Monday, 21 July 2014

Cycling at the Commonwealth Games - what, when, where and who

There are two days to go until the 20th Commonwealth Games open in Glasgow, which means it's almost time for me to begin two solid weeks of making jokes about being inside Chris Hoy. It's also time to work out when and where the cycling is taking place, and most importantly who we should be rooting for. 

Let's start off inside Chris Hoy, where the highlight are -

  • The Men's 400m Team Pursuit - 24th July, from 12:09 (BST) - Wiggo is rumoured to start after Jon Dibben broke his elbow earlier in the month
  • The Women's Scratch Race - 26th July, from 16:21 (BST) - Laura Trott is competing and could possible add a Commonwealth gold to her medal cabinet, which is the only senior championship gold she's missing

And moving outside Chris Hoy and onto the road, when the races are as follows - 
  • Women's Individual Time Trial 31st July, from 10:01 (BST) - keep an eye on New Zealand's  Linda Villumsen, who is a good punt for gold
  • Men's Individual Time Trial - 31st July, from 12:31 (BST) - expect Wiggo action, as he's odds-on favourite at the moment. But also keep an eye on teammate Alex Dowsett who'll be out to impress
  • Women's Road Race - 3rd August, from 08:01 (BST) - tune in for Lizzie Armitstead trying to go one better than her Olympic silver medal
  • Men's Road Race - 3rd August, from 12:01 (BST) - keep an eye on Welshman Geraint Thomas, who is currently whizzing around France with Le Tour, but will still line up for his country

Disclaimer - I'm also fully aware that Mountain Biking will feature at the Commonwealth Games, but let's be honest, I don't have a blooming clue about that. Yes, admittedly, I could have read up on everything and made myself an expert for this one post, but to tell you the truth it doesn't interest me half as much as the road race and the events going on inside Chris Hoy. For more information click here

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Women's Cycling Week - unbeknownst to me, started with a bicycle car

Today I celebrated the start of the UCI's inaugural 'Women's Cycling Week' by trying to parallel park a bicycle car. Except I didn't know it was the 'Women's Cycling Week', henceforth referred to as WCW, because, let's be honest, it's not been that heavily reported at the moment. I would still have been in a bicycle car however, because they are freaking awesome.

Anyway, as mentioned the UCI have decided to launch WCW, in order to get 'more girls and women riding'. It starts today, and runs, well, for a week (until the 27th July, for those of you who aren't so hot on the maths). 

Their press release goes on to mention how they intend to raise the profile of women's cycling, in order to get 'more girls and women riding'.

The press release includes exactly five ways which they will get 'more girls and women riding'.
  • A Ride to Paris. For 25 amateur riders from around the world. The world which contains about 8 billion people and counting. Well, congratulations you've got about 0.000000325% of women riding in that initiative. But let's not dismay, what else does the UCI have up their sleeve?
  • A Ride in Paris. So this is essentially called La Course by Le Tour de France. I wrote a post about it last week, but it's the UCI's response to Marianne Vos (et al) campaigning for a women's version of the Tour de France. So that's another 120 riders on their bikes. The UCI then go all out with...
  • A Film. And I quote, 'that contains content from women’s competitions which will be shown in gyms worldwide'. The gym I used to go to played MTV or Sky News continuously. It didn't make me a) want to make music, or b) report the news. Now I know my reactions may not be typical, but if everyone I knew from the gym suddenly disappeared off to recording studios or the latest war zone, then I'd be more convinced. How will watching this make you want to ride a bike exactly? But don't strain your brain too long on that, the UCI has another cunning plan...
  • A Hashtag. Actually, four to be precise. They are #owntheroad, #ownthetrail, #ownthejumps, #ownthetrack, in case you were wondering. For me though preconceived hashtags and keywords make me want to #ownagun. Trending on Twitter should be something organic, born out of a moment in time, not something born in a boardroom, and thought up by Media Graduates with an elective in Social Media. 
  • And finally, if all this hasn't convinced you to get on your bike then the UCI have one last idea... UCI President Brian Cookson will present medals to La Course by le Tour de France podium finishers. Let's be honest as they are involved in the organisation, isn't this something he should be organising anyway?

This might all sound a little bit scathing, but I know one thing that would instantly raise the profile of women's cycling, showing it to the world as a dynamic sport, subsequently sparking the interested of sports fans around the world, and having to the additional benefit of getting 'girls and women riding'. 

And what is this amazing idea?

Treating women equally and having a dedicated Tour de France for us. 

Everything above is a half-arsed attempt to get around the fact that women aren't equal in professional cycling at the moment. 

“The UCI could force all men’s races to have women’s races, but they’re not interested in it,” said Emma Pooley recently. “They don’t really have a plan to help women’s cycling improve, and I think that’s largely because they’re not particularly interested in it.” 

And that's from one of the most successful female cyclists at the moment. If she's not convinced the UCI's latest idea then I have to say, neither am I. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Friday Feed Zone - a classic homemade sports drink

Welcome to the first Friday Feed Zone. This is going to be a weekly feature on the blog, and over time it'll give you ideas and recipes on homemade sports nutrition. No don't get me wrong, there are a ton of excellent products on the market, but if you want something cheaper and more natural then homemade is definitely the way forward.

To start us off we have a classic - homemade Powerade. Unlike the shop bought stuff, this contains fresh fruit, herbal infusions and a lot less sugar (and it's natural fruit sugar not refined sugar).

Check out the recipe below, and if you've got any of your own recipes you'd like to share then get in touch via the contact form.

