Sunday, 18 February 2018

Medicine in sport?!

You may recall that whilst traveling through Spain, I jokingly suggested that there were some drugs in the bathroom of a hotel in Castellón de la Plana, allegedly used by Team Sky whilst they participated in the Vuelta La España. 

Seems however that maybe the joke was actually on me, with the UCI recently requesting further information from Chris Froome and Team Sky after a urine sample indicating that he had excess levels of Salbutamol in his system! Now apparently Salbutamol is an asthma medication and according to Sir Dave Brailsford, General Manager of Team Sky, there are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of the drug. 

Sounds more like "Excuses, excuses, to me...." particularly given that the team was recently found to have kept incomplete medical records for its riders according to the UK Anti-Doping Agency when they investigated a potential but unsubstantiated breach by another of their riders, Bradley Wiggins, several years earlier....

Now I only mention all of this as I've been watching the Vuelta a Andalucía and saw the media scrum envelope Chris Froome as he attempted to defend his right to participate in the race. I mean sure whilst he is permitted to race, it does seem odd to me that a rider should have the opportunity to participate in, "win" or otherwise alter the manner in which an event unfolds, when there is a prospect of the "win" subsequently being retracted.

At that rate, there is no reason not to keep delaying the outcome of the "final" decision as long as is possible. I mean, okay so he was stripped of his results, but can anyone tell me who was awarded any of the Tour de France titles taken from Lance Armstrong?

Heck, at this stage, and he is seemingly entitled to do so, Chris Froome is talking about competing in the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France even if the investigation into his adverse drugs test is unresolved. 

To me, that's just continues to keep road racing in a bad light and as a result regardless of the outcome of either the inquest or any races in which he participates, I cannot help but feel professional cycling will never be 100% free of performance enhancing drugs

The Stash I took to South America in 2014!

Me - Well, I'm clean of course bar the half a dozen tablets I take daily! YES, technically they are performance enhancing, but without them well.... Besides, I don't race! 😊 😊

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

2018 - A new year! A new beginning!

Whilst my "tour" goals for 2018 are still to be finalized, with March / April potentially entailing a trip from Adelaide through to Brisbane, I'm not entirely sure where I wish to visit during the Southern Hemisphere winter.

At the moment I'm tossing up between doing:

  • The Tour de Afrique Silk Road Tour
  • A self-supported trip through France
  • A self-supported trip from Amsterdam to Warsaw
  • A self-supported Lands End to John O'Groats trip

My sneaking suspicion is that I'll ride through mainland Europe, possibly concentrating on France as a legacy to my father.... He rode with a mate through France, as a young lad, back in the late 50's, early 60's, before "touring" had reached the heights it's got to now. I loved to hear about some of his exploits and just wish he'd taken a few photos.

I think it would be a fitting tribute, given that it was him after all that got me into cycling! 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Pro cycling inspiration....

Whilst I missed my chance of watching the professional riders in person when they were in Adelaide (Tour Down Under) and Ballarat (Australian Road Championships) in January, I have at least been making up for lost time to an extent by being glued to the box in the last couple of days watching highlights or the closing 40 - 50 KMS of stage for the Tour of Valencia.

Watching the pros race along roads I've ridden (slogged along at a slightly slower speed) and through villages where I've eaten or stayed brings back some wonderful memories.

The fact that the temperature in this part of Spain seems to be similar to what Melbourne, Australia also puts on in winter is interesting and whilst that probably means that a lot of potential coffee stops may be shut it probably also means that the roads are a bit quieter.

It was also interesting to hear the commentators mentioning how many of the professional teams also spent a fair bit of time in the area, for training camps and the like. Maybe I was a tad quick dismissing the idea of residing there... 

And YES I know I should be paying more attention to the Herald Sun Tour race here in Victoria but this year there really is only one team (Mitchelton Scott formerly known as Orica GreenEdge) in the whole race and it's really just a question of how they are going to divide the spoils and how much benefit they get from it as a "training" exercise.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018


Well I've managed to fulfill my 200KM per week goal, every week this month and in fact I am slightly ahead of schedule, having put 1008KM through the pedals to date. That's mainly due to the wonderful weather we've been enjoying in the Southern Hemisphere of course. During that time, I have spent a bit of time on the road bike practicing riding up hills, something that I intend to do with a bit more intensity in February. 

I mean sure my rides this month weren't done according to a specific training plan, but I did apply a couple of hill climbing concepts that I picked up riding with the Lead Out crew years ago, along with a few other ideas / routines that I've picked up along the way through bike mags, etc.

I have also been giving a bit more thought as to which (if any) of the Seven Peaks I attempt and am coming to the conclusion that rather than entering the Three Peaks Challenge or buying a Seven Peaks Digital Passport, that what I'll do is have a crack at riding up Mount Donna Buang in the next month or so..... It's reasonably close to Melbourne and then depending on how that goes, tackling Lake Mountain a week or so later. 

All meanwhile whilst still also sticking to my weekly distance goal. 😊 😊

At this point I should also confess that I've also spent a bit of time looking at what riding from Adelaide through Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and on to Brisbane looks like, in terms of what it potentially entails in terms of day to day distance and elevation profiles, etc. 

