What I ate on the Adventure Syndicate North Coats 500

In short A LOT.

At the weekend a group of 7 girls including myself went for the non stop record around the North Coast 500 in the Scottish Highlands. The day before the ride we did an enormous food shop to make sure we had enough fuel to keep up on the road for and pedalling for 36 hours. The amount of food seemed absolutely insane and way more than it would physically be possible to consume. But as we emptied the van on Monday morning having successfully done it there really wasn’t much left over. So i though I would share with everyone out there how much really does need to be going in on a ride like this , just writing it down I feel gob smacked !

Pre ride breakfast a bowl of porridge topped with nuts honey and yoghurt.

An hour in the snacking began in this order…

5 scotch pancakes
2 chicken sandwiches
a handful of Zara’a sweets
2 cherry scones
a mixed seed bar
a banana
a chicken sandwich
a nutella sandwich
a bag of Haribo
half a packet of digestive biscuits
a bidon full of coffee
a mixed seed bar
a few chips
half a litre of almond milk
a breakfast cereal bar
a banna
a bidon full of tomato pasta
the second half a litre of almond milk
an apple
an almond butter sandwich
a box of grapes
a handful of cashew nuts
a bag of wine gums
a hot coffee
a cup of tea chaser
2 chocolate and banana bars
2 shot blocks
a peanut butter and jam wrap
the second half of the pack of digestive biscuits
2 half peanut butter rolls shared with Jenny
a cherry scone
a flapjack
half a cup of coffee
the rest of the packet of shot blocks

A glass of Prosecco !

Each riders food was totally different and you really have to go with what works for you. When I’m cycling my sweet tooth defiantly kicks in. But Zara and Jo went more down the savoury road with salami , a Spanish omelette and baked beans on the menu. Emily put the time in to make some of here food from scratch making sure she had calorie dense snacks including cheese, olive and sun dried tomato flapjacks and bottles of coconut milk . Im not too sure what Ann was eating she was constantly busy being amazingly on it organising the bunch and ferrying snacks to and from the van but I’m sure she had a box of fish and chips mid-ride. Lee was snacking of boiled new potatoes  and cupcakes whilst Rickie’s diet heavily featured hot cross buns which she now never wants to eat again!

It was a full blown weekend of excess, excessive cycling, excessive hours being awake, excessive quantities of food and one mega record!

Follow the Adventure Syndicate HERE .

Hill Climbing – It’s as horrendous as it sounds, so why do people do it ?

Hill climbs are part of British cycling tradition. Held in October at the end of the cycling season often run by cycle clubs offering entrants small cash prizes for the fastest times. It’s a niche event, yet often draws big crowds and of that not only cycling fans. People come and line the climbs with cowbells, trumpets and cheers as they watch the pain in the faces of competitors as they dig deep. With expressions fit for cartoons riders literally trying to stuck in as much air as possible before collapsing in a heap at the top whilst they repay the oxygen debt.

This autumn, Ben and I wanted to experience this tradition first hand, so over the past month have been travelling to hills up and down the country to take part in this unusual event. Below is a run down of our 3 favourites: 

Denbies Duel offers something different. Instead of setting off one at a time, a rider battles it out with another rider in a series of head-to-head duels in the Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking. Over the 1.7km course competitors use the first round to put in their best time, then the knock out round and tactics begin.You race head to head and the first over the line wins and goes through to the next round finishing up in tense head to head finals. You have to decide whether you are best off going hard the whole way up, holding back and surprising your opponent with an attack or waiting till you get up to the top and into the marked sprint zone.

Catford and Bec hill climbs. A Sunday hill climb double header. The hills are 10 miles apart which means many people race one then cycle to do the next one straight after. Catford being the most historic and this year celebrating its 120 year anniversary making it the oldest continuing cycle race in the world. Both climbs are short, at about 0.6km but notoriously steep with gradients averaging around 13% and topping out at 25%. These climbs are renowned for their atmosphere with bunting, commentators entertaining the crowds, coffee and cake making it a great social day out.

