2017 Hill Climb Season

So, it’s been a while… my last blog post was way back at the start of May, when I had just finished the Surrey League 3 day event. In the 6 months since a lot has happened; for one I managed to snap my chainset going up Milland Hill just 10 minutes into the race. I just about made it round the brutal Tour of Sussex. I even managed to bag my first win in the last round of the Surrey League handicap series. But I just missed out on gaining my 2nd cat license for next season, which was a disappointment, but it provides even more motivation for next season!

My 2017 Hill climb season

This has been the thrird year running that I have completed the full hill climb season, which officially beginning 6 weeks from the last Sunday in October. The hill climb season always culminates in the National Hill climb championships, which draws out the finest hill climbing talent year on year, no matter where the event is held. This year the National was staged on Hedley hill in Northumberland,  but before I get to that let’s take a look back at the rest of the hill lcimb season…

Porlock Hill Climb – The one where I crashed

The first open hill climb of the year is always an interesting one because you can never be sure where you are in terms of form. This HC was even more of a question mark for me due to not riding this one before. I was drawn to Porlock Hill mainly because of its length – it’s rare to find a hill that’s longer than a mile in the UK so the fact that Porlock is 4.1 miles long with an average gradient of 5.5% makes it unique.

I did the intelligent thing of crashing on left hairpin bend about a third of the way up the climb, I lost about 20 seconds in the process and struggled to get a rhythm going after that. I ended up finishing 31st out of 120 riders, I’m keen to return next year and get a top 10 in this.

Steyning Bostal – Sussex CA Championships – The one I won

I was keen to return to this event after taking the Junior title in 2015 and 2016. As I am no longer a Junior I was left to battle for the overall crown this year. I was denied bragging rights on the day by Chris Newberry of Redhill CC and Andrew Kirby of University of Bristol, who put in fine rides of 4:07 and 4:08 respectively. I couldn’t be too disappointed with 3rd place though, as my time of 4:26 was a PB for the tough hill and it also meant I took the full title as Sussex HC Champ.

Denbies Duels – The one with the track stands

Denbies Duels awaited on the Sunday, a uniquely formatted hill climb event which has grown on me since I first did it. Denbies is a wine estate just round the corner from the infamous Box Hill, and is a dead end road which is concrete for a good part of it. The views over the vineyard and beyond into Surrey is something to behold.

As the name suggests, to win at Denbies Duels you need to beat your opponent to the top of the hill; however in round one it is the fastest 12 times which progress, so it helps to have a handy rider who you can work with to get through to the next round. I had the good fortune of having a strong ‘partner’ in Round 1, the type of guy you could tell enjoyed setting the pace for 5 hour club runs without asking for any help. So I stuck on his wheel and took him in the sprint. Yes, I wheelsucked him good, and I have no shame! The time was good enough to take 5th place, so in Round 2 I would be seeded against the 11th fastest guy from the first round.

My competition for Round 2 was Daniel Pink from Bigfoot CC. I met Dan a couple of years ago at a hill climb so I was aware of his climbing ability. I therefore made sure I didn’t do anything silly by going for a long one, as I knew I could beat him in the sprint. And so I did!

Round 3 was going to be a different kettle of fish (no offence Dan). I was drawn against Lewis Winfield from VC Londres, who I believe came 4th in last year’s edition. I knew Lewis would not be content dragging me to the line and so began an intense tracking standing competition which seemed to last for a lifetime. I thought I was just going to have him but I edged out in front and so had no choice but to lead the sprint. I opened up hard and early with 200m to go, but Lewis came round my in the final metres. Always a fun event though!

Steyning Bostal & Mill Hill Climbs – The windy one’s

I found myself back at Steyning only one week after the Sussex Champs. I wasn’t super motivated for this to be honest, the weather was pretty bleak all day. I knew it would not be a day for PB’s on Steyning due to a testing headwind on the exposed final of the hill. I recorded a 4:32, so 6 seconds slower than the week before.

We made our way over in the afternoon to Shoreham for the 2nd HC of the day. Mill Hill is more of a tester’s course due to it not being very steep and is a 7-8 minute climb. I will admit to there being a rather pleasant tailwind for this, which is always welcomed! I wanted to go under 8 minutes but I stopped the clock just over that.

