Haute Route Alps 2019 - A fantastic race report written by Frank Persyn Team Persyn Sports Consulting

Race report from the Haute Route Alps 2019. It’s a 10-12 min read – key take outs at the bottom.

As an endurance athlete, I live up when I get to race long distances in the mountains. Whether that’s on a bike, on tour skis or running. The longer it goes, the more I like.

So when I got the opportunity to ride The Haute Route Alps 2019 as a result of initiating an event partnership between Haute Route and À BLOC Beer, it did not take me long to decide.

The Haute Route Alps is a cycling event that hosts approximately 500 riders who start in a 7 day bike race from Megève to Nice covering 800 KM over 20,450m including some of the most iconic Alpine Cols. An epic event. No ultra endurance, but endurance enough to take pride in riding it.

Participants came from all corners of the earth to enter this sufferfest on a bike and in all sorts and shapes. From riders that were sponsored by heavy tabacco brands (hairy legs ) to super light cyclists with a non existing body fat percentage. I myself am not typically built for this endurance game. Being quite tall, I managed to push myself to a pré race body weight of 91KG. This basically means that I need to churn higher power outputs to ride as fast as the lighter guys and gals. Uphill, that’s a lost battle. On the (false or “Swiss”) flat though, I’m equipped with a big enough engine to perform at a higher level and pull a peloton at a respectable race speed. (Yes I can vouch for that. Kudos Frank!).

A week before the start of the Haute Route Alps I had a bad day on the bike when I rode with my neighbour and sports buddy Graham Friend. He’s an elite athlete with a great deal of endurance experience and he told me what exactly went wrong with me that day. My carb intake was far too low which made me slow as a snail and running out of energy. Not ideal on a 140KM / 4.3K vertical ascent ride. Anyway, I learned from this and took his advice in regards to what should be my feeding and recovery strategy on and off the bike. At least 2 gels per hour during every ride, feeding myself within 20 mins after the finish followed by a proper massage. This information was invaluable, as I needed to divide my energy and power consistently over 7 days of riding. I did not have a specific ranking based goal in mind, I just really wanted to perform consistently and enjoy the entire experience. (The advantage of going on a mini training camp in Alpine conditions helped Frank a lot here).

Day 1 – Megève – Megève. 97 KM / 2,700m vertical ascent.

A relatively easy day around Megève with views of the Mont Blanc for about 80% of the way. The first two days, I rode together with my buddy Anthony Walker from Le Chable who owns Kudos Cycling. The last 26 km were pretty much all going up to the alti-porte of Megève. I finished ranked 322 out of a group of 500 riders. OK, so this gave me a starting point which throughout the week actually became useful to proof that my race strategy worked out well.

Day 1 - Haute Route Alps - Megève - Megève
Frank Persyn from Team Persyn Sports Marketing & Anthony Walker from Kudos Cycling

Day 2 – Megève – Courchevel. 123 KM / 3,300m vertical ascent.

A 07:30 start with the first 9 km’s neutralised. I found the neutralised starts rather stressful as every traffic obstacle has a significant knock-on effect if you ride in a condensed pack. As I’m not experienced to ride in a large group, it was all hands on board. The organisation had done a great job blocking all intersections that we passed in these 7 days and having motorbikes riding along the peloton to pré warn and sometimes stop any upcoming traffic.

Haute Route Alps Day 1 - Frank Persyn & Anthony Walker Kudos Cycling

Haute Route Alps Day 1 - Frank Persyn & Anthony Walker Kudos Cycling

The reward at the chequered flag was sweet though – 360 degree views of the Alps. After the finish, we had to descent the same steep 8 km’s back into Courchevel which gave us the opportunity to shout encouragement to the other riders to the summit. Some might have hated me as I kept shouting they had to do one more big push to the finish which – in case of a few riders – actually must have been much more than one big push. Moving up a few places in the ranks to 319th position, I performed solid.

Haute Route Alps Day 2 - Megève to Courchevel - Col de la Loze summit finish.

Haute Route Alps Day 2 - Megève to Courchevel - Col de la Loze summit finish.

Day 3 – Queen Stage. Courchevel – l’Alpe D’Huez. 144 KM / 4,446m vertical ascent.

Big day with 3 famous Alpen Cols to cover. Starting with the Col de la Madeleine. A beautiful 25 KM long climb with an average gradient of 6%. The TdF has passed this Col many times, adding to the myth of this climb. Which equally counted for the two other climbs of day 3. I took on the Madeleine in smooth fashion leaving enough in the tank to cover the remainder of the stage. The Madeleine was actually such a nice climb that I started to “write” an ode in my head to her fluent and round curves, her sometimes hard-to-get and teasing mentality and her perfect timing to open herself up through a flatter section to gain some speed while I was riding to her top.

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After a quick flat section, we got to the start of Alpe d’Huez. Known as the Dutch mountain due to many Dutch TdF stages winners at the top of this Col, the Alpe d’Huez is considered a myth for many (Dutch) cyclists. To be very honest, this climb did not hugely inspire me. Yes, it’s long and steep at times, but the busy traffic racing up her flanks and the somehow uninspiring views stand in stark contrast with many of the other cols we climbed last week.

Well, I could definitely feel some emotions welling up when I passed the red flag of the last kilometer knowing it was mainly flat and a bit down to the finish when images of Joop Zoetemelk in the mid 80’s and Gert-Jan Theunissen and Steven Rooks winning the stage in the late 80’s made me realise I rode on holy cycling grounds. Thoughts went as well to my uncle Ward, my cousin Ward Jr. and my sister Annemarie who climbed the Alpe d’Huez 1, 4 and respectively 6 times in one day (Alpe D’hu-zes) in remembrance of my aunt Simone who died of cancer. This all added to my finish scream that came straight from my toes. I finished the big day in good shape, reflected by my jump of 20 places in the GC to position 299.

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Day 4 – L’Alpe D’Huez – Serre-Chevalier Briançon (Col du Granon) 80 KM / 2,700 m vertical ascent.

I didn’t feel very sad leaving Alpe D’Huez. I’m not a fan of these French concrete jungles smashed on a mountain plateau in the mid 70’s and left untouched since. Our neutralised exit went up and over the Col de Sarenne which provided a stunning scenery reminding me of the Scottish highlands. The grey and damp morning certainly added to the scene. The descent to the start of the Col de Lautaret where the timing of today’s race started was steep and at times quite bumpy.

I’m not a strong descender, specially not on steep and winding descents. This is mainly caused by a lack of confidence in myself and my material (which is totally irrational). Two previous cycling accidents that kept me off the bike for a while haven’t helped to fix this lack in my capacity as a cyclist. Close to the bottom of the descent, a dog crossed the road whilst I was passing at about 50km/h. Not a super close call, but close enough to affirm my insecurity in descending. Put me on a pair of skis and I do a 100km/h with my eyes closed. None of that on my bike.

