Blog — Racing

To Stretch, or not?

To Stretch, or not?

Words from ex-Professional cyclist and osteopath Alice Monger-Godfrey.

This is probably the most common question I get asked in the summer months when an event that was entered months ago has snuck up on us and is right around the corner:
Do I stretch before or after the event or both?

Cyclists are not renowned as the most enthusiastic stretchers but with the amount of time we spend in "hunched" positions rapidly increasing, we are open to anything that will help stop any niggles and keep us on our bikes.

To begin with, we have to understand what exactly is stretching? Stretching is simply the lengthening and relaxation of muscles. When cycling, we predominately use our quadriceps (front thigh muscles) hamstrings (back thigh muscles) and our calf muscles (lower back of the leg). If these large muscle groups become tight they can pull on the pelvis causing low back pain.

Stretching aims to improve your posture, circulation and a joints to your full range of motion. There is still a debate as to whether stretching improves performance and the jury is still out as to whether it helps to reduce the risk of injury. 

There has been such contrasting research and thoughts on stretching over the years. The most recent research and empirical evidence suggests that warming up instead of stretching is not only better for performance but also for preventing injury. The theory behind this is when you turn up to an event/ride/race, your muscles are cold, they're not as supple and have less scope to respond to the sudden lengthening required of them for cycling. 

Let's delve a little deeper into a muscle to find out more about this process....

A sarcomere is a long, fibrous protein and is the basic unit of striated muscle tissue. These fibres slide over one another when a muscle contracts and relaxes and is responsible for individual muscle contractions. The main muscle groups have a larger surface area from the origin to the insertion of a muscle, meaning the distance is greater between the contractile units of the muscle (the sarcomeres). What does this mean in practice? It means that a muscle with reduced elasticity that is suddenly stretched  out cannot react to this contraction quick enough, causing temporary weakness and strain. Playing devils advocate and trying to understand how a muscle works in both its contracted and relaxed state poses the question that by not warming up, the body will be more susceptible to injury.

So even with conflicting research, from my experience I believe that the human body works better when the muscles are warmed up (before an event/race) and they also respond very well to stretching after.

Alice Monger-Godfrey runs her own Osteopath clinic in Clapham, London and she works with many of the professional cyclists on the UCI circuit. 

Keen to race? How to start...

Keen to race? How to start...

Words by Helen McKay (Team Les Filles Queen of the Mountains) on Bike Racing in the UK and how to get into it.

After the ride some of the girls were asking about racing. The first event I did was a low key sportive. There are lots that are very achievable (I'd say start small and then take on more and more challenging ones). My first one was in March in the Chilterns. I loved that someone had taken a photo, and that I got to see how many men on race bikes I got to beat (on my hybrid with flat pedals)!

