- Posted by Cycling Weekly
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National cyclo-cross champion Helen Wyman hits the road for markets, vino, winning races and showers with the boys.
Having had a couple of weeks back in Belgium we decided it was long enough and the car seats were beginning to lose the shape of our bums, so this week we are back on another road trip, this time to Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
The event we did on Saturday in Frankfurt is a great race and the organiser is the cutest man you have probably ever met and has one of the most organised well run events outside of the world cups. Every year all of the best riders go and the racing is great.
Three years ago on our first time there me and Gabby were slightly surprised to find that the men and women showered together....at the same time.....in the same showers....naked. A little apprehensive at first, we realised no one was actually playing a practical joke on us and all of the women were in there with the veteran men. Every year it is slightly less strange to us although last year me and Gabs were the only ones in there when a junior boy who had been on doping control appeared, looking even more scared than we had the previous years. As my brother so rightly pointed out to me it has to be more embarrassing for men than women. Poor boy.
This race also has a common theme as Stef usually promises me something in return for a set result. One year when I was second in the World Cup and this race was the next day, I was promised a visit to the Christmas market if I won. I didn't! The next year if I won we got to listen to the Christmas CD the whole three and half hours home. I didn't (Gabby was very grateful on that occasion). Fortunately, this year there were no conditions and our next port of call was Innsbruck with one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe: a million Italians and everything that is Christmas squeezed into a small space, Stefs favourite things.
So after the race we headed towards Italy with an overnight stop at our friends house in Innsbruck and off course the very pretty Christmas market, with amazing smells and pretty little gifts it was as good as I had anticipated. We arrived near Venice in torrential rain with already large puddles covering the fields around the hotel. Ben Berden informed us that the course ‘was' really fast around vineyards with a lot of fields but he didn't hold out much hope for tomorrow!
Italy: call that a shower?
It rained all night and all through the next day and it was wicked - mud everywhere. I tried to get the newest unmuddy lines every lap but after a few laps of riding in the trees I decided I was at no advantage and just take the shortest line. I won by two minutes but more importantly I was given a really lovely looking bottle of Italian Spirmonte (for want of another word, champagne) and a pretty little silver ring. Not wishing to go on about the showers but I'm pretty sure they weren't the official ones that two under-23 boys decided to wash in after the race.
Our next destination was Rimini on the east coast a couple of hours south of Venice, where it was still raining. When we arrived at our hotel room (thankfully it had stopped raining 100km north of here), I went upstairs to find some roses laid out on the bed with a nice silver ring laying next to it. Being quite tired it took me a good five minutes to work out that Stef had just taken my prizes from the race and dumped them on the bed so they didn't get damaged.
Now we are here for three days before we head north again to Switzerland for another race on Sunday. I've already got some bike tour maps and think I might try out the ‘Pantani route' tomorrow, which incorporates his home town, favourite climb and fan club café.
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
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Never mind how far, or how fast, just getting out on your bike at all feels like a major achievement at the moment.
As the wettest November since records began turns into an equally soggy December, we're now all really desperate for a respite from the relentless deluge.
The trick is to be flexible - you have to pick your riding moments. Make hourly visits to Metcheck, in fact make all of your bookmarks weather related, study wind direction and if you see as much as a patch of blue sky jump on your bike and ride like hell.
It works for me. Fortunately I never normally venture out for much more than 90 minutes. So far I've only been caught out a couple of times and even then the heavens didn't open until the latter stages of my ride.
I know I'm tempting fate but my system has worked pretty well up to now. As long as I can get out at least once a week, there's no need to ride the dreaded turbo.
I've never got on with those things, there's nothing more boring than being sat looking at the inside of the garage shutter listening to that relentless humming noise. That's not what cycling is about, it's exercise simply for the sake of exercise and there's absolutely no fun whatsoever in that.
Unfortunately there's no escaping my second least favourite activity. I really will get around to cleaning my bike sometime soon, just not quite yet. I'm waiting for the weather to improve.Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly
- Posted by Simon Richardson
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If you're the type of cyclist who thinks the cycling season is finished once the champagne has been sprayed on the Champs-Elysées then you've probably just missed one of the biggest weekends, spectator wise, on the cycling calendar.
Last Saturday saw a huge day of racing take place just over the channel in Belgium. The afternoon played host to the Koksijde cyclo-cross. Thousands of people crammed on to a tiny piece of land squashed between a military base and a caravan park to watch the best cross riders in the world battle through thick sand and over 45-degree dunes.
