A variation on rice cakes

Cashew and Bacon Rice Cakes

1. Cook two cups of Calrose or other medium-grain sticky rice.
2. While the rice is cooking, fry eight ounces of bacon till crisp, then wrap in paper towels to remove grease. Crumble bacon.
3. Drain the fat from the pan. Lightly beat three eggs in a small bowl and gently scramble in same pan, over medium heat.
4. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Then add in 1/2 cup cashews, 1/4 c up nut butter, and 1/2 cup raisins. Mix well and press mixture into a 9-inch-square pan to about 1.5-inch thickness.
5. Cool thoroughly in fridge, then cut into ten individual cakes and wrap in parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy carrying on a ride.

Cycling – the new golf

Early September and the cars, vans, motorbike outriders and cyclists that make up the Tour of Britain caravan are all climbing the infamous Tumble at 15:40 on a Tuesday afternoon. Watching are hundreds of cycling fans from South Wales, South West and the Forest of Dean. Lots of people had taken the day off work to catch sight of the Tour. Aside from those involved in the tour circus, I was the only one standing on the grassy verge ‘in work’. 

It’s quite possible that on that Tuesday I was part of a growing trend amongst professionals. Corporate cycling days are beginning to emerge from the plethora of networking events. Is cycling becoming the new golf? Are the Middle Aged Men in Lycra (‘MAMILS’) transferring their leisure pursuits to the networking arena?

I was first approached by Stills and Kilsby Williams accountants back in the Summer 2013 to put together a corporate cycling day package for 20 or so of their clients and contacts. A ride around Monmouthshire, taking in a climb of the infamous Tumble, followed by a networking BBQ at the Gliffaes Country Hotel. Demand grew, to the extent that on the day of the event in September 2013, 26 riders left the Gliffaes after a morning coffee and pastries. Even a writer from Cycling Weekly travelled hundreds of miles to join us and write  a story on what he considered a ‘first’.

So why a corporate cycling day? There’s no disputing the growth of cycling, particularly amongst professionals. Road cycling is fast becoming the new ‘middle aged crisis’. Fast cars are being swapped for ultra light carbon bikes and replica Team Sky jerseys. Strava stats are being checked and pored over as regularly as the obligatory work e-mail. Everyone’s trying to loose the middle aged tummy and bag a KOM. I guess back in the day, the same was true for golf. At one time it was the growth sport. In turn, the golf course was the place to network. Maybe corporate days just reflect leisure (or rather men’s leisure) pursuits?

Trawling through LinkedIn I’ve discovered a number of ‘cyclists in business’ groups, with various posts about corporate days and client cycling meetings. Many city firms of traders, lawyers and bankers now host corporate cycling days, charity events and even replicating stages of the Tour de France.  When a topic gets coverage in the Economist, it’s now beyond a novelty.

Unquestionably with a corporate cycling day everyone shares the rush of endorphins on a fast descent or the euphoria in tackling something like the Tumble. There is also an easy rhythm about conversations on a bike. Perhaps the most compelling reason why cycling is a good way to network is because, for many professionals, it’s a passion and a way of life. Getting out on the bike is what we’re all dreaming of whilst we’re sitting at our desks. And a shared passion is a fantastic way to start any relationship.

“Just turn the pedals”

“A cycling coach? What’s there to coach; you just turn the pedals”. That was my father’s response when I told him I was studying to be a British Cycling qualified coach. So what is there to coach? How can a cycling coach help?

Once you’ve learnt to ride, one of the joys of cycling is it’s simplicity. No question that the more cycling you do, the better and more confident you’ll be. However, cycling is all about efficiency and to become efficient you need to understand and practice technique. Becoming an efficient rider makes a huge difference in your ability to cycle faster and further. This is one of the first areas I focus on when I coach MAMILS – middle aged men (& women) in lycra – who want to undertake their first challenge of a long distance sportive or something like the etape du tour. So how can you become more efficient?

Body position

The wrong body position on the bike will make a huge difference to not just efficiency but also potentially injury. A common mistake is saddle height. Too low and the muscles in the leg aren’t fully engaged and there will be too much movement in the hip and knee joints. Too high, and hip rocking occurs and too much strain on the knees. A saddle being out by as little as 1 – 1.5cm can make a very big difference to your cycling efficiency.