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Jackson bridge hosted the traditional end to the domestic racing season, with the RTTC National Hill-Climb Championships.

This year there were 240 riders with racing from 10.30am to 2.30pm going on up the 0.9-mile course. Based near Holmforth in Yorkshire, the course was of varied gradients with an average gradient of 11% but with riders having to deal with steep ramps of up to 20%.

The last time the course was used in the Nationals was in 1994, when Jeff Wright posted a incredible time of 3-49.9, setting a course record that has remained unbeatable.

This hill climb is the one where if you had anything left at the top you would kick yourself. You really have to leave everything on the road. To accommodate this there is a team of catchers at the top so as you cross over the line and the stopwatch is stopped you can literally fall off your bike.

For me competing in the hill climbs has been a totally new experience. I’ve pushed my self before to my limits in long fast road races, dragged myself home for miles completely bonked when training hasn’t quite gone to plan and cycled for days on end until i’ve succumb to sleep in The Transcontinental. However, this is a totally different sensation, pacing yourself so that by the top your have got it bang on and your tank is completely empty. Summiting the climb on Sunday I could taste blood, was gasping for air, couldn’t see straight and had to support my body weight bent double over my bike whilst I pulled myself back together. As I recovered I looked around to see everyone else in similar states some laid by the side of the road whilst others being held up by their mates, with the most recent climbers still in the arms of the catchers.

Ive been amazed by the dedication, sacrifice and drive that all the competitors put in for a race which lasts only a few minuets can be won by under a second. There is no room for error, no slacking , in a race that 100% shows what you’ve got to give.

For more images capturing the brutality of the sport check out Russ Ellis’s photo board.

 

BBC Get Inspired – My Story

Going into my first season of racing as part of a Velosure Starley Primal last winter was a huge challenge. I had a chat with some of the team at the BBC about what had got me into the sport, how I was adjusting to doing structured training and my ambitions. One of my main goals is to help inspire other women to get into sport and find something they are truly passionate about, I hope this article helps in a small way to achieve that Click here to read the feature. 

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Tales from the Tuscany Trail

My friends and I aren’t your stereotypical girls. We do love shopping but mostly for bike kit, hanging out and chatting but about who’s racing where and riding what. We often meet up for coffees but only when its near the end of a ride.

So who are these girls? Rickie Cotter is a 24 hour solo mountain bike racer and one of the top competitors in the world, Lorena Jones is a cycling fanatic who works for Total Women Cycling during the week, then out often for the whole weekend putting down 100’s miles. I am a professional road racer, and compete in the UK and Europe for Velosure Starley Primal.

Rickie and myself met on on one of the biggest single stage races in the world last summer – The Transcontinental. This monster of a race starts in London, crosses the continent and finishes in Istanbul, totally self supported. A very tough challenge. I met Lorena whilst I was training for that event at the start of last summer half way up the Col Du Madeline – one of the giants in the French Alps. It’s always great to meet other girls who share your cycling passion so we just started chatting and got on straight away.

May bank holiday was fast approaching. With a few days off work and everyone making plans my friends and I decided that it was a brilliant opportunity to fit in a weekend of bikepacking…….. Read more here. 

Racing the Gent – Wevelgem

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Racing in the Gent Wevelgem is one of the most exciting opportunities i’ve had in my life. Its one of those bucket list races for cyclists that you would give anything to experience.

Belgium cycling is famed for its cobbles, wind and rain so why would that appeal? Its the rich history behind the spring classics and the tough conditions that make this brutal race a true cycling test. This year the conditions didn’t disappoint, the weather forecast was definitely in line with a spring classic. My teammates and I checked the weather forecast over and over in the lead up to the race hoping for a glimpse of sunshine or for the wind to ease off. But no chance, it was forecast to be 100% chance of rain with winds of up to 60km/h.