David Ross was in good form for this one – he won both events by a comfortable margin. I had settle for 2nd place in both.

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Mill Hill 

York’s Hill – Catford HC – The favourite one

Why is the Catford HC my favourite one? For starters, it claims to be the ‘oldest continuing cycle race in the world’ – basically it has been running a bloody long time, I believe since 1886. There is such a rich history of the event, with a long list of famous winners in the past. The atmosphere on the hill is unrivaled in my opinion, I am yet to ride a hill climb that gives the same buzz as taking on the steepest slopes of Yorks does. It’s the closest you will feel like riding the Tour de France, even if it is just for 2 minutes!

I was very pleased with my run on this one, I managed a 2:07 which was good enough for 10th place. The next aim would be to join the sub 2 minute club next year.

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Dave Hayward Photography – On my way to 10th at the Catford

 

 

Firle Bostal – East Sussex CA Champs – The uncomfortable one

After the Catford it felt like I was gearing up perfectly for the Nationals, typical then that I came down with a cold only a day or two afterwards. This meant I had to hold off on hard training sessions during the week. Unfortunately the cold had not passed for this weekend, and a hill climb is not the best medicine for a cold, but I still turned up! The first 2 minutes went well, but it caught up with me on the final straight and I felt rather embarrassed as I coughed and wheezed my way to the finish in front of everyone. I managed to hold on for 5th place, but some way off Rowan Brackston’s awesome ride to win.

 

Butts Lane – The new one

This is only the second year that Velopace have run this event, but it already promises to be a favourite for many riders and spectators in the future. Velopace seem to have gone the extra mile to make the day stand out, with rows of bunting, a commentator and motivational music playing at various points on the hill. And if there was any more incentive for riding this event Velopace and ESCA teamed up to award an extra £50 to the fastest combined time from both hill climbs. Rowan won this event to add to his victory in the morning race, and obviously take the combined prize as well. I felt a bit more comfortable in this one, although I only took 3 seconds off my time from last year and unable to go sub 4 minutes. Nevertheless I still came 4th, not bad for an ill guy.

Time to rest up for the National!

National Championships – Hedley-on-the-Hill – The big one

I will admit that there were a few curse words used when I found out that the 2017 National was to be held in the North-East. 2015 and 2016 was worse enough with travelling to a fair distance up north, but Hedley-on-the-Hill near Newcastle was another matter. But I have to say – this was a superbly organised event by Ben Lane and GS Metro, the promoting club. The whole club should be very proud about what they have achieved, this National was a step up in atmosphere to previous years. The little things were done right, such as producing rider profiles on the Facebook event, a startsheet which accurately reflected the ability of each rider etc.

It was not an easy course to judge in terms of pacing, as there were a couple of flat sections with some tough ramps thrown in for good measure. I set off hard and fast, as I knew there would be a helping hand with the wind on the final stretch. I got to the half way mark and I believe it was 2:10 or something like that, so I knew I was on for a good time. Pretty soon after I was greeted by the roar of the crowds on the steepest part of the climb, which I needed because by this point I was starting to fade. But I’m nearly there, and it’s the last race of the year so I better make it count. The gradient eases off slightly in the final 300 metres, so I have to find the strength to produce one last sprint for the year. Over the line and fall onto the verge. I finished with a time of 4:35, a long way off of Dan Evans’ storming course record ride of 3:54, but it was a performance I could be proud of nonetheless. It was pleasing to see Joscelin Lowden take the title in the women’s event, it’s fair to say Jos has been smashing it this autumn in the Soouthern hill climbs so it was great to see her take the National jersey. Improving on 2015’s 130th, and 2016’s 81st overall, this year I sneaked into the top 50 to claim 47th place in a field of the country’s best hill climbers and thus achieving one my targets for the season. It was also good enough to take the fastest 18 year old. Next year I would like to get a top 25 in the National, which is to be held in the South for a change!

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Head down, don’t look up

Results can be found here – https://cyclinguphill.com/national-hill-climb-2017-2/

A HUGE thanks goes out to all of the promoting clubs this hill climb season, I can speak on behalf of the riders when I say your efforts are appreciated greatly. From Brighton Mitre’s events of 20 riders, to GS Metro’s event of 240 riders, each race has been awesome to race in. It would also but a lot more dull without the amazing support from all the spectators that turn up and cheer everyone on, so thanks again!

