Tuesday, 19 September 2017

One day one photo - 19: Annemiek van Vleuten, World Champion!

The World Road Cycling Championships are currently taking place in Bergen, Norway. It's almost a week of competitions ranging from team time trials - done in riders' trade teams, through time trial races, junior, under 23 and senior men's and women's championship races in time trials and in road races.

The women's time trial was won by none other than Annemiek van Vleuten, and I was so pleased for her. Van Vleuten is the woman who had that nasty crash in the women's road race at the Rio Olympics last year. She was in the lead at the time of the crash and looked like she was on the way to winning the race. The crash looked horrific, but Annemiek luckily escaped with concussion and a few cracked vertebrae. I say "escaped" because her injuries could have ended up a lot worse. For the Dutch racer the hardest part was dealing with the fact that she could have won and then lost out completely.

I spoke to Annemiek a couple of months agao when I was writing a fitness article for Cycling Weekly magazine. What I noted from her was how determined and resolute she was about getting back into racing and pursuing her racing objectives. When I spoke to her in July she had already been out to Bergen and done a reconnnaisance of the course. She was extremely focused on going for the win.

I asked her how she was able to get over the trauma of what had happened to her in Rio and she said that her aim had always been to focus on the objective. She also said that she had had to deal with difficult times when her father died almost 10 years ago after a long illness. Having to cope with that, and seeing her mum have to cope with the loss of her husband had taught her to be resilient.

It is this resilience and determination that has helped to have the amazing year that she has had, with victories in classics races, the women's Giro d'Italia, La Course by the Tour de France, and now the World Championships.

Seeing people get back on the horse after a setback, and ride to victory is inspirational.

Monday, 18 September 2017

One day one photo - 18: Nasturtium

I have entitled this post "nasturtium", but in fact it can relate to other produce I have reaped from my garden or my allotment (as you can see from the photo), as I have had the same problem.

It's that time of the year when my crops are ready (even more than ready) to be harvested, and I have ended up with so much stuff I don't know what to do with it! Last year I had around eight pumpkins, and I only recently finished them!

This year I have had a number of courgettes - usually aroud four per week. There is also sweet corn to look forward to as well. I think I should have picked them already, but I haven't yet managed to get down to the allotment.

Some might say that having lots of produce is a nice problem to have, particularly as a packet of seeds for these crops only costs a couple of pounds. I realise I do have to get organised though.

Nasturtium has been the real star. Last Autumn, there was so much of the stuff that I didn't have to buy any salad for around two months, and that was even with me eating the stuff for lunch and for dinner! Sadly I was not able to pull up the leaves quickly enough, and one day after we had a frosty night I woke up the following morning to find them all drooped, damaged, and inedible. That was a shame. This year, the challenge is to try to avoid that happening again, though it will be more of a challenge as I have had even more nasturtium grow. It's not just on one flower bed in my front garden, like last year, but also a few rows in my allotment too.

So I am really on the hunt for as many recipes as I can find. So far I have put them into a quiche, into a fish pie, and also had them as a salad. I also intend to make an alternative pesto with them.

Sadly I can't put them into a spiralizer like I have done with the courgettes, but I hope to find some equally exciting dishes to make with these leaves that some people dub a superfood, in the same vein as watercress.

As a cyclist who is going to have to battle the elements over the coming months, I think that I can't have too many superfoods, so anything that will help my immune system, and stop me from getting the dreaded lurgy will be a good thing.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

One day one photo - 17: Herne Hill Cyclo Cross

London League cyclo cross has begun and round 2 took place today at Herne Hill. I was sorry to miss round 1 which was held at Stanmer Park near Brighton as I had other work to complete. Then I wasn't able to compete at Herne Hill (my local venue) as I had to rest up after yesterday's exertions in cold water, so had to take precautionary measures.

Herne Hill feels like a spiritual home of cycling for me. In the past I have spent a lot of time at the velodrome, a lot of people that I have met in cycling were folks I saw at the velodrome, and there are just a lot of good people there.

The last time I raced there was at a cyclo cross race during the summer league. The course was such fun. In fact, I think the course builders should win a prize for the most innovative course in a tight space!