We arrived at the race about 3 hours before the start so we had plenty of time to sign on, have some food and warm up. Then we headed to the start line where we stood huddled together with our rain coats on the we threw to the side last minute training to keep warm.

There were a lot of big teams racing, so for us being part of the event was a great opportunity to show how strong we are as riders. Tactically we wanted to stay near the front and work to try and get a top 20 finish. The race started well and everyone was in the mix and putting the hammer down. We did a fast 15km lap out and back throw Ieper (start town) then the cross winds started to take their toll and begun blowing apart the peloton.

One of my teammates had a mechanical and another was knocked off in a wind related crash and dislocated her shoulder. So that left 4. By this point the team was split so everyone had to get their heads down and work for themselves.

When I arrived at the Kemmelberg one of Belgium’s famous cobbled classic climbs it was manic, the narrow cobbled street was packed full of riders many of them off their bikes and running up the wet slippery cobbles. I managed to stay rubber side down and got through on the right hand side of the climb. Once up and over the top I got into a group of about 20 riders and we started riding through a huge exposed section. By this point the winds were howling and so powerful you had to lean into them. It was still raining and hard to see but in the distance amongst the fields you could see a gathering of flashing lights. As we got closer I realised it was rows and rows of parked up tractors, music blaring and strong beers flowing, it was amazing and provided a huge motivational lift at just the right time.

We hit the Kemmelberg for a second time, this time it was slightly less crowded and much easier to ride up. Once we were over the top it felt like the end was almost in sight. We headed back into the wind and as a group took it in turns on the front battling the weather. I glanced at my Garmin when we hit 100km, we had been riding for under 3 hours and the time had flown by, by now i could really feel my legs but had managed to get enough food and water in so was still feeling good on the bike.

We then approached a level crossing and a man waving. No one knew what was going on but quickly we realized a train was approaching and we had to stop. It was really frustrating and when your only keeping yourself warm because your moving as soon as you come to a holt the cold hits you quickly. We waited and waited for what felt like for ever and eventually the train passed and we were back on our way. We were so close to the line now and we upped the pace. Just as I started to feel a sense of relief that  we were heading near to the home straight the race car shot passed us. Everyone screamed in anger, frustration and disappointment, we were so close to the finish when we slipped out of the time limit.

We continued to ride to the line and came in just behind the last finishing group. Despite the disappointment of not getting a finishing place the race was absolutely brilliant and some of the toughest conditions i’ve raced in.

The brutality of Belgians classic cobbles and harsh weather contrasting with the warmth, support and passion of the people is something I will never forget.

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Primal Girls weekend – The Tuscany TT

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Planning a girls holiday often involves sun loungers, some pampering, brightly coloured cocktails and late nights in bars. I have a slightly different view on what a holiday is to me and luckily so do some of my friends. Juliana, Lorena and Rickie are some of the toughest most inspiring female cyclist out there and I am stoked that we have all managed to get a weekend free riding bikes together.

For me a holiday is a chance to break out of normal routine, explore somewhere completely new full of discovery. Where I can challenge myself so that when I return home its with a sense of achievement and a huge grin on my face.

The 4 of us spent quite a bit of time getting very excited looking at routes and bouncing ideas off each other. It was Juliana who suggested The Tuscany trail. It is the first unsupported bike adventure in Italy. Taking inspiration from other ultra endurance events like the tour divide the event attracted 85 participants when it launch last year including some well respected adventure riders. The course is a 630 km point to point route which takes you from the North to the South of Tuscany on a mix of single track, dirt and secondary roads. You choose how far to ride each day, when and if you sleep and when to stop for food.

We are all competitive want to complete the challenge as best we can but still enjoy ourselves and share the experience. Follow our preparation, planning, training and the other fun stuff we get up to HERE  and on our social media : @Gofastergaby @JulianaBuhring @RickieSolo24hr @Lorenita_Jones

The essence of the adventure is you and your bike and taking it back to the simplicity of pedaling.

Many thanks to Primal Europe for supplying kit for this ride !