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The crowds providing that extra ounce of motivation

 

 

 

 

Surrey League 3 Day Stage Race

My introduction to stage racing was not a phenomenal one that set the world alight, but neither was it a disaster. Instead it proved to be a great experience even if I couldn’t be very aggressive at the front end of the race.

The course

Stage 1 took place on a course I crashed on back in March, so wasn’t too pleased to be back at the dodgy Dunsfold circuit. For anyone who has ridden/raced this course will know that often it is the pot holes that provide more difficulty than the terrain itself. A pretty flat course overall. And if anyone from the Waverly Borough Council is reading this then please SORT OUT YOUR ROADS!

Stage 2 was held on the testing Barcombe circuit, which was tough and wearing despite there being no major inclines.

Stage 3 was on the newly established Wivelsfield circuit. I was impressed with this mostly flat course that featured virtually no dodgy road surfaces or narrow roads. All of these were ingredients for a fast 3rd stage.

All stages were around 70 miles in length.

The race

Stage 1. The usual ebb and flow in intensity for the first 70 kilometers meant the pace was uncomfortable but not too stressful. The early break that stayed away until that point contained Andy Critchlow (Wyndymilla), Leon Stoneman (Army CRT) and Ian Payne (London Dynamo). Then it got serious and the pace sky-rocketed for the final 3 laps. Fighting to hang on in there, unsure if there would be a split in the bunch or if I’d be dropped. A gap in front of me forms. Shit, just keep going. There you go, nearly back on the wheel. It calmed down ever so slightly on the last lap when it was clear no one was sneaking away. Off the circuit onto the finish and crossed the line 18 seconds back from the days winner; Phillip Glowinski (VCL). An awesome ride from my fellow VC Meudon team mate Ed Bishop meant he took 3rd place.

Stage 2. I felt quite fresh for the first half hour, but the brutal pace for the first 2 hours eventually took its toll, and I was distanced with about 2 laps to go. Having heard what some of the other riders were saying about the stage, the point I was distanced was quite possibly the hardest point of the race. If I could have just held on a bit longer I would have benefited from the drop in pace and would have been able to recover a bit. There was 7 of us who were dispatched at the same time, and we continued to ride through and off to the finish to limit our losses. By the time we crossed the line we had lost about 7 minutes on the bunch. So another brutal day in the saddle.

Stage 3. I woke this morning to heavy legs and a sense of dread at the prospect of another 70 miles at high speed, but contrary to my predictions this turned out to be the ‘easiest’ of the weekend. After a very intense first few laps the bunch settled down and the pace remained as constant as a race can do for quite a while. Inside the last 10 miles it did heat up but nothing too serious. We hit the final left before the sprint for the line and I even had enough left to come round a number of riders to get at least a top half finish. So overall a solid 210 miles and just over 8 hours in the legs this weekend.

So with regards to the overall GC, Ed did an outstanding job to keep the yellow jersey he won on stage 2 and win the race by a single second from Gary Brind (Southdown Bikes – Casco) and a further second from Oliver Richardson (Twickenham CC). Well done to all.

I can only imagine the amount of time, effort and organisation required to put on such an event that without the devotion from Glynn Durrant would be impossible to run. A big thanks to the host clubs: Kingston Wheelers, Addiscombe CC and Sussex Nomads.

Results here – http://www.surreyleague.co.uk/2017/04/28/surrey-league-may-3-day-stage-race-including-resultsgc/

Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/966057354#kudos

Les Ingman National B Road Race 

Ouch that was hard! Ever since stepping off the bike this afternoon I have been in a zombie like state, barely able to think straight and even struggling to put sentences together at times. I gues this is when you know you have given everything you possibly could have!

The course for today was an interesting one. 8 and half laps of a rolling 10 mile circuit (140km total)  added with dodgy road surfaces all the way round, made for a tough race. Seeing as this was my first ever Nat B, I would have been delighted just to have made it round in the bunch. But after the first 50km I knew this was going to be even tougher than I thought, and found myself pedalling for dear life in an attempt to stay in touch. And before long I had been dropped. Not something that has happened to myself for a while now but it’s never a nice feeling when it does happen. At least there were 3 others who had gone out the back as well, and we continued to ride in an attempt to get back on on the undulating descent, but the gap was only growing. The next 2 hours was a lonely ride, helped only by the company of a Spokes BPC Racing guy and the support of my dad at the feed zone. Those bottles and bananas were much appreciated! We rolled in just after the bunch, having been lapped not long before.