It really is an incredibly nondescript scrap of land, but the Belgians' love of cross, and the fact it's about 30 minutes from Calais, mean it's a must destination for any cycling fan.
Not wanting to leave it there, I then drove down to Ghent for an evening at the Ghent Six. With no Brits riding the main event it felt like there was something missing, but it's still a great evening's entertainment.
Some of the six-day events have been struggling of late, but there was standing-room only in Ghent on Saturday. There aren't many days as packed with cycling action as the last weekend in November, so put it in your diaries for next year.
Simon Richardson is deputy editor of Cycling Weekly magazine
- Posted by Emma Silversides
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As promised the blog is back to its original roots- I am back in Belgium and certainly back on the bike!
I have recently read about people doing four and five hours now, in November, so I thought that I wouldn't talk too much about what I am doing on the bike; after four or five hours with a bike the last thing you want to do is read about bike riding! I will say, however, that I certainly have not been doing such long rides.
At the weekend I travelled north and over the border to Schijndel, north east of Eindhoven; thankfully not in my clapped out screeching Corsa but rather with new team mate Ludivine Herion in her brand new VW. We met up with seven others from my new team - Redsun Cycling Team - and enjoyed 80km under clear blue sunny skies along the best bike paths that you will find in Europe, and probably even the world for that matter.
In Holland the bike truly rules and always takes priority over the car. While riding two-abreast the nine of us were, for the best part, only occupying one half of the ‘fiestpad'. Now there's a perfect proposition for you frustrated commuters in England (and America!)
After a 45-minute break at ‘home' I was back on the road travelling towards Deerlijk in possession of two pieces of artwork and an invitation to the ‘supportersfeest' of Stijn Devolder. Most pros will have such an annual event which will cater for between 250 and 400 supporters (in fact Stijn has two because he has so many fans!)
It may seem a rather strange concept to many sports fans that their idol is so easily accessible- €12 rewarded the supporters with a great two course meal and complementary drink. No, Stijn was not out of reach, he was mingling from start to finish without being mobbed or harassed.
I find this behaviour so refreshing to see and experience, that a professional sportsman or woman is treated like any other person. This may not always be the case at an event when crowds fight to reach the edge of the barrier for a glimpse or possible autograph and the media mobs the athletes like children in a sweet shop.
On such occasions I would be interested to know how many of these battling fans are actually Belgians. Thanks to the Stijn himself I was invited onto the stage for an official signing of the two pieces that I had with me. My rapidly improving Vlaams was put to good use as I proceeded to sell prints and chat about both my cycling and art with the supporters.
I have had a few similar experiences now in Belgium with respected cyclists and each time my understanding of the Belgian cycling culture grows. It is an ongoing lesson worth learning about I think.
All offers welcome for a signed painting of Stijn Devolder winning the Ronde Van Vlaanderen! It's my turn to give Ludivine a lift to the next team training so I need sufficient funds to get that fan belt sorted, or maybe even buy a VW.
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
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We're still five weeks away from the start of the new season, but Team Sky have already started ruffling their rivals' feathers. Britain's new super-team have upset Russian-owned Team Katusha over false speculation that they had signed rising Brit star, Ben Swift.
"It's very bad that a team like Sky goes around thinking that they can buy up riders who are under contract," says Katusha manager Andrei Schmil. "Swift will stay in this team for 2010 despite what Team Sky are trying to do."
The same aggressive poaching policy has also caused problems for Garmin-Slipstream who are still managing to hold onto Bradley Wiggins, despite increasing pressure from Sky. Both Swift and Wiggins are contracted to their respective teams until the end of 2010, but that doesn't seem to matter to Sky, who are still desperate to sign as many riders as possible.
Despite having an abundance of cash, Sky still haven't been able to secure an ideal roster. Only a quarter of the 24-rider line-up are Brits, and with the exception of Edvald Boasson Hagen, the remainder are hardly household names.
With the absence of Wiggins, this is a super squad that still lacks a serious GC contender or major British presence.
It looks as though this cash-versus-contracts row is set to continue, but at what future cost to Sky?
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly magazine
- 25 November 09:
- Helen Wyman: No sleep till Bavaria
- 19 November 09:
- Time for a bit of sunshine
- 16 November 09:
- Helen Wyman: Portugal diary
- 10 November 09:
- Johnny Helms: Rest in Peace
- Emma Silversides: the difference between riding and driving