Sunday, 27 April 2014

Race Report: Cheshire Classic

Natalie takes a look back at today's Cheshire Classic...

I'm writing this on a very small screen on my phone in a very packed van being driven by Clem. You'll have to excuse the typos as I pause to scream at her about her driving. We all have tired legs so tried to rig up a system where Clem would man the steering wheel with her feet up and I would lie at her feet operating the accelerator and brake but decided it was probably safer if I sat by her side and penned this instead :)

Today saw the iconic Cheshire Classic Road Race. Round 2 of the National Series. Lengthened this year to 12 laps of the cliff. 92k of windy yet sunny racing. If you've never seen the cliff it's pretty darn steep and pretty darn sharp. Riders were grinding to a halt left righ and centre. It's great! Organiser Andy Wood has done a fantastic job with the race bringing in phenomenal prize money. With a very strong line up and all that cash up for grabs the pace was bound to be a killer from the start.

Race prep had gone well last night with Lou making use of the restaurant's 2 meals for £10 offer by having both meals to herself. Sigma Sport had kitted us out with some amazing wheels, Mavic Cosmic Carbones, little beauties that they are and a perfect addition to our Cannondale SuperSix, or should I say SuperSexy. I was very glad to have them when the first few laps went off like a rocket. All eyes were on Laura Trott (WiggleHonda) and it looked like her sister Emma (Boels Dolmans) was doing a lot of work on the front for her. A dangeous looking break nipped off the front of Sarah Storey & Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Intertional) and Hannah Walker (Scott Epic) and I was pretty surprised when after a lap they were reeled back in.

Credit: Andy Mitchell
My brain is a bit addled with hard work and one too many MuleBar Cafe Cortado caffeine gels so it's hard to remember exactly what happened when. As Lou has just so eloquently put, you know you're knackered when you're eating a porridge pot made with cold water and using your fingers as a utensil!  She assures me it doesn't taste that bad! It's always going to taste better than an air freshener. That might sound strange but believe it or not yesterday on the way up we overtook a man on the M6 who was eating his Jelly Belly one. Weird. We even had to slow done in the fast lane to make sure that was really what we saw.

Credit: Andy Mitchell

I had a few digs off the front. I wasn't feeling great on the climb so with the fast pace all through the course I used the stretch up the duel carriage way to attack. The draggy gradient into the wind was suiting me much more. With about 3 laps to go when the eventual winner Katie Archibald and break away companion Hayley Jones were already up the road but still within sight I made a big attack and got a reasonable gap and felt like I was gaining on them. I had a Matrix Fitness Vulpine on my wheel who very frustratingly wouldn't come through. We were equidistant between the break and the bunch but without sharing the work there only so much I could do and eventually the bunch brought us back in.

I should mention the moment when I was being swallowed up by the bunch after one of my digs off the front and Penny Rowson kindly gave me a shove to get me back up to speed. This would have been marvellous except she shoved me straight into Alice Barnes' back wheel. A few doddery moments later I and everyone else was thankfully still upright. Molly Weaver exclaiming afterwards 'We're all going down!'

I really enjoyed the race, it was fast, attacking and the riding was good. Sadly I didn't have it when it mattered, the last time over that white line. Race finishes from a bunch is something I am not great at and this season changing that is a priority. I had a great position about 500 metres out from the last corner but found myself there too early. As ever I always learn a lot from a race and Clem was highest finisher from the team placing 13th in a fast, hard race. Bring on Bedford I say. Katie Archibald showed her might as a World Champion. Chapeau to her for being in a fair few breaks. Overheard in the changing room 'That girl is a monster!'

Right, so it looks like my assistance as co driver is needed. We've stopped at the M6 toll booths and Clem is struggling with clutch control. Thanks to her, Lou, Adel and Emily for being such great team mates another race and road trip of flipping hard cycling and lots of smiles and laughs.

Link to results and British Cycling race report here

Natalie xx

Friday, 25 April 2014

Nigel Measom 2-day

On the 19th/20th April, a reduced team of MBG's took part in a new race for the women's calendar... The Nigel Measom 2-day. Clem, Natalie, Adel and Louise took to the start line while Emily was racing a time trial for her University.

The team were able to tie this race in with a nice little team, Easter weekend, staying at Phoebe's house, who really looked them! Pasta cooked to make sure Nat wouldn't go hungry and packed lunch for Emily, we headed off to our races.

Here, Clem looks back on the racing...

