Tuesday, 30 October 2012

5 Cycling Related 'To Do's' In The Off-Season

Now that the racing has finished for 2012 and we are all growing bored of the Armstrong/US Postal affair it would be easy to let our minds wonder away from cycling - which can be a critical mistake, especially for new fans of cycling having watched the pro's for the first time this year or who have been drawn to the sport thanks to the success of Bradley Wiggins. So often I've seen fans interest wane so much through the winter months that cycling isn't really on their agenda anymore when the new season comes around and then cycling is resigned to the 'fad' and 'phase' section of our lives. The dark nights and cold weather don't exactly help to stimulate the mind into thinking about outside activity either. Here's 5 cycling related things to do over the winter to help keep the off-season blues at bay...

1. Read Read Read: 
There is a growing mass of cycling literature, especially over the last couple of years as professional cycling has once again increased in popularity. From pro-riders memoirs, touring diaries, history pieces, books about various climbs, races, training manuals - its pretty endless and there is something to suit everybody. Take the chance during the wet weather and dark nights to catch up on all the reading you haven't done over the summer (because you have been too busy riding your bike!). If you are struggling to know where to start, scroll down and see the 'literature' widget on the right hand side of this page. Some personal recommendations would be:

 2. Get Off The Turbo And Get Outside:
How many cycling hard-man stories do you need to read about riders getting frostbite, battling the elements, racing through blizzards before you feel guilty about 'staying in' and heading for the Turbo Trainer? Turbo Trainers do have their place of course, but nothing can replicate the open road in terms of scenery, feel, required effort, terrain. That Country lane you found mid-summer that looked so inviting is still there you know? OK, so it may be sludge-ridden, wet, grey and cold but that's what cycling is all about! Get in the saddle and face the elements, pretend you are Tom Boonen in one of the wetter additions of Paris-Roubaix, head down and grind it out. Nothing is more rewarding than completing a particularly long or arduous ride in adverse weather conditions, the sense of achievement just for even getting outside makes it worthwhile and hey, it's not always raining in winter - sometimes that summer scenery looks even more epic on a crisp, frosty, sunny winter morning!

3. Plan Next Years Holiday:
You mean you don't take a cycling related holiday? What the hell is wrong with you! A cycling holiday comes in two forms: From number 1. Plan a trip with friends centred around alpine climbs, ride the same slopes as the Tour or the Giro and follow in the tyre tracks of the pro's (albeit far more slowly!). This gives you something to focus all that winter training on and keep you looking forward to the new year. Cycling holiday number 2. Go and watch the Tour - it has to be done, at least once but preferably each year - with the recent unveiling of the 2013 route there is no excuse for not looking ahead and planning the trip of a lifetime centred around stages offering beautiful scenery but also some GC action. Get the map, look for the best stages, hotels, vineyards, bars and restaurants. Done. It doesn't have to be expensive either, this is France - a short car journey away and there is camping aplenty!

4. Train Like The Pro's:
If slogging it out for months on end, alone on wet country roads isn't your thing, then you can always check in at a pro style 'winter training camp'. There are plenty of weekend or week-long camps cropping up as cyclists fight to get the best out of themselves for the coming seasons racing or an attack on one of the big 'etapes'. Some of these are hosted by professional outfits and even some ex-pro's, I'm pretty sure Stephen Roche has a set-up in Spain and there are others throughout the warmer European climates of Portugal, Spain, Italy - where there is some sun and a big mountains you are likely to find a 'training camp'. You don't have to travel abroad though, there some to be found in Britain around the Lake District and North Pennines - there won't be as much sun but the camaraderie and some steep climbs should make up for that!

5. Just Keep Watching:
Most of these suggestions so far have banked on you being a cyclist as well as following pro-cycling, however there could be many of you who follow the sport but don't participate in any way, after all, not all football fans play football, do they? Just because there isn't any live racing, doesn't mean that you can't still watch some racing! I'm not talking expensive DVD's or poor quality Youtube clips - I'm talking www.cyclingtorrents.nl - sign up here (for free!) and you can download and watch pretty much any race, past or present, sometimes even in it's entirety! I know you are all keen but you haven't seen EVERY race this year have you? What about that time you missed Amstel Gold because you had to go out with the family? Or the occasion you couldn't make it home from work in time for stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia? Well, here's your chance to catch up on EVERYTHING you may have missed - you could even go back a decade or two and educate yourself on some races from the past, it could make for some good Christmas pub trivia to impress your friends and family with!

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