Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Well, this is the last post about our trip to France and it ends with a doozy!  The Col du Glandon, 1,611 meters of climbing, 24 km long, with the last 3 km the equivalent of riding up a wall - good thing there was wind up there too to make it a bit more challenging!

This just may have been the best way to end our trip.  I was feeling good and strong and had some "carrots" along the way.  There was a group of 8 guys who started the climb the same time I did and I chatted to one of them for several minutes, it was great to have a local to answer the questions I had.  There had been quite a bit of animal poop, so I was wondering what kind of wildlife lived in these mountains.  Apparently there were no bears, but lots of fox; though I didn't see any wildlife on our rides.

Four of the group passed me close to the bottom, but I started to catch each one who would tow me up to about 4 bike lengths to his friend, I would take my turn at the front, and proceed to drop each one; was a pretty good confidence builder.  Heading in to Saint-Colomban-des-Villards, roughly the half way mark, I had passed 3 of the 4 riders who had passed me, drafter a mountain biker who was trucking, and been passed by a blue jersey guy with massive legs.  

Going through the town it is a little downhill and I ramped it up, passing the blue jersey guy, but then the pitch picked up again and although it wasn't that steep I felt like I hit a wall.  I have decided that I prefer when climbs are steady ups; it's tough to adjust to big differences in grade.  Needless to say, the blue jersey passed me again and I stayed on his wheel as long as I could until my legs said no more.

The next sections had some switch backs and you could see the riders in front of you, so I became motivated once again to push myself and catch them, and I was feeling really strong - until I hit the 3 km to go point.  It is at this moment where the incline turns red, the road becomes vertical, and there was wind, strong wind.

The nice thing about switch backs though is that you may have the head wind for a bit, but then you turn and have the tail wind, but the top of the Glandon was still tough and the last kilometre felt like it took forever.  But I made it, as you can see in the picture.

After cresting the Glandon it is only 3 more kilometres to the Col de la Croix de Fer where there was a restaurant and Darin was waiting for me.  It feels flat between these 2 summits, but I had nothing left in my legs to push it the extra 3 km and hobbled in.  There happened to be a mountain bike race taking place, so as we ate lunch we watched the mountain bikers push there limits at the top of the mountain.

We stopped for some pictures on the way down and then the fun began.

The descents from these big climbs were a lot of fun, though the cars got in the way as they were slower on the turns and didn't always stay in their lanes.  I would love to come back and descend with closed roads so I could take the fastest way down the mountain.

Here is a video of part of the descent:

What a great trip!  Can't wait to come back next year.  We have a place booked for July 7-14, 2013.  If you're interested in joining us e-mail me at

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Darin was starting to go through big Col withdrawal and presented the idea of going to do the Col de la Madeleine, a 19 km, 1,522 meter, Hors Category climb averaging 8%; not a walk in the park, but not horrifically hard either.  This climb was part of the Tour de France this year, stage 11, a 148 km day that had riders go up the Madeleine and then up the Col de Glandon (which Darin and I did the next day) in 4 hours, 43 minutes, a little faster then us.

It was just over an hour drive to get to La Chambre from Duingt with a stop in Albertville for coffee.  The flags were still flying from when the Tour went through and you could see where the pros had gone, it was pretty neat with the little yellow, green, white and polka dot jerseys hanging above the traffic.

I really enjoyed this climb.  The town of La Chambre was quaint and looked to thrive on tourism brought in by the Tour and cyclists, and we were by no means the only cyclists riding this day.   This whole area is surrounded by mountains, everywhere you look you see peaks, and then there are the ones hiding behind the visible ones.  It is a trick to figure out which one is the one we are climbing, even as you get in to the final kilometres.  What I liked about the Madeleine is that you go through the forested bottom but can see the quick gains in altitude that you accomplish through the trees, there are a few little towns that you go through and can use the public fountain to fill up water bottles, there is a ski village with 6 km to go that provides scenery to look at and then the last 6 km are clear and feel a bit epic.  

I have rarely listened to music while riding over here, but with 3 km to go I plugged in to the soundtrack from Chasing Legends and could picture the pro cyclists and legends who have ridden this climb before me and started to pick up the pace.  With the official top in site and a restaurant and gift shop at the top where Darin hung out while he waited for me, I was motivated to finish strong

Next up, Col de Glandon, a real killer!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Semnoz was our next big goal.  It is rated as an HC climb, which I found out after having climbed it, and is 18 km long, which was long enough for me!  We started once again on the bike path before heading up the hill.  I love that you see everything on this bike path; huge picnic baskets on front racks, beach gear on the bike, dogs being towed in trailers more often the kids, roller bladders, scooters, everything except pedestrians.  In Canada, people don’t even look right or left before crossing a bike path, they just cross and I have come very close to hitting several of them.  Here, pedestrians look right and left in fear, very apprehensive to step on to the asphalt and cross over to the beach or snack bar.  Kids of all ages stay back, and even more impressively, when on a bike they stay to the right and ride in a straight line.  At home I’m nervous to pass kids on bikes as they are unpredictable and have had several close calls, and one crash.  Here, I pass them with no hesitation.  Brilliant.

Back to the climb, here is a video preview.  

I’ve learnt that the views at the bottom of the climbs are beautiful, half way up you start to get some glimpses as to how high you have climbed thinking “wow, I’ve come up a long way pretty quickly.  Can’t believe how small Annecy looks from up here already!”  Three-quarters of the way up your spending less time looking around and more time focused on the pavement ahead, doing the math in your head about the distance that is left and how long it will take you; if another cyclist passes you may or may not try to stay with them, and depending on how steep it is not even care.  I have come up with a good scoring system though.  I get one point for every cyclists that I pass and take away 1 point for every cyclist that passes me.  So far I am doing pretty well by passing almost twice as many riders as those who are passing me, even scored double digits on Alpe d’Huez!

