Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hilly Ride Into North Wales, 15th Sept 2012

With my final race of the season coming up (a hill climb up the Horseshoe Pass on 7th Oct 2012) I thought I'd better get some hill climbing in.

So I went out of Chester towards North Wales, up the "Steps" and round towards Llangollen, over the Horseshoe Pass, and then over towards Ruthin, back up "the Shelf" through Llandegla and back to Chester. Route below for those who are interested. Not a great time but quite a tough route. Also discovered that my maximum heart rate is 174 (previous highest I've ever seen was 173). You can cick on the map below to get more details.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Free Maps for Garmin 800

I bought a Garmin Edge 800 package last year which included heart rate monitor, cadence sensor and UK/Europe road maps. I always thought the maps looked a bit bland, and there were a lot of roads I ride on in North Wales which weren't on the maps !

I looked into buying an OS Discovery map but according to the Garmin website a micro SD card with such a map is £199 !

So I looked into some other options. In particular there were a couple of useful blogs here and here. The second of these blogs directed me to the following website: http://talkytoaster.info/ukmaps.htm.

I happened to have a spare 4 GB micro SD card (from an old mobile phone) so I made sure there was nothing on it, created a folder called GARMIN (I did this when the micro SD card was in a card reader but I guess you could do it if you had put it into the Garmin Edge). Then I downloaded a UK Open Source Map which had contours and was routable (i.e. it should still work as a sat-nav). The download site is at:

It's a 500 MB or so file so may take some time if you have a slow connection.

Once this was copied to a sensible place on my computer, I unzipped the file, and renamed it just GMAPSUPP (it should be an IMG file so filename should be GMAPSUPP.IMG). I then simply copied this into the folder I had created on the micro SD card, unplugged the micro SD card from my Garmin (the one with the UK/Europe maps in) and put the newly created SD card in.

I tried it out today on a route into North Wales from Chester - it is much much better than the other map. All the small roads in North Wales on the route I did were in the map OK. There are also maps available for other countries.

It may not be as good as the OS Discovery maps but considering those cost £199 and the map I got above was free I'm pretty happy with it.

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Secret Race

This book, subtitled "Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-Ups and Winning at All Costs", written by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle, gives a fascinating insight into the life of professional cyclists from the mid 1990's. Reading the book you get some idea of the pressure on riders to perform and why some may have chosen to take performance enhancing drugs.

According to the book, up until about 1998 or 1999, the pro-teams managed their own doping programmes. However, in the 1998 TdF a Festina team car was stopped by customs on the French border and a massive stash of performance enhancing drugs were found. Since taking performance enhancing drugs is illegal in France (unlike many other countries including the UK, USA, Italy and Spain) the police were involved and criminal charges were levelled.

From 1999 onwards, according to the book, riders had to organise their own supplies, and many riders had links to specialist doctors, such as Dr Ferrari and Dr Fuentes. Quite apart from EPO, testosterone and cortisone, according to the book, the donation of blood bags, and the re-infusion just before a race was common. Much later on, when Dr Fuentes' lab was raided, a large number of blood bags were found belonging to many riders in the peloton (at the time). Tyler Hamilton himself failed a doping test because the testers found he had had a blood transfusion from someone else (this was clearly a mix-up since he was supposed to have had his own blood put back in). In addition, Tyler Hamilton recounts how some riders had "echo positives", whereby when the transfused blood was put back in, any doping products that were in there at the time of donation could result in a positive test.

Clearly, a large part of the book implicates other riders at Tyler's own team and others, and of course, Lance Armstrong is mentioned many times.

It is difficult to know how much of the book is true, but the co-author Daniel Coyle said he made sure to corroborate Tyler Hamilton's claims. However the book comes across as more than just plausible, and since I assume this is also what Tyler Hamilton told the US legal and USADA authorities in sworn testimony, it is pretty convincing.

Hopefully, things have changed somewhat now that testing is better, and it seems to be true that times for some of the key mountain stages in major tours are quite a bit slower now than they were in late 90's/early 2000's.

I have to say this is one of the best books I've read on cycling, albeit rather depressing. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Cheeky Bit of EtapeCymru + Night Riding

Have not blogged for a while due to a bit of travelling with work. Last week for example I was in Leeds all week at a conference (the 39th Leeds-Lyon Symposium on Tribology if you are interested).

Anyhow, I decided to blow the cobwebs away by doing a decent ride on Sunday 9th September. The previous week I had done a good ride out from Chester -> Mold -> Ruthin and back via the Shelf and Llandegla with Tim from the Chester Road Club. For some reason I had felt pretty knackered all the way through the ride (average speed for 46 miles, albeit with 3000 feet of climbing, was only 15.4 mph). So I wanted to try it again, this time though I was on my own. I also knew that because the Etape Cymru was on, the Shelf would be "closed road" conditions.

I arrived at the bottom of the Shelf from the Ruthin side, and the marshals seemed a bit surprised when I turned up the road from the wrong direction!. I think I was slightly ahead of the leading group of 8 or so riders who went up quite quickly and soon overtook me (although I was then only overtaken by another 5 or so riders as I went up the ride). Once through Llandegla I turned left and went back to Chester whilst the Etape Cymru went straight on. If anyone saw me, I was the one wearing a Chester Road Club top. I don't feel too guilty about doing this since I did the Etape Cymru in 2011, and the Shelf was supposed to be on the route but was missed off (however if anyone really is offended by what I did, I'm perfectly happy to cough up the £3 I probably owe - 5 miles or so of the 92 mile route !). This was much better than the week before, and I knocked off around 7 minutes and had an average speed of approx 16 mph. Map of the ride is below:

For what it's worth, for the bit of the Etape Cymru I saw, it looked a lot better organised and marshalled than the 2011 event. If you were in it I hope you enjoyed it. Personally I felt it was quite expensive, considering I ride most of these roads all year around. The Broken Spoke and the Circle of Hope Charity Ride are much better value in my opinion (even if they are not closed roads).

Anyhow, enough of Sunday's ride. The week before, Thursday 30th August I think, that I joined a few people from the Chester Road Club in a "night ride". We set off about 6:50 pm and I got back home around 9:30. For most of the ride we needed our lights, and it was a novel experience riding as a group down narrow country lanes. Very enjoyable and I will probably do it again (there was a ride on Thursday 6th Sept but I couldn't go as I was in Leeds. Route for the ride below: