar with Apollo 13, after all, and Bill Paxton had a terrible cold at the time. On the ferry, I meet a couple travelling by tandem and they ask me where I’m going. They seem impressed when I say Iran, but do I detect a note of pity? It’s a reaction I come to know well during the following few days. When men go adventuring, they are seen as intrepid. When women do it, they are assumed mad or recovering from a broken heart. (At the moment, I happen to be neither – though let’s be honest, may be shortly.) I sit down to watch the UK recede into the distance and conduct a thorough examination of my thighs. They are already conspicuously larger. It’s a worrying development. My biggest fear on this trip, other than being kidnapped by ISIS or running out of chamois cream, is developing
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gargantuan quads that render me unfit for society and make my already scrawny calves seem even smaller in comparison. I buy a half bottle of 2010 Chateau Lieujean Haut-Medoc to put my mind off this and the long journey ahead, and suddenly remember why I like France so much. I spend the night in an overpriced Dieppe B&B, and wake up refreshed and ready to embark on my first proper day’s bummel. First things first, I think: load it up. I’ve repacked my bags with all the heavy items in the back two panniers, but physically getting them onto the bike proves a challenge. First I rest it against a sturdy-looking tree in a plant pot, which promptly collapses. Then I try the hedge. But hedges are prickly, hateful things, and not to be trusted. This one gives a veneer of helpfulness, before rearing up on its bushy haunches and swallowing my bike whole. I curse and dig it out dejectedly. My legs already look as if I’ve recently escaped from a local correction facility, mottled and tender to the touch. It’s fortunate I turned the hotel management against me so swiftly and unequivocally or I’m quite sure I’d still be there now, eating croissants and flashing smokers in the car park.
By noon, just four hours later than planned, I’m finally off. Hot, bothered and depressed, I veer violently across the road, up onto the curb and onto someone’s front lawn. I look around quickly; thank god nobody seems to be watching, except for a herd of enormous cows. They stare at me disdainfully. I try again, and stagger with inevitable futility into the path of an oncoming car. I stop for a well-earned rest and take stock. It’s exhausting. I’ve made progress, at least; about ten metres, to be precise. I do some calculations. At this rate it will take me the best part of 500,000 hours, or 57 years, to complete the full 10,000km of my trip. By the time I finish it, I’ll be a mad, wizened 90 year old, comprising just hair, thighs and a colostomy bag, wheeled out at parties to recount traveller’s tales from life in the saddle. It doesn’t sound too bad, actually. Finally, many failed attempts later, I get moving. Unsteadily and slowly, but at least in a semi-straight direction. This is it, I think! I’m officially bummelling! Then the noise starts: a loud, guttural yet piercing scraping that cannot be ignored. My heart sinks. Can I really have destroyed this beautiful machine so soon? I stop, get off and stare at various parts of it, occasionally prodding them tentatively. This doesn’t seem to help, and I think ambitiously about getting out one of my tools. But which one? Fortunately a male cyclist appears at this moment, looking helpful. I show him what’s wrong and he nods sagely and starts prodding too. That’s the wonderful thing about the current halfway house era of equality and sexism, I reflect; women can do exciting, independent things like cycle around the world, while still relying on men in times of distress. God help us when it gets to the stage when we’re actually expected to carry out menial mechanical tasks ourselves. This particular chivalric knight seems very determined to fix my mudguard. It’s clearly not the source of the problem, but I feel bad interrupting his work after he stopped so kindly. He finally cycles off, rather pleased with himself, and I recommence my prodding. It’s not
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Forges-les-Eaux – a charming little town seemingly best known for its history of mining, thermal waters and seigneurs killed in battle by the British – around 6pm. Finding several restaurants and cafes closed, I retire to a bench with a loaf of bread and Camembert, before setting off to find somewhere to sleep.