At the bottom, time started ticking with the Col de Lautaret ahead of us. A 25km long climb with a gentle gradient off just under 5%. Hence important to hitch on to a group to keep a steady pace. I was fortunate enough to jump on the Manhattan Express how I’d like to call them. A group of 5 very fit and athletic riders from New York who wore their pink outfits much better than I did. Strong cyclists and fun lads. We kept a solid pace up the Lautaret where I was happy to return some of the favour by pushing one of their riders who wasn’t feeling very strong that day. Big Kudos to the guys from 9W Major Taylor Development Team.

Rocking the pink. Kudos lads.

Rocking the pink. Kudos lads.

The descent of the Lautaret was – even for a rider like me – easy. Wide roads that provided enough overview to leave the brakes untouched. After a quick descent, I beasted through a 10 KM flat section where I kept the odometer quite consistent between 45-55km/h. Only the Col du Granon separated us from the finish. An 11.4 KM long climb at 9.1%, meaning some serious climbing till the chequered flag. The scenery on the climb was stunning and I finished today’s “recovery ride” in a good mood. Climbing to the 293rd position.

Day 5 – Time trial up the Col D’Izoard. 19.2KM / 1,200m vertical ascent.

The Izoard is another Col that has starred more than once in a TdF stage. Starting in Briançon, it climbs at an average gradient of 5.2% to the Col at 2,360 where you’ll be awaited by breathtaking sceneries. As I’m not very experienced with time trial riding, I called my sister Annemarie (ex-semi pro cyclist) for her advice on how to best approach my preparation. She rightly mentioned to make sure I’d get my heart-rate at least twice into zone 4 at about half an hour before my start. The steep roads around Briançon provided the perfect context to do so.

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The minute I got my cue and started on stage riding off a ramp, I directly got into the zone. I rode as quickly as I could into a heart-rate of 145 BPM which I figured I could keep for about over an hour. Starting with 20 sec intervals, I continuously had a marker ahead of me to focus on. I took over several riders who had started ahead of me and tried to cycle as much as possible in a TT position. Arms on the handlebars to ride as streamlined as possible. Not that it made any difference, but I thought to at least try to look like I knew what I was doing. Well, it did get me starring in the video of the 5th day (at 38’ and 60’) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l70RSomqvt0&feature=youtu.be&mc_cid=17cb7e323b&mc_eid=8e822ab395.

The first bit of the climb went really well. I steamed up and took over about 20 riders. When the climb got a bit steeper, I was over taken by some riders who started behind me, but I kept my heart-rate consistent in the 145-150 BPM range. The last 3 bends were great, as the earlier starters were supporting the other riders to the finish. After 1h:17m at an average power output of 288 Watts, I wasn’t disappointed with my performance. I climbed 2 places in the GC to the 291st position.

Day 6 – Briançon – Pra loup 104 KM / 2,300m vertical ascent.

As this was the 2nd to last day, I felt I could dig a little deeper and ride faster at a higher heart-rate. As Graham gave me the same comments after looking at my Strava data, I was focused to notch it up a bit. The first 30 KM’s went up and down and allowed me to keep a solid average speed. We were then served with the Col de Vars, a nice and equally climbing mountain pass that got us to above 2,100m. The descent was fast and I actually felt quite comfortable. The flat stretch to the start of the Pra Loup climb again went fast with a group that was formed on the go. Rotating with two Canadians and Steve from the Cayman Islands who I met at dinner the night before, we kept our speed solidly above 45km/h. The climb to Pra Loup went well, although the last kilometer did not seem to come to an end. My strategy to dig a bit deeper worked out nicely, as I climbed to 278th position in the GC.

Happy with this result, I enjoyed a relaxed afternoon with good food, massages and coffees with some of my new cycling friends.

Day 7 – Pra Loup – Nice 193 KM / 3,850m vertical ascent.

The Haute Route organisation saved some of the best for last. Two stages on the last day of which the first included the highest paved road pass in Europe, the Cime de la Bonette at 2802m. After descending from the plateau that houses Pra Loup, there was a (Swiss) flat section where I positioned myself in a peloton to save as much energy as possible for the 23 km long climb at 6.9% average gradient that laid ahead of us. It was the first time this week that I felt fatigued and couldn’t keep my pedal stroke at a consistent cadence. Taken over by a significant amount of riders, I figured out that most of these guys were ahead of me in the GC as I started the day in the front half of the peloton. This eased me a bit and I kept riding at my own pace. I then got a bit frustrated that my average heart-rate was 5-10 beats lower then the days before whilst I was still pushing as hard. It could not be a lack of food as I was carefully timing my gel intakes. And then I remembered Graham telling me that, towards the end of the week, it’s harder to reach those higher heart-rates due to overall fatigueness. OK, now I could finally start to enjoy the beauty of the Bonette climb which resulted in a lump in my throat and goosebumps all the way done to my butt. I took some time to soak up the entire experience, the beauty of the untouched nature, the fact that I have been so happy riding my bike all week and the camaraderie with some of the riders. It kind of all came to me at this climb…. And then there was the last kilometer. 9% gradient, so best to swallow that lump and soak it up deep for that last big push. Views at the top where the race clock stopped where of-this-earth. Simply stunning. It’s there where I figured out I forgot my two bidons at the last food station 5 kilometers back down the climb. As I still had some time to descent to St Etienne de Tinée where the 2nd stage of the day would start, I didn’t mind riding down to get my two bidons and back up again, which meant I did a total of 3,925m vertical ascent that day. The descent into St Etienne de Tinée was simply stunning and made me drop back into my happy and slightly elevated emotional zone.

The second stage of day 7 started in St Etienne de Tinée and left the peloton with one more Col to tackle. But first a very fast 35 km down a beautiful gorge where I found myself in a big peloton of over 150 riders. I experienced the power of a peloton under full steam. By times, we reached speeds above 70 km/h. I was extremely focused and sharp as there were cyclist all around me and traffic coming up the other side of the road. Before I knew, we covered 35 KM in 40 minutes that brought us to the start of the final and last serious climb of the Haute Route Alps, the Col de St Martin. With 16.6 KM at 6.2% average gradient, it was nothing we hadn’t done before, but it being the last climb, it felt a bit bigger than some equal bumps we took on earlier in the week.

From the Col, it was a long descent to the last 30KM section that went over typical South French corniche roads. It’s then when it started to pour down heavily making me wet to the bone. With the finish in sight though and the outlook to be in sunny Nice later that afternoon, I couldn’t care less about the heavy rains. I just wanted to keep it in one piece to the finish. Which I did. Upon passing the last timing point 20 KM outside of Nice, the sun came out and the relief of having finished my first Haute Route made me very happy. Although it wasn’t till the official finish at the Promenade des Anglais in Nice where the big whoohoos came out and high fives were shared with my buddies Griet, Samuel, Philippe, Steve and lots off other riders. Without another stage awaiting us the next day, there was nothing between me and a 0,75L Blonde Leffe and a whole bunch of A BLOC Ultra Light IPA’s.

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Some key take outs from this week::

  • A multi stage cycling race needs a very consistent approach. This means I had to pace myself and use performance data such as heart rate and power output to make sure I carefully managed my energy and power over the entire week. Food strategies and recovery off the bike were of eminent importance. I had a simple but efficient plan and stack to it, every single day.