Then I decided Sportives were fun, but I wanted more of a challenge. I wanted to unleash my competitive spirit. I wanted to race. 
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Membership
To race a British Cycling crit (race on a short circuit) or a road race you either need Membership AND a day license, or Membership (gold or silver) AND a full 1 year license.
I only got a Gold membership when I was going to race abroad a lot during that year, otherwise Silver covers everything.
A day license is the cheapest option, but you don't get to keep any points you gain in that race. I dived straight in and got full licence. It just depends how sure you are you want to keep racing or not versus the cost.
There are some winter series races for Cat 3/4 women (everyone starts as a Cat 4 and then if and when you get points you move up to Category 3, 2, 1 and finally Elite) which would be great introduction to racing. I think it's a good idea to do Cat 234 or E1234 local races to witness and get a feel for tactics from those who've been a round a bit longer. I also recommend starting with crits over road races because its important to learn racing skills, without traffic, before adding that extra element in. Crits tend to be 15-20 miles long (45-60mins) and cost £15-25 per race.
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Circuits
Easiest circuit is Hilllingdon in West London - trains from Paddington to Southall - or ride. No hill, not too technical. Favoured by sprinters.
Also Velopark - East London - bit of a turn which is mildly technical and hill which can help make the race more challenging. 
Cyclopark - Kent but trains stop 3 miles? away. Flat, windy, more technical than Hillingdon.
Hog Hill - has a hill that after 8 laps stops being a joke. Best training out there!
Can find races on British Cycling website. Some events are on Rider HQ. Best to pre-enter but lots you can enter on the line.
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Time Trials
Time trials are a different kettle of fish. They are run by Cycling Time Trials. You have to enter at least 2 weeks in advance. This is annoying but unavoidable. Never enter a BC and CTT and then blow out one for the other - they get peed off about that. If you can make both on the same day fine, but don't do one and tell the other you're sick/away/dog ate your homework. They will know. CTT events Expect to pay £8-£15 but get up at 4am to get to them. No tactics. Just pacing. Own ride over the distance to get quickest time. Sounds easy but you just feel sick the whole way. Not for everyone.
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Cyclocross
Cyclocross is a fun wintersport. Very friendly. It's basically done on a bike that looks like a road bike but has fat knobbly tyres. You can do it on a mountain bike instead.    
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Training and nutrition
Don't worry about it for now. Just ride. Just race. That alone will get you fitter.
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Swearing
Energy can get high in races. It's important that what happens in a race, stays in a race. Most people didn't mean anything and they are usually sorry or there's an explanation for what went wrong. 99% of people are great and we can all make mistakes. Men passing in their race may also shout, its better to shout and avoid an accident than to say nothing and suddenly boom - again it's just what happens in a race. Nothing personal. And if they are stupid, #helpfuladvice can be offered to them too. 
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Helen McKay is part of the Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team. She has been racing for a number of seasons in the UK and often rides abroad in France as well.

Finishing 18th in the Elite Women's Race, Nicole's love of the London Nocturne continues

Finishing 18th in the Elite Women's Race, Nicole's love of the London Nocturne continues

Written by Nicole Oh, racing for Les Filles Queen of the Mountains

For years this has been my favourite race on the calendar. Every year I think it will be my last. That the next year I will be (just) a spectator and join in the off-bike festivities (i.e. drinking and cheering!) Then right after the race has finished I am buzzing with excitement, already committing myself to “one more year”.

The problem (maybe a good problem) with being in the Elite Women’s race is that it's the second last race of the program, usually around 8.30pm, by which time all your friends and supporters have been getting stuck into the beers for the last 4 hours! I'm never really sure if they want to stay and watch or make their merry way home by this time.

Personally, I've never done so well at the Nocturne. After all, the line up is generally pretty daunting. These days it involves a scattering of pros, Olympians, and World champions. I’ve never been close to sticking with the lead group and in my first few attempts, I’m sure I was lapped. Luckily none of this really fazes me. Somehow I seem to be getting either faster or smarter with my advancing years, so I had high hopes that this year, I might just stay up there.

Like most other city centre crits, a bad start can ruin your race. Hence why the “neutralised” lap is pretty much the scariest lap of the whole race. EVERYONE wants to be up the front, and with 70 riders, that just isn’t possible. I’m not very good at the neutralised lap, which generally requires being able to go from 0 to 100 at the blink of an eye, get the elbows out and play chicken on who’s going to give way on each off the corners. This year I found myself 3 rows back on the start line. I managed to clip in first go, but two girls in front of me failed to do so and with that 5 second delay, it meant that I had to chase from the word GO!

There is something to be said about the new course around St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of the City. I agree that it is not as atmospheric as the old Smithfield circuit, but it is less technical and far safer in my opinion, although a few people still managed to put themselves into the fence. It also means that if you have a bad start, there is some chance that you can rescue your race, as there are long straights and a few corners where you are able to make up ground. I tried not to panic, to be patient and gradually move myself up through the group. I looked around for other riders that I knew were strong, and could perhaps be in the front group and I tried to follow their wheels as they moved up. Don’t get me wrong, I was still going pretty much full gas - my HR was around 176 (of max 182) and at one point I thought I might vomit - but I don’t think I ever completely emptied the tank past the point of no return. I guess this tactic worked, as eventually, I made contact with the front group.

