Transcontinental Video From Charge Bikes

The video is finally here…

A mixture of footage and photos we took from our adventure and some studio filming with Alex Rankin at Charge Bikes HQ. Have a watch.

Teaser…

 

Main Video…

 

We are so happy seeing these. Brings back so many good memories of a a very tiring but life changing 12 days spent together travelling across Europe.

You can find more details on The Transcontinental website.

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Transcontinental post race – Rehab


Two weeks focused on one thing …. the road ahead. Its sounds slightly mundane staring at a road but your mind has to stay sharp the whole time; pot holes, debris blowing in the wind and huge lorries skimming the hard shoulder. Over the 12 days we spent riding we were on main roads, dirt tracks, climbing mountain passes and ducking in and out of dark tunnels always with one main goal – keep going, don’t stop for too long and get to Istanbul.

Having never done an ultra distance event before, Ben and I didn’t know what to expect, what were we getting ourselves into? How do you train for something like this, how would the race go and what are the after effects ?

We are now currently in the post race stage on this epic event and again it’s another completely new experience and nothing like how we had anticipated feeling.

Arriving at the finish like in Istanbul was a huge relief – stopping, sitting and for the first time in almost two weeks not rushing. Beer – we had been so excited about having some beers, but two each and then it was like we were hit by a massive wave of exhaustion. Struggling to keep our eyes open we caught a cab to our hotel and headed straight to bed. This was at midnight, we set no alarms and expected to be out for about 15 hours. 6am came round and we were wide awake and starving. We headed up to breakfast which thankfully for us was a buffet, 6 plates later and back to bed for another couple of hours sleep then same again, round two at the buffet and 6 more plates.

During Transcon we had slipped into a weird time zone, living without day, night or routine. We cycled until we couldn’t do anymore would stop where ever, when ever then sleep normally for about 2 hours. We would eat continuously with disregard for meal times. Washing and anything else became a luxury instead of normally. So how do you go from this alien adrenaline style of living back to ordinary life. Its more difficult than it sounds its not like jet lag where you might have to set an extra alarm and have a couple of meals at odd times, your whole body is in a state of confusion both mentally and physically. Over the 12 days our bodies felt strong, we felt mentally sharp but we were being fuelled and stimulated but adrenaline, as soon as we relaxed and there adrenaline levels reduced weakness set in.

Numb, weak hands, seized up muscles, tiredness but maybe the strangest of all our brains felt exhausted to the extent that even the thought of having to make a decision was enough to make you want to have a nap.

We spent a week in Istanbul trying to relax, rest and recover as much as possible. Trying to cope with all the symptoms as best as possible and coax ourselves back to our former selves. Its now been a week of post Transcon rehab and we are back home in the UK. Still not quite there mentally, but feeling more human.

Today I went for a sports massage at a rehabilitaion clinic, after starting to get pain in my neck and headaches. Just for the reassurance it was worth it. The physio worked on my neck trying to release some of the built up stress and tension highlighting that it was actually my sternocleido – mastoid muscles in my neck giving me problems. She also explained to me why I was having so much difficult using my hands its not just the peripheral nervous system which is fatigued and effected its also the central system – your brain. Big tasks for example picking up a football are fine and manageable its all the smaller more intricate task which cause difficulty. Arm, hand and finger movement need to be fast, strong and precise and for these you brain is the control center. Picking up a pen, writing, doing up a zip, unlocking a door all of these things seem near to impossible with a fatigued central nervous system. With rest and nutrition the nervous system should repair its self and bring the body back from being in an over trained state.

So at the moment its going to a bit more rest before slowly introducing exercise back into our routines. Its been recommended to start with some swimming or jogging to avoid putting your body straight back into the cycling position. But if you cant stay off the bike to try and ride a different one from the one used for transcon again to put you in a slightly different position.

The Amateur World Championship Qualifications – Trento, Italy

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After a summer of racing in the local French events, Ben and I decided to head over to Italy to compete in the qualifier event for the Amateur world champs. The UWCT which is the governing body for amateur road cycling hold a world tour each year made up of events in 12 different countries with the top 25% of athletes going through to compete for rainbow stripes in World Finals. For us living in the French Alps, our nearest qualifiers we either La Look in Nevers France or La Leggendaria Charley Gaul in Trento Italy. The French event is held early in the season – May so we decided to head over the boarder and try our luck in Italy.

The event is awesome and so well organised, spread over 3 days with a Friday evening time trial followed by a rest day then the Road race on the Sunday. When you arrive, there are signpost through the town directing you to a big sports centre where you collect your race numbers and timing chip. You are also given a big bag full of water bottles, pasta, energy bars, jam, fruit and all the information you need about the event. They also run a bike expo from the centre where you can test ride a range of bikes.

Whilst in Trento we camped at a Agrotourism, which is a rural farm which provides cheap accommodation and amazing home-made local food and produce. It was perfect 5km from Trento which meant we could pedal in on the morning of the road race.

The first part of the event – The time trial was held in a town called Cavedine just outside of Trento which is in the lake valley. The course was a 24km loop it started with a small climb before descending down to the lake, climbing back up then finishing on a long open (windy) flat.