  • I felt I was getting stronger throughout the week, even on a lower heart-rate. My confidence grew as well. I went from being uncomfortable in the neutralised descent on day 1 in a condensed pack of 500 riders to feeling very excited reaching speeds of 70km/h on the false flat down amidst a pack of 150 riders on the 7th day.

  • Having managed to increase my ranking throughout the week with 50 positions (I finished 272nd in the GC), I know where I can gain in a next similar event. If I push it a bit harder at the start of the week without throwing everything over board and if I improve my descending, I’m sure I could be amongst the top 40% of the pack in a next event.

  • As the entire pack goes through similar challenges such as painful moments and moments of pure joy, I soon felt great camaraderie with lots of riders. Their support, the short or longer chats on the bike, the gentle pushes if you see another rider suffering a bit harder than you do, the “allez, you can do this Frank” from other riders that saw me zig-zagging up a col, the Kudos given and received for work done at the head of a peloton, the shouting other riders to the top of the Cols…., it just all added up to a great sense of sportsman- and friendship.

  • As I was spending anywhere between 4-8 hours per day on my bike, the connection with like-minded with whom I hung out with off the bike, strongly supported my Haute Route Alps experience.

  • The CHF 500 I spent getting my bike serviced and prepped for this week (oouuch) was actually all worth it. The guys from Cross Roads Cycle in Martigny smoothened up my Burls Beast which held up great the entire week. I did not hear the disc breaks scream once.

  • And once again it became clear to me that I belong in the mountains. Being on or around Alpine giants makes me a very happy person totally appreciating life and the challenges it throws at me.

First Haute Route in da pocket. Certainly not my last!

Photocredits to photorunning.fr and Griet Neukermans

A Typical Week for a Professional Rider - Ex-Professional BMC Development Ride

We are delighted to have local Swiss cycling legend Valentin Baillifard writing exclusively for Kudos Cycling. A fascinating insight into life on the road as a professional cyclist.

Being a pro rider is not only trying to ride fast, but it is also a lifestyle. I will describe to you what a typical week is like, if the race takes place on a Sunday. The end of every week is different because you adapt each day with your tiredness, goals, the time of the year and when you start the next race.

Monday is recovery day but a key day. I sleep longer than normal. My sleep time is usually 10pm to 8am but if we come back directly after the race I often arrive home really late if the races are in other countries. During the travel home it is impossible to sleep because my body has suffered so much during the day and I can’t just fall asleep easily. When I wake up later, I usually don’t need breakfast and I just have to go for an easy one hour ride and will just have lunch. As it’s a recovery day, the menu is only meat and vegetables. Monday is a key day with the type of food I eat. It is the hardest day because on a recovery day you shouldn’t eat a lot but your body is telling you to eat as much as possible. During the race, your body has burnt huge amounts of calories. On the Tour de France, riders will typically burn about 4,000 kcal on an "easy" stage. Average stages require between 4,000 and 6,000 kcal. Gruelling mountain stages demand calorie burns of 7,000 kcal or more so it’s a lot! To help me recover, I drink a lot of water during the day for hydration, as well as for recovering as fast as possible. During a race you can never drink enough so it’s important to recover over the next few days after a race. During the afternoon I have a siesta, the duration depends on my tiredness. After that I take time to analyse the last race but I also prepare looking at the stats, the course and all the details for the next race so I know exactly which wheels or tactics I will use. I plan my training week and go to the physio for a recovery massage.

Valentin Baillifard

Valentin Baillifard

Tuesday is the first training day. It will be an explosive day with power or sprints. After a core training session in the morning, I have a healthy breakfast. My meals for the day will be more protein. Often the training is only for 2 hours but when you finish, your muscles will be destroyed because the goals for these type of training exercises is to improve your fast muscle fibres. Like after every training session, the right food is important for recovery and so lots of protein. If I have meeting with sponsors or media, I will always try to plan it on the Tuesday after training.

Wednesday is a big day. First is core training and after a good breakfast. The riding duration will be about 4h/4h30 with a lot of climbing and PMA exercises. After training it is really important to take care of the recovery. I stick to my schedule and I never change; 5 minutes after training I have some sugar, 10 minutes shower, apply the compression socks, 20 minutes after training a high protein shake, 45 minutes after training some easy stretching, 1 hour after training a full meal. I take some time to download the training on the computer, do the analysis and write feedback for the trainer. Then it’s time for a well deserved siesta.

Thursday is the last good training day. Using the same schedule as Wednesday but training will be longer, 5 hours, with lots of threshold training on climbs. After completing the training plan, I finish like the day before.

Friday is again a recovery day with one or two hours of endurance/easy training. I take care to eat less. After training I take time to plan my travel day. First I take a look at the team travel schedule and check my flight. I plan when I have to wake up and set off from home. I look at the weather forecast and prepare my bag. I wash my training bike (leaving it at home) and prepare it for my come back on Monday. I have a Skype discussion with my psychology coach. Finally, it is time for relaxing.

Valentin baillifard

Valentin baillifard

Saturday is a travel day. I have to be careful to eat healthily and not to get too tired. We are taken to our team hotel and I will go for a short ride with sprints. After travelling my legs are heavy so I have to make sure they feel fresh ready for race day. After a light spin I have a massage followed by a team dinner and an early night.

Sunday is race day. After we wake up, I have a healthy breakfast, have a quick team briefing, final bike prep and then it’s time to fight! I will explain to you in more detail about the race day in my next blog.

After the race it’s a shower in the bus and it’s all about recovering well until we go again.

Blog written by Valentin Baillifard ex BMC Development Team

Dallaglio Cycle Slam 2018 Charity Ride: Lawrence Dallaglio, Andrew Ridgeley and Warren Smith in Verbier

Photo credit: Dallaglio cycle slam

Fancy cycling 1,800km with 30,000m of climb from France to Croatia, via Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia?  Yup, us too, so we sent Kudos Cycling's correspondent Catie Friend to find out from the horse’s mouth what it’s like. She interviewed Lawrence Dallaglio, Andrew Ridgeley and Warren Smith in Verbier during the 2018 Dallaglio Cycle Slam and caught up with Warren again once it was all over.

On a sunny May evening in Verbier, I sat opposite three smiling, chatty men, who had just cycled in from Chamonix, over the imposing Col des Montets, Col de la Forclaz and up the 8km climb into the famous Swiss ski resort we call home.

It was only day two of 15, so despite some fairly punishing climbing in the heat, they were full of beans and happy to chit chat about the day, the charity and their shared love of cycling.

All three of them spoke warmly about their cycling life. Ridgeley recalled seeing the Alps in the summer for the first time two years ago; how majestic they were and how astonishing he found the scale of it all. Smith pointed out that due to the fantastic winter we had they were cycling over cols, marvelling at the contrast between the bright greens of summer and the lingering snow patches.