With 3 km to go I’m not even looking around anymore, I’m just trying to finish and on the Semnoz I reached a parking lot thinking “the top has to be close, doesn’t it?!”  But the house above looked to be eons away and unreachable, but I plugged on and before I knew it found Darin waiting for me, of course, and was able to admire the stunning views from the top.  Best climb by far if the reward of a vista is the marker by which to be judged, don’t you think?

Friday, August 3, 2012


Darin was still feeling the effects of his epic week in the mega-mountains, so I rode on my own today, exploring the bike paths.  Went around the lake and up the Col de Bluffy, a 2.5 km climb that isn’t all that steep.  This picture was the view I had for most of the ride leading up to Bluffy.

I had seen on Strava that there was 1 female who had a result and if I could hold over 12 km/hr I could gain the title.  So I pushed it and came out on top with an average of 13.8 km/hr and the Queen of the Mountain Title … which lasted only a few hours.  Shortly after I returned to the hotel and uploaded my data, my new nemesis uploaded her data from a few days earlier.  I’m not used to being anywhere near the top of a leader board on a climb – though I did win a bronze medal at the Alberta Provincial Hill Climbing Championships one year (results of lots of training); but it was nice to have the title for a bit.  What hurt through is that she was 6 seconds faster.  6 SECONDS!   What hurts even more is that she is from Toronto. 

So I came all the way to France to make a mark on a climb only to be beat by another Torontonian.  Am seriously thinking of going back to sprinting, forgetting all this hill climbing business.  If only you didn’t have to ride up the hills to come down them!


We’re currently staying in a small town 10 km outside of Annecy, on Lac Annecy, called Duingt (Doo-en if you are French, Done-gu-nit if you are Darin).  The lake, though glacially fed, is warm and very clean.  Apparently it was too clean at one point and all the fish were dying because they had nothing to eat.

Our hotel is right on the lake and has a beautiful view of the mountains on the other side, as you can see:

There is also a great soaker tube that works well for the recovery of sore muscles

And for doing laundry.  Gotta love the jets!

Our first ride here we went up the Col de Forclaz.  It is an 8 km climb and claims to average around 8%, but with most of the steep pitches being 11-16% they get their average due to the “breaks” of 3% through the towns – so don’t believe the numbers!  

It is a beautiful climb, but there is lots of car traffic as we found out at the top that it is a great place for launching paragliders and parapenters (para-sailing).   There are several companies that offer tandem flights and their vans “fly” up and down the mountain delivering pilots back to the top.

The views of the lake are spectacular though.


I couldn’t resist signing up for a flight and the next day drove back to the top, a much more terrifying feat then climbing on the bike, and launched off the mountain and in to the air with my trusted pilot Christian.   What an amazing experience.  He gave me a quick instruction, “stay vertical” and before I knew it my feet were off the ground and we were looking for thermals to gain more height.  The views were incredible and we were above the birds!  I had asked before we started if we could do turns and tricks; only to be told “not right away, you’ll be sick”.  Fair enough, makes sense.  Before we landed though I was able to take the controls and do some turns, then Christian entertained me with fast turns and some woops leaving my stomach well above my head.  So much fun!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Darin has been in France since July 19th riding with "the boys" on all the major climbs in the Alpes.  I happened to see them in a restaurant having lunch in Le Bourg-d'Oisans at the base of Alpe d'Huez, after a week of climbing epic climbs such as La Galibier, Col de la Croix de Fer, Glandon, Colombiere, and they all looked done, toasted, exhausted, and perfectly content.  They had spent a week riding some of the biggest rideable mountains on the planet, all 20 km or longer and on average 6% incline or greater, and will be going home stronger, more skilled from the technical descents, and thinking of the hills in Ontario as little bumps.

I spent a good chunk of money at the local bike shop on new jerseys and clothing before a pretty Cat 2 climb with Darin back to their hotel where I enjoyed dinner with the guys and enjoyed hearing about their stories from the past week.

The next day I planned to do Alpe d'Huez and after a massive downpour during the night the roads were wet, the air was humid, but the temperature was a comfortable 25 versus the 30+ the guys have been suffering through.  There was a lot of debate in our house about what gearing to use for this trip and in the end Darin decided on a compact with a 12x28 cassette which has perfect for their long and epic rides.  I decided on a standard crank and a 13x29 cassette as the only reason I go up is to come down as fast as I can.  Last year I had used the compact and was running out of gears on the descents, so knowing that I wouldn't be doing the hard climbs day after day like the guys had, I chose to stick with my standard crank.  The following graph shows the inclines for the ascent.

Having not ridden much in the past 3 weeks due to work commitments, I just settled in and rode, enjoying the climb and reading all the messages left from Tour de France fans on the road.  I can only imagine what this mountain would look like full of a million or more spectators.  The view on the mountain is very different then what you see on TV.  The 21 switchbacks are only seen when looking down, and when you're going up you only see what is in front of you and the other cyclists you are trying to catch.  It is a great climb, one that can be done as hard or as easy as you like and I had enough gears.  Thanks to Grant for keeping me company and to Darin who drove support, took pictures, and cheered.