Neither Ben or I have ever done a trial trial course like this before, it was longer than anything we had ever done and much more varied. We both just went for it full pelt from the go and I think both suffered a bit on the climb, I didn’t know if it was possible to hit the wall on such a short distance but I think I came pretty close. We still have a lot to learn about time trialing. We rode our normal road bikes in our usual cycling kit, looking around and chatting to people was great we both want to do more time trialing so maybe at some point some more specific kit would be beneficial. Having said that we were both pleased with our results Ben came in 8th and I managed to get up of the second step of the Podium which I was super happy with! You have to wail for an e-mail invitation to the finals but if you get on the podium its a guaranteed qualification so I as through to the next round and we headed in to town for a beer to celebrate.

The next day was a rest day so we used the time to scope out part of the road race course, stretch our legs with a short pedal and go swimming in the lake. We had a chilled evening and cooked some dinner at our Agrotouism then headed to our tent for an early night.

Sunday morning was an early start 5am alarm, breakfast, dressed and pedal into Trento to the main square for the 8am mass start. 2500 people take part in the Charley Gaul. The start feels epic. There are 6 start pens one for pro’s and VIPS, then the elite men’s pen where you need to have some previous good results to get in, this is where Ben started, an all women’s pen which I was in then 3 more depending on when you signed up. There was a host of lead out motorbikes, music blaring and a helicopter hovering overhead. The atmosphere was buzzing, they do a countdown then start opening the pens and you are off – full speed weaving out of the town, the whole event is closed road and everyone is going for it trying to get up front and into the fast groups. People are going round both sides of roundabouts, bunny hopping curbs, over and undertaking. The whole race was fantastic and massively varied with something for everyone. It was 141km with 4000m of vertical assent with flat sections linking the climbs, narrow cobbled roads through small villages and even a section though a series of alleyways. The finish line was at the top of Mt Bandone on the Vason side, with a height of 1.650 meters an the same exact point that Gaul crossed in 1956. Ben made it over the line in 5hours 34 minuets coming 55th in his category and I wasn’t far behind with 5hours 48 coming 6th. It was a tough course with the final climb feeling gruelling to say the least. I was really looking forward to seeing Ben at the top so I think that’s what motivated me to keep on pushing up to the line. When I got there I was able to quickly find Ben, he was in the pasta party tent sitting with a tray packed full of food. We both sat and ate before descending back down the 38 bends which Mt Bandone is famous for and straight into a an ice cream shop.

Women’s only events- will they take off ??

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Most cycling events are held as opens, usually dominated by men with a few women in the mix. Making the experience of an event completely different between genders. As a man competing when you cross the start line its full speed from the word go and often the first part of the event will be the most intense as you want to catch a group that is going to be pedaling at your level- if you miss the good groups there is a good chance that you wont be able to catch them. Once you have found your group everything settles down a bit and spreads out. The group will then work together taking it in turns to lead and work there way around the course and finishing with a sprint for the line.

For Women the start is similar you also need to find your group, but once you have you can relax. Often, once you have got in to a group you are looked after by the men you can sit and draft on the flats and aren’t often expected to have your turn up front in the wind. What often separates the level of ladies is the climbs, you have to climb yourself and keep up with the group in order to not be dropped. Don’t get me wrong events for women are still hard, you are still exhausted when you cross the finish but to an extent you feel looked after.

So what happens when there are no men ….
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2 weeks ago at Vercors myself and about 150 other women lined up ready to take on the challenge Vercors, 120km rolling route with one main climb. The start felt quite mellow compared with the larger mixed events but I think this was more to do with a smaller number of participants. We were lead out by a team of motorbikes through the town after about 3km they sped off ahead and we were off. I had pre race nerves on the start line and was now full of adrenalin an ready to give it my all. But nothing happened no one sped up, no one attacked, everyone maintained their pace and started up the first climb. I was completely thrown off having never done an all female event before, tactically I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t make a move and stayed with the front group waiting to see what would happen. For me I found the pace frustrating which meant a few times I started to pedal but that meant leading. I was then worried that I was going to be tiring my self out whilst everyone else sat behind so i tried to pull out to the right to let someone else come through, it didn’t happen no one came through.

So for the first 30km I was on and off the front, tossing a coin in my head trying to decide whether to stay where I was and wait for someone to take control of the race or whether that should be me?

We then headed into a small village down a decent, the course was weaving through the national park so the roads were quite narrow and a bit rough. we all started rolling over a series of speed bumps and grates closely packed together. That was it I felt something touch my back wheel, i jolted forward over my bars, wobbled, tried to get my balance back, didn’t…. I had 2 seconds where I remember thinking Sh*t here I go. Smash down to the left then bounced over onto the right and skidded down the road.

I crawled to the side of the road and up onto the pavement to get out of the way of the cyclists coming through. I laid on the pavement absolutely gutted- not getting to find out how the rest of the event would go, worried that part if not all of my bike would be written off and becoming more and more conscious that I was missing quite a bit of skin.