Of course, tight space means technical circuit, and it certainly is! I have learned to go around the 180 degree turns, tight zigzags and the latest "spiral of doom". So in fact, I quite enjoy racing on this course, and it seems the spectators enjoy watching it soon. There is always a great atmosphere when cyclo cross rounds take place at Herne Hill.

That big steep run-up - Photo by John Mullineaux
The one bit of the course that I can't get used to is the really steep run-up, which I end up taking from a standing start, when I am already heaving for breath - that's where the crowds are thickest, just when you are feeling at your worst.

I just have to take the hill, Frank Spencer style with my legs going all over the place, sweat pouring down my face, and dribbling. But hey, that's cyclo cross and it seems like the spectators love it! For me, this part of the course epitomises cyclo cross racing at Herne Hill.

I will definitely be out to do future rounds, hopefully the next one at Herne Hill, and entertain the crowds with my clumsy antics!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

One day one photo - 16: Swimming in the Serpentine

So D-day came! I did my one-mile swim for Swim Serpentine. It was basically one lap of the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, London.
The organisers of this event also do the London Marathon and Ride London, two events which are extremely well organised. And this event was no exception.

There was a dry changing room, a heated wet changing room for after the swim, a bag drop area, and even a hot-tub at the finish line.

Each wave had about 200 people, and they set people off every half hour from 9am until 4.30pm. So that's a lot of swimmers! Once in the water there was enough space to swim without bumping into each other. I was just glad, for once to have people around me when I was swimming. It certainly helped with sighting!

As mentioned in a previous post, I am not a great swimmer. I had swum a mile back in the days when I did triathlons 15 years ago. But in this "modern" era I had only got up to swimming 1200m, and had only done that once. So it was going to be a new discovery for me.

My aim was just to keep a steady pace, stay warm (I wore an extra neoprene vest under my wetsuit, and a neoprene hat under my hat.) Things were fine initially, especially as there were still quite a lot of people behind me.

But, as expected I began to slow down in the last 500m, and the people that I passed at the start of the race overtook me towards the end of the race. In fact, at one point I had to stop and tread water just to have a rest.

A lifeguard in a canoe asked me if I was okay, which I was. I just asked him where the finish line was, so that I could properly distribute how I would use my energy so that I could cross the finish line in a reasonable state.

Hyde Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon is full of people - and even more so when an event is taking place! So there was no shortage of spectators and people taking photos.

So it was important for me to look presentable and not staggering all over the place when I got out of the water. I think I achieved that.

In fact I came out feeling quite motivated, wanting to do another one of these.

Well, I spent enough money on open water swimming gear, so I really should get my money's worth and get out and swim as much as I can, from here on in.

Also, if you do the London Marathon, Ride London 100 and the 2-mile distance of Swim Serpentine you get a special London Classics medal, and you may even get into the Hall of Fame. I have already done Ride London 100 and the London Marathon, so all I need to do is get back and swim 2 miles next year - only 2 miles! I think training of that will have to start now! 

52 - Cycling Voices - 16: Annia Modlinsky

Annia Modlinsky is a fellow club cyclist I met about three years ago when I was based up in Macclesfield and joined Manchester Wheelers cycling club. It's a big club, with a lot of female members and they organise women's rides in different parts of Cheshire. I met Annia while we were on a ride in Tatton Park, a favourite hang-out for the local cyclists in the North West. (I call it a Northern version of London's Richmond Park!)

I was impressed by Annia's determination to get into cycling, as it was quite new to her at that time. She's made lots of progress and is doing some pretty decent times in her time trials.

Annia Modlinksky, aged 42

From: Matanzas, Cuba

Lives: Timperley, near Altrincham, Cheshire

Occupation: Self-employed manicurist (including nail extensions), and pedicurist

I started club cycling four years ago because I wanted to take my cycling to a more competitive level, meet other cyclists, including women and be more involved in the cycling community in the Manchester area.

I am originally from Cuba and was born in a town called Colon, Matanzas province. I have lived in Manchester since 1998 when I came from Cuba with my ex-husband, a Mancunian, whom I met over there.