So I technically finished, although I was hoping to last a bit longer before going pop. But now I know what’s needed to progress to that level. Happy I persevered and didn’t just drop out as mentally and physically it should help me to become much stronger. There were no more than 30 finishers out of 80 starters which is testament to how hard it was today. Congrats to George Wood of Richardsons-Trek RT who took the win with a two lap solo break. Also a big well done to VCM teammates Dylan, Ed and Michael, with Dylan coming 11th.

Next up is the SL 3 day stage race, which will be another great experience for the legs and mind.

London Dynamo Staple Hill Road Race

Next up in the Surrey League calendar was the 32 mile long road race near Cherstsey on the Staple Hill circuit. The circuit itself was short at only 3 miles in length and included (as the name suggests) a short hill although it never gets very steep. Just before the climb there was a very sharp left hand turn which nearly caught a few people out. 

I was the last rider to roll out of HQ due to my tiny bladder. This meant it wasn’t the perfect start, but nothing to be worried about yet. So I used the first few laps to get a feel for the course while gradually moving up through the bunch. The pace was moderate but nothing serious. Then 30 minutes into the race guys were chomping at the bit and went off the front straight after the left hander. It was strung out all over the place up the climb, and it was now or never to move up to the front. By the top of the climb I took up the front and did a hard pull as I could sense there was a gap. Indeed there was a gap of about 10 seconds back to the bunch, enough for the 10 or so guys I was with to work for the next lap. But there wasn’t enough working together and it wasn’t to be. So we were caught be the bunch. Stalemate for the time being.

Two laps to go and the intensity has increased dramatically. Everyone knows they need to be at the front and this was to cause some sketchy moments. One lap to go and a guy from Paceline tries to go clear, but it’s going down to a bunch sprint. Into the final turn in 5th wheel, but after the turn a swarm of riders came over me and suddenly I found myself trapped and boxed in on the left hand side of the road, nowhere to go. I followed the wheels and moved up some places at the line, which was good enough for 7th place. Or so I thought until the results show I was 9th. It was very close but I’m sure it was 7th. Oh well it’s still the first points of the season! It’s great to finally get the ball rolling, even though I know with better positioning I could have won. 

Why cycling is becoming even more popular in urban cities

In November 2014, the European cyclists federation published a study called ‘Cycling and urban air quality: A study of European Experiences’.

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In the forward, the commissioner of the European Environmental Agency claimed, “There are still major challenges to human health from poor air quality. We are still far from our objective to achieve levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on human health and the environment” (2013).

Relaying the commissioner’s prognosis it is clear that the agency are addressing the issue of air pollution. Yet, how does pollution impact cyclists?

Pollution is problematic to cycling because exercising in pollution is dangerous for anybody’s health. I am a qualified personal trainer. I often take my clients out of the Origym and to an area with clear air away from the industrial sites. It is good to exercise in an environment with clean oxygen because it maximises the effects of your workouts. Still these areas are difficult to come by. This is why cycling is the solution to pollution. Mind the rhyme, it happened intuitively.

This article studies the relationship between cycling and pollution in some of Europe’s cities.  “The ECF (European Cyclist Federation) supports all those who work on the promotion of cycling and strive to achieve better air quality in our cities. This study shows that potential effect of more cycling for cleaner air in our cities” (Dr Bernard Ensink).

This study regards cycling as a systemic way to develop environmental conscious throughout Europe. That is good news for our cyclists and environmentalists alike. Yet, cycling around a city can prove problematic and there are many factors that differ from rural bike ride. I am going to break down the ways in which the use of cycling is condoned as the main source of transportation in European cities. Put on your helmets.

The ECF have tried to increase cycling through two different methods. These two methods are aptly named the push measure and the pull measure. The pull measure aims to directly increase cycling throughout urban areas. The ECF directly encourage the population to change their usual transport modes to cycling. The ECF hopes to produce the amount of cyclists within the city.