The prologue results speak for themselves - I completed the whole 2.7 miles in the small ring! I wasn't going for GC so wanted to save energy for the Stage 1.

Stage 1 
I spent most of my time hiding in the bunch coming near the front when Lou was on the attack to avoid the peloton chasing. It seemed everyone was working towards a sprint finish with pace going very slow at points. We had anticipated this due to the flat profile and nature of the course, so we wanted to practice a lead-out just after the last corner, which was a blind 90 degree bend some 2km before the finish which left the girls time to position themselves near the front. After 7 laps of the 7.4 miles circuit, Nat and Lou managed to get near the front with me close behind before we hit that last corner when things got hectic with teams looking pretty disorganised. This meant we lost contact with the front by the time we came to the 1km mark, but Lou and I managed our way through to regain contact... only to get blocked before the line and I could only manage 10th or 11th.

Nat and Lou enjoying some photo-bombing. Photo: Huw Williams
Stage 2 
This was a similar 7.7 miles circuit but with a few hills of 2-4% gradients so still favouring sprinters but with a block headwind on half the route which was mostly uphill, it was going to be testing. The pace started quite slowly, just like the previous day. With 3 laps to go, I decided to get to the front to push the pace and avoid any breaks but after doing most of the headwind stretch on my own and as I was slowing to let some of the other teams share the work, nobody came through and Alexie Shaw cleverly jumped away with Penny Rowson on her wheel. I tried to follow but after my long effort, I just couldn't, so I retreated to the safety of the bunch for a break. With no team chasing, I got to the front and with the help of one VeloSport rider and one Bonito rider, we eventually closed the break and as I was still near the front, Natalie went for it with impeccable timing! To everyone's surprise, nobody chased her down and after a full lap of fighting the wind on her own, Alexie Shaw bridged to Nat for the final few kilometres.

Nat' break - Photo courtesy of Huw Williams
As Matrix moved to the front to start a late chase, we could see Nat and Alexie in the distance as we drew closer to the line, so I moved nearer to the front in case the break got caught. Luckily, they didn't and despite slipping on the approach to the line, Nat managed a great 2nd place and I finished with the bunch (top 10 I think).

Thanks to the organisers for putting on such a great race and looking forward to our next race, Cheshire Classic.

As always thanks to Sigma Sport, MulebarCannondale, Lazer, Oakley, Wildoo and AnaNichoola!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Lou crashed, but don't ask her how - it is fairly embarrassing :)

Clem x

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Telford Toothpaste

It’s not often I write about things I have to write about for work in a blog, but when I do I think it obviously means it’s made a big impact.
After hearing Cannondale were looking at sponsoring us with bikes at Christmas I’m not gonna lie I was rather excited. I’d ridden and reviewed a Cannondale Synapse (one of their more sportivey models of bikes) last year and after being surprisingly impressed with the bikes 

handling. (I was surprised I like it because it was fitted with a triple…as a racer I don’t think I’d ever ridden a triple ringed road bike before!) I’d recommended it to people on, and off, the record! So when Cannondale confirmed their interest and offered us the opportunity to ride their Supersix Evo Red for the 2014 season I was delighted.
With the weather as it was this winter I’d barely rode my lovely new Cannondale on the road before my race of the season, but whenever I had it had been awesome. Stiff, responsive and light as a feather meant it made me feel (and hopefully go) faster! Despite riding it all week on our team training camp in Spain I still hadn’t really put the Evo Red through its paces. I’d spent a lot of time ensuring my position was right, as we all know tweaks in stem length and saddle height can make all the difference when it comes to performance.
Last weekend I got asked to step in for a colleague and cover a sportive event called the Telford Toothpaste. Not usually my cup of tea I was non-committal at first, however once I heard it was a semi off road event in homage to Paris-Roubaix I couldn’t say no. Right up my street in terms of hard, technical riding and the perfect opportunity to put my still very shiny Cannondale through its paces.
To summarise the Telford Toothpaste would take some time, but basically it was awesome! I barely stopped grinning the entire ride, never knowing what was round the corner made for an interesting and exciting ride to say the least. However when I rocked up lots of riders were on cross bikes, including the organiser, and I was worried the Evo would maybe not be suitable. From cobbles and rutted paths to sand, full on muddy puddles and even a field, it’s fair to say my Evo was tested to the max. The stiffness meant there was no lack of power transfer, even on the bumpiest terrain, yet it still managed to soak up the worst of the vibrations giving a comfortable ride over the multitude of roads. The Mavic Ksyrium Equipe S wheels were seemingly perfect for all the various conditions thrown at them. Being lightweight and robust they rolled smoothly and got me over everything with ease. No punctures, no mechanicals just one very dirty bike and a super smiley Lou!
All in all I’m one very lucky girl. I get to race an amazing bike thanks to Cannondale, Sigma Sport and CSG and go and sample some of the most exciting cycling events out there!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