From Alpe d'Huez Darin and I made our way to Annecy by car where we'll be spending the next week.  On the way we drove down the Galibier, a ride the guys had gone up.  It was beautiful, long, and chilly.  We stopped at the top to take the picture below and I can't wait to come back and do this climb on a bike - with a compact.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The summer is flying by!  Can't believe it is almost August.  As the Tour Director for the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure I tend to be MIA come the end of June and beginning of July when it comes to Cycling Centre stuff, but that is all about to change.

I'm on my way to France to meet up with Darin who has been near Grenoble doing all the big climbs that those of us who follow the Tour de France have heard of.  He's been on a boys trip and I'm sure he misses me!

There will be a Cycling Centre trip to France next July 7-14, 2013 and this trip will serve as a bit of a recon trip as well as a vacation.  So check in to this blog regularly for pictures, videos, and updates about what we're up.  If you are interested in joining us next July let me know via e-mail (  There are spaces for 10 people and will post more info about the trip (re: what's included, itinerary, cost) in the next few weeks.

So stay tuned, I'll be posting regularly!

A demain,

Friday, May 25, 2012


Over the past few weeks I've coached several sessions on climbing and descending and have found that we've spent more time on descending skills then ascending skills, and more specifically on how to take the corners and trust ourselves.

Your bike should feel like it is an extension of you.  I was providing some tips to a rider and she said "oh, just like when I'm on a horse"; I love it when there are cross-overs between sports, when you can tap in to something familiar from another activity.  Her comment got me thinking though that our bikes are just like animals, they react to how we're feeling, our body language, and our commands.  If we're nervous or tense, then our bikes respond that way, just like a horse or a dog.  If we're relaxed and comfortable, then again, our bikes are solid and stable.  So this is a long winded way of saying, stay relaxed on your bike, trust your bike, trust yourself, and your machine will be solid and stable.

I believe that everyone should be comfortable riding with no hands, practice it, learn how your bike wants to ride in a straight line, how it reacts to your body movements to turn and weave.  Get used to how it responds to the little signals that you give it, how it really is an extension of you.  Riding with no hands on the handlebars helps provide trust, knowledge, and communication between you and your bike.  Practice on quiet roads with good pavement.  Once you're comfortable with no hands try turning some corners and taking arm warmers on and off, add a few more little skills to help your bike handling abilities.

Doing a descent at speed requires that you are comfortable with your bike and if it is steep enough you will gain more speed by coasting.  Place your feet parallel to the ground with one foot at the 3, the other at the 9 (think of your pedal stroke like a clock, 12 at the top, 6 at the bottom).  Weight your feet, so place all of your body weight on them and feel like you are heavy, pushing in to your feet for stability.  Slide your butt back, way back; it can hang off the end of your saddle.  Hands in your drops to get your body low, elbows in, hands relaxed.  If you hold on to your handlebars too tight then it can result in speed warbles, you want your front wheel to be straight and stable - remember riding no hands and how straight your bike was?  So relax your upper body, shoulders lower then your butt, weight your feet (which are parallel to the ground), look far ahead to anticipate everything that is coming up.  This position should feel strong and stable, much like a football player anticipating a tackle.  Here is a video showing some pros in the tuck position.

Now that you are comfortable going down a straight hill at speed in a good tuck, what do you do when there is a bend or turn?  First tip is to brake before the turn.  You want to start the turn at the speed you are comfortable at, so brake as you head towards the turn, when the turn starts you let off the brakes and go through the turn at speed.  When you start to brake you also want to change your body position, so your inside foot will be up with all of your body weight on your outside foot; really push in to your outside foot.  In order to maintain balance and to make the turn, you will push down with your inside hand.   If you are running and your right leg is going forward, is it your right arm or left arm that goes forward at the same time?  Take some time to think about this, get up and run if you need to, we'll wait .... hopefully you run normal and found that your opposite arm goes forward.  Did you try it the other way, with your right leg and right arm going forward at the same time?  Hard to balance right.  It's the same on the bike.  In order to maximize stability you want your weight on your outside foot and inside hand, body still low for a low centre of gravity.

In the video below, you'll see the rider changing his feet position so that his inside foot is up on all the turns, which is good.  At about the 26 second mark you'll see that he doesn't have weight on his inside hand at first, but then when he does push down with his inside hand (left hand in this case), his bike will lean and carve in to the corner, he gains stability and speed around the bend.  He wavers a bit as he isn't trusting himself completely yet, so when you do start the turns commit to them, stay weighted on your outside foot and inside hand and trust yourself and your bike, commit to the decision.

The next thing to think about is to use your shoulders as your steering wheel.  As your bike is leaning around the turns, your body stays upright and the direction that your shoulders face and where your eyes are looking is where you will be headed.  In the video above you'll see that the rider's shoulders were twisted at certain times so he didn't stay committed to the fastest line around the bends.  Point your shoulders where you want to to, square them off and look where you want to go.  So this leads to the question, what is the fastest way around the turns?

Go in to the corner or bend wide, all the way to the outside of the road.  If you were to stop on the side of the road, you should mentally draw a straight line through the apex of the corner.  Where this line hits the outside of the road is where you start to lean in to the corner, aim for the apex, then continue on the straight line out of the corner nice and wide.  This video shows some visuals:

In the following video, Canadian pro rider Michael Barry talks about descending, and how it really is one of the greatest feelings on a bike.  He also talks about the tuck that they go in to to maximize speed, where they sit on the top tube, but get comfortable with the stable position that we talked about at the start of this post before trying the tricks the pros do.  Have fun on the downs, which are the rewards for the ups, stay upright, stay safe, stay confident, and enjoy.  If you hear a "yippee" being yelled then you know that I'm somewhere nearby enjoying the speed of a descent, I encourage you to do the same!