However, this wasn’t to last long. The pace picked up from a sprint lap (the sound of the klaxon made my heart sink) and I was off the back and chasing again. This is how the rest of my race went - just yo-yoing on and off the rear of the front peloton with a few familiar faces. Just one near miss - we swung round a fast right-hander to find riders on the ground so I pulled my brakes, my back wheel lifted and landed sideways, but to my surprise I was still upright, so carried on (quickly).

I sprinted all the way to the line and finished in 18th! Probably my best result ever. I was super pleased.

We had 7 riders in this year’s race with some mixed fortunes. Both our Lou’s were up there in the front group, until Lou Mori had a bit of a lie down and Lou Mahe blew up. The other chicks in the team, Lyds, Suze, Tracey (TC as we call her) and Sophie all rode strong and finished in the same group between 28-34th. Just finishing the Nocturne in one piece can be quite an achievement.

And so my love affair with the Nocturne continues. You just can't beat the speed and the excitement. Especially the speed you shoot round the corners! I've reflected on the race afterwards at just how mental it must look from the sidelines. Hearing the crowds cheering and hearing your name being shouted on every corner and on every lap sure does push that little bit extra out of you.

To summarise, in the words of a still unidentified voice in the crowd, “Go on Nic, you love this sh*t!”. Yep, I sure do.

(Already in training for 2018!)

Announcing our Sponsorship of Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team

Announcing our Sponsorship of Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team

Queen of the Mountains is delighted to announce that they are the 2017 title and clothing sponsors of the newly formed Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team

Les Filles has been racing in the UK for 4 years, making tremendous progress and inspiring women from all over to race and get involved in competitive cycling. 

The team is concentrating on Elite and National level races during the Spring/Summer season, from Criterium, Time Trials and Road races – including the London Nocturne on the 11th of June.

Queen of the Mountains has designed their new racing kit – called Racetangles.

The Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team is the brainchild of Nicole Oh and Alicia Bamford (founder of Queen of the Mountains), who share the goals of premium performance and encouraging greater participation of women in sport.

The partnership is a natural fit to promote awareness of women's cycling and, in turn, encourage more women to take up the sport. Increased participation in racing will build the profile of women's participation in the sport both competitively and recreationally.

Alicia and Nicole are ecstatic about the partnership and what the future holds for the team.

 

The team members are all incredible athletes in their own right. Their love of the sport and encouragement of others to race is infectious and was a key reason Queen of the Mountains wanted to partner and sponsor the team. These women are incredible ambassadors for women’s cycling. Together, the team want to break down the barriers (or perceived barriers) that preventing women from racing and riding. 

As partners, Les Filles and Queen of the Mountains will organise a social ride in London, open to the public. It will be another forum to encourage women to learn more about racing and training in order to build the sport. Details will be announced on the Queen of the Mountains website, www.queenofthemountains.cc

 

This year the team welcomes two new faces – Louise Moriarty and Lucy Burgess. Those racing for a number of years with the team are: Tracy Corbett, Delia Beddis, Helen McKay, Louise Mahe, Sophie Curle and Nicole Oh.

They also have a number of rotating members, including Clem Copie (now based in Annecy), Laura Greenhalgh, and Alexie Shaw. Coralie Glaunes and Clare Gillott continue as support crew.

Louise brings a wealth of experience (and sprinting prowess) to the team, having raced for Pro teams on the Continent, as well as racing in World Cups and World Championships on the track and road. She has a number of Irish National titles to her name, as well as winning the Ras na mBan general classification on two occasions.

Lucy has recently moved to London from Bristol, and is keen to test herself in National-level events. She raced with Radeon-Bike Science last year, until an injury cut her season short.

 

For any team enquiries, please contact Team Manager Nicole Oh at lesfillesracingteam@gmail.com.

 

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