MBG in America - Louisville Criterium Race Report

Whilst other Mulebar Girl teammates were sipping cocktails by the pool in sunny Andalucia, Spain, for the team’s training camp, Di was busy conquering Half Ironman distance in Texas and I was off to Louisville, near Boulder in Colorado…for work! But who said it had to be all work and no fun?
Considering that I was just back from a week in Nice, France, where I managed to put in some decent hours in the saddle particularly on climbs, I knew I could have a little rest in Colorado and recoverWell, that was before I came across the Louisville Criterium flyer! The race was happening just 3 miles from my hotel and since I was staying over for the weekend, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss…so here I was just the day before my flight, packing my bike once again!
On the morning of my departure, I woke up early to get at least 1 hour of spinning on the rollers before leaving for the airport as my legs needed loosening following the Sunday’s Twickenham CC Dave Peck Memorial Road Race (part of the National Team Series)Travelling across time zones and dealing with jet lag is never easy on the body whether you’re an athlete or not. With a 10 hour flight leaving UK late afternoon on Tuesday and arriving in Denver late evening on the same day, I had to make sure not to sleep too much so I could get a full night sleep once in the U.S.
Despite being based in Louisville, I was only 15 miles away from the beautiful and chilled city of Boulder, located at the foothills of The Rockies and at an altitude of 1500 metres. The surrounding mountains along with its numerous sports facilities make Boulder one of the healthiest cities in the United States and a place that many professional athletes call ‘home’. With 3 long days of back-to-back meetings ahead of me and the most breath-taking views of The Rockies from the office, it was important for both my fitness and sanity that I got to enjoy the outdoors.
Spring weather in Colorado can be very unpredictable as it proved during my visit as the snow fell heavily during the Wednesday night but had already melted by end of the day Thursday under the warm sun. Having crashed on black ice just 2 weeks earlier, I opted for a run to stay safe although the snow didn’t seem to affect the local riders – Colorado is used to snow and by 10am on Thursday morning, snow ploughs had already cleared the roads and with the air being so dry, the snow rarely freezes.  Once the snow cleared and thanks to the long lunch breaks, I managed to fit 2 rides of 1 hour each – every little helps!
The Louisville Criterium was not due to start before late afternoon on Saturday so I decided to join some work colleagues on an easy 2 hour spin in the morning to Boulder and back with some visits of the local attractions: a supercar exhibition and the newly built Valmont Bike Park which will be hosting the U.S. National Cyclocross Championships in January this year followed by a coffee stop at Vic’s CafĂ©. Accompanied by a workcolleague, I got to the race which was held in the middle of a trading estate, on a 0.7 miles rectangular circuit with a 300 yards long 2% climb to the finish. With plenty of time to spare, we decided to watch the supporting races. Aside for the rainbow coloured team kits, criterium races in the United States seem no different to the British ones except for the women’s races being split by categories with separate 4th cat, 3rd cat and Pro/1/2 cat races which makes for much more a level-playing field. The Women’s Pro/1/2 has 15 riders on the start line and having no idea of the teams or riders to watch, I have a quick look for anyone riding with teammates and go straight off the front full gas, downhill, through a few corners and up the gentle slope aided by a tail wind to see who is chasing. With the group forming behind me, watching me in the distance, I ease up and decide to sit in for the rest of the race before a rider in red attacks on the climb! I immediately hear the commentator mentioning her name: “Meredith Miller”, I believe I heard that name somewhere before…so I go after her before the group re-joins again until 5 laps to go where a few attacks go unsuccessfully. On the final lap, two teammates are working together to set up their sprinter so I stay as close as possible to them until the final kick up the climb where I lost touch by two bike lengths with the 3 leaders which included Meredith but managed to catch another rider to come to the line in 4th place. With the altitude and the climb to the finish, I wanted to save my legs and launched my sprint a too late and although I was hoping to win the race, I’m happy to have finished close behind the leaders and to have had the chance not only race but meet the lovely Meredith Miller.
On the Sunday following the race, I was invited on a 4-hour ride by some ultra-fit work colleagues to Lyons and Left Hand Canyon with a stop-over at Amante in Boulder to re-fuel before heading back to Louisville…in pieces!! It was great to be back riding in Boulder after my last visit 2 years ago but also very sad to see the devastation brought by last year’s floods which have left the area destroyed with many mountain passes left inaccessible and many sections of tarmac gone so my thoughts go to all families and businesses who have been affected by the floods.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Team MuleBar Girl – Sigma Sport Training Camp

31/03/14-06/04/14 was Team MuleBar Girl – Sigma Sport’s training camp time. Here is a little bit about what we got up to and how much we enjoyed it!! 