They were enthusiastic about the impending three five-day stages (a stage in Slam vocabulary is five days long, not one as per the Tour de France) that would eventually see them all arrive safe and sound in Split, Croatia, and looking forward to various elements along the way. Andrew Ridgeley, formerly of pop duo Wham!, was looking forward to some friends joining him and Lawrence Dallaglio, former England rugby captain, was excited to be cycling past the stunning Italian lakes of Como and Garda. Warren Smith, owner of the Warren Smith Ski Academy and ski coach on The Jump, was just happy to be back on his bike exactly one year to the day since a horrific cycling accident almost kept him off games for life. Friends, scenery and a working body; is there anything else you need for a good bike ride?

Photo credit Dallaglio photo credit

Well, as it turns out, an amazing support crew is also vital - as all three found out along the ride. I caught up with Warren again after the ride was over to get a view of how a three-week ride across five countries changes you.

Inevitably, as with any multi-day ride, there were highs and lows. Cycling over the Simplon pass into Italy in torrential rain, where the second climb of the day was akin to riding upstream in a river, was a definite low. As was the climb from Slovenia into Croatia in 41 degrees, where the ever-present support ambulance had its work cut out helping wobbly, dehydrated cyclists.

They all found Croatia tougher than anticipated. The expectation that once over the Alps it would all smooth sailing down the coast and into Split was rudely smashed with some climbs of 24%!!!

Physios and support crew kept them all on the road, especially Ridgeley, who came off downhill and was on crutches for a couple of days and Smith, as his recent injuries niggled on and off throughout. Following his 2017 crash (at 70km/h downhill when a tyre blew out), he was keen to look after himself as much as possible.  Surprisingly, the broken hip he sustained gave him the least trouble. To protect his badly injured knee he was careful to spin when he could and to pull up on his pedals as much as possible to avoid putting too much power through the joint. Daily post-ride ice baths and visits to the physio in week one meant that by week two he was feeling fit and by week three there was no further fluid build up at the end of each day.

The tendon replacement in his shoulder seemed to prove the biggest niggle, causing quite a lot of pain, but with physio and acupuncture throughout he says it feels stronger than it did and will just take time to heal properly.

I asked how three weeks on the road changes you, physically and mentally and Smith gave a typically thoughtful response. He claims to have grown in confidence as a cyclist, although having witnessed him cycling downhill like a bat out of hell on my day out with the Slam, I’m not sure how one becomes more confident than that… However, he had the great privilege of riding stage two with a fast, experienced group that included Austin Healey, former England rugby player and none other than Chris McCormack, two-time Ironman World Champion.

He says they took the time to teach him about proper peloton riding (not something McCormack learned in Kona, one assumes, as long distance triathletes are forbidden from drafting). Smith likened his five days with the “fast boys” to being a child riding with its parents. Constant encouragement, lots of pointers and no doubt a few moments of frustration on both sides! He seemed so grateful to them for building his confidence as a cyclist and despite being on the edge of his comfort zone all week, was thrilled to be able to pass on his new-found knowledge to the group he rode with for the final stage.

Physically, he is delighted to report post-ride, he feels ski fit and ready for a summer on the glacier with his coaches, but I sense that the mental boost that these three weeks on the road gave him has been the biggest gift. Following the crash that could have had very much more serious consequences, he went through months of operations, rehab and some very dark days. Bad dreams and fears that his career may be over have been replaced by a confidence that he says came from riding with positive people. On top of the skills learned on the ride, being able to talk about the accident with cyclists who have also had crashes (although, he admits, his seems to have been gold medal standard compared to most) appears to have been as therapeutic as the physio and the ice baths.

A mixed group of people, from many walks of life, including “celebs” from the worlds of sport, music and film, could be a difficult one to unite. However, with all of them reduced to the simple task of turning their pedals every day, cycling has a levelling effect. Regardless of status, ability or fitness, the shared experience on the road as well as the encouragement afforded to each person, fast or otherwise, there appears to have been no personality clashes. No mean feat with some of the characters I met on my fantastic day out with the Slam!!

Photo Credit dallaglio cycle slam

I finish the interview with three impressions of Warren’s ride:

1.     He LOVES cycling downhill. I mean he really, really loves it! He described riding some of the corners like being on skis, having to get your weight shifted to the sweet spot and flying round them.

2.     He had some favourite new rides, such as round the lakes in Italy, but what he took away from this was how much he really wanted to explore more routes in our adopted home canton of Valais and take advantage of our doorstep.

3.     He said that three weeks of cycling can make every day a little like groundhog day but that without fail, two hours into the day, once the wheels are turning and the rhythm has been established it becomes like a moving meditation. Switch off, let your mind wander and just pedal. Sounds magical. Sign me up.

Warren, Andrew, Lawrence and many, many others raised over £1,000,000 for Dallaglio RugbyWorks during this ride. The charity supports young people in the UK excluded from mainstream schools by teaching them life skills such as respect, punctuality and discipline through the medium of rugby.

It is not too late to donate to Warren’s page by clicking here and if you are inspired to take part in 2020 (it happens every two years) then you check out the ride on www.dallagliocycleslam.com

For top tips and advice on how to train for such an event and how to be prepared as possible, please contact us for some great riding and coaching in the Swiss Alps. 

  • Physically prepared - ride fit including core strength exercises
  • Technically confident - riding in a group at speed (peloton), descending techniques, braking points, how to climb confidently and how to ride in wet conditions
  • Mentally strong - dig deep and tips for getting up that final climb
  • Nutritionally - what your body wants and needs. Eating correctly and keeping hydrated
  • Preparing your body and muscles for multiday efforts - get in the habit of doing yoga before and after a long day in the saddle. The beers can wait! 
  • What to wear - don't leave it to chance!
  • Bike fit - probably the most overlooked aspect. Bike position is vital and will help stop painful knees, back, neck, wrists and other sensitive areas!

    Please contact us for some great riding and coaching in the Swiss Alps with our expert team. info@kudoscycling.com

Some cycling facts

Current bike
Lawrence Dallaglio: Custom built, handmade Legend by Bertoletti, Bergamo, Italy
Warren Smith: Scott Foil Premium, 6.2kg
Andrew Ridgeley: Trek Emonda Project One

First bike
Lawrence Dallaglio: BMX
Warren Smith: Tomahawk
Andrew Ridgeley: Metallic green single speed

If you only had one last ride in you…
Lawrence Dallaglio: The Stelvio
Warren Smith: RAAM (Race Across America)
Andrew Ridgeley: The Lands End Loop

Cycling Hero
Andrew Ridgeley: Mark Cavendish, Sir Chris Hoy (for their Olympic success)
Lawrence Dallaglio: David Millar (who took newly the retired rugby player for his first bike ride)
Warren Smith: Sir Bradley Wiggins (who learned to ski with Warren in 2017)

Graham Friend Local Valais cyclist does the Haute Route Alps Geneva – Nice 2017 – An insight in to the physical and physiological demands required to tackle the Haute Route and some useful tips!