the brakes, I conclude after a little experiment. It’s not the panniers or chain. It seems related to the gears, and as I trace the cable back I see the end has come loose and is trailing against the tyre. I slip it back into place and start pedalling. Quiet. Problem solved! Meanwhile, clustering in my sightlines looms problem number two: a succession of hills. Hills, I discover, are in many ways like hedges. At first glance they seem friendly: soft and green and matronly. But as you get closer, their demeanour changes. Their brows furrow, and that expression you took for kindliness morphs into a kind of smug, sadistic smirk. It soon becomes apparent that there are specifically five different types of hill – which are: The bun-burner: the most common type of hill; a long, hot slog that sears the arse like a fire-brand. The false friend: a hill that doesn’t seem like a hill, until you realise you can’t feel your legs and are weeping silently. The masochist: a hill that gradually, imperceptibly gets steeper, like the anecdote of the frog in boiling water, until all you want is to crawl into the
foetal position crying for your mother. The redeemer: a hill I can actually climb without too much trouble; more like a ripple in the road. The up yours: basically a vertical wall with the words ‘up yours!’ scrawled on it. By mid-afternoon, just as I am ready to jack everything in and return to London, I finally hit the fast road I’ve been aiming towards. I make up some time, and pull into
On the outskirts of the town, I follow a small country lane and discover a large patch of grass bathed in sunshine, hidden from the road. It’s beautifully peaceful, and I listen contentedly to the buzz and chirrup of unseen critters. Then a thought hits me: what if this is like that part of Life of Pi, where the boy finds what he believes to be his perfect island, only to discover it turns carnivorous during the night and starts devouring itself? It seems unlikely, but I find it hard to shake the thought from my mind. I distract myself by putting up my tent: a Lightwave G15 Raid. Then, as I hunker down inside, I realise with no small amount of distress that I haven’t brought anything to toast my first night in the wilderness. With my Bolney support team nowhere in sight, I am all alone, parched, tired and inescapably sober. It’s a rookie error, and I vow not to make the same mistake again.
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PRO JERSEY Short Sleeve > Albert Bishop
It is positioned as the American brand’s top line performance jersey, and it really doesn’t disappoint – but you do pay quite heavily for it. Pros: Close aero cut, top performance, good practicality, nice styling Cons: Slightly tight arm hems, cost As you can probably tell from the pros and cons listed above, when it came to identifying the Chrono jersey’s strengths and weaknesses, I was taxed far more with one heading than the other. The truth is, after sitting for 20 minutes trying to come up with downsides, all I could think of – bar the price – was the fact that the arm hems were a little tight.
compression, as well as high durability. The higher density of the back panel adds an air of quality and longevity, while the lighter laser-holed front panels and mesh flanks assist with breathability. It’s very difficult to overheat in the Chrono jersey in normal conditions, and it’s rated to an SPF of 50.
In a race-cut jersey designed to sit on the skin, it’s hardly surprising that it’ll feel a little small in areas where I’m larger than the average racing cyclist (the arms being one of a few areas), but even with the band-like hems, it’s certainly not the most uncomfortable I’ve been in a jersey of this type.
There’s no flapping around the torso when on the move in an aggressive position – perfect for a jersey with a nod to aerodynamics – but that doesn’t mean it’s restrictive. The shoulders allow plenty of space in a medium for someone with wide shoulders to fit in, which means the zip doesn’t feel too tight when done all the way up.
Mainly that’ll be because the undersides don’t have a tacky gripper like some jerseys, instead allowing the hems to find their natural sit point. And the surrounding fabric (the whole jersey, in fact) is very flexible so it can mould to the body remarkably well. Giro calls this fabric a ‘gradient stretch woven’ material, which is very breathable and light while not looking (or feeling) like a mesh-type fabric. It’s very cool against the skin, especially when you’ve been getting a sweat on, and that bodes well for the kind of weather that the UK has been enjoying this summer. Stop at the top of a climb on a cool morning after giving it the beans and you can literally see the moisture steaming off the fabric. Other benefits of the fabric are said to be a light
The bottom line is that it’s very comfortable indeed, with sizing slightly on the generous side so even a 188cm, fairly bulky (albeit slim) guy like me can fit in a medium.