Emily: Until last week I had never ventured away for a warm weather training camp... 

... So I was really looking forward to some sunny Spanish miles with my teammates for Team MuleBar Girl – Sigma Sport’s first warm weather training camp and what an amazing week it was! We all met up at Gibraltar airport ready to start the camp. Despite the early start and long journey we were all smiling and ready to go! Bikes reassembled and kit on, we headed out for our first ride of the camp in the afternoon sun.

We had a really good block of training together, with plenty of headwinds, crosswinds, hills, laughter and by the end of it, several pairs of screaming legs! It’s the first opportunity I have had to spend time with the team away from a race environment, so it was great to get to know everyone better. Many hours in the saddle together and some good banter, we are now ready to hit the 2014 race season hard. I have been educated on sports nutrition by Adel and am now only allowed one biscuit for each hand whilst revising, so let’s hope the hills get easier!

We all owe a huge thank you to Steve at Cycling Espana, Joe our guide, Laila and Havier who were extremely accommodating and excellent hosts. They transported us when and where we wanted, fed us delicious food, gave us excellent routes for our rides and made sure we enjoyed every minute. We would recommend taking a look at Whether you fancy a training camp or just a cycling holiday, you won’t be disappointed. Thank you to MuleBar and Sigma Sport for making it possible for our team to have this opportunity!

Natalie: What an amazing way to spend a week...

Fresh from the Twickenham CC Dave Peck Memorial Road Race we boarded the plane to Gibraltar for our first warm weather team training camp.  Last year we went to Wales, in February and no one except me seemed to like the freezing cold temperatures, relentless steep climbs and ice on the ground.  This year we were Spain bound, to AndalucĂ­a and the fantastic Steve at Cycling Espana with the promise of sunshine and mountains to climb.

Now back at home in the cold I know even more than I did before what an amazing bunch of friends I have in Team MuleBar Girls – Sigma Sport.  There was never a dull moment from the moment we groggily met at Luton airport at 4am. From riding through torrential rain and block headwinds along the interval road of pain to trawling the beachside cafes for the best milkshake (vital recovery of course!).
Warm weather training has always been really important for me to get through the winter and put in some decent miles and team building.  We’re so lucky to have MuleBar and Sigma Sport on board so that the whole team can enjoy the experience and reap the benefits in races to come.  Despite what the photos might suggest we had a solid block of very hard training and my aching legs tell the tale better than I can in words.

Phoebe: MBG Fat camp...

In relative terms I am fairly new to cycling. I have never been on a training camp - I've been on cycling holidays but I was assured this was not the same thing. Our team is dripping in talent, expertise and experience when it comes to racing and training so I jumped at the chance to go away with the rest of the girls. Having had a bit of a break after a full season of cross racing I was going to need a fair bit of preparation if I was going to go away training with some of the best legs in the country. Kindly Nat invited me to Spain in February for a pre-training camp training camp. I worked hard on the bike and in the hospital in the weeks leading up to it and packed my bike with some trepidation - would I be able to keep up? Would I manage all the sessions?

I shouldn't have worried - the girls were fantastic. Yes they ripped my legs off every day, yes we had some horrendous rain and gale force head winds but we cracked on in true MBG style and were rewarded with scorching sunshine, lovely beaches and tasty food. Taking the piss out of each other constantly we made it through living together, riding together and cooking for each other. I would talk about the cycling but I don't want to give away any training secrets other than there was an awful lot of cycling. Other highlights include - Louise suffering some extremely impressive sunburn, which was treated by Nat using cold teabags! Adel turning up with nothing to wear other than a bikini and educating us all on the Adel school of sports nutrition - 2 biscuits per day "1 for each hand". We explained to Emily what the world was like before Internet where we learnt that Nat used to do her homework on a typewriter. Nat enjoyed a great deal of bird watching and managed to complete her RSPB colouring book of birds, whilst waiting for me to catch up. I was so bloody knackered with all the cycling I managed very little else.

