September 2016 - The off season

As cycling becomes more and more a year round sport, even for the amateur rider with the opportunity for racing cyclo-cross or winter track leagues, you could be forgiven for forgetting about an important part of your training year – the off-season. Rest and recovery is a very important part of any training plan, both on a day to day basis to recover from hard training sessions but also built into your overall training plan, the focus of this post.

A 'break' can mean different things to different people and can range from a complete rest from any exercise to changing your preferred mode by switching to another sport or gym work to keep active while giving yourself a mental break from training. For most athletes I like to set a complete rest for 2-3 weeks followed by easing back into training over a similar period of time. It's a long season and a break now will pay dividends in terms of physical and mental freshness later in the year!

What this involves is different for everyone but as a general rule if you've had a long season with a lot of racing you'll likely feel the need to take a break and be glad of it! This would be straight after your last race of the season when many pro's and serious riders might take a holiday too. Where it becomes harder to judge and manage is if for whatever reason you've already had a lot of time off or season without much racing. In this case I would still advise a break but it can be good to take advantage of the better weather in the Autumn and save your break for later in the year when the weather turns bad.

After the rest, then what? This time of year is a great time to think about your goals for next year to give you motivation for the tough winter sessions or get to know a new coach. Use the time you would normally spend training to get all those little jobs you've been putting off done and get the winter bike ready to go! Now is also a great time to address any physical problems you might have identified throughout the season. Seek professional help and concentrate on rehab work in the gym or at home to ensure you're ready to get back into training without any injuries.


Follow these tips and after your break you should be keen to get back into hard training, but please remember to ease back into things – it's a long season!


July 2016 - Belgium.

I've been meaning to start posting a blog for a while but this month the combination of a bit more spare time (or maybe less distractions sat in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in Belgium now the Tour's finished) and having read a few very good blogs from riders this week has inspired me to finally get it done. I'll try to do a short blog every month or so, without too much rambling!

So the topic of this month's is all about racing abroad. It seemed appropriate as I'm here coaching two women from Thai team W2 ladies cycling team and you can't travel much further to race than Thailand to Belgium! I am a strong advocate of trying to race abroad (this is from a UK perspective) if you have ambitions of a career in cycling. As an 18 year old I tried my hand racing in France, with limited success, but for the majority of Brits a short trip over the channel to Belgium is the best way to go about it (while we're still able to easily post Brexit anyway!). It is hard racing, so you need a decent level beforehand and there's not really any categories (the other day I did a supposedly easier race for 'Amateurs and Masters' won by ex pro Niko Eeckhout which also had a UK elite and 3 Belgian regional champions in it) but it really means you have to concentrate hard on doing everything right, cornering well, riding out the wind and not wasting energy in general unless you really are one of the strongest. I always get it wrong in the first race over here and end up getting dropped through doing something stupid you would get away with in the UK, but you learn quickly!

Compared to the ladies coming from Thailand at least it's not too much of a difference in culture here compared to the UK. The shop/restaurant/cafe hours and time of racing are a bit different (afternoon and evening starts for all races, they actually encourage spectators to watch, crazy eh!?). The coffee is terrible (glad I brought my team-issue Truestart with me!) but the beer and fritjes are great (maybe I should've kept that quiet!) and the people really know and love cycling so it's easy to make friends and get a bit of help, for things like handing up bottles in races if you're on your own. I guess a really big advantage, especially if you live in the South of the UK is the cost of racing. It costs just 5 euro to enter the race and prize money and 'Premies' if you're good enough to win them are good. Even if you're not it only takes a top 30 finish to more than recoup your entry fee. A weekend trip with 2 races and a night in a cheap hotel should cost less than 2 races in the UK if you can get together with 2-3 mates and you will learn a lot. There aren't as many races for women but the W2 ladies will still have done 10 races here by the time their month is over.

Steps to race in Belgium (mostly also applicable to other countries too):

  • Call British Cycling and get a letter of permission to race in Belgium (or whatever country, this is required by organisers/commisaires and needed for insurance) also arrange travel insurance and ensure your EHIC is up to date.
  • Get as many mates who want to race as your car holds and agree a date.
  • Look on www.wielerbondvlaanderen.be, click on 'kalendars' choose your dates, type of race (weg is road), and category (elite zonder contract or Amateur/Masters (still hard but ~80km instead of ~110km races) for senior males, elite vrouwen for women and juniors for juniors) and find some races. West Flanders (W) is closest to the UK but Oost Flanders (O) and the other areas are not too far to drive. If you're a senior male and it's summer there should be plenty to choose from. That's for Flanders, the Wallonia area has a different federation and website (https://www.federationcyclistewalloniebruxelles.be/courses/calendrier/) but is a bit further to travel and generally less racing. 
  • Most races are 'open' meaning you don't need to enter in advance and there are 3 times listed, when registration (Inschrijven) starts and finishes and the race start time so don't be late! It's worth noting down the address (a bar usually) where the Inschrijven is as it's not always in the village centre. If it's closed or 'Gesloten' you need to email the organiser to enter in advance (normally crits).

                 

An example of race information to where I'm going later today. Useful info to note -  I: address where you need to register, U: times to register and when the race starts, K: changing rooms (kleedkamer), Extra info: number of laps, extra prize money for 30-40th place (normally 690 euro in total over the top 30 in this category race) and extra primes on offer.

  • Book your ferry/Eurotunnel (much better for a weekend trip as it's a lot quicker and costs about the same for a 48h return)
  • Turn up to race, at your first one you'll need to buy a foreign riders card (blue this year, see pic top right) for 6 euro, this has all your licence details on a bar code and makes registration much easier next time and pay 10 euro, 5 of which is returned when you give the number back. Don't forget to bring you own pins and maybe zip ties for a frame number.

Enjoy! If you enjoyed the blog follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see future updates and on Strava if you want to see the details of the races (no power at the moment unfortunately)...