My childhood was lovely, and my education in Cuba was great. It is not a developed country but I had the basics. Life in Cuba can be as tough or as easy as you make it, and as Cubans we are brought up to believe in ourselves, smile, and be friendly.

I didn’t do any competitive cycling at all when I lived in Cuba, just cycling to get from A to B. Cycling is not such a popular sport, as people are more interested in baseball or basketball. 
At the time when I lived in Cuba, there were no cycling clubs. Perhaps some have formed in the last 15 years, but I don’t know of any. In any case the number of professional cyclists in Cuba is pretty low. Some people are interested in cycling but it is difficult to pursue as an elite sport due to the lack of facilities needed to develop.

In the last couple of years when I have visited Cuba I have been cycling, and it is quite a contrast to cycling in Manchester, as you would expect! I have gotten used to cycling in the cold, rain, and wind in Manchester, whereas in Cuba I have to cope with 70–80% humidity and extreme heat, especially between May and July. For that reason my rides have to start at around 5:30/6:00 am and I get in a one-and-a-half hour bike ride, if staying in the town. Otherwise, I head towards the beach where I can ride for a little longer.

The other difference is that the roads in Cuba are less congested than in Manchester. Even in Havana it is reasonably easy to get around by bike. Car drivers are more cycle friendly than in Manchester, and there is plenty of space on the road for cyclists.

Nowadays I do time trialling. I started doing them last year and enjoyed it so much I decided to focus on that, training for them over the Winter to get me ready for the Spring and Summer events. What I really enjoy about time trialling is reaching a high speed on my bike on the aero bars. It’s a great feeling!  It’s hard, but very rewarding once you finish a race.

In Summer I usually try and do a training ride at least three times a week. My rides are generally short with interval efforts, either on my own or ride with friends.  In Winter I try to keep up with the rides, weather-permitting, but I prefer to use my turbo trainer. The sessions are tough, but all worthwhile to keep me fit for Summer rides and events.

I love the scenery that Cheshire possesses. There are many narrow lanes but they are generally pretty, quiet and full of friendly cyclists.  I can’t really say the same about cars, in terms of being cycling friendly but it is getting better. I have my favourite Cheshire routes and never get bored of riding them again and again. Artists Lane in Alderley Edge and The Brickworks, near Bollington have become addictive to ride! They are tough hills, but not impossible. You always get a good feeling when you reach the end of both.

As a woman riding on my own, I have to be prepared for the encounters that cycling can have. I never leave my saddle bag behind without my essentials: inner tubes, tyre levers, money (small change), mobile phone.  Also, a small air pump, bottles of water, and a few packets of cereal bars. 

Manchester Wheelers, where I am a member, is a great club to belong to and cycle with.  They have cycling events going on all year round to choose from. I have done a few events with them this year and last year, and they were all good fun.

Being a single mum is hard, but I try to be as well-organised as possible. Taking care of my daughter and providing for her is my top priority.
I have just started studying full-time, which makes it even busier for me to find the spare time to ride my bikes. On top of that I run a small part-time business from home, so every single day for me is a challenge. 

My eight-year-old daughter, Lara had learnt to ride a bike by the time she was four. I guess she didn’t have much of choice, having both parents completely devoted to cycling! However, she’s not really into cycling unfortunately.

She has travelled with myself and my ex-husband in the past to watch many cycling events and races, including The Tour of France.  She has been a spectator in many of the events I have taken part in, and even been with me when I was marshalling at the club events.

Being a single mum means that she sometimes has to sit beside my turbo trainer reading a book whilst I do a session, and she has even mentioned that she would like to try the turbo one day. But she has shown no interest in taking part in a race yet. Football seems to be her inclination at the moment.

Having said that, Lara cycles to school, and does off-road leisurely rides. She has even ridden some long distances with her dad. They did a two-day cycling trip to Southport last year, which involved doing about 30 miles a day. At that time she was seven years old, which is fantastic for her age. 

For me, the most important thing is that Lara enjoys practising a sport, no matter what. There are many ways to be competitive and I think she is too young to be pushed towards cycling. I think interest will drive competition and she will only work that out herself. She might one day realise that cycling is more fun than what she thought, and the ambition to practise it at a competitive level might start from there. 