It is certainly "do-able", as many other before me have proven, I am just not sure whether it's a challenge I want to take on or not. I mean, doing it and doing the research into taking on a 3000KM route, are two different things. 

But who knows..... the idea does appeal and the weather should remain 'ride' sensible for a few more months.

Oh yeah, and just by way of a quick up-date..... I am glad I have spent a bit of time reading my Garmin 1030 instruction manual. 

I was using it recently and found that I was losing satellite reception during rides around town, a situation which I was quickly able to resolve by swapping from just GPS to GPS + GLONASS. It increases the ability of the computer to maintain a reliable position location but apparently at the cost of battery consumption.... Ah well, it's not like the battery level has got low in my computer even on the few times I have ridden a 100+ kilometres with it. 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

One, Three or Seven Peaks Challenge!

As you may recall I have set myself the goal of tackling at least one of the major climbs in Victoria and whilst I do not consider myself a "climber" by any stretch of the imagination, I've decided that the only way of getting better at riding uphill is to actually do it....

* Now one way of doing it would be to complete the one day, 235KM long Three Peaks Challenge.

Being an organised event I believe it means closed roads and the provision of support facilities, though with the downside of having a "timing" element. There looks like some interesting / worthwhile descents on this ride, though I suspect that my time enjoying them would be but a brief experience, in contrast, with the amount of time and energy I spend slogging up the other side! 

Most people would call them mountains and they're possibly technically correct, but having ridden in the Andes, I'm not quite so sure they qualify! Either way, it's a ride which demands to be taken very seriously.

Let's see how I'm thinking about it in five or six weeks from now, when registrations are due.

The Three Peaks Course Profile

* The other and cheaper option being to apply for a Seven Peaks Digital Passport and riding one, or all of the climbs, at my own pace.

Let me do a bit of hill climbing training over the course of the next month or so, and I'll let you know when & which way I am going to "jump" so that we can put the hospital system on alert & forewarn them that I'm riding the hills. 😊 😊 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A few upgrades

With my destiny seeming to suggest that I need to spend a LOT more time on the bike, I've purchased in the last month or so:

A Garmin 1030
It apparently has far better navigational & mapping features than any bike computer I've used previously, though I am also willing to admit that I may not have set my Garmin 1000 so as to take advantage of ALL the options it offered. Something that I only discovered during my Tour of Spain.

As a consequence guess who is going to read the instruction manual this time, as I look at setting it all up?

Before I head out the door for any longer multi-day trips (particularly overseas), I want to ensure that I've got it set up so I am taking advantage of all it's functionality.

A Canon M3 Camera with 18-200mm lens
Whilst I will buy a new DSLR Camera in due course, I decided that a Canon M3 was a good medium ground between the lightweight Powershot & DSLR cameras that I had stolen in Switzerland. One camera / dual purpose.

In this way I sort of figure I should be able to take decent photos, maybe not competition quality but more than sufficient whilst out on the open road on my bike and whilst also doing the touristic sightseeing bit when in towns, etc.

It will substantially lighten the weight and the value of my gear. I'll write a post about aerodynamics / weight in due course....

A Canon Connect Station CS100
This device, being an external hard drive, theoretically enables me to transfer my photos to it, by Wi-Fi from my camera(s) or via a camera card reader. This gives me the ability to back up EVERYTHING nightly without the need of a laptop computer and means that I can have two copies of a photo and that's before I have got the computer out from time to time to make a third copy, whilst updating this blog, etc. Having lost some photos (albeit only a couple of days worth), but thinking for awhile that it was my entire trip's worth, the pain & anguish one goes through believing everything is gone is immeasurable. 

Hopefully this device will banish that angst forever more!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Training Plans - Initial findings & thoughts on the issue

Whilst I am contemplating the idea of setting myself an organised training plan, with an emphasis on improving my hill climbing ability along with my endurance, my research so far, which has consisted of flicking through several books / magazines, all seem to place a certain amount of emphasis on riding at certain cadences, which is something that I have particularly hard to adhere to in the past, given that as the cadence increases, so to does my heart rate, to the point where if I am not careful I suddenly hit the wall and fatigue.

I'll do a little more research into training by heart rate "zones", knowing already how far I can go or can push things and for how long, based on my heart rate. I figure I should be able to set up some sort of training regime based on this information.....

The other aspect to it all is that according to Louis Passfield, a sport's science professor spent time working for British Cycling, experienced cyclists and hopefully I qualify as one of those by now, knows what their optimum cadences are based on an inherent hard-wired element within the brain, which instinctively choices between cardiovascular stress and minimising leg muscle stress.