Day one and placed 51st so pretty pleased. Went too hard to start so had a terrible middle climb - I just hope I have not done too much damage to my legs - steady day tomorrow with the aim of finishing each climb strongly and to be strongest on the last climb

Day 2 and the 3 weeks of the Tour De Force meant I recovered well overnight. I decided to ride well within myself to ensure I could ride well all week. I was worried backing off would see me plummet down the rankings and that my 51st yesterday was an aberration. But I placed 51st again which is encouraging when I did not go too hard and suffered a short mechanical. I have been riding with a head cold which was worse this morning - I hope I will get over that as it is holding me back a bit but no excuses. My gold medal target is top 50 so I need to hope that the TDF gives me an edge as the week progresses. Weather is increasingly a challenge - it's getting hotter every day.

Sock Porn - coming from a tri background where we typically don't wear socks on the bike to "proper" cycling I had no idea how much I would have to up my sock game. It's a good job I did as there is a daily competition for the best socks and €100 to be won! So today I am sporting these which I am teaming with my lime green Rapha aero jersey. However my expectations are low, like all things in this race I am outclassed in every front, including the socks. However, as always, I am giving it my best shot! The head cold is back with a vengeance and I do not hold out high expectations for today. I have also comfort eaten and am feeling bloated and crap - back to careful eating for today and breakfast at 5:00am and not 6:00 as today which has left too little time for the food to clear. Feeling a bit sorry for myself this AM.

Day 3 and it's all gone horribly wrong apart from my sock game which I am sure you agree is worthy of the €100 prize and note coordination with the jersey. So my head cold has descended onto my chest and despite ventolin I was wheezing like a bloke on 60 fags a day. I was operating on half a lung and basically in survival mode all day and could not generate any power. I am so hacked off as I will not get a chance to see what I could have been capable of. 75th on the Laurent and Sarenne but despite resting for 30 mins by the side of the road in the neutralised zone I was 105th up the "other" side of Alpe d'Huez and about that for the day dropping from 51st to 57th in the overall general classification. Tomorrow is a single time trial up the iconic Alpe d'Huez with the 21? hairpins. It is the first time I will have ridden it and it's such a shame it's likely to be in survival mode! Just been to the chemist for more drugs - just hoping for a miracle recovery now!

Sock porn challenge and Alpe D'Huez - today's programme. I went to see the race Doctor yesterday as I am feeling so bad. They gave me steroids which I took last night but this morning I feel no better and walking up the stairs from breakfast left me gasping for breath. My plan today is to ride as hard as I can without putting too much stress on my lungs and enjoy my first ride up this iconic climb!

Stage 4 Alpe D'Huez time trial - drugged up to the eyeballs on paracetamol, ibuprofen, ventolin and steroids and I rode better than survival mode and relatively hard but without killing myself. I was able to enjoy the iconic climb and all 21 of the named and numbered hairpins. The drugs helped and it was an ok time 1:01:59 placing me 95th and I moved up one in the GC to 56th which is better than I expected. To put this in context the fastest time was 47 minutes and the fastest pro ever was around 10 minutes faster still but 47 mins shows the company I am not keeping. I thought I might slip back further. The gap between 56th and top 50 is about 16 minutes which now feels like a lot of time to make up. Tomorrow is the queen stage - which means it's a bitch! 4,500m of vertical lies ahead so I have to hope for some great recovery today - I am eating well, drinking shed loads and about to try and get some more drugs out of the race doctor!

Sock Porn Day 5 and the Col du Glandon (1,924m), Col de la Madeleine (2,000m) and Col des Saisies (1,650m) await with 4,500 m of vertical. I got onto the sock shortlist yesterday but still no cigar - not sure what tactic to adopt today, with temperatures predicted to be high I am leaning to the subtle, light blue "climbers socks" with the strategy of playing some of my stronger socks later in the week when hopefully others will have exhausted their reserves. More steroids, more paracetamol, more decongestant and I am feeling a little better but it's hard to tell with all the drugs. Usually everyone riders harder after the rest day so I will need to push harder today if I can. I am though backing off my planned watts to allow for the cold - will be interesting to see what happens - I am at least looking forward to the ride a little.

The first day I have actually started to feel better - hooray! 4,500m and 183 km is a big day but as I had dialled back my watts it was all really quite pleasant. I never really felt too uncomfortable and am getting back towards my normal levels of performance. I was 75th for the day (better than 95th yesterday) on a comfortable ride so relatively pleased although not so happy to have slipped 10 places to 61st. But everyone goes hard after the rest day but the good news is that is a matter of a couple of minutes back to my mid 50's ranking. So currently waiting confirmation from my coach as to the plan but I think tomorrow needs to be a day of do or die although the course is not ideal with a lot of flat sections so if you are lucky or unlucky with the group you are riding in this can make a big difference. Hopefully going to wake up tomorrow feeling even better!

Sock porn challenge day 6 - do or die and so it is with my socks. Not surprisingly I did not make the sock shortlist yesterday. Woke to a cough on my chest that does not bode well and feeling pretty rough again and a poor nights sleep. Anyway, will ride as hard as my body will allow - not feeling too hopeful though. Today did not start well and it seemed my body had chosen the die of the Do or Die plan - after a short descent from the resort we went straight into a steep climb with no warm-up. I was unable to breath despite a low heart rate and had to back right off as I feared some form of coronary. At this point I basically wrote the race off but surprisingly did not feel too bad as It was my health that was stopping me - not weakness of my mind.

I got over the climb eventually as best I could but was then able to deploy my skills developed overtaking lorries on the Verbier hill to pull back quite a few positions. In the valley, I found myself in a well organised Group that was not pushing too hard and causing me to red line so I made good fast progress to the foot of Epine.

Having warmed up I felt a lot better and decided the "Do" option was still open and decided to attack the hill and delivered reasonable watts and felt good. I kept with the same group on the next valley floor before the start of the famous Colombiere - this also went well and I was able to drop and put time into a few riders who I knew were ahead of me in the GC. It was kinda cool thinking about who to attack and putting time into them - very Tour de France!

The descent from Colombiere was neutralised so I took my time to recover and eat and again the same group worked well together to the foot of the Joux Plane. I attacked this the best I can and put in a pretty good effort - again putting time into key rivals and arriving not too long after chaps who I knew to be stronger than me - I had a sense it had been a good day after all.

I was placed 55th overall for the day and moved back up in the GC from 61st to 58th and there are 12 minutes between me and 50th place which is my gold medal target. It will be a big ask to close that tomorrow but the profile of the course might suit me and I am definitely recovering. The plan is full gas, empty the tank and gain positions on the descent whilst hopefully avoiding dying. We will see!

Sock Porn Day 7 final stage - woke this morning feeling the best I have all week. Alarm set for 4.00am and attempted to make porridge, trail mix and blueberry combo but something was very, very off and I still have a metallic, poisoned taste in my mouth - probably the unwashed blueberries or the bowl the kitchen lent me - I'm now worried I will come down with food poisoning! So I binned the lot and had the hotel breakfast at 5.00 and could have had an hour extra in bed!

Not even on the sock shortlist again so going for a more classy little black and white classic combo - hopefully they may move away from preferring the equivalent of the Christmas sweater variety of socks today.