Homemade Powerade

Homemade Powerade on the left. 
Slightly darker in colour, but that's due to the lack of artificial colouring

Here's what you need - 
  1. 1 teabag - orange flavour
  2. 1 tsp honey
  3. 400ml water, boiled
  4. 1 pinch rock salt
  5. 2 oranges

Method -

Make a cup of tea with some of the water, and the teabag. Brew as per the instructions on your teabag or to your taste. I personally find the stronger the better, as it will be diluted down later.

Remove the teabag, add a pinch of salt (preferably one with trace elements on potassium and magnesium) and the honey (artisan honey from Walthamstow is not essential, but it is lovely).

Juice the orange, and add to the tea mixture.

Top up with boiled water to make 500ml. Cool and store in the fridge until required. It will keep for approximately 5 days.


The Homemade Powerade contains approximately 60 calories per 500ml. The real stuff weighs in at slightly more at 85 calories per 500ml. What I prefer though is that the homemade version contains natural sugars that occur in honey and fruit juice, whereas the Powerade is packed with high fructose corn syrups which the body will struggle to digest. 

There is a similar level of salts between the two drinks, and the honey (in the homemade version) and the processed sugars (in the original version) contain carbohydrates to give you the energy to finish your ride. 

Homemade Powerade is also great because it is not only good for you, it's good for your wallet and the environment. After making 500ml of Homemade Powerade I have spent approximately 2CHF, and have two halves of an orange and a tea bag to go into the compost. Had I bought a Powerade, I'd have three E-numbers whizzing around my body, with a shed load of artificial sweeteners to boot. And I'd have a wasted sports bottle and a 3CHF shaped dent in my wallet. They both taste really similar, and keep as long in the fridge. So as if you needed anymore encouragement, go and make one...

La Course by Le Tour de France - a day of equality, in three weeks of racing

The women's edition of Le Tour de France hasn't been the most consistent feature in the racing calendar. The inaugural race got under way in 1984, and since then there have only been 23 Tour Cycliste Feminin to date. 

But to be honest some of those races are hardly recognisable when compared with the men's Tour. In 2009 the race consisted of only 4 stages, ridden by 66 riders. To put that in perspective, this year's TdF started with 108 riders heading out for 21 stages of racing. 

But we are in for a treat on the last day of the Tour. Twenty teams of women cyclists will line up for 90 kilometres of fast and furious racing in the inaugural La Course.  

La Course consists of 13 laps around a circuit on the Champs-Élysées. Twenty teams will line up for the event, which will be broadcast in an unprecedented 147 countries. There is even a €22,500 prize money for the winner. This figure, coincidentally, is the same amount given to each stage winner on the Tour de France this year. 

The course of La Course
But who do we have to thank for this amazing opportunity in women's cycling? Well, it's not the chaps who organise the Tour de France, who've been adamant that there isn't a logistical way to run a women's race in conjunction with the men's edition. 

Emma PooleyMarianne Vos, Chrissie Wellington and Kathryn Bertine weren't going to stand for that. And neither were the 97,000 who signed their campaign organised by the women. La Tour Entier was an organisation set up to help push for equality in road-cycling, starting with a race at the Tour de France.

Although sport in general has a long way to go in terms of gender equality, this is one small step to liberté and égalité in cyclisme. And I, for one, will be watching. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

UKIP On Bikes - why not to vote for the racist/homophobic/misogynistic/anti-bike party

UKIP, fronted by the dangerous buffoon Nigel Farage, pretty much hate everyone. I take that personally because I'm a lesbian, in a civil-partnership, with a woman who also happens to be a "foreigner". Oh yeah, and I like bikes too.

But anti-bicycle opinions and policies? Really?! 

In a word, yes. Read the manifesto. 

Now UKIP don't always seem to think out their policies. Their 2010 manifesto read like a drunken toff's wish list, and included the dual clangers of "enforcing a dress code for theatre goers" and "painting trains in traditional colours". But this year they've showed that sustainable, green and healthy methods of transport [read: bicycles] should be subjected to a similar range of ill thought out ideas. 

So here is what the manifesto says...

  • local authorities should be given additional powers to enforce a ‘cyclists dismount’ or ‘no cycling’ regulation where there are safety concerns – such as on busy roundabouts, junctions or bus lanes, or where the road would be too narrowed by cycle lanes and cause unacceptable delays to traffic

  • a simple annual flat rate registration ‘Cycledisc’, stuck to the bicycle frame, to cover damage to cars and others, which are currently unprotected

  • there needs to be a better balance of rights and responsibilities for pedal cyclists... [there is] too much aggressive abuse of red lights, pedestrian crossings and a lack of basic safety and road courtesy

But then it also says...

  • UKIP supports pedal cycles as a healthy means of personal transport 

There is a conflict of interest there, surely? The idea they support cyclists goes against the policies above. 

'Cycledisc' simply won't work, and is uninforcable with current police resources. The police are struggling with bicycle crime, so they aren't going to appreciate the increased workload that comes with stolen 'cyclediscs'. And they will get stolen because there isn't anywhere to put them that's out of the way - it's a bike after all. 

Forcing cyclists to demount or take other routes further marginalises bike riders and further discourage cyclists. And it is, not to mention, unenforceable. If we can't stop the few idiots riding the wrong way up roads and jumping red lights now, what hope do we have of making all riders stop and walk willingly to the start of the next cycle path. 

And final the scape-goating of cyclist as red-light jumping, road-rule ignoring idiots misses the point. The majority of cyclists are law-abiding lane hoggers who are doing their best not to get killed. If you build an infrastructure purely for car users (see above), then you will force people to break the law for safety's sake, out of frustration, and out of the simple want to stick it to the man who clearly doesn't recognise or value that particular individual. 

So stick it to Nigel Farage and his other cronies tomorrow, by not voting for UKIP. And by travelling to the polling station by bike.

If you're still on the fence, watch this...