Cadence

Clients are always surprised when I explain the correct level of cadence required for efficient cycling. Cadence is the term used to describe and measure the amount of revolutions of the pedals per minute (RPM). Watch any bike race and observe how fast the riders are turning the pedals. The ideal cadence is 90 rpm. It’s always difficult to gauge at first without a bike computer with cadence sensors, but after hours of practice it becomes entirely natural.

Gear selection

I still cringe when I see cyclists (particularly those who should know better) ‘pushing’ too hard a gear. This is a common fault of many cyclists including some who ride in cycling clubs. If you select too hard a gear, you’ll struggle to turn the pedals and your cadence will be more like 50-60 rpm. At the other end of the extreme, too low a gear and your legs will ‘spin’ round like a mouse on a wheel. Neither is very efficient. The correct gear selection goes hand in hand with cadence. Unless your gear selection is right, you won’t get the correct cadence.

Cycling isn’t just about turning the pedals. Technique is equally important in cycling as it is in other sports such as tennis or golf. Practicing good technique will make you faster and more efficient. More importantly, good bike position will ensure you stay injury and ache free. Mastering these techniques will make it easier, meaning you can enjoy the simplicity of ‘just turning the pedals’ for hours on end.

Fueling your first 100 mile sportive

For many cyclists this weekend riding the Prudential Ride London will be the first time they will be tackling 100 miles on the bike. For the last 6 months I’ve been coaching one such cyclist who not content with cycling his first 100, wants to feel comfortable and aim for a decent time.

Most cyclists who can cycle for 60-80 miles can cycle 100 miles and beyond. The only difference is ensuring you take on enough fuel. Here’s my top tips:

2-3 days before the event

Start focusing on your diet. Cut out alcohol and make sure you drink plenty of water, particularly in this hot weather. In terms of food, have a slight bias towards a heavier carb diet. Don’t go overboard, but gradually introduce a little more carbs into lunch and evening meals.

CarbonaraRecipeCollections

Evening before

Key is to make sure you keep yourself well hydrated. Most sportives entail early starts and if you wake up de-hydrated you’ll struggle to make that up before you start.

Breakfast / pre-event

A good slow release carb breakfast will really set you up for the day. Porridge with banana and honey is one of my favourites, with some wholemeal toast. I would also recommend, mixing up 500ml of energy drink to sip post breakfast and en route to the start. You can always ditch the bottle or leave it in the car. This will ensure you’ve taken on board some liquid and fuel.

porridge

During the ride

You should try and aim for approx 60g of carb each hour of riding. This is the equivalent of a banana and a bar. Try and spread feeding out over the hour, with a bite here and there. This will ensure you won’t get cramps where you body is struggling to deal with the effort and your food intake. If you can, try and plan your fuel intake around the route. Don’t try and eat on a climb for example, as you’ll need your blood supply to carry oxygen, not try and deal with your carb intake.

In terms of drink, a rough rule of thumb is 500ml for each hour of riding. You may need more if it’s a very hot day. I would also suggest splitting your bottles, with one containing energy drink and the other water (with possibly some electrolytes tabs if very hot).

Post ride

Drink a recovery shake or pint of milk within 20 mins of finishing. The mix of carb and protein will help fuel your recovery. You will probably be de-hydrated so make sure you drink water as well.

Simple Flapjack recipe

Why bother buying expensive bars and flapjacks when you can make your own and tailor them to your particular taste. I’ll be trying a few recipes out over the summer and those that work I’ll be posting here.

This is a simple flapjack recipe.

2014-07-26 16.14.08

Ingredients

  • 200g/7¼oz unsalted butter

  • 200g/7¼oz demerara sugar

  • 200g/7¼oz honey

  • 400g/14¼oz porridge oats

  • 50g/1¾oz nuts, dried fruits or glacé ginger, chopped or desiccated coconut (optional)

  • You will also need a 20cm x 30cm (8in x 12in) cake tin, greased

Preparation method

  1. Soak the oats in a little milk in a saucepan to soften for about 20 mins.
  2. Put the butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Add the oats and nuts, fruit, ginger or coconut, if using, and mix well.

  3. Transfer the oat mixture to the prepared cake tin and spread to about 2cm (¾in) thick. Smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/Gas 4 for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges, but still slightly soft in the middle. Let cool in the tin, then turn out and cut into squares.

 

 

 

Le Tour: what’s realistic?

Most, if not all, cycling fans are typically engrossed in the Tour right now. It’s been a fascinating race so far, not so much for the racing and showdown’s we were all expecting but for the circumstances that have befallen the race each day, not least the weather.