Final stage and the plan is to try and get something of a warm-up in before the start to avoid breathlessness on the first climb - at least now I know it passes.

I have written a list of all the bib numbers of those between me and top 50 so I am going to try and really push as hard as I can today and see what happens - lots of ups and downs so it should suit me!

Do or die once more!

It's done - sorry about the sandals! I managed to finish 58th overall which was my silver medal goal range of 50 to 75. All things considered, I am pretty happy with my final position. Had I not been unwell I think I would probably have made it inside the top 50 but not much more than that. There is a lot more to learn about cycle racing at this level compared to previous haute routes where I was middle ranked. There is a lot more tactics, psychology and mental strength required to race well. So my progression has been 2015 217th, 2016 117th and 2017 58th so I am developing as a cyclist. 2018 I think I will target Haute Route Pyrenees and just do a recce before going for it seriously in 2019. So now I am putting the bike away to focus on ultramarathon running - 3 days of racing in The Canaries and the Oman desert marathon later this year as a prelude to the Marathon Des Sables 2018. But right now I'm going to have an ice-cream!


If you want to get yourself physically and psychologically prepared so you can tackle the Haute Route or any other cycling event to the best of your ability you can enquire about one of our Performance Improvements Packages please contact us

Local Swiss Valais cycling legend Graham Friend reviews his experiences and tips from cycling in last years Tour de Force now known as the @Le Loop

What I learned from cycling the Tour de France route

Riding the TdeF is a major logistical nightmare but can be executed flawlessly.

I rode the TdF with the Tour de Force now known as the Le Loop, in support of the William Waites Memorial Trust which provides funds to small, niche charities in memory of William Waites who was tragically murdered in Honduras as an 18 year old during his gap year.

There were approximately 40 “lifers” who had signed up to ride the full tour route and others joined for sections increasing the number to a maximum of around 150. The logistics of managing 150 individuals, their luggage, accommodation, transfers, food, etc is staggeringly complex yet the project was executed flawlessly by a phenomenal woman called Sarah and her team – I have never been as much in awe of an individual.

Part of the logistical operation involved signing every turn of the route with green arrows – all we riders had to do was follow the green arrows – I only made two wrong turns in 3 weeks and both were entirely my own fault.

Riding the tour is hard but not that hard unless you’re a pro

Unbelievably a couple of people turned up to ride the 3,500km without training – they failed and abandoned within a week! A good few had done very little training and carried “excess weight” and they made it but they struggled. We would start riding at 8:00am each morning and those with little training would often not finish until approaching midnight – for them it was a hard ride. Anyone who had done a reasonable amount of training could ride the TdF comfortably.

I had trained hard with big weeks comprising 10 to 12 hours of ski mo and 10 to 15 hours on the bike. I could ride all the hills hard and the flats hard when I wanted to but primarily used the flat sections for active recovery. I was probably one of the stronger riders typically posting some of the fastest times for the climbs amongst the TdF Strava Group and finishing first on a number of stages.

The first week was tough due to continuous rain and strong headwinds and 200km plus stages – at the end of each stage I was weary but not exhausted and this was also true at the end of the entire route. The weather made a big difference to how testing each day was. As we adapted to the daily effort we would regard a flat 200km plus stage as a recovery ride and would feel good at the end of it. It is worth mentioning that a “flat” stage would still involve 1,500 to 2,000m of vertical ascent! The well-trained riders began to see some recovery after the first week and many of us felt strength returning as we reached the end of week 2 but by the final stage none of us wanted to ride anymore.

The pros would ride the stages usually in half the time of the fastest riders in our group. If the pros rode a stage in 4 to 5 hours the fastest of us would need 8 to 10 hours and those that had not trained would be out for 12 to 15 hours. I have new found respect for the pros – to ride on the edge of their physical limits and to be mentally alert to execute a race strategy each day requires a level of fitness and mental strength that is hard for me to comprehend.

I might not be able to tie my shoelaces for weeks

Hours and hours of resting on my hands on my handlebars has caused short term (I hope) nerve damage to my hands and fingers. The result is I cannot tie my shoelaces nor hold a knife and fork properly at meal times and have to eat with table manners of a six year old.

Group riding is mentally demanding and breaches of etiquette can really hack people off

200km stages and headwinds mean that riding in a group to share the burden of shielding others from the wind is essential. Many people do not know how to ride safely and effectively in groups. A new person who took the lead and would “surge” ahead to demonstrate how strong they were would really hack people off. Communication is key to agree how long and how hard to ride on the front and ensure efficiency and those on the front would get really cheesed off if another rode “took over” without invitation as this basically said “you are too weak to be on the front”. Not ever taking a turn on the front was also likely to really upset people and it is better to do a turn, even if its short, than shirking responsibility.

Rapha clothing is a cult phenomenon

British riders were pretty much decked out entirely in Rapha kit and the brand had achieved almost cult status. Many owned 30 to 40 individual Rapha items and you can imagine the cost of their entire cycling wardrobe when the socks cost £15 a pair and jersey is north of £130. I had some Rapha tops and their rain jackets and they were brilliant. I continue to be underwhelmed by their shorts and believe Assos shorts are the best for long rides. When the weather is terrible the Castelli Gabba top is essential along with endura neoprene gloves.

If the weather is bad you are going to be cold whatever you wear

If it is wet, windy and cold and you are at 3,000m and about to descend a mountain at speed it does not matter how many clothes you wear – you are going to be cold. At one point I was wearing a merino wool t-shirt, merino wool base layer, Gabba top, a Castelli long sleeved jersey, Rapha deep winter jacket, wind stopper gillet, neck warmer and hat and I was still frozen!

It’s almost impossible to avoid getting ill

When the weather is bad you sweat and overheat on the way up a hill and freeze to death on the way down. The continuous daily repetition meant that by the end of the ride we were all suffering from varying levels of what felt like pneumonia. We were all riding on paracetamol and ibuprofen by the end of the tour. For the last 3 days I was feeling pretty unwell.

Saddles sores are a pain in the butt

Everyone had issues with saddle sores – some having to miss stages they were so bad. I had big issues the first week due to riding in rain-soaked shorts for 9 to 10 hours each day and with a chamois cream that was fine for an hour on the turbo but not 10 hours in the rain. By day three I had open wounds on my butt and sitting on the bike was agony. I was saved by the team doctor advising me to put compede on the open wounds and taking paracetamol to null the pain. The strategy worked and the wounds healed. My mistake initially was to remove the compede patches each night which effectively involved waxing my arse! I learnt just to leave it on. I switched to Assoss Chamois cream which in my opinion is infinitely superior to any other product. Once healed I then managed the sores and occasional infected spots with a combination of sudacreme and betadine and would ensure I changed out of wet kit as soon as possible, regularly applied additional chamois cream and ensured I always wore clean kit.