I cannot also help but to wonder, the extent the gearing choices in one's formative years of riding plays a part in this decision making process. IE: My first "adult" bike had a rather large chain ring on the front and a race bike cluster on the rear. Being young and fit, I thought nothing of it (even when climbing hills) with the result being that it placed the emphasis on learning to ride at a lower cadence and developing my calf muscles, etc. It would seem to be only in recent years, thanks to the likes of Chris Froome, etc.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


I recently bought a 1L Klean Kanteen Insulated Water Bottle, along with an additional and oversize bidon cage to carry it, on the Troll and did so primarily because I want to do a fair bit of riding during Summer (a minimum of 200KM per week). Having learnt, from my trip through Spain, the effects of riding in the heat, I wanted to minimise the chances of doing that again....

I mean sure I'd watched enough professional cycling races to know that maintaining one's fluid intake was important, what I didn't realise however is that, seemingly if one loses anything more than approximately two per cent of one's body weight, as a result of sweating or what have you, then this can result in a number of negative side effects, namely being:

  • An increase in core temperature
  • Reduced carbohydrate absorption
  • Reduced muscle contraction
  • Mental fatigue

Dehydration also results in one's blood becoming more viscous and therefore harder to pump around the body, something that I am particularly keen to avoid. One heart attack and four cardiac stents are enough Thank You very much. 😊 😊

The other aspect to all of this is that the most vital electrolyte for sweating riders is sodium. 

Now of course the media is constantly telling us that there is too much salt in our diets, particularly when one eats processed or fast food, and I am not advocating that one starts going mad with the salt shaker whenever we sit down to dinner BUT sodium does play a vital role in terms of maintaining our blood plasma volume and transporting water from the blood stream to working muscles.

Sodium however isn't the only electrolyte that is lost when one sweats. One also excretes:

  • Calcium - It is involved in muscle contraction & relaxation and blood clotting.
  • Magnesium - Depleted levels of this electrolyte can lead to fatigue & depression.
  • Potassium - It helps transport glucose around the body and hence is vital for energy generation

As a result of gleaning all of this information from a book titled "The Science of the Tour De France" by James Witt, I've come to appreciate that I will have to start paying more attention to the frequency with which I sip on a bidon, but also look at using electrolytic drinks and tablets particularly on longer rides, etc.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Nutrition 1

As a result of my adventures on the bike, I've become very aware of the importance of not only getting out in the fresh air but also the importance of fueling one's body sensibly, in terms of the food eaten before, after & during a ride....

Wanting to go about it sensibly, I'm looking to see what sport dietitians recommend, how the professional cyclists tackle the issue and so forth though I suspect that I'm about to get caught up in a whole lot of controversy as to what is or isn't the best approach/ diet, etc...

With my reading so far being limited to skimming a couple of cycling mags I have however come across an article which suggests (and it makes sense to me) that what we eat has an impact on our mental health as much as it does our physical one with their suggestion being that in order to alleviate / control depression, one should eat:

  • 1 Serve of nuts a day
  • 2 - 3 Serves of dairy a day
  • 3 Serves of fruit a day
  • 5 Serves of vegetables a day
  • 5 - 8 Serves of whole grains a day
  • 2 Serves of fish a week
  • 2 - 3 Serves of poultry a week
  • 3 - 4 Serves of lean red meat a week
  • 6 or more eggs a week
Whilst it's going to be hard, adapting to that sort of diet / eating regime, when in the comfort of my own home, how I'll be able to do it on the open road, well I suspect that's a whole other issue! Any thoughts or suggestions on that aspect would be most appreciated......

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Interesting start to the year.....

Whilst I had originally planned on cycling to Ballarat for the Australia Road National Championships and from there onto Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, life got in the way of things this week.....

As a result I ended up having to sit in front of the TV to watch the Elite Men's Road Race instead.

Tis a pity, I'd been unable to make it to Ballarat, because I found out (only after the event) that my mate & fellow Andes Trail participant, Terry, was part of a team from NSW, who'd competed in (and subsequently won) the National Club Teams Relay.

Not bad for an old fella.

That's got to taken a fair old effort from a training perspective, etc, but I suppose it also just goes to show that time & effort spent in the saddle, particularly when combined with a sensible training plan can pay off..... I mean this is someone who not only abides by his own training requirements but has also incorporated spending time, being the pilot on a tandem for blind or vision impaired cyclists, so that they can get to feel the wind in their hair and continue riding a bike. What they don't know or can't confirm at least, is the extent to which he's pedaling. My bet is he's not, particularly whenever he think he has a strong stoker on the back and who's capable of keeping them moving at a decent speed. 

Well done mate. I doff my helmet to you!

I have to say it's hearing news like this though which gives me even more impetus to look at my diet, ride plans, etc, particularly when one wakes up in the morning, as I did on Wednesday, with sore and tired hamstrings having spent Tuesday gardening.... 

The downside in awaking physically sore, is that I decided not to ride on the Wednesday and to take it a bit easy on the Thursday. This then meant that trying to achieve my goal of riding 200KM for the week was a little harder than I had originally envisaged.

Ah well, I managed to get there though.

It just means that I may have to start incorporating some other exercises, yoga or whatever into my routine.... Time to do a bit of reading I think to see what I can or should be doing, particularly in the way of activities that can be done without weights & equipment, because that way I can continue doing them when I'm out on the open road, exploring the world!