Cycling is my passion. I have met some wonderful people on the way, and they have even taught me to dress up according to the weather, and how to keep fit and healthy! My bikes are always at the ready to sneak in a ride at any time of the day when I get a spare moment. I can’t believe my bikes have taken me to places I only previously dreamed of going to.

Other Cycling Voices

Rebecca Charlton

Ayesha McGowan

Peggy Crome

Gema Fernandez Hernando

Giorgia Bronzini

Tracy Moseley

Geraldine Glowinski

Emily Chappell

Michelle Webster

Grace and Lucy Garner

Hannah Bussey

Carolyn Hewett-Maessen

Caroline Martinez

Niusha Doyom

Maria David

Friday, 15 September 2017

One day one photo - 15: Trafalgar Square

This is a central point on my commute into work, whether I cycle or take the train. On a bike I skirt around the edge of it when I get to the end of Whitehall.

After getting off the train at Charing Cross, I pass through the square, which I find as beautiful as ever, and puts me in an uplifted mood at the start of my day. First thing in the morning there aren't many people around, so it is easy to walk through and you can also appreciate the architects and the statues. Going home in the evening is a little different though. By then, the square has filled up with tourists, and what we've got even more are buskers.

You get the usual person with their guitar playing an Oasis classic, or something by Eric Clapton. Often you get people that are pretty rubbish - people who sing out of tune, others who just shout to get the crowd to gather around and do a silly dance and the tourists cheer and clap, even take photos! (It's amazing how folks people are, and how easily people lap up that stuff, just because they're on holiday!)

However, for once I saw someone who could play, and he looked pretty good - a classical violinist playing pop songs. His rendition of "Clocks" by Coldplay was particularly good, and led to spontaneous applause by tourists and commuters alike.

If only all buskers in Trafalgar Square performed to the same quality as him! I think they should audition buskers before they can perform, just like they do in the London Underground!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

One day one photo - 14: Royal Parks lunchtime bike ride

Working in Central London near the different Royal Parks means that I can usually get out a couple of times a week and do some kind of sporting activity.

I usually run, and I also get my bike out (naturally). I am not quite sure which is the best park to use for this. Years ago when I worked in Westminster I would go around St James's Park, but I stopped going there because the traffic lights and pedestrian crossings meant that you would have to suddenly decelerate after riding a short stretch, and tourists randomly crossing the road along Horse Guards Road made for a high risk situation.

I then found Hyde Park as you could get a good work-out going south to north on the Broadwalk, which is slightly uphill. The stretch along North Carriage Drive is on the road and has no traffic lights. Then the rest of loop has a cycle lane that is part of the Cycle Superhighway network so you could get up a good speed with only minimal stoppages along South Carriage Drive, and just a brief slow-down just before the Broad Walk. That seemed ideal as the stoppages were just right for me to get a quick breather during my laps.

Cycle training in Regent's Park
Unfortunately things have changed there now. In their wisdom Royal Parks have decided to put speed bumps on the Broad Walk, and put a 10mph speed limit. Furthermore, they have made the Broad Walk shared use, basically giving pedestrians carte blanche to wander into the cycle lane! Also, different events going on in Hyde Park mean that cyclists get diverted onto the pavement on North Carriage Drive, so overall you end up sauntering around Hyde Park, and not getting a beneficial work-out. And it does nothing to help my Strava segments either!

So today, I tried out Regent's Park. I know that club cyclists tend to meet up and do a chain gang around the Outer Circle. I didn't do any chain gang, but I just went there and rode fast laps. There's quite a nice atmosphere as a number of other cyclists train on that circuit too, and there are sections where you can get in some hard intervals over a long stretch. However, there are a few traffic lights in rapid succession in the area near Baker Street and Marylebone Road.

The worst thing about this circuit though, is the ride back to the office. On the straight road from Park Crescent to Piccadilly Circus, a stretch of less than a mile, there must easily be 10 sets of traffic lights, making the homeward ride seem interminable. And the traffic fumes can't be great for my lungs either!

I can't really say which Royal Park provides the best cycle circuit, but I think that for the time being I will just alternate between the three Parks. I guess, having traffic lights will be good interval training!