Nat went above and beyond to organize a flawless trip with some fantastic cycling but what made it so good was the company, I don't think I have ever worked so hard on the bike and had so much fun.

Lou: Anyone that knows me knows I don't particularly like riding my bike...

Now don't get me wrong I LOVE racing but I struggle with training and just riding. So when it came to going away on a training camp I knew I'd have to bite the bullet and go out riding beforehand. Ridiculous I know but I trained for a training camp!

Luckily Nat had done fab job organizing the camp and our lovely hosts from Cycling Espana greeted us at Gibraltar airport. I've never experienced going away with a cycling company before but I'd totally recommend it. Having Steve and Joe on hand to take us out on any route we desired was awesome. Alongside the riding Steve showed us local sights and took us to all the best restaurants, I mean we all know the importance of good food after a hard days riding.

I grumbled my way through the first few days of riding, but as the week progressed I was having a great time out on the bike. Its a testament to the awesomeness of my teammate that I was loving just riding my bike and even wanted to do extra! Riding through hailstorms and climbing mountains together really made us come together as a team on the bike. The banter and jokes we had off the bike though made going back to the daily grind on Monday that bit harder, it's not often you find a group that are such genuinely nice people and get along so well. I am very lucky to be on such an talented and friendly team that has such supportive sponsors. Without these teammates and sponsors, Sigma Sport and Mule Bars, I would not be loving just riding my bike again and chomping at the bit more than usual to be back racing!

Adel: One week away, feels like the whole world should have changed... 

...but I'm home now and things still look the same" Sand in my shoes - Dido. This pretty much sums up my week... In the early hours of Monday morning I finally crawled into bed with a slightly sunburnt body, a decent weeks training in my legs and sandy feet.  I set the alarm for 6am and smiled as my mind flicked through some pictures of the fabulous week I had just had.

We crammed so much into our training camp that it felt a lifetime spent away. Yes we rode bikes; yes we learnt each other's strengths and weaknesses... (for biscuits) we sunbathed by the pool, took a few trips to the beach, ate ice cream and pizza and had the occasional alcoholic beverage. We also had the relentless strong winds renowned in this region of Southern Spain in our faces and sometimes at our backs but importantly we gelled as Mule Bar Girls Sigma Sport Team, a group of girls who all share a passion for outdoor life, laughter and living.

Our host Steve at Cycling Espana could not have been more accommodating, he welcomed us into his little piece of heaven he calls home. We each wear a little elastic band bracelet full of Spanish luck made by the children of his friend Havier as a momento, even Joe, our fabulous tour guide can be seen sporting one (a hugely masculine one obviously).

It would be wonderful if these trips never ended but if you don't come home, you can't plan another. Now... Bring on the racing season, we are ready for you.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Di wins Ironman Texas 70.3

Texas 70.3 for those that don’t know is an Ironman Triathlon totalling 70.3miles. It consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run. I initially entered Ironman Texas with the idea to do an early season tri too see where I was and possibly look at qualifying for the World Championships in Canada, later in the year. Texas was an unusual choice for me, it was going to be testing in the fact it was fast and flat, normally, I’d go for hilly hard courses where this was a total out and out flat speed course.  Living in Derbyshire, opportunities for perfecting your TT position are not easy, everywhere is a hill. ! I arrived in Texas thinking  ‘OMG I’m never going to do that well, it’s so flat’. However I had a week to prepare, I did short rides, focusing on technique and positioning on the bike and actually felt pretty good.

I’m not sure how many of you know the Ironman protocol but the night before the race you rack your bikes in transition, it was a course that was suited for disc wheels, full TT bikes and Aero helmets and expensive tri accessories. Transition was like a ‘Bling Palace’ of top end TT equipment and bikes. 