If you want help working on these skills we'll be doing climbing and descending at our training session on Thursday, May 31 and cornering skills on Thursday, June 7.  To find out more e-mail me at

Monday, April 30, 2012


This Thursday, May 3, Professional Cyclist and Olympic medal hopeful Zach Bell will be in Waterdown, Ontario coaching a clinic on climbing and descending.  From 6-8 pm he'll provide tips and tricks from the pro peloton, learn how to gain speed going up and down.  From 8-9, over dinner, he'll be available to ask any questions about cycling; what it's like ride in the pro peloton with all the big names, how many watts does he put out as one of the best track riders in the world, what advice does he have to increase speed and power ...

There are a few spots left, cost is $100 + HST.  E-mail to register.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Dr. Jeff Weekes from Dynamic Health and Performance  visited our group and had a few tips to offer on recovery, a subject that has been mentioned several times in this blog.  Here are some of the things that he touched on.

Cyclists need to stretch their pecs and work on posture.  A good stretch is to use a foam roller (the denser the material the better).  Lay on your back with the foam roller parallel to your legs so your head and back are supported.  Open up your arms to make a cross, palms up, and feel the stretch in your chest.  The foam roller is also great for stretching out tight legs.

Another good exercise to do is with your back against a wall, head, shoulders, back, and butt touching the wall, feet can be a few inches away from the wall.  Place your arms against the wall with your upper arm parallel to the floor, 90 degree bend in your elbow and hands against the wall with the fingers pointing up.  All of your arm, wrist, hand and fingers should be flat on the wall.  If you can do this part, then raise your arms over your head keeping everything flat on the wall.  This is a great exercise to do throughout the day to stretch out the shoulders, especially for those who work at a desk all day.

We've talked about the importance of stretching and hot/cold showers, which was enforced by Dr. Weekes.  Stretch after warming up the muscles with a foam roller, the stick or rolling pin, or exercise to iron out any kinks and hold each stretch for 20 seconds.

Arnica and Traumeel are natural products to help with recovery and to reduce inflammation.  Aspirin and ibuprofen seek to mask the pain, so use caution, we are often sore for a reason and by eliminating the pain we are able to train harder which can lead to injury or make an injury more severe.

Active recovery is something that I am a big believer in and Dr. Weekes touched on as well.  If you do a hard ride or run in the morning, then go out for a very easy ride, walk, or gentle activity in the afternoon, and/or the next day.  Activity helps the blood pump through our bodies which is what eliminates the toxins, including lactic acid which is what makes our muscles sore.

The most important thing is to know your body, when something feels off, uncomfortable, wonky, or painful, then deal with it immediately.  It might be that you need to take a day off, stretch more, hydrate, take a supplement, or see a therapist (massage, osteopath, physic, chiropractic).  Think of your body like a car, keep it tuned up and well cared for and it will keep on riding smoothly, pun intended.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


On Thursday, May 3, professional cyclist, two time World medalist, and Olympic medal hopeful Zach Bell will be hosting a session on how to climb and descend like a professional rider.   Geared towards cyclists  planning a trip to the big mountains in Europe, an upcoming Centurion event, or riders looking for tips to become the strongest in their riding groups, this clinic will help cyclists of all abilities gain more confidence on their bikes.

Zach Bell races for the professional road team Spidertech, recently won Silver at the Track Cycling World Championships, is a favourite for a medal at the London Olympics, and has raced in the pro peloton all over the world.  His full bio can be read here:

Starting at 6 pm in Waterdown, Ontario, 2 hours will be spent on the bike with instruction and feedback, learning the tricks of the trade and gaining insight to becoming a better cyclist.  Learn how to change gears efficiently, correct body position, how to get the most benefit from standing, how to descend at speed, technique in taking corners at speed, and much more.

From 8-9 we will be off the bike enjoying tasty snacks and have the opportunity to ask Zach questions about what it's like to be a professional bike racer riding alongside the biggest names in the sport - Cavendish, Leipheimer, Schleck, Voigt.  What does it take to be ranked as the best track cyclist in the world like he was in 2011?  Looking for answers on how to stay with faster riders, when to attack a group, how to train to increase power thresholds, how to recover from a fall or a hard training day; Zach can answer those questions too!

The cost is $100+HST and will help support one of our favourite Olympic athletes.  The group size will be limited and people can register by e-mailing

Monday, April 23, 2012

With the Cycling Centre winter training program coming to an end, and with riders going outside and testing their new and improved cycling selves, I've been hearing a lot of good things about the results from the training that all the athletes have put in.

Some are riding away from their cycling friends, not on purpose, they're just faster. Keeping up with the fast guys in their group and being able to react to attacks.  Riding at a higher cadence and not tiring out as quickly.  Having energy and feeling great after a long week-end ride.  Averaging a higher speed on the same route ridden last summer.  Feeling stronger on the hills, changing gears more efficiently, being more confident.  I've heard lots of other positive comments too, but thought you would enjoy Veronica's poem which is shared below.

Thank you to everyone who joined us this year, even on the days when you didn't want to be there.  It is your energy, company, and enthusiasm that make the program what it is; a fun atmosphere with encouraging peers, and a positive environment that results in everyone pushing each other to try new things, push a little harder, and reward improvements.  Well done everyone and I look forward to riding with you out on the road!

Ode to Petrina – a Cycling Coach Extraordinaire

Early last September I wrote out my cheque,
I wasn’t sure why…but oh what the heck!
Little did I know what challenges lay ahead,
Some days I would think “should I just stay in bed?”