They also use the push measure that aims to reduce the demand of other modes of transport. These factors aim to correspond to measures aimed to restrict the use of un-sustainable modes of transport. Motor vehicles such as care are a prime example.  However, they do not direct the population towards the alternative of cycling.

Both of these methodologies vary in practice but they work towards a common cause. They educate people of the dangers of multiplying mitigation within urban cities. They also inform people of the alternatives to transport that would otherwise impacts the ecosystem negatively.

What measures are being taken?

The European Cyclist Agency has a number of measures in place that take advantage of push and pull tactics. These alternatives are even practiced or hypothetical.

One of these alternatives includes the Bicycle Share Scheme. There are over 700 bicycle share programmes in operation around the world. The initial and most successful programme was incorporated in Copenhagen in 1995. This programme was successful because it incorporated advanced information technology. Bike sharing is beneficial because it reduces the pollutants in urban cities because less people are using their cars. In fact, after a bicycle share scheme was implemented in Lyon. France, automobile share was reduced by 7%.

Sociologists have studied the main motivating factors for sharing bikes.  The main reason was the matter of convenience. If a station is closer to a person’s home they are more likely to use the scheme. However, the researches also agreed that cycling is much more dependent on the city itself. Furthermore, some cities with a high population showed a more natural aptitude for cycling than others.

So if you are open to cycling through one of the landmark cities throughout Europe, you should look for a local bike-sharing scheme.

Here is a directory that lists a number of sharing schemes across Europe.

The ECA proposed a number of ways to make cycling safer in urban cities. Many people may not want to cycle due to un-reasonable safety regulations. The ECA devised a plan to regulate the speed of certain areas in European cities.

The intervention of speed management has rejuvenated the amount of cyclers in the city. For example, the implementation of 30km/h zones regulates the speed of drivers, the circulation of traffic and activity on the roads. Several European cities have adopted 30km/h systems. This limits the amount of air pollution because of the decrease in acceleration. Due to this the area is less containment for people partaking in exercise.

Barcelona introduced these 30 km/h zones in 2007 and had seen a 27% drop decline in cycling accidents by 2009. In addition to this, Bristol has included two streets with limits of 20 mph in 2011 and within six months, cycling and pedestrian activity increased by up to 12%.

Due to speed regulations city streets are becoming safer for cyclists. There is less accidents, less pollution and more accessibility.

Cycling and the city

As a regular cycler you may be used to cycling in a variety of environments. However, the city is hardly used by cycling purists because of the high concentration of obstacles and the limited safety that accompanies them.  However, because of environmental awareness, cycling is becoming more accessible for the casual rider. Why not try to switch the rural areas for the urban areas.

 

This article was written by, Christopher Simon from Origym

 

 

 

 

Surrey League London Dynamo Road Race

It has to be said that before today my start to the season has not gone to plan at all. Training couldn’t be going better, having just put a solid two week block in California. But on the racing side of things my results had read 3 race starts and zero finishes, the first two being due to punctures and coming down heavily early on in the Kingston Wheelers RR a week ago. So it’s about time I was due some luck!

Today I was wearing the colours of my 2nd claim club East Grinstead CC, because VC Meudon skin suit was destroyed in the crash. The circuit for the day was the Kitsmead Lane one, 10 laps totalling 48 kilometres. 

A full field of 60 Cat 3/4 riders took  to the start, and the first two laps were run off at a fairly sedate pace with no one keen to try a long one. The intensity increased but I was still comfortable, but not ideally placed in the bunch, so moved up right to the front. I would be thankful for this about 5 minutes later as I hear the sound riders hitting the deck in the exact position where I was prior. A few strong guys went off the front with  3 laps to go but the gap never reached more than 100 metres, so it was clear to expect a bunch sprint. This is what happened and as we took the final sweeping left turn I was well positioned in about 5th wheel, but opened up my sprint way too early. Despite this I was heading for about 8th until two riders collided right in front of me and I was lucky to slam the brakes on just in time to avoid running over a rider on the floor. This was with less than 100 metres to go, which is annoying to be caught up in but I am happy to just finish a race again! 

Next week I am racing a Crit at Lee Valley where I will hopefully pick up my first points of the season.