So race morning arrived, I was very nervous, so i texted Phoebe for her general get a grip Di and go and kick some arse advice. No one can really explain the atmosphere of an Ironman event until you have been to one, it’s a 5am start and everyone is up putting their kit into transition, pumping up their tyres and generally busy being nervous.  The first part of the race is the swim, where 2000 people are stood there wearing wetsuits, everyone suddenly looks a pro, I was pretty nervous, but with good nerves. The race starts off according the your age group, I started at 7.45, the swim should be where i feel most confident (being a swimmer) but knowing I should be out of the water first always makes me even more nervous. The wait to the start seemed to take forever with 100 plus loud nervous Americans in my age group, I couldn’t wait just to get on with it. It was a deep water start which suits me best. I was first to react to the cannon and we were off. It wasn’t going to be an easy swim, it was super choppy and I had to overtake other age groups that had been set off in the earlier waves and caught up, to be honest it was a bit like the scene from the titanic, loads of weak swimmers laying on their backs for a rest or holding on the bouys, the swim course was super hard even for me and I was a swimmer, so I knew plenty of others would struggle, this obviously played to my advantage, I just ploughed on through the busy water, trying not to batter too many others on route. I came out the swim with no one in my age group around me, so a good start, the swim time was 28mins not all that impressive on paper but for the conditions a good solid start.  

Transition went well no problems and I was out on the bike course, firstly you have to get on at a certain point at the mount line, there was loads of bloody men messing around in the way so, I ran though them, did a top flying cyclocross style mount which I got loads of cheering for and some good MuleBar Girl - Sigma Sport attention. After 10miles on the bike course, the nerves had settled and I was nicely into my pace, the way out was easy, tail wind and fast. I use a power meter to make sure I didn’t over cook it, which was so easy to do on such a flat course. I went out hard but controlled, I knew every second counted, conditions on the bike were not great, foggy and rainy but warm, to be honest the fog and rain was just normal to me, but I don’t think the Americans were quite as used to it as me. I rode well but within myself to the turn around point, from there it was a head wind all the way back to transition, when I reached 15mile to go, a girl overtook me, she was in my age, there was no way I was going let her take over me, in my own head I wanted to be first going into the run, for 2 reasons firstly my running is my weakest discipline and secondly I knew I had a whole team of MuleBar Girls at at the airport in Spain tracking me, I had to be back off the bike first. Previously I have never really had a team that have supported me at triathlon and it was amazing how powerful it was, all I could think of was being back first for them. So as the girl over took me it was game on, we battled it out all the way back, putting attacks in and overtakes, overtaking in triathlon can be quite tactical, drafting rules mean you have to stay 3m apart and only 30sec to do the overtake, I just keep making her work, I knew I had at least 20watt to play around with too, as I’d paced the way out. I still felt fresh. I let her get a way at one point where i took on nutrition, then put an effort into re catch her. I knew fuelling for the run was essential. I crossed the dismount line for the bike slightly in front of her and with a fast transition I was out onto the run course in first position.

The run course was compact it was 3 laps with lots of turnaround points where we could see each other, she quickly over took me, for me this was no surprise as I’m not the fastest runner, rather strong and consistent, so I had to think purely of myself now, I had to run at my pace and let her go, she put at least 40sec into me on the 1st lap but to my surprise I could still see her, so I decided I must keep her in view. On the second lap she wasn’t getting away and I was actually gaining on her, I monitored my mile times and keep them consistent, I managed to get within 15sec of her, so the question was where do I want to go or if? I didn’t want to leave it to the last minute but if I was going for the over take I needed to make it count. So on the 3rd / final lap, I quietly mixed in with the sea of runners she was in, I don’t think she really saw me then at a turn round point I went for it, gained some distances and didn’t look back. This effort did cost me a little as at 11miles it really started to hurt. However there was no way she was going to catch me without a really big effort from her. She didn’t respond and all I had to do was get to the end, I went under the finish line in 4 hours 35. I was first in my age groupers and 20th overall female and 161 overall (including the men and pro athletes) not too bad at all out of 2000 athletes.

This race taught me not to be scared to put yourself in races that you don’t feel are to your strengths, working at your weaknesses are what pays off. I was really happy with my overall performance it was my best run off the bike in a long time. I used my power meter throughout the bike section working around my threshold power and holding what I knew I could hold. When the other girl caught me I knew she would have had to have worked hard so then I went on the attack and made her suffer.

I qualified for the World Championships in Mont Treblonc Canada, however I declined to accept the opportunity because I have other events planned and I can’t  get the time off work and its in the middle of Cyclocross season so decided I’d prefer to represent the team at cyclo-cross and do some more triathlon over the summer within the UK. 

I’m not going to rant about Ironman here because they do provide fantastic events and opportunities but it is very expensive, it’s a rich man sport. I have the backing from an amazing team and sponsors. I have so many people to thank. 