But with a fuzzy goal in mind I endured each saddle sore,
Soon I was enthusiastically crawling back for more.
I kept up with running, weights & yoga,
By 8pm most nights I was sound asleep on the sofa.

She explained our 1st time trial with her dimpled smile,
Oblivious to our suffering, was she in denial?
We were shown “the bucket” in case we should puke,
Just the thought of such atrocities was enough to spook!

As our training progressed, we looked forward to recovery week,
The next cycling technique we got ready to tweak.
With orders of “knees in” & “one gear harder”,
Petrina guided our training with focus & ardour.

“90 @100” was code for “bust your ass”,
My goal was not to be at the bottom of the class.
We played games, won stickers & enjoyed many a treat,
Six months of intense training was easier to complete.

From the energy bar challenge we learned about nutrition,
With snacks on the line, there was no class attrition.
The post Oscar party we were George Clooney & Meryl Streep,
Never a dull moment in class, we followed like sheep.

As I pack in my trainer & pause to reflect,
To our amazing coach Petrina, I have an abundance of respect.
I’m now looking forward to the outdoor season,
Why I wrote my cheque last fall, I now know the reason!

With thanks for 6 months of coaching & fun!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


The last few weeks of the Cycling Centre this year are full of reminders about what we've learned inside to apply to riding outside.  The workouts haven't been as hard as I think of this time of year as a transition phase to prepare for the summer season, which brings me back to a question I get asked quite a bit, why do we work so hard in the winter months?

A lot of cycling literature emphasizes the importance of base training and long easy miles over the winter months; however, I believe that winter is the time to focus on improving weaknesses, technique, and thresholds.  If we continue to do the same thing all the time then our bodies get used to doing the same thing, at the same speed, same cadence, so we begin the summer season where we left it in September with little improvements.

I'm not saying I don't believe in base miles, in fact, I'm a big believer in the benefits of riding long easy miles; however, I do believe that it should be combined with intensity; and when people are short on time due to jobs, family, and social lives, then intensity becomes more important.

The benefit to base miles, or long slow easy rides, is that we can ride at that pace forever, it builds endurance and stamina, and trains the body to use fat stores as fuel.  It is a good place to be for people trying to lose weight, but if you want to improve on the speed that you climb at, or challenge a group sprint, or to improve your heart rate and power thresholds, or any other number of improvements, then you have to increase the intensity.  The caveat is that in doing hard efforts, whether it's winter or summer, you risk over training and injury; this is where the Cycling Centre program is a benefit.

We started the season in November, so theoretically, everyone had finished their summer season and had taken the month of October off, or at least done other activities and easier rides, base miles if you will.  So when we started in November, people where ready to get back on their bikes, excited to meet new people, and to go back to basics.  The focus was on technique, smooth pedal strokes, equal pressure on the pedals the whole way around, angle of the feet, relaxed shoulders and arms, and riding at higher cadences.  Lesson to apply to outside:  pedal in circles with equal pressure on the pedals for the whole pedal stroke.

In December, we worked on increasing strength to build a base for what we would work on after Christmas.  Big gears, low cadence, low heart rates, but building big muscles was the focus of this phase.  I find that this is how most people like to ride when they start the Cycling Centre program.  By pushing big gears they feel like they are working harder and believe that means they are going faster; so although they are happy to be done with the high cadence we worked on in November, they do start to realize that their legs don't get as tired in the higher cadence and their speed is the same.  During the month of December we also work on a power position, so the lesson to apply outside is: when looking for more power push your butt back in the saddle,  arch your back a bit and lower your body for a strong and stable position, elbows in, and lower your heels to push forward with all of your foot.  Should feel like you're doing a leg press and showing your front quick release the sole of your shoes.

After a good break at Christmas time we come back and work on increasing the aerobic base and finding each rider's optimal cadence.  Heart rates go up and legs feel smooth and strong.  Then we add in even harder efforts with less recovery.  This is when I start to see the actual heart rates that can be sustained by each rider as they don't hold back as much, they gain confidence in their abilities.  They also learn what their 30 min sustainable heart rates are and the cyclists are surprised that they can hold high numbers longer then they thought they could.  Lesson to be applied to outdoor riding: hold a higher cadence, keep a smooth rhythm, and know what heart rate you can sustain.

Moving in to March we worked on anaerobic capacity and lactate tolerance, this was the toughest phase.  The workouts were hard, the rest was sometimes minimal, legs and lungs burned and just when riders thought they were done and the tanks were empty, I'd ask for more; and despite the looks of death, sneers, grunts, and 4 letter words, every athlete dug deep and surprised themselves with what they were capable of.  Lesson to be learned:  "I know how to suffer!" 

Which brings us in to the last month of the program, the month of April.  As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I believe in working hard in the winter to see maximal improvements come spring, but I would also like to emphasize that the last 6 months have consisted of building blocks to minimize injuries and maximize ability, as well as having recovery weeks to give the body time to heal and build itself up stronger.  Riders should be feeling confident and strong as they start to head outside to ride with their clubs and friends, which is why April has been a transition month, not too hard, a few weeks of "base miles", and reminders, tips, and Q&A about riding outside whether it's a group ride, race, or simply riding faster on your own.  Lesson learned:  apply what you learned inside when you are outside!

So what's next?  Over the next 4-5 months, most riders will meet their groups for rides where they will ride hard and fast, at their limits, pushing themselves to be the fastest.  I would like to remind everyone that rest and recovery are still very important and to remember to take an easy week every 3 or 4 weeks.  Active recovery rides are also important, which will be touched on in a later blog post.  It is common for riders to feel burnt out come the end of July or beginning of August because they do the same rides every week with the same groups and forget to take some time off to recovery, regenerate, rejuvenate, and help the body build itself up stronger.