“three good-sized pockets on the back, with the middle pocket overlaid by a zipped security slot for phones”
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The size chart suggests that a medium would be slightly too small for me, but it fits like a glove – even the collar fits around my wide neck comfortably. There are three good-sized pockets on the back, with the middle pocket overlaid by a zipped security slot for phones and/or keys. There’s no weather protection for it, mind, but that’s hardly a priority in a performance jersey like this (even though I’d like to see some sort of sweat-andshowerproof lining). The waistline features an elasticated band with some Giro-branded gripper styling embossed upon it, and it does a grand job of holding the jersey in place. Tighter-fitting jerseys like this can have a habit of working their way up, especially when the fit is marginal – but on me, the Chrono Pro stayed firm, keeping its length on my back. I like the superficial design too – there’s detail in the honeycomb-like design of the shoulders, with a fade-plus-diagonal grading down the body. It looks especially smart in the ‘Black Cascade’ colour we have on test, while there are white and blue alternatives too. I can’t fault the overall build quality either, and it stands up well to 40 degree washes despite recommendations to machine wash cold. You’d hope that it’d stand up to some punishment too, as it costs £129.99. That’s a high price – a tenner more than Le Col’s Pro Air jersey. Yet, I’d say the overall quality and comfort puts it in competition with Le Col’s premium HC jersey, which is £20 more. There are a number of very good summer jerseys for around the £90-£95 mark, though, from the likes of Sportful, Monton, new brand Saikels, and Hommage au Velo with its very good Bourlon jersey for £95, which does make the Giro look a little overpriced. Despite that, I’m still very impressed by how well the Chrono Pro works – it offers racy performance in a sympathetic fit, and looks good too.
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EVENT INFORMATION: Name: Granfondo Stelvio Santini Location: from Bormio to the Stelvio Pass (Province of Sondrio) Edition: 7th Long route: Bormio - Teglio - Mortirolo Bormio - Stelvio (151.3 km, 4058 m elevation change) Medium Route: Bormio - Teglio - Bormio Stelvio (137.9 km, 3053 m elevation change) Short Route: Bormio - Sondalo - Bormio Stelvio (60 km, 1950 m elevation change) Participant numbers 2018 edition: 2,600
Mortilo climbs. After that they return to Bormio and set off uphill again on the Stelvio climb, enduring an overall elevation change of 4,058 metres. The popularity of the toughest route is strong indicator that tackling extreme challenges remains a powerful motivator for lovers of the sport. In all, 730 opted for the 137.9-kilometre medium route which has a 3,000-metre elevation change but does not include the Mortirolo. The remaining cyclists will be doing the 60-kilometre short route from Bormio to Sandalo and back which includes the Stelvio climb and a 1,950-metre elevation change. The classifications After the introduction of the new classifications last year, the Granfondo Stelvio Santini will have the same final standings again this year to cut the risk of high-speed downhill accidents to a minimum. The first classification will be divided according to the three different routes and fashioned on the individual riders’ total time trial times: those of the long route cyclists will be calculated on the basis of the Teglio, Mortirolo and Stelvio climbs, while for the medium
route, the results will be the sum of the Teglio and Stelvio times. Lastly, the short route classification will be calculated solely on the Stelvio climb time. The top-ranked cyclists in each category will be awarded with a Granfondo Stelvio Santini King Of The Mountain (men) or a Granfondo Stelvio Santini Queen Of The Mountain (women) jersey. A second classification will be fashioned the basis of the elapsed time between start and finish lines with competitors listed in alphabetical order and in order of their overall times. Additionally, three Kings and three Queens of the Mountains, i.e. the “grimpeurs”, male and female, that clock the best times on the three climbs, will also receive a special polka dot jersey: the Teglio climb jersey is sponsored by Retelit, the Mortirolo is sponsored by Trek and the Stelvio by Santini. Last but very far from least, the three teams with the largest number of entrants will also receive prizes as will the team with the most finishers, to highlight the communal spirt of amateur cycling. A wellness partner and a dedicated jersey From this year also QC Terme Bagni di Bormio is the wellness partner to the Granfondo Stelvio Santini. A partnership that reinforces the cycling event’s connection to the local area: il QC Terme Bagni di Bormio and Granfondo Stelvio Santini both deiver unforgettable experiences in the stunning natural surroundings of the Stelvio Pass which is absolutely unique in terms of its beauty and history. The Wellness Prize of a special Santini jersey will be awarded to the two oldest finishers (male and female).