Most mechanical issues were wheel related and carbon rimmed wheels are a nightmare

Most of the riders had very expensive bikes and carbon wheels. Many of those with carbon wheels, such as Zipps, had issues such as the wheels delaminating. Carbon rims also make a lot of noise when you brake and can be less effective in the rain. I had standard Mavic wheels and loved them – for a day race I would use my carbon wheels but for multi-stage events I will stick with my Mavics (which are just as light as Zipp 202s!). There were many mechanical issues but most seemed to be related to carbon wheels.

It is easy to eat too much and put on weight

The first week I had a stomach bug which meant that food was passing through me at an alarming rate. I lost weight during the first week until I started on the Immodium and after three pills things returned to normal. Each day there were four food stops with real food – pasta, sandwiches, etc. Despite burning between 3,000 and 4,000 calories per day I put on weight as 1) it was hard to measure how much I was consuming and 2) I was either comfort eating because it was cold or terrified of bonking. I also ate far too many bakery products – often as there was no other option – and I do not want to see another croissant for a very long time.

Without a Power Meter it is difficult to gauge how hard you are working

I started the tour with P1 Power Meter Pedals but 8 days of continuous rain resulted in them failing. The company were brilliant and shipped me replacement pedals from the US to one of the hotels but for half the ride I was without power data. Without power data it is really hard to know how hard you are riding.

After the first four or five days I could not raise my heart rate above 150 bpm when my normal maximum would be in the early 170s. So normal heart rate zones became meaningless. It was also impossible to rely on Perceived Effort because on some mornings it required all my effort just to get out of bed! When I did not have power data I used heart rate targets but re-calibrated downwards by about 10 to 15 bpm. Towards the end of the tour my heart rate began to return to normal.

Riding well is all about pacing and finishing strongly

In mountain stages if I rode too hard on the first few climbs because I was being overly competitive with the younger riders I would lose all power for the final climb and crawl home. When it comes to racing mountain stages my goal was always to be able to ride the final climb hard. This meant riding conservatively on early climbs and also building my effort during each climb so that I finished each climb strongly. During the 21 stages I found myself in survival mode only on one, possibly two occasions – both of which were self-inflicted.

Short efforts on hairpins can put a lot of space between you and other riders

My coach’s training plan required me to put short efforts into each hairpin on training rides. It was only when I did this on the mountain stages under race conditions did I realise how effective a few seconds of effort can be in opening up a gap on competitors. I wished I had practiced this more.

France is a great country but roundabouts are a nightmare

I had no idea how diverse and beautiful France is and what an amazing cycling destination. The two Alpine stages and the final few stages in Provence provided some of the best cycle rides of my life and my wife is delighted I now want to holiday in France.
We only rode one lap of the Champs Elysee but once was enough. Drivers coming onto roundabouts have right of way which seems crazy and our single lap provided almost continuous life and death moments.

It is difficult to identify another challenge which would be a worthy successor to the TdF

I am now wondering what to do on a bike after the TdF which would provide the same challenge and emotional appeal. It is difficult to think of something that physically and emotionally would have a greater appeal – any suggestions would be much appreciated!

To learn how you can get fit enough for the Le Loop, look at our training packages or email info@kudoscycling.com

Graham dodging the cars Around a famous landmark...Kudos earnt!

Graham dodging the cars Around a famous landmark...Kudos earnt!

Holiday cycling adventures with Kudos Cycling: Exploring Verbier and the Valais of Switzerland. Road bike training, guiding and e-biking.

A gentil introduction to alpine cycling and Switzerland

A gentil introduction to alpine cycling and Switzerland

For someone who cycles in Essex, where there really aren't any hills to talk of, heading to the Swiss Alps for a “cycling break” might not seem like the most obvious choice. If you're in a similar boat, fear not, in Anthony at Kudos Cycling you really don't need to worry.  First of all, Anthony is careful to find out exactly what sort of cycling you've done before so that he can choose a route that will challenge you without breaking you.  Add to that the wonderful Swiss Valais region and you are onto a winner.

Sure, there are mountain passes that would keep Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali happy, but the valley floor between Martigny and Sion alongside the River Rhone is flat, beautiful, filled with delightful medieval Roman villages and towns and bedecked with vineyards, orchards and apricot orchards on either side.

Now although the valley was a pleasure to be pedaling along, I actually wanted to test myself.  Each day started with a chat with Anthony seeing how the legs were and working out what would be a good route for me and my fellow riders.  Each of the four days out with Kudos Cycling were different. A steady, but not too tough ascent to the ski resort of La Fouly was rewarded with a coffee and lunch in a delightful alpine restaurant where I sampled the local cuisine. Day two was tougher with a ride along the valley before a testing climb up through a nature reserve to a stunning beautiful lake at Deborance.  The route takes you up some tough steep ramps but eases off to take you through the most extraordinary section of road literally blasted out of the side of a mountain. The tunnels are extraordinary and great fun to blast down giving a yodel as you go, hearing it echo as you go from light to dark and back again.

With the legs feeling it a bit, day three was something completely different: e-biking! This must surely be the way forward, particularly for families and a great way to explore the valley. Anthony had organised mountain bikes from Mountain Air in Verbier that come with a battery unit attached that is good for 40-50km depending on how you use it.  On the downhills you use the bike exactly as normal, but on the way up, you can get a helping hand. I chose to test myself using the lowest setting 'eco mode' though others chose one step up: tour.  If you go up to Turbo mode, although the battery wouldn't last very long, you would keep up with the aforementioned Mr Froome!

Although the group had cyclists of different standards, these bikes evened it all out.  What strikes me is that with the multitude of trails in the area, you could easily have a whole family outing that simply wouldn't have been possible otherwise for the real hardy characters, you could go out on a normal mountain bike with your loved one heading out on an E-bike.  They are brilliant fun.  We climbed over 5,000 feet on ours and ended up on the lower slopes under the Glacier de Corbassière.  Just below this stunning viewpoint was the Cabine Brunet mountain restaurant. It was almost a throwback in time. Clearly a family run concern, father was busying himself restocking the cellars while Mother produced good wholesome alpine food. Among our group we had a delicious macaroni dish while other had goulash soup served with great hunks of still warm home cooked bread and a slab of local cheese on the side. Delicious.

Quiet, alpine routes through the trees

Quiet, alpine routes through the trees

All good things must come to an end so there was only time for a short foray back into the hills on my trusty steed - a Specialized Roubaix S4 - and Anthony had kept the best (and hardest) for last.  A challenging climb up numerous switchbacks saw us rise rapidly up the valley sides over a couple of 'cols' before a brief descent back down to the village of Vollege for a well-earned coffee and cake.  This was me getting close to the limit but with words of encouragement from Anthony ringing in my ears I cannot tell you the elation I felt making it over the top.

For me, Anthony was able to work out exactly what I was capable of doing and then gently teasing that little bit more out of my legs so that I was left feeling hugely proud of my achievements.  Pushing me onwards without ever really getting to that red line; looking back as I write this, it is a rare talent indeed that can choose just the right route for the occasion.