The support from the girls even from a distance, was special, the sponsors we have and the amazing products I have the luxury to use. Thanks, MuleBar, Sigma Sport, Oakley, Lazer, Wildoo, BlueSeventy and Purple Harry. 

Also best thanks to my partner and coach Gary McCaffery, anyone out there needing a triathlon coach all I can say is my results speak for themselves visit for more information.

Right time to get some MTB’ing now with Phoebe, bring on the summer :)

Di xxx

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

How to get down to Race Weight and other Training Advice From the Spanish Mountains

This year is the first year that I can remember that I have had time to plan a full race calendar and try and get some results with focus and goals. I am not sure what my goals are yet as I am not sure where I stand, but I guess they are somewhere along the lines of win some shit, turn up on time with the correct equipment and have some adventures along the way.

My awesome team, MuleBarGirls-SigmaSport are being super supportive of my discipline-of-most-focus, Gravity Enduro, and sent me out to Spain to train for a few days. I flew in with the roadie girls and at the airport we went our separate ways, to rejoin at the weekend.

So there I was, on my own in Gibraltar needing to get to Malaga (yes, I know, wrong airport) and my 27.4KG bike bag and the girlfriend of the guy who runs Roost DH willing to look after me. So Big Up to Sophie, the wild blonde chick who managed to make a trip through "The Boarder" to the bus station feel like a terribly exciting adventure. I resigned to Paddington Bear status as Sophie hailed taxis, bought my ticket and loaded me onto the bus, making sure that the bus driver knew where I was getting off (I didn't) and that Mal would be there at the other side to meet me.

Mal had kindly saved me a late night plate of food, but I was struggling to eat it, a few hours later once I was in bed I realised why. The potato salad I had had in Gib must have poisoned me and I spent the night with my head down the toilet heaving, spewing, snotting, crying, sweating and trembling...gutted that my week had started out like this!! At 4am I passed out just praying that I could ride the next day.

At 7.30am I crawled down to breakfast to say hi to my new friends for the week and to see if I could fuel up for the day ahead. I couldn't eat, but I quickly realised that I had got super lucky with my fellow riders; the Swedish world cup lads, Paul who owns his own BMX shop (cool, huh!) The Staff and Awesome Chick # 2, Seraina, my sistafromanothamista.

I promptly fell asleep in the van on the way to the first trail in the mountains despite the Heavy Metal pouding the insides of the van. When we arrived I wasn't sure what to expect. Everyone else was on DH rigs, whereas I was on my Cannondale Jekyll trail bike. I needn't have worried, the trail was mellow and we had a chilled out ride down it together as a group, stopping to look at tricky sections and to make sure no-one was hitting anything blind. I loved the trail which started pedally, a few berms into a line of hip jumps, a little valley with some "badadadum" rock gardens (the flow of which is apparently the Rhythm of Seraina's life, and a damn good Rhythm to live to IMO) and then a final, fast pedal to the bottom. It was a beautiful 5 minute run at the bottom of which the van would be waiting, music blaring, to take us straight back up.

Sadly, I felt too rough to do more than a few runs of this lovely trail and pulled out early to go back to sleep in the van. Back at Villa Roost I bailed on the Jacuzzi, pool, TV, beers and impromtu dirt jump trip, ignoring all my Fear-Of-Missing-Out impulses and went to bed, knowing that if I rested and got better it would all be there again tomorrow.

The next couple of days were dictated by the weather as it started raining. This was a complete shock to me and something I had not prepared for. My suitcase full of bikini's and hot pants just weren't gonna cut it, so Mal lent me a rain coat. It was this sort of nothing is a bother, totally chilled helpfulness that made Roost such a lovely place to stay. Especially for someone as scatty as me!!

We rode a mix of trails and I hearted the feeling of improving with each repeat run, when your tentativity and precaution gives way to the feeling of flow and playfulness. The scenery was stunning and the mountains were still pretty lush (thanks to the way in which the bark tranfers the water to it's leaves...thanks Tree Geek Andy!) and everyday I did something that scared me being guided through by the super patient and enthusiastic staff.

For me, I only got 4 days of riding in due to logistics, 4 brilliant days (hampered only perhaps by the fact I forgot to turn my shock onto "descend" mode until the last day!) and felt like with a couple more days then my riding, my rhythm, my Badadadum, would have been truly zoned-in. The season is close and thanks to this trip I feel like in a couple of weeks I will be ready to go get stuck in and give it my best.

Of course, it all ended with a party.

