Sven Nys – The Final Year: Vimeo on Demand

117692_550x814This beautifully filmed video will appeal to both cyclocross addicts and the uninitiated. As the title says, it’s the tale of Sven Nys’s last year of a stunning competitive career. It tells the story of an athlete, who at the age of 39 wants one more final year competing at the pinnacle of his sport. Racing against those significantly younger, was never going to be easy. As if that wasn’t hard enough, he is also trying to over come the aftermath of a divorce. The film gives the viewer an insight to how he worked with his coach and confidents, to move forward. Moments of self doubt and heart felt difficulty, show he’s only human but like a phoenix he rises from the flame and gets his reward.

This film will move your soul and for all those cross fans out there, send a shiver down your spine. I’m sitting in sunny France writing this but even I thought “Come on bring on the mud”! What a fantastic hour and 38 minutes entertainment to rock your soul. It’s available on Vimeo on Demand.

A Beginner’s Guide To Riding Big Climbs

Col d' Pailheres

Col d’ Pailheres

Cycling up another mountain climb in France last week, I started to think about how my approach to this type of riding has changed over the years. I’m not saying it’s always easy but there are certain things I do to make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible. In a nutshell, ’How to Give Yourself a Fighting Chance’.

Take more water with you than you would in the UK. It may be hot and you’re going to be working hard. You can always ditch some part way up.

Start off in an easier gear than you think you really need. If you over gear early on it will be difficult to recover. I have a 32 sprocket on the back and I’m not afraid to use it! It’s much better to keep the cadence high (the number of pedal revolutions per minute) than to maul. Look at Chris Froome, he’s a master of spinning those pedals round.

Sit down for most of the climb. It’s more energy efficient and let’s face it, unless you want to race the other ‘Tour de France wannabes’ who may be accompanying you, you’re not going to have to respond to an attack. I am not the right body shape to be a great climber, so I prefer to move to the back of the saddle when my cadence has dropped to 60rpm (i.e when it’s getting steep). I then focus on pedalling in nice circles ensuring that I am pushing the pedal down and as it gets towards the bottom of the stroke and dragging it back up. This helps to gain maximum propulsion. My hands rest lightly on the top of the handle bars and I try to stay fairly relaxed.

If the gradient steepens and I can’t pull the pedals round then I sit further forward on the saddle with my hands on the hoods in a more aggressive position. I may even then get out of the saddle. Obviously this means not only am I moving the bike up hill, I’m also supporting my body weight which takes it’s toll. If you are fortunate enough to be a natural climber and can nip up any gradient go for it. You may be able to dance on the pedals a lot better than me and it may be quicker.

Having tried to persuade you to sit for the bulk of the climb, it is worth getting out of the saddle every now and then just to stretch your back and stop your under carriage from falling asleep. This is relevant for both men and women. Personally I favour the corner of a hair pin bend because it gives me a little bit of momentum for the next section.

When it’s safe to do so, take the line on the road with the least off camber. When you’re struggling every centimetre counts so you don’t want to pedal uphill anymore than needed. Look for the shortest and flattest route particularly on corners. Needless to say, be aware of other road users.

If you start to realise that those pervious days in the saddle have ripped your legs off, it’s time to adopt a bit of psychology. I personally like to focus on a sign post, tree etc say 100ms up the road and just think about pedalling to that spot. No I don’t stop when I get there, I just choose another feature up the road. In stops me from concentrating on negative thoughts.

Finally ensure you have left a bit in the tank to arrive in style out of the saddle. After all who’s going to know that for the bulk of the ride you’ve been crawling along having a crisis. The lasting memory captured on film of you arriving at the col is all that counts, isn’t it???

Enjoy and remember it’s all about personal challenges and not what others are doing around you.

Happy cycling 🙂

The Numpty’s Guide To Your First Day Away

This little insight will resonate with the fool hardy and be an insight for the inexperienced.

Leave Blighty in sub 20 degrees, and sit in the car for 2 and a 1/2 days. Wake up below a favourite peak (in my case Mont Ventoux) to the sound of people getting ready to ride to the summit. Announce that you’re beside yourself with excitement and just have to go, despite feeling totally knackered with a stiff back. Get ready at warp speed leaving behind trip essentials like that extra gel. After all you can’t remember where anything is because nothing is sorted! As a token gesture to good preparation, fill your bottles more than normal, because after all it’s gonna be hot!

Whizz past some French woman, half your age and think ‘hell that’s starting at a snail’s pace!’. After a short time hear her breathing down your neck and think,‘well it’s not a race anyway, so I’m going to let you pass and I’ll get you later.’ Suddenly be engulfed with an over whelming feeling of heat exhaustion because the temperature is rising to 30+ degrees. Check your gears to ensure you are actually on the big sprocket at the back. Maybe the front disc is rubbing? No, it’s a case of ‘what you see is what you get!’

