Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Review: ZipVit Energy Plus Gel

Apparently this is what Carlos Sastre has to say about ZipVit gels -
“ZipVit as a nutritional supplement is very important to us. The gels are very good and have a really good taste.”

I can only assume that you are not talking about the orange flavour caffeinated gel that I recently tried. I was attracted by the claim that it had more caffeine than 2.5 cans of Red Bull. Jeeeezus, that would be a lot of cafffeine even for my espresso-addled body!!! So I shoved it in my back pocket before the start of this year's Etape to have on the foothills of Mont Ventoux as I felt if I ever needed some caffeine, that was going to be the place. The conditions were not ideal as it was horribly hot in the forest, but I can honestly say that this gel must rank as one of the most unpleasant substances I have ever had the misfortune to eat. It has a paste-like consistency (a bit like a PowerGel), which I really dislike, preferring the more liquid gels like High5 or Torq. It is also high volume (like GoGels). So it was pretty nasty. Bad consistency, and lots of it. It actually made me gag and I had to wash very small mouthfuls down with water. It may have worked, but it was truly horrible. OK, so it was a free sample so I shouldn't be too ungrateful, but sorry, no stars!!

Ch'ti Bike Tour 29 August 2009

I haven't put any posts up for a while - hoping to be more disciplined so here goes...
The 5th edition of the Ch'ti Bike Tour took place on the weekend of 29/30 August 2009, starting and finishing in Armentieres on the Franco-Belgian border, not far from Lille. This event really must be one of amateur cycling's best kept secrets. While cyclists from all over the globe frantically rush to secure a place in high profile events like the Etape du Tour (and with good reason), the Ch'ti Tour is a real gem, and Saturday's main event is much closer to a real long distance road race than the Etape. One rare treat the Ch'ti Tour shares with the Etape though is closed roads. The only traffic we had to contend over the entire 160km distance were official cars and 'motos' trying to squeeze past the peloton.
I entered this year's event as part of a 10 rider London Phoenix team. The pace was fairly fast and furious, with the large lead group covering the first 100km in just over 2.5 hours. Not like a sportive at all! As we sped past farms and through small villages, the locals were often in evidence and were very enthusiastic and supportive. It's true it's not as scenic as Provence (and cow manure doesn't smell as good as lavender), but it was very picturesque nonetheless. Having said that, I didn't get too much of an opportunity to admire the view as the pace was high, and the field was bunched pretty tight. There were a few nervous moments but I managed to avoid the few crashes. I certainly learned a few more French expletives during the day! The terrain ranged from well surfaced roads to narrow gravelly farm roads, and hills were of the short and reasonably sharp variety. Luckily, the weather was pretty good, although the wind was also strong in places. The final 20km (during which I was in a small break trying hard to bridge up to the lead group of 30 or so riders), the route drifted over the border into Belgium, before arriving back at the start. My average speed over the full 100+ mile ditance was a pretty quick 38km/h. One of my breakaway companions (who did no work incidentally!) was Karine Saysset (see below), who I later found out is a multiple French Champion and has been first female finisher in the Etape on at least 2 occasions. She came and thanked me later while me and the boys were havign a beer (which was nice!), but didn't seem to want to share her prize for being first girl home! She was riding in the same team with Cedric Vasseur, the ex-Tour pro. Unfortunately for him, he also had to wear the pink and white team kit!
British participation in this event is small, but as it's only a one hour drive from Calais it really is a very easy trip. Entry online is (reasonably) straightforward, and is amazing value. Electronic timing, a T-shirt, certificate and (best of all) a slap up meal with local food and Belgian beer after the race is included for around £30. Beat that if you can. The next day you can take part in various less competitive events over different distances on either a road bike or MTB and enjoy more of the region's fine food and drink. All in all a fantastic event and I was happy to be in the results as first British finisher in 46th overall and 21st in my category. What a great weekend!