With my food poisoning only a faint reminder I was READY to get on it! The night began with Seraina walking into a lamppost and it ended, as all party nights should, with dancing on the tables.

It was now time to head over to see the rest of the Team who had been training hard over near Cadiz. 6 1/2 hours of buses through Spain, which was actually more enjoyable than it sounds and I found them at night making friendship bracelets with a Spanish family on a patio at the end of a dirt track. They all looked pretty tanned and pretty weary so it was clear they had been spending long hours in he saddle. Luckily I joined them on rest day and we did a gentle pedal down to the beach for coffee, ice-cream and a bit of sun-burning. The girls have clearly really bonded and it makes me think that on top of the serious training, the genuine friendship is gonna make them a formidable force on the road this summer!

I am gonna end this blog with some heartfelt thank you's.

Thank you Team MuleBar Girl - SigmaSport for supporting this awesome trip!

Thank you Cannondale for the best bike in the world, I love it like a friend.

Thank you Roost DH for literally offering the best service imaginable, I'm gonna tell everyone how much I salute you!

Thank you Steve from Cycling Espnana for the transfers and helping me join the team for a lil while.

And finally, Thank you Gibraltan potato salad....for getting me down to race weight in 48 hours.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Day 2 at Cycling Espania near Jerez

After waking up late for breakfast (we blamed the time difference) we were presented with yet another fabulous array of food from our hosts at Cycling Espania. Although we sat out it was chilly and the clouds looked a bit ominous. With a 4-5hr day ahead of us we were just hoping the rain held off but true to this part of the world the clouds blew away and the sun was shining in no time.

Very quickly we realised the wind in this region of Spain was going to make training tough and after 2.5hrs pushing into a head wind with a couple of climbs we welcomed the lunch stop. The local lunch speciality seems to be a Spanish omelet sandwich which, I believe, is about as perfect as you can get for a mid-ride meal :-)

The route home was a fast descent followed by around 15miles of flat fast road with a tailwind! Perfect to get out legs moving again. Natalie and Lou headed off to do an extra hour accidentally taking the key to our villa which left Phoebe, Emily and I no choice but to spin down to the beach for chocolate 'recovery' milkshakes and a spot of kite surfer watching in the sun... How traumatic

After spending some time in the pool (ice bath) our awesome host Steve and his lovely girlfriend Layla brought over some home made prawn crackers, spring rolls and Bombay mix which went down beautifully with the delicious chilli expertly made by Lou... Now, to bed!

Introducing Abbie Dentus...

We are super excited to welcome the talented Abbie Dentus as a guest rider to the team for the year. Abbie successfully secured herself a spot on the Olympic Development Programme at the end of 2013 and will be racing with us during the Women's Team Series this year.  Here she writes about her first race with the team...

On Saturday 22nd March I raced my first womens team series event, at hog hill. I got given a great opportunity by team MuleBar - Sigma Spor to guest for them for the women's team series. I was really nervous as this was my first big race as a 2nd cat junior as I wasn't sure how I would do, turns out I really enjoyed the racing and even the hill!

As I am not so good with downhill sections and corners I tried to make up places in the bunch on the hills so that when I slowed down for the corners I would still be in the bunch, otherwise I knew if I was at the back going into the corners I would have a lot of work to do to try and get back up to the front again.

Photo: Dawn Fry

I felt pretty good during the race and attacked a couple of times, however our attacks got brought back again, the first attack that was made was to try and get myself and a couple of riders to bridge across to my teammate up the road to try and help her out as much as possible, however the bunch pulled all of us back in the end.

With 5 laps to go I made sure I was positioning myself near the front and on some good wheels so that I didn't need to panic about getting stuck near the back,y teammates Louise, natalie, Emily and Adel helped me throughout the race and getting me to the front of the bunch. Last lap and I was still feeling pretty good, I was starting to get really nervous now as I wanted to keep my position near the front 3rd-4th wheel so that I wouldn't have to try and make up places on the hill. As it came to the hill the pace started to build up and then that's when the sprint started to happen, still at the front I stayed behind the wheel I was on and starting sprinting up the hill, I could feel my legs really starting to hurt but knew I was nearly at the top and didn't want to lose out on places  now, as we got to the part of the hill where it kicks up again I gave everything I had left for the sprint and got 6th, which I was so pleased with!!

Riding with MuleBar - Sigma Sport helped me get this result as they would always be looking out for me in the bunch and helping me out! They all rode fantasticly and I really appreciate the work they did to help me in the race!

Abbie xxx