Think, this stretch of 9% seems to go on for ever and big climbs are often rides of retrospective enjoyment. Get your ass whipped by some guy in a vest and gym shorts, circa 1960’s, flying by on an E bike. He’ll be pedalling like the clappers with his feet at 10 to 2 in a pair of flip flops. Your self esteem falls below the floor and you begin to wonder if your really are too old to expect great things of yourself. After all your back is in a state of total melt down, despite you trying to get out of the saddle on every corner.

After what seems a life time, the end is in sight. Is there a feeling of joy and elation? No not really, rather a feeling of completing a mental hell.

Mont Ventoux this time, L’Alpe d’hues a few years before. You have a poor memory Phelan or maybe the draw to join the lemmings is stronger than you think. Maybe the first ride should be easier to flushing the legs ready for harder things? What I do know is, that some things you have to find out for yourself.

Happy travels and may you all enjoy the elation of completing many big climbs abroad.

Don’t Let the Grass Grow Under Your Feet

_MG_3493I could have rehashed some article from a sport’s scientist, about what to do when it’s all going ‘pear shaped’. I don’t deny that their comments and findings hold great value, but sometimes I relate more to someone personal experience.

‘Heh that’s like me. I’ve had that and I’m not sure what to do’ is always kinda reassuring. So I am hoping that someone may find an element of hope and direction here. No this is not an Agony Aunt page, just some woman trying to think out of the box. It may not solve your training issues but it might just get you thinking.

Still training hard

Still training hard

It’s been a challenging return back to some level of fitness, after the end of the cyclocross season. Motivation has been at a low and I have been nursing a shoulder injury. Initially I did a few tough sportives, involving huge amounts of climbing sprinkled with cobbles. Could I galvanise my body into some serious action? Could I hell! I was capable of mauling my way round for hours, but it was very much a case of ‘what you see is what you get!’. Also I had lost all leg speed and ‘the straw which finally broke the camel’s back’ was a kicking at the Leek Hilly reliability. My pride was at an all time low and my self esteem was well and truly dented. Ok, I’m no superstar! I am a woman in her 50’s, my body is changing, I am getting slower and weigh a bit more, but I still train hard and want to do my best. I lost all confidence riding with groups of riders, fearing I would get blasted.Time for some evasive action I thought. I have always believed that within reason, you can improve if you put your mind to it. I have touched on this before.The likes of Jo Friel and other sport’s scientists, working with older athletes, emphasise the need to train differently. Yep you’re right, this is a favourite topic of mine, but let’s face it at 52 I have a vested interest in their findings. I don’t want to lie down, admit that I am going through the menopause and need to throw in the towel.

Here I am, having returned from today’s ride over the Cat and Fiddle and I have to say _MG_3613things are much better. No I haven’t measured my power, I can think of better ways to spend my money. Let’s face it, I am doing the best I can, so seeing it in watts is neither here nor there. I do know however, that this girl is nipping along with her heart rate over 150 bpm which for me is a good endurance ride. There comes a point when you know your body and heart rate well enough to recognise when you are recovering and working at a good personal level. So yep, I am back to using a heart rate monitor because the readings mean something to me. I know from years of training, when a depressed heart rate shows I am struggling and need more recovery.

So what am I doing differently? In the past during the off season, strength and endurance would have been my priority. I would have focused on big gear intervals and a 20/25 minute threshold sessions. But as I grow older, if I don’t work at a high cadence, I quickly turn into an ‘old plodder’!  I need to keep those neurological pathways firing fast, to make my legs pedal quickly.

So the emphasis has been on quality and speed. I have cut some of my long rides down and included two sets of intervals and a set of tabatas (20secs on 10secs off). The quest for quality has even meant that I do a lot of my sessions on a turbo; even when it’s sunny outside! The downside of living in the Peak District is that it’s always windy and every ride end’s up with me mauling up a 20% gradient. The only things that seems to have suffered is my sun tan, but you can get that in a bottle!

I have taken the interval sessions from the British Cyclocross page. They are part of a suggested 8 week training plan. I am not saying this strategy will work for everyone, but it does seem to be addressing my needs. When your tried and tested model isn’t working, you have to find a different way. We can all let the grass grow under our feet, but somethings are worth researching and fighting for.

Onwards and upwards to all my ageing friends and may we all continue to move forwards. See you in a muddy field sometime.