Not surprising given cycling’s past that questions have been raised at Nibali’s performance so far and the more dubious history of the Astana team. Some of those accelerations in the Alps have been pretty impressive. Fans will be wondering what’s possible.

I’ve been quite impressed with Ross Tucker and Science of Sport. For fans (and coaches like me) they provide some useful articles on performance physiology. Here’s an old article explaining the mysteries of w/kg and VO2 max which I think is still relevant to get a gauge of what’s possible by pro cyclists.

Cycling – performance

Sportive preparation – recce

There’s no better way to overcome the unknown and prepare than by taking the time to do a recce in advance. Not only will this give you a greater understanding of what you may face, but also how it will feel after a certain amount of time in the saddle

Understanding the route from the profile and information available online is an equally valuable first step in digesting what you are about to undertake. Whilst studying the route on paper, and reading the organiser’s notes, will give you an idea of what to expect, nothing can beat an actual recce of the course wherever possible and practical to do so.

Knowing where the roads narrow, particular caution is needed, what comes before and after the main climb and an overall familiarity of the route will allow you to perform in a better manner.

When undertaking a recce try to work at the same level of exertion that you will on the day of the event. If you’re using a power meter or heart rate monitor, stick to the levels that you know you can sustain, even if you feel you could go faster. The objective is to really simulate how you want to ride on the day so it’s important to have a plan and stick to it. Try timing yourself over set parts of the course, for example how long it takes to get to the foot of the main climb, how long it takes for you to ascend it and your overall duration.

Make a note of these times and commit them to memory. Knowing this will allow you to focus all of your attention on the day of the event and give you a realistic guideline to work to based on your own personal ability.

Learning unknown descents in advance will be a huge benefit come the big day as you’ll know exactly what’s around the next corner, how sharp a bend is or if there are any particular nasty patches of tarmac to look out for.

Remember to consider that there may be several riders around you come the day of the event so you may need to adjust your line on a descent accordingly. Practice moderating your speed in advance of the bend so that you can roll through the apex and carry more speed on exit.

Take the time during your recce to simulate as closely as possible what you plan to do on the day. This not only means what you are eating and drinking but also how often you’re putting the fuel in throughout the ride.

Time your nutrition intake to coincide with the course. For example, if you have a big climb on the horizon then take on some fuel in the 30 minutes prior instead of waiting until you’re on the climb and breathing more heavily.

It may seem silly but another point to consider is how easy your ride food is to open whilst on the move. Pre-opening some bars in advance can help tremendously, and gels with easy to open tops are a nice touch especially as fatigue starts to kick in.

Use your recce time wisely to experiment and hone your nutrition plan ready for the big day.

Don’t worship false gods

Last evening Abergavenny Festival cycling fringe laid on a Welsh premiere of Pantani: Accidental Death of a Cyclist. As a pre-curser there was a short, wonderful film about an unknown British cyclist called Eileen Sheridan.

Who is Eileen Sheridan? A post war cyclist who started cycling with her husband and friends in a local cycling club. Unlike clubs today, a main feature of the cycling was short, touring trips. The essence was about getting out in the country and comradeship with like minded individuals. Eileen went on to compete as an amateur and won national titles at 50 and 100 mile TT’s. She later turned ‘professional’; effectively a paid brand ambassador of the Hercules bike company. Banned from competing she undertook a series of gruelling challenges. Timed point-to-point ‘races’ culminated in a record breaking LEJOG, immediately followed by a record breaking 1,000 miles. Quite simply, Eileen’s achievements were astonishing and it’s a travesty that she isn’t celebrated enough within not just the cycling world but the UK sporting world.

Which leads onto Pantani, who was unquestionably feted across Europe and possibly the world for his achievements and style of riding. A tragic story which I guess is all too typical of young men who entered the world of professional cycling in the late ’80′s and early ’90′s. Clean amateurs who sold their soul to the devil of professional cycling. A world of corporate sponsors, team management, ‘doctors’ (if they can be called such a thing), money and performance enhancing drugs.

I couldn’t help but feel watching both films back-to-back that Pantani would have loved to have traded in his performance world for that of Eileen Sheridan. Her simple naive approach and sheer love of cycling was a refreshing antidote to that of Pantani’s world.

The cinema was packed; full of admirers of Pantani’s achievements, most of which, were probably aided by performance enhancing drugs. What a travesty that Eileen’s achievements are unknown and yet in my opinion are far more impressive. It shows that despite all the controversial circumstances of Pantani, we still worship false gods.