Race stats

Average speed – 41.4 km/h

Average heart rate – 157 bpm

Max heart rate – 183 bpm

Average cadence – 91 rpm

Normalised power – 248 W

Max power – 1,033 W

Race Report – East London Velo Winter Series #5


Redbridge Cycling Centre (A.K.A Hog Hill) was the setting for my first race of the season. A 2nd and 3rd cat event that was sure to be a good test of the legs and show where the fitness was at. Hog Hill is a circuit that suits me perfectly, as the name suggests there is a hill to climb every 5 minutes roughly. Although it’s not a killer on its own, it does start to bite after doing it repeatedly for an hour of hard racing.

The whistle blows. Then the distinctive sound of cleats being clipped in hurriedly in time for the first sweeping left hander. I’ve started off a bit further back than I would have liked, about 30th out of 40 riders, but not to worry there will be plenty of time to make that up. Focus on moving up through the pack. That’s better. Then BANG. The familiar sound of a puncture has to be one of the most awful things to hear when riding a bike as you know it will force you to a stop. A wave of anger passes over me as all the riders I just passed come straight past me. Surely that’s one of the quickest punctures in bike racing history?! 1 minute and 55 seconds read on the Garmin. I composed myself again and focussed on getting to the top of the track to get a wheel change which was done smoothly. Back into the bunch and now I could calm down a bit.

A fairly routine Crit race with the usual marking out dangerous attacks and following the accelerations and when the board went up to signal 5 laps to go it was clear that this was going to be a bunch finish. 2 laps to go. Holding my position of about 10th wheel. Crest the hill for the penultimate time, move up a few more wheels. I’m heading for the wheel of Isaac Mundy who has been impressive in the series so far, so I figure it’s the best wheel to be on for the finish. Then BANG! Unbelievable. I have punctured AGAIN! And this time it’s in the final lap, so that’s my race over.

After I got over the original frustration of DNFing, I realised that I should be pleased with my performance and how well my legs went yesterday, considering I had only just got back from two weeks of not training at all. And it was considerably faster than any other race I had done at Hog Hill before with an average speed of 39.3km/h (24.6mph). I will be back next week with a vengeance!

Watch out for ice!

It certainly felt like the middle of winter yesterday, when I rolled up to the Swan car park in Forest Row waiting to meet Mikey and Chris. I believe my Garmin read 0 degrees! But it was sunny at least.

A 4.5 hour steady ride was the order of the day with a fair amount of climbing to give something to keep the hands warm. We crawled up Kidds Hill near Hartfield, which is a personal favorite of hill of mine to both ascend and descend. To anyone visiting the Ashdown Forest it is a must do, although the seemingly never ending straight steep part to the top is enough to put many locals off.

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Kidds Hill – not for the fainthearted

A brief descent preceded more climbing into Crowborough, then over to Hailsham via Heathfield. We passed through the historic town of Lewes after 75km, then a long drag up to the cafe stop of the day at Trading Boundaries in Sheffield Park. A brilliant place that’s popular with many locals, the courtyard shopping establishment has plenty of tasty food to offer, especially in the way of something sweet for ravaged cyclists!

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It wasn’t all for me!

Always easier racking up the miles with a couple of friends, and despite the cold it was very enjoyable.

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Calpe Training Camp

When I pictured a week training near Alicante I assumed it would be clear skies and close to 20 degrees everyday, however the weather this week has been a bit hit-and-miss. I can’t complain too much though as  I hear its been close to freezing back home!

It must be said that the whole region is well setup for cyclists, where perfect road surfaces and considerate drivers are as common as potholes and impatient drivers are in the UK. There is a terrain for every rider’s preference. There are plenty of flat and rolling roads along the coast, but head inland and you could find yourself on a decent climb pretty quickly.

It’s certainly a must go place for any cycling fan because you can guarantee you will see the pros out everyday, training on the same roads you are using. I was even lucky enough to go inside the hotel where Astana and Katusha are currently staying and take a look at all the many bikes and equipment the teams have. Astana even had a team branded table football machine!

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Astana bikes

I didn’t do any massively long or hard days in the saddle, just 55-115km everyday to keep the legs moving. That resulted in a weekly total of 476km (300 miles). Now it’s back to the damaged roads, poor weather and angry drivers that I’ve missed so dearly (not!)