BCU 8 Week Plan




Guided MTB Rides In the Hope Valley

Still a few places left on the Hope Valley MTB ride, Thursday 12th May. The emphasis will be on exploring the fantastic riding in this area as well as developing skills. The cost will be £40 per rider ( minimum of 3 riders).

Alternative dates can be negotiated with a minimum of 3 riders. Alternatively I can organise a whole day to suit individual needs for £90.
For further information or to book your place email

New Dates for MTB Guided Rides and Coaching

jpblogI am in the process of organising some guided rides in the Peak District and on Cannock Chase.These will be suitable for those who are either beginners to mountain biking or with limited experience.
The emphasis will be on exploring the Hope Valley area or Cannock Chase, but will include some skill development.
The cost of the day will be £40 per rider (with a minimum of 3 riders) Courses/rides will be from 10 – 3pm (3:30pm). Occasionally the timing is dependent on the fitness level of the group.

Saturday 30th April Cannock Chase
Thursday 5th May The Hope Valley
Thursday 12th The Hope Valley

Alternative dates can be negotiated with a minimum of 3 riders. Alternatively I can organise a whole day to suit individual needs for £90.

For further information or to book your place email

Ronde Van Calderdale

The Ronde van Calderdale! Well where to start??

This must be an easier climb because I am sitting down!

This must be an easier climb because I am sitting down! Picture by Nicole Jolly-Vanderheyden

I am writing this on Tuesday having ridden it on Sunday and I still feel pretty wrecked. My back is stiff, the stairs were kinda interesting yesterday and on Sunday night I ate everything! That sounds a bit negative but I can assure you if you like a challenge, this is for you! If it’s easy is it worth doing? Have you achieved anything? In my books no, not really!

Here we go!

Here we go! Picture by Nicole Jolly-Vanderheyden

As I look over the photos posted on the Ronde van Calderdale’s Face Book page I can’t help but smile. Videos clips of people walking, being cheered on by their mates or trying the impossible task of clipping back in, on a 20% cobbled incline are making me laugh. I truly believe that’s why people go back consecutive times. Even I am sitting here thinking, I might just have another go. It’s a bit like the Three Peaks! The attrition and struggles are remembered all through rose tinted spectacles.

A really nice touch. The locals had provided a welcome rest for the weary.

A really nice touch. The locals had provided a welcome rest for the weary.

So that’s it, I guess I will be doing it again because like all the other ‘sorry’ souls on Sunday, I love a personal challenge. This very special sportive tests your stamina, determination and sheer will power. I am already thinking how I could conquer the two cobbled climbs I never quite managed to ride up. There’s always one more thing to work on eh?

So why was it so hard? Because it’s 75 miles long, with 13 cobbles climbs some of which are 20%. All in all it has 10,000ft of climbing. I have ridden up all the climbs on the Tour of Flanders, but many of these are longer. That’s what makes them so hard. I don’t know about you, but I can only maul out of the saddle for 50/60 metres, at best! There lies the future challenge for me!

The reward. A bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale.

The reward. A bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale.

Recognising that riders will be out for a considerable time, for it’s relative distance, it’s had three well stocked feed stations. Due to the severity of the whole thing, running on empty isn’t an option. Mechanical support out on the course was provided along with the usual sad waggon etc. The route was well sign posted and the locals armed, with cowbells and words of encouragement.

Back at base, all finishers were awarded with a welcomed bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale beer, a rather fetching pair of RVC socks and some more nibbles and chocolate. The flap jack went down a treat, but being congratulated by the organisers is the thing that will stick in my mind. They really meant it because yes, we had all risen to the challenge of completing an extremely tough ride, requiring something a bit more, than just sitting in the saddle for hours. I would like to thank the organisers for a fantastic event. All money raised goes to supporting young riders in the Kirklees Academy, a worthy cause.

For more pictures and information do have a look at the Face Book Page

Ronde Van Calderdale

Find below a link to a great write up about the event in the local paper


Ronde Van Oost Lancashire

Tired but happy

Tired but happy

If you like sportives with a Belgian theme, try the Ronde van Oost Lancashire next year. Run on the same day as the Tour of Flanders, the ride is finished off with a live screening of the Belgian classic.

It takes in the most challenging roads from Clitheroe and includes cobbles, steep climbs and picturesque scenery. Those familiar with the area, will be aware of The `Muur of Colne, Spine Cop and The Padiburg. If these don’t provide enough of a challenge, there’s also climbs such as Clinkham and Brant Fell. With nearly 6000ft of climbing in 50 miles, it’s not for the faint hearted, but for those who love a tough ride this is for you. Organised by the Green Jersey Cafe, it only caters for a small number of riders, but I see that as a huge plus. Small events often mean a very friendly atmosphere with good camaraderie out on the route.