Travel to Le Chable couldn't be easier.  You can fly into Geneva from pretty much anywhere in the world and take the ever-efficient Swiss railway to Martigny and then on up the valley.  From this winter on, a new operator Powdair will start flights into Sion flying from London City, London Luton, London Southend, Southampton, Bristol and Manchester as well as Antwerp.  You can then train right up to Le Chable. Swiss efficiency was more than in evidence on my return. The train departed Martigny bang on time and arrived on time at Geneva Airport.  It was then a whole eight minutes from stepping off the train until I was through security at the airport. Admittedly a quiet time, but still, you'd be hard pressed to do it anywhere else!

It would be wrong of me not to finish by mentioning the region of Valais again. The views are simply stunning, the cycle routes (on and off road) numerous, varied and just plain awesome.  Restaurants are varied in price, type and style and don't forget the small coffee shops - after all you need to treat yourself after all that effort.  If you fancy trying something a bit different from the norm and want to challenge yourself, just enough, then you could do a lot worse than get in touch with Anthony at Kudos Cycling.  I for one, will be heading back just as soon as I can.

The beauty of ebiking are the rewarding views for little effort.

Training with a power meter - how and why

Power metres have very much come to forefront of the training tool to have in recent years and understanding the information you can gather is crucial. They provide a measurement of the force pushed through the pedal and crank and the velocity with which you do it, to give you your power output. 

Read More

A guide to accomplishing your first alpine climb

Views like these are your rewards

Views like these are your rewards

The Tour de France and La Course by the Tour de France (womens version) is over for another year. The incredible exploits of Chris Froome winning his fourth successive TDF and Lizzie Deignan flying the flag for womens cycling hopefully inspiring even more people to challenge themselves psychologically and physically to give cycling up big mountains a crack!

It’s possibly one of the most fulfilling aspects of cycling to reach the summit of a mountain and experience those breath-taking views and the freedom of being removed from civilisation.

Here are a few quick tips to help you on your way.

The Parcours (the route)

Know your route! Make sure that if you are expecting a 15km ride with 7% average grade halfway through the ride, and when on the climb where are the areas where you can recover and where does it really ramp up i.e. where are you going to suffer!? Knowledge of the climb allows you to pace yourself.


Weather in the mountains can change rapidly and can be glorious over one side of the valley and in the other; you think you may need Noahs Arc. Living in the mountains year round there is only one website I trust and that’s YR.no . It's Norwegian so it must be good! 


On the climb you will more than likely hot, sweaty regardless of the ambient temperature, but once you stop you may fell the chill at the top. A rule of thumb is as you climb every 100m you will lose a degree in temperature. It could be a scorcher in the valley bottom but up at 1700m for example it could be significantly colder and on the descent you will pleased that you brought those gloves and that coat, if anything just to keep the wind off.

When packing to leave, pack for the worst; overshoes, thermal top, coat, cap, gloves, leg warmers. At least you have it should you need it.

Fuel for the legs

Avoid that bonk (a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy which is caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles).

The thing to do is keep topping up on your energy stores and staying hydrated little and often!

Another rule of thumb is to try and consume ~60g of carbohydrate per hour either from food or fluid, and 750ml of fluid per hour but this varies on conditions. Heat equals more fluid due to an increase in water loss through sweat.

Pace and fuel yourself correctly and you’ll avoid doing this!

Pace and fuel yourself correctly and you’ll avoid doing this!

The Climb

Okay so you’re on the ride and approaching that first climb. It doesn’t matter the size of the climb, big or small, go at your own speed. Don't try hang with people that go flying off, you’ll probably catch them later. Climbs in the mountains are inherently long, and starting at a comfortable pace where you can still chat is a good thing it’s all about good pacing. Let the effort come to you.

Cyclists have different techniques, are you a Contador; out of the saddle or a Froome; spinning a minute gear very fast, or maybe somewhere in between? Do whatever feels comfortable to you but also worth having the right bike set-up. More on that later.

As the climb goes on you will feel the effort but this is where knowing the route and the profile comes in handy, a steep bit here where it’s going to hurt a little and flat bit there where I can recover! Keep taking on water on the way up and a bit of solids, the climb could be long and hot.

You've reached the top, breath in the fresh air and enjoy that view you've earned! Time for a coffee!

Now the descent


The key is take it steady, get on the drops (gives more control of the brakes), and there’s a lot to take in, make sure you enjoy that view, you’ve earned it. Stay on your side of the road; the right, remember it’s the right had side if you’re in mainland Europe! We’ll cover the more technical aspects of descending in another blog soon. More than likely it’ll be a bit cold on the way down so put a coat on and maybe some gloves, you could be descending for a while. Onto the next one!


Written by Jack & Tess Lawson

Tess Lawson from Kudos Cycling on her career decision to take a mechanics course at the UCI HQ's

It took a serious ski accident and major knee surgery to push Tess Lawson into her decision to try bike mechanics. She has not looked back.

A ski instructor and coach in the popular Swiss resort of Verbier, Tess found herself in hospital and out of action in November last year. It was the beginning of the ski season and there was no chance of her continuing her winter job.

“It gave me time to sit back and think about what I really want to do,” she said. “I utterly love cycling and wanted to be involved in the sport, but not necessarily coaching or working with athletes as I have done in skiing. I wanted to try something different and work with my hands.”

The former British national cross-country runner and competitive cyclist did not take long to decide to apply for the course at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland. After passing the Level 1 qualification the first week, she has gone on to complete the Level 2 course.

Although she had no experience in the profession before starting the course, Tess had learned about bike maintenance from her four brothers, all of whom cycle. She realises that most women do not have that chance.

“My brothers taught me a lot, so I have always been able to maintain my own bike. But I know lots of girls who won’t go out riding alone because they need to be with someone who can help if they have a problem or even just a flat tyre.”

Improving the bike shop experience for women

She adds that bike shops can be intimidating places for women, with some old-school mechanics unable to take female customers seriously.

“I’ve had some bad experiences dealing with mechanics who don’t even look at me then just give my bike back saying, ‘yeah it’s fine.’ One shop even damaged my bike and tried to cover it up.”

Tess firmly believes that all customers - whether men, women, competitive cyclists or leisure riders – should get the same consideration and service.

“I utterly love cycling and would like to make it more approachable and accessible to other women,” she declares.

On graduating from the UCI WCC, she already has some workshop experience lined up in a shop where she will put into practice what she has learned during her five weeks in Aigle.

“It has been an awesome course,” she says. “I’ve been able to work on road bikes, mountain bikes and track bikes, and I’ve built lots of wheels."

"It’s been incredibly intense and an inspiring experience. And what an amazing environment to work in!”

She has many projects in mind which will be easier with her new mechanical know-how, not least to undertake a self-supported long-distance bike trip abroad. She is also involved in a new alpine cycling training venture.

“I would like to pursue a career as a race mechanic but at the moment I need to get more experience. I want to continue learning and come back to the UCI World Cycling Centre and do my level 3 qualification.”

Twenty-two mechanics have graduated from the UCI WCC’s course since it was launched in 2013. Tess Lawson is the second woman to follow the course after South Korean Audrey Ji Yeong in 2016.

For more information on a mechanics course contact us here