The medical team came did there initial checks making sure nothing was broken and that my head was ok. Then they picked me up put me inside the ambulance and began cleaning my wounds. Anyone who had ever had road rash will no how much this STINGS, they have to make sure that the area is disinfected and all the gravel is removed before they can get it covered up.

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Thankfully one of my friends who was supporting his wife in the event was in the town and saw me come off. Once I was out of the ambulance they gave me a lift back to the campsite. I wanted to show my support despite not finishing to the other ladies in the events so with the help of Ben I slowly limped down to the finish line to watch everyone come in. The first lady came in at 4hours 07 Minuits. Fast. Around 30kmh. That means the pace must have shot up, most likely someone attacking up the climb and pulling off forming a fast group. Most of the ladies were coming over the line either in small groups, pairs of quite often alone.

Each lady was presented with a rose a glass of fizz for finishing. The atmosphere in the village was buzzing, it was an awesome event to be part of the sense of achievement amount the women was huge. I think events like this are really important in the development of women’s cycling and hope to get the change to take part in something similar again in the future.

I can’t wait for the next one to show what I’ve got.

Chapeau! Photo shoot in the Pyrenees- Women’s specific range

Chapeau! is a company started by cyclists for any one who enjoys riding a bike. They produce clothes that are high quality but also great value. Being cycle consumers themselves they have created kit that’s bang on, it looks good, fits well is affordable and still very functional.

This week I had the chance to travel with Chapeau! to the Pyrenees for a 4 day point to point tour starting in France and moving through Andorra and Spain. Living in the French alps I am used to being surrounded by mountainous landscapes but one thing I love about the mountains in that they are all so different.

We started our tour landing in Toulouse and heading to St- Gaudens for the first night. Driving from Toulouse there are big skys and rolling hills but when when you get to St-Gaudens which is right on the edge of the Pyrenees national park you come face to face with huge snow capped mountains. The Pyrenees has an untamed feel to it, wild and rugged. Captivating anyone with any sense of adventure.

The first evening it was cold and wet but Dexter, James (the 2 male models) and I were keen to get out for a look around and spin on our bikes, it was also the perfect conditions to test out some of the Chapeau! winter kit. I wore the ladies merino base layer, long repel bibtights and mistral jacket, the kit is designed to repel water and dirt, be warm and still comfortable. The kit defiantly does all of those things, we heading out on a fast 40km out and back into the countryside there was a lot of water coming up off the roads but i stayed dry. Throughout the week I also wore this combination for early morning rides when the mountain air still has a chill to it. One of the best things for me is that all the kit is women specific so the cut is flattering and the design is feminine and in stylish colours- I love the rust colour of the jacket it defiantly stands out so your visible when riding.

The next morning it was an early start and busy shooting schedule. Coffee, pastries  and a fully packed car headed off into the mountains. The sun came out as we headed up the col de Menté, its a demanding climb so for this shoot we used the Chapeau! Madeleine performance range. These jerseys are light weight and made from a more technical material . There are two main pockets at the back for extra layers, a little zip waterproof pocket for coffee & cake cash then two side pockets great for stuff you need to get to quick i used these for gels and gloves. I’ve never worn a jersey before with this pocket combination but it works! It feels racy and comes in a range of fun fresh colour combinations. I love the yellow jerseys with light blue polka dots- for events and big rides this summer this is defiantly going to be what i’m wearing.

That evening we drove through Andorra and into Spain, this is where we were going to be based for the next two nights. The mountains in the Spanish Pyrenees are smaller than the French but they are steep and there are lots of them. The photographer who as with us is Spanish so was able to explain a lot about the local traditions, cuisine and culture. In Spain we stayed in a little hotel at 1000m above sea level – above the tree line. Meaning big barren landscapes, steep sets of switchbacks and little lost mountain villages. You felt like you could head off and pedal for hours and not see another person or car! Off the main network of roads and climbs you could spot a network of fire roads one thing I’ve learn from my time in the Alps that quite often if you go off the beaten track away from the famous climbs you can end up in some of the most incredible places. In the mountains you should never resist the urge to explore and we headed off down some of these fire roads and pedaled down some of the smaller less direct roads the scenery was stunning.

One of the best things about cycling is the social side, doing a ride with friends then stopping for coffees and snacks. 4 days on the bike equates to a lot of coffee stops. We cycled through a mix of local villages and larger base towns. Here we tried out the Chapeau! Cafe jerseys. This is a range with a slightly more relaxed edge. Its kit you feel comfortable wearing both on the road, in a cake shop or wondering round town in. Its still got a lot of the features of the performance range, you still have a secure waterproof zip pocket and two main rear pockets. The material and shape is more casual but there is still a silicon hem to ensure the pockets stay where they should be. The jerseys are versatile without any loss of functionality, you could wear one with a set of bibs and head out on a big ride or throw it on with some jeans and pop to the shop.

The Pyrenees is defiantly somewhere I would like to go back to and explore more. The whole trip was brilliant, the riding was varied – there were steep climbs, fast descends and coffee shop cruising with kit that was up to the challenge.

Its great to know there are people out there making high quality kit that looks good for girls that ride bikes.