Post ride massage

Post ride massage

Pre entries this year, cost a mere £15 which included support out on the course, a well stocked feed station, sufficient signs on the route and food after. What more could you want? Big thanks to the organisers,the ladies at the feed station and staff at the cafe.

So if you fancy something a bit different to add a bit of

Food and The Tour of Flanders

Food and The Tour of Flanders

spice to your weekend, it might just be worth checking out their web site. For all those who can’t resit a bit of climbing, the next event is Le Grimpeur on the 24th of April.

Cyclocross Tubeless Wheels and Tyres.

We have full inflation!

We have full inflation!

I dedicate this article to those in search of full inflation who despise mopping up pools of liquid latex. At times my bike shed has looked like a scene out of Ghost Busters, with pools of ectoplasm everywhere!

The search for a tubeless set up for my cross bikes has been both long and painful. I like the idea of not having to think about pinch punctures whilst riding my local gnarly trails and for events like the Three Peaks Cyclocross Race. However the worry of whether they would stay inflated just became all too stressful.

Click for full size

Those close to me, know the trials and tribulations of Phelan’s tubeless conversion kits. I had tyres which stayed inflated for a year, then others barely making a week. Another tyre decided to dump it’s contents in the back of the car. I have enough stress in my life and I certainly don’t need worries with my hobby.

My last Three Peaks made me realise that for the sake of reliability I just had to dip my hand in my pocket, flash the cash and sort it. There’s no point travelling to an event only to find the night before, your bike sitting in a pool of  latex. Yep one back tyre did that at 9:45 p.m in the B and B and another on my spare bike did the same when I reached Helwith Bridge. I only had a few miles to go which kinda made me laugh. I’m getting older and my bikes are all deflating! Is somebody trying to tell me something? Well I’m not sure about that, but Phelan has had enough.

IMG_2022Now I am not really a bike geek. If somebody I respect tells me something works, that’s usually good enough for me. All I did know was that some tubeless tyres don’t seem to seal well with certain tubeless rims. So off I trotted to The Bike Factory in Whaley Bridge, to ask their advice.

I am now the proud owner of some lovely wheels built on Stans No Tubes ZTR Alpha 4000 rims with Hope Pro 4 Hubs in a rather yummy go faster red. As for tyres I opted for Racing Ralph Evo CX s. Well that was about four weeks ago and I am still fully inflated.

IMG_2024So the moral of the story is, if someone says this has worked well in the past, it probably does. We can read articles until we are blue in the face but experience is everything. ‘Well it is for me anyway’ as she pedalled off into the distance 🙂

Big thanks to Fred Salmon and the team at The Bike Factory!

In The Green Zone


In the green zone on Axe Edge

In the green zone on Axe Edge

It’s been nearly two months since my last cross race and I have to say I haven’t felt the ‘love’ for all things muddy. Finishing the season blasted and with a niggling injury, I’ve been happy to take things easy and slot in a bit more running. There’s a simplicity to running I love. No bike washing,decreasing, soaking clothes in a bucket…… just one pair of muddy shoes by the back door.

You can only sit on your laurels for so long before the urge rears it’s ugly head! It’s been happening for a few days and so today I had planned a 3hr+ ride over the Cat and Fiddle on a road bike. That’s all I’ve been riding recently. I like the idea of park and go when I return to the house and giving it a token squirt of WD40. The whole operation can be completed in about 10 minutes, if you get a real shift on. You can imagine my horror when I looked out of the window this morning and was faced with snow. So that was that, cross bike out and bite the bullet!

Going up in Macclesfield Forest.

Going up in Macclesfield Forest.

So glad I did. I have had such a fantastic ride today. Admittedly at the beginning I tried to scoot round any mud but once my mud head was on, off I went. Today I have ridden along a disused railway path; nipped along roads; negotiated snow packed bridleways through Macclesfield Forest, and joined the 4×4 brigade on a tiny road covered in snow. As well as topping out on the Cat and Fiddle along with loads of others, admiring the Winter Wonderland.

‘Yes’, to the man in the LandRover, this bike is the 4×4 of the cycling world and I am having fun. I am emulating my childhood, out on my pony, going where ever I fancy, be it road, trail or track. ‘No’ to the lady fell runner, I’m not going to fall off in the snow because with a bit of skill and a sense of adventure, I can do anything on this baby! ‘ Yes’ I am no longer a spring chicken, but I still love the thrill of riding something technically difficult and the sense of achievement of arriving on a summit.

Opposite the Cat and Fiddle

Opposite the Cat and Fiddle

Cross bikes, the true ‘do what ever you fancy bike’. I love them with a passion. Today Phelan has truly been in the green zone, have you?