Have a great Spring, ride smart, ride efficiently, conserve energy as much as you can, remember the importance of recovery, and kick some butt!

Monday, April 9, 2012


After our energy bar tournament we seemed to have been going through some withdrawal, but luckily Wesley from KronoBar heard about our challenge and provided us with samples.  We had the cherry coconut (which everyone seemed to enjoy), the choco-banana, and the apricot cranberry which was quite tasty.

The pros were that they are not overly sweet, like many other bars.  Since they are sweetened with apple juice, they could be eaten for longer periods of time without upsetting stomachs, or simply getting tired of the sweetness as tends to happen on long rides and events such as Ironman.

The texture was hit or miss with our group.  It is a fruit bar, so it is not crumbly, which means it is easier to eat on the go then a cookie or crunchy granola bar.  Those that liked it were ready to purchase more and one athlete claimed it was the best bar she'd ever had.

KronoBars are just starting to come in to Ontario.  They are a Canadian Product made with natural ingredients and can be purchased on-line.  I encourage you to try them and see what you think.

We have also had other goodies brought in to our class, including blueberry muffins and marathon cookies, both were very good.  By popular request, here is the recipe for marathon cookies:

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup all natural crunchy or smooth peanut butter
1 cup honey or maple syrup
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup millet
1/4 cup flax seed
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup TVP (textured vegetable (soya) protein)
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup chocolate chips
** 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts (or dried cherries, almonds, apricots, pecans, coconut, walnuts, or any combination of these)

Cream together canola oil, peanut butter, and honey.  Add eggs, vanilla, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt , and baking soda.  Mix well and add rolled oats, millet, flax seed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, TVP, wheat germ, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and peanuts.

Drop rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350-370 F for 12-15 minutes depending on how chewy/crispy you like them.  Yields approximately 4-5 dozen cookies.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


What a great week of "racing" at the Cycling Centre this week!    With the Track Cycling World Championships taking place April 4-8 in Melbourne, Australia I thought it would be fun to show our support by doing some racing inside at the Cycling Centre.  The goal was to have fun, but to also perform with some race nerves and start to get our competitive spirits fired up as we head in to race season, and to learn more about track cycling; especially with a world class velodrome being built just up the street from where we are now.

Canada has a shot at two medals at the London Olympics in the Omnium with 2 time World Champion Tara Whitten (pictured) and Zach Bell who won bronze at the test event in February.  We started off our week by also doing an Omnium of sorts, though instead of taking 2 days we raced all 6 events in 2 hours.  Winners were picked by who put their hands in the air first when the time was up and points were awarded based on finish results, just like the real deal!

There were 3 different groups who participated in the races and it was exciting to see how the competitiveness of the riders came out as they realized they were in the hunt for a medal.  The end results were all pretty close with the final time trial being the deciding factor in results - just like the pros!  We started with a flying lap (2 min of gradually building up speed with 13 seconds, or 250 meters, all out), then the points race (6 min with sprints every 2 min), elimination race (last one to put up their hands had to stop pedalling), individual pursuit (3:31 or 3 km at 95% effort for the women and 4:24 or 4 km for the men), scratch race (5 min effort), and finally the time trial (500 meters for the women or 34 sec. and a kilo or 1:03 for the men).  There was some smack talk, sportsmanship, cheering, focused looks of determination, and even some smiles.

Later in the week we did a sprint tournament, so much fun!  I think this might be my favourite workout of the whole season!

We drew cards to decide who would race against each other in the first rounds, the red card leading and the black following.  The rules were, the black card had to match the leg speed of the red card until the sprint was initiated.  Either rider could initiate the sprint.  Once the sprint was started, riders had to keep going all the way to the finish line.  The race was  2 min long and the sprint could go from the line for a maximum of 2 min (though no one tried this tactic), and had to be at least 10 sec. long.   Everyone got in to the competition, determined to advance to the next round and a chance at a medal, and the races were close.  Believe almost everyone posted personal bests for high cadence!

The winners were chosen by their peers based on who held their leg speed from beginning to end, if someone surprised their opponent with their jump, who had a better race face, and when we couldn't decide and had to go to a "photo finish" the riders played rock, paper, scissors to determine the winner.

There were some clever tactics, pairings trying to distract their competitors with cleavage and funky hair, taking advantage of a glance away, as well as great commentary and encouragement by those who were in between races.  Everyone did so well that they were all rewarded with stickers.  Can't wait until next year!

In the meantime, here is a video of Paul and Dale racing for the Bronze medal!

Monday, March 26, 2012


I recently purchased a new Contour camera and have been playing around with it - apparently I'm not the swiftest at figuring which lights mean it's recording and remembering to stop recording during the boring bits, but I did catch some of our ride on tape (oops, showing my age) this past week-end.

We warmed-up and cooled down as a group and then did some 500 meter sprints on a 2.5 km loop, so there was a nice long rest in between where some people remembered to change in to an easier gear and pedal over 94 rpm (stickers will be awarded!), and some reverted back to old habits, but I'm sure you'll be picking up the pace after a few more rides with me reminding you to "pick it up".

This was the first outdoor ride for many this season and it reminded us that riding on a trainer is very different then riding outside.  Although the power and the pedalling technique, and the gains in aerobic endurance transfer over, the feeling of the wind, the rough pavement, the hills, the ability to rock the bike, are all things we need to get used to again.

Although many reverted back to old habits, it didn't take long to incorporate what you've learned this winter on to the road and the sprints that we've been doing inside with all the gear changing were a warm up to what we did outside.