The compulsory official jersey All participants will receive the official race jersey as part of their race pack. It must be worn throughout the race to help facilitate checks and also, of course, because the sight of so many identically-dressed riders all massed together at the start will be truly spectacular. Designed and made exclusively by Santini Cycling Wear for this seventh outing, the slim-fit jersey is light, breathable and hugs the body’s contours without restricting movement, making it perfect for both male and female cyclists. One detail that highlights Santini’s commitment to the environment is the presence of a fourth side pocket to allow the wearer stow cellophane energy bar and gel wrappers until they get to the next “green” island where they can dispose of them responsibly.
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FUNKIER HUEZA GENTS ELITE JERSEY
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© National Trust Images. Registered Charity Number 205846.
Pedalcover: Home Insurance reInvented for cyclIsts
The ultimate all in one home & bike insurance
A treat for cyclists
T E Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, loved cycling. When he left the RAF in 1935 he cycled to his Dorset home, Clouds Hill, from Yorkshire. This year we want to encourage visitors to cycle to Clouds Hill, rewarding them with a special Clouds Hill shortbread biscuit. The cottage is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am-4.30pm, until 30 October.
We combine your home and bike insurance under one policy to save you money
01929 405616 nationaltrust.org.uk/clouds-hill
It is not all about the bike, it is what you decide to take with you. We at ACT can supply you and your bike with all the gear you need for your next adventure. Frame Bags, Pannier Sets, Trailers, Rucksacs, Drybags, Clothing for Riding & Restaurants, Solar Pannels, Lighting & Safty Equipment
Cycling on the shores of Loch Rannoch The highlands are a region synonymous with drama and
The Original Student Bikes.
romance, with its sprawling unbridled landscape. The Loch Rannoch Highland Resort incorporates itself within
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by emerald forests. Our lodges blend tastefully within this incredible location. We offer self catering lodges that cater up to 8 persons.
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The Avenue, Kinloch Rannoch, Perthshire, PH16 5PR www.lochrannochhighlandclub.com • firstname.lastname@example.org • +44(0) 1796 471850
that perfect ride one more time.
Wi-Fi CYCLE CAMERA
Wi-Fi Bicycle/Motorcycle Camera
With our bike camera, you can watch that trail run you did this morning again and again, and share the excitement with your family and friends. If it was your best ride ever, wouldn’t you want to prove it? - Records the action while you ride - Wi-fi control through smart phone - Video and snapshot modes - 360° pivot for selfies - Minimal vibration, polished aluminum mounting bracket - 3-7/8” (9.84cm) extra wide angle mirror lens - Colorful LED indicators
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Men and women of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines serve their country, often at times of danger. Established in 1922, the RNBT helps non‑commissioned Sailors, Marines and their families (The RNBT Family) throughout their lives. Your donation will help us to help them. The Royal Naval Benevolent Trust, Castaway House, 311 Twyford Avenue, PoRTsmouTH, Hampshire, Po2 8RN T: 02392 690112 F: 02392 660852 E: email@example.com www.rnbt.org.uk
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day tripper to ﬂotilla
Turn your dream of life on board into reality with UKSA’s professional courses. You can train to crew a race boat, deliver impeccable service as a yacht steward, or teach others to succeed at sea as a Watersports Instructor with careers that can take you around the world. As a youth charity based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, we believe in the power of the sea to transform people’s lives for the better. Our world-class training site offers everything from leisurely pursuits to the opportunity to stay a bit longer and study for new qualiﬁcations, and a new career. And as a charity, we have funding available and our courses are suitable for everyone.
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Courses for you: Professional Yachtmaster Superyacht Interior Foundation Watersports Instructor Training 01983 203038 firstname.lastname@example.org uksa.org
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