So here are the key points:
* Keep your cadence over 94 - or aim for 100 rpm - when conserving energy
* Listen to your legs as to when you should change gears, when it gets too hard - shift, when it gets to easy - shift.  By listening to your legs, rather then anticipating what the road ahead will be like (i.e.: you see a hill and shift immediately in to your easiest gear losing all your speed), you will be more efficient and your momentum will continue to move you forward.
* When producing maximum power slide your bum back in the saddle, arch your back a bit, hands in the drops, elbows in, body low, and push forward with your feet.  There was a great shot from Ghent-Wevelgem this past week-end of a rider going up one of the 17% grade hills and from the front I could see the entire sole of his shoe as he "pushed" forward with his feet looking to power over the hill.  So flatten out the feet, heels down, and push forward rather then down.

So without further ado, here is the video I made from our ride this past week-end.  I promise the shooting and editing can only get better!


A calendar has been created so that you can stay up to date on everything that is happening with the Cycling Centre - want to know if we are inside or out, where we are meeting, what kinds of fun and games we are going to have inside? Check the calendar. Here is the link, be sure to bookmark it and check in regularly.


A calendar has been created so that you can stay up to date on everything that is happening with the Cycling Centre - want to know if we are inside or out, where we are meeting, what kinds of fun and games we are going to have inside? Check the calendar. Here is the link, be sure to bookmark it and check in regularly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

AND THE SUN IS SHINING, AND THE WIND IS WARM - unless it's the first outdoor Cycling Centre ride!

The last few weeks have been truly fabulous in terms of weather, although the mornings have been really foggy.  Cyclists get itchy and can't seem to sit still when the spring weather arrives, so we have no choice but to move the Cycling Centre Sessions outside; at least on the week-ends when it's not pitch black out.

Last week-end we had a foggy and wet ride, after a week of beautiful sun, and thought I'd provide some pointers on how to prepare your bike and body for riding in these conditions.

Always make sure your bike is in good condition.  Keep it clean and lubed, check that all the bolts are tight (handlebars, seat posts, bottle cages), wiggle your cranks and wheels from side to side to make sure there is no play in the bottom bracket or hub.  Have I lost you on the naming of the parts? There is a great picture of a bike that names all the parts of a bicycle and can be found here.  Make sure you have stuff to fix a flat as well (spare tube, pump or CO2, tire levers) and money in case you pass a bakery that is too hard to resist stopping in to.

Drawing by Rainbow Boys

Also check your tires and make sure that they are in good condition.   If you have been riding an indoor trainer tire then be sure to take it off before hitting the pavement.  Look for holes, wear in the side walls, if you've been riding your tire on a trainer or if it is older it might also have flattened out (if you're not sure what I mean compare it to the front one, they should look the same). Generally I wait until the roads have been swept to put on new tires as the gravel can do damage and there may be some days where I hop back on the trainer as we all know that snow will come once more!

Correct air pressure is the next step.  The more air you have in your tires the rougher the ride.  So if you are on nice dry, new roads then you can pump them up as high as you like, though that doesn't mean you will be faster.  If you are riding on rough roads, gritty roads, or wet roads start at 90 psi.  By taking some of the air out you will increase your surface contact with the rubber and the road for more stability and will provide more "give" for comfort.  Your tires will "grip" more in the rain and around corners at a lower psi, though make sure you stay above the minimum recommended pressure for your tires.  The maximum and minimum tire pressures will be printed on your tires.

So last Saturday we were out in 5 degrees Celsius, fog, and some wet - what should we wear?  Those in shorts and no gloves learned the hard way that they needed more clothing.  So here is what I recommend:

  • 0-6 degrees:
    • hat, jersey and arm warmers (and/or good undershirt), wind jacket, long finger gloves with some warmth.  If you tend to be cold then you might want a more thermal under layer, but if the temperature is going to warm up be prepared to take off your jacket, which is why a jersey with pockets underneath is handy as your jacket can be stuffed in to your pocket.
    • shorts and knee warmers, or knickers, or tights.  Keep your knees covered when it's under 15 degrees!!
    • warm socks that are thin enough you can still wiggle your toes, toe covers or booties over your shoes
    • helmet and glasses - though if it's raining or grey put in bright lenses - yellow, orange, pink, clear.
  • 6-15 degrees:
    • same as above though you may not need the hat, be prepared to take off the jacket, and you may not need the booties.  I would still do long finger gloves, but they don't need to be thermal or wintery.
That should help get you started for spring riding. The next post will focus on bike handling and reminders that we tend to be rusty our first few rides outside.

See you on the road.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Rest has been mentioned several times in this blog as being an important part of training and one that is often overlooked.  Scheduled rest and recovery weeks at the Cycling Centre are one of the elements that make this program very different then a spin class and every 4 weeks we have a recovery week.  I am a big believer in active recovery; however, when a recovery week rolls around I find I am tested with ways to make riding easy fun and enjoyable - especially when working with athletes who like to go hard all the time.  In fact, I find myself telling athletes to easy more often then go hard!

This past recovery week happened after the Oscar Awards so the next day we had a fun "after Oscar Party".  I'm not about to say that it gave the Vanity Fair party any competition, but we did have some A-list celebrities on site by the name of George, Billy, Meryl, Octavia and some others.  We even had a disco ball!  The music all came from movies and high 5's were handed out to the riders who could correctly name the movie the song was in.  The drills we did (one leg pedalling and some efforts) were determined by the throwing of a dice and conversation revolved around movies.  It was a lot of fun.

Faced with the pressure of coming up with something even more fun and entertaining there was only one thing I could do, make daiquiris!  February is my least favourite month.  It's usually grey, raining, cold and dark.  I'm ready for winter to be over and spring to arrive, and even though it is a short month it seems to never end - bring on Spring already!  That said, the winter we've had this year has been nice and mild, it really hasn't been to bad, but everyone could still use a beach day!

Many athletes were going to a real beach for rest and recovery, but we created our own beachy atmosphere with the sound of waves and wind chimes, exotic birds swaying in the sky, the coach wearing a bright beach wrap and straw hat (you can never be too careful in the sun), athletes in shades and bright colours, and of course, no beach experience is complete without a cold beverage, so strawberry daiquiris were served.  It was a lot of fun and Wes won for best men's outfit with his Hawaiin jersey, while Dale won for best female outfit of a swimsuit over her cycling shorts and surfer girl skirt - hilarious!

Our next recovery week is the first week of April, the same week as Track Cycling Worlds in Melbourne, so the plan is to race the Omnium, have a sprint tournament, and finish with a Points Race.  You might be thinking that this doesn't sounds like much of a rest, but after the 4-letter word phase we are currently in (i.e.: workouts are hard, hell, pain, hurt, etc.) "racing" on the "track" will be a welcome break!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


We have just finished the first week of the energy bar tournament where we compare a home made treat to a store bought product.  In the first challenge we had a traditional chocolate chip cookie face off against a chocolate chip Cliff Bar.  By just 1 vote, the chocolate chip cookie advanced.

The next challenge was the SIS Blueberry Go Bar against the Chefy Tephi Energy Bar with the homemade bar winning; so it will face off against the cookie in the next round.  These bars are so delicious that I think they might take the whole tournament!

The recipe can be found here in Get Out There Magazine.  You can also see a video of Chef Stephanie Hiltz making the bars by clicking here.

So why are we doing a food face off? Well, besides being delicious, the idea behind it is to try different foods to see what you like and don't like in terms of texture and taste, as well as to see how your stomach reacts to different things.  Different sweeteners have been used including brown sugar in the cookie, maple syrup and honey in the Chefy Tephi bars, cane syrup in the Cliff bar, agave in today's homemade granola bars, and glucose in the Kind bars.

Asking our friends and training partners what they like and what works for them is a great place to start doing research and narrow down a start list, but I believe it is only by trying different things that you really know what works, including changing up the fiber, protein, and carb contents.  So try different things during training at race pace intensities to see how your stomach, taste buds, and brain react.

A rule of thumb, or starting point, in trying to figure out how many calories you should consume is to aim for 250 calories an hour. Start with that number then add more if you find you are bonking or running out of energy, try less if you find your stomach is upset.

Updates on our tournament and recipes will be posted on this blog, so stay tuned!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


New year, new season, new you!  Hope the Christmas break was good for everyone, that along with family obligations, good food, and parties, that you were able to catch up on some sleep, rest up, and regenerate.  It's been stated before that rest is the most important part of training, it's the time when your body will re-build itself and make itself stronger for the demands that you expect of it.  That said, we're moving in to tougher training sessions at the Cycling Centre and the question is, how hard should you push yourself?

We tend to enjoy working on our strengths, pushing ourselves to work harder during an effort that targets our strengths, but asked to dig deep during something we don't like to do, that targets a weakness, and it's a little tougher.  But it is during these times that we need to push ourselves to accomplish more, to try a harder gear, or a higher cadence, or increase the watts, or hold a high heart rate longer then you have before.  It is by pushing ourselves that our body understands that it needs to bulk up and get stronger, that the expectations we have for it have increased, we have more demands and our bodies need to prepare themselves.

Hard training sends the message to our muscles that we want more from it, rest gives our muscles the chance to rebuild and come back stronger.  So to answer the question, you should push yourself hard, expect more from yourself, then take the time to properly recover and you will come back stronger and faster.

So the next time you do an interval or an effort, have the guts to go beyond what you think your limits are, ignore your numbers and see if you can do a little more.  You just might surprise yourself.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


It takes 21 consecutive days to create a new habit, or rather for a new goal, activity, lifestyle change to become part of our normal lives, where we no longer have to think about it, it just happens.  Want to stop eating sugar, eat fewer calories, workout in the morning before work, the key is to do it for 21 days straight, and then it feels normal, becomes a part of life.

There is a challenge at the Cycling Centre right now to eat packaged food items that contain 5 ingredients or less.  The goal of the challenge is to get people to read the ingredients on items they plan to consume, to make them more aware of what they are eating, and some things may be surprising.  Something that appears to be healthy, like no-fat yogurt, can actually be less healthy then the option with a percentage of fat in it.  Often, food companies will add in extra sugar for added flavour that is taken out when they remove the fat.  The other key to remember is that fat isn't necessarily a bad thing, it depends on where you're getting it from.  

So here are some questions that have arisen since the challenge began at the beginning of the week: potato chips or whole wheat crackers, which one is the healthier choice?  The answer, in this writers opinion is neither.  The potato chip has 3 ingredients, the cracker has over 12, most of which are things we would never eat on their own.  So what are the options when you're craving something salty and crunchy?  How about popcorn where you have control over the amount of salt and fat that you add.  Pickels can be an option too, they are crunchy, salty, and full of flavour, often satisfying the craving.  Have other healthy snack options, then send them our way.  Veggies and hummus, fruit, nuts ... Let us know what satisfies you and might help us add some excitement to our diet.

Please join us on our January Challenge.   A Facebook group has been started at