Ronan McLaughlin and Philip Deignan are back with some more advice in advance of the Wicklow 200, this time on common mistakes and how to avoid them!
If you are doing some group rides as part of your training towards the Wicklow 200, it is important to make sure you are following the basic rules of training in a group. These include yelling or gesturing when there is a hazard on the route, like a pothole or a rock, signalling an upcoming left or right with plenty of advance notice, letting riders know of surrounding vehicles with a simple ‘car up’ or ‘car back’ and holding your line in the bunch. Don’t be afraid to train in a group, as it can really break up the high mileage you’ll be putting in for the Wicklow 200. Just make sure you are doing so safely!
If you are heading out for an endurance ride in preparation for the Wicklow 200, it is crucial to bring enough food and drink to get through it. Ask any experienced cyclist and they will be able to tell you their story of ‘hitting the wall’ – running out of energy to the extent that pushing the pedals another kilometre seems impossible! The feeling can often come on quite quickly so it is important to keep on top of fuelling and hydrating throughout the ride. It can help to set intervals at which you will eat or drink – for example, a drink every 20 mins and something small to eat every 45 mins. Find something you enjoy eating and it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Some good examples are wine gums or dried fruit.
Is there anything worse than getting a puncture halfway through your endurance ride, only to realise that you haven’t brought everything you need to change your tube with you?! Holding out hope that a fellow cyclist will pass by and help so you can avoid making the shameful call home to ask someone to come and collect you… Making sure that you always have the necessary tools to change a puncture is easy, with the addition of a saddle bag to your bike. The saddle bag, which you attach with velcro straps to your saddle, can hold all the essential equipment for a tube-change. It also gets rid of any fear that you’ll be stuck waiting at the side of the road for that lift home!
If you are aiming towards an endurance event, like the Wicklow 200 or the Wicklow 100 Challenge, it is important to have a training plan in the lead up to the event. This can be something simple like a rough outline of mileage each week, or a highly personalised plan from a coach like Panache Coaching, with intervals in specific power zones and tailored endurance-building rides, accompanied by frequent feedback. Whatever you choose, it is vital to have a guideline to help you reach your end goal in an achievable manner. This can help you avoid doing too much, too soon and burning out, or not doing enough and panic-training in the weeks before the event!
Going out for a bike ride during winter can be tough. It is difficult to know what layers to wear, gloves or no gloves, how can you keep your feet warm, the list goes on! Investing in a good pair of overshoes is key in Irish winter weather. Once your feet get cold and wet it is difficult to fight the urge to turn home. A good base layer can make all the difference, and stop you having to wear multiple layers that can really restrict your movement on the bike. Another tip is to buy either clear or orange-tinted lenses for your glasses. Often, the winter days in Ireland are too dreary for dark lenses; the clear or orange lens can brighten things up and also protect your eyes. And always, ALWAYS, wear a helmet.
We recently caught up with veteran Wicklow 200 cyclist and inspiration to us all Anna Stanton who is preparing for her fifth event! Anna reveals how she got into cycling, how it has transformed her life after retirement and how she is preparing for the Wicklow 200 on June 7th.
“My name is Anna Stanton and on June 7th 2020 I will be participating in the Wicklow 200 challenge for the fifth time, all going well. The training at the gym has started. The bike is cleaned, oiled and all ready to hit the high roads of Mayo where I am now living. For me the Wicklow 200 is a goal, a benchmark and a highlight on the cycling calendar.
A native of Donegal I’ve lived in Burriscarra in Mayo since 1970, had five children and a full time career as a primary school teacher. Ten years ago, when I retired from teaching I moved to Dublin to look after my grandchildren. Life in the city was a complete change from forty years living in beautiful rural Mayo. How to make a life for myself? I joined the Dublin Ramblers, discovered the beauty of the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, did a course in UCD, joined a writing group and embraced the cultural life of the city, cinema, music and theatre. A new life. I loved it.
In the summer of 2014 a cyclist friend invited me to go on a cycling holiday. In all innocence I said yes. Remember, I didn’t own a bike and hadn’t been on one for many years, my only experience was on the family pushbike as a child. It was a baptism of fire, the only advantage I had was that I was fit, strong and could endure. The après spin was fun though. On returning home my competitive streak surfaced and bitten by the cycling bug I bought a road bike, my first bicycle ever. I was delighted with myself.
Stuck in a rut
On the downside the friendship with the cyclist didn’t last and there I was in the summer of 2015 with the expensive bike, no bike skills, nervous in the traffic and no possibility of venturing out in the city by myself. With the help of Google, I discovered a big cycling club that was supportive of women members. I contacted Ann Horan, the women’s representative in the club at the time and much to her amusement asked her about the possibility of getting a personal trainer for the bike. She invited me to join a training course for new female members. I joined and a whole new world opened up, a world of friendship, fun, new skills, support, confidence building and a whole new language, sprocket, cassette, derailleur and so on. Gradually the mystery of the bike began to unfold. At sixty eight years old I became a cyclist, lots to learn and still in runners, a cyclist.
The first sportive was The Great Dublin Bike Ride, I lost my group within five minutes but the camaraderie on the route swept me along. Next on the list was the Orwell Randonnée. The weather that day was awful; there was rain, snow, hail, sleet and fog. The rain started when going up Sally Gap, I couldn’t stop to put on the rain jacket in case I lost my group and by the time we got to the food stop I was shivering so much I couldn’t hold the cup of tea. My dad had a saying “Patience and Perseverance will get a snail to Jerusalem” and that’s what got me to the end along with my lovely group led by Leonard. We were the last, the burgers and sausages were finished but we had big smiles for the celebratory photo taken by Louise who waited for us.
With this ordeal under our belts the upcoming Wicklow 200 was going to be a doddle.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Preparation is the key for success. For that first Wicklow 200 I started a training programme at the gym in January and participated in the club organised training every Saturday. In this way all sections of the route became familiar, the ascents, descents and I learned the importance of pace.I will always be grateful to the club leaders for their patience, kindness and encouragement, who gave their time and were generous in sharing their expertise.While I did the training, both physical and psychological I would never have had success without the strength of the club behind me.
Before I set off on my bike I always meditate and visualize myself being successful and safe. Safety on the bike is paramount. It was raining when we assembled for the start. The atmosphere was amazing, a bustling crowd all geared up, colourful in their club kits, all shapes and sizes rearing to go. The waiting around was difficult, I was filled with an excited nervous energy and just wanted to get going. Then we were off. Very soon we were climbing the long hill. The rain stopped and we had an amazing day. In my head I had all the big climbs lined up and was glad as one by one they were ticked off.
There was a terrific sense of achievement at the end of a long day, and with great pride I wore the medal to the celebration party. It’s a beautiful challenging route, well organised, marshalled and with lots of food. I would recommend it to all the young women cyclists out there. Prepare, prepare, prepare and there’s nothing to fear.
For the rest of that year, my first with the club I did lots of cycling, said yes to all challenges and loved every minute. In my five years with the cycling club l I grew in confidence and got more ambitious with the kilometres, joined an Audax group and discovered the beauty of a hidden Ireland.
Now at seventy three I’m really retired, back in lovely Mayo, signs of spring all around me. It’s time to get the cycling gear on and get on my bike.”
Wicklow 200 ( 200km and 100km routes) takes place on Sunday June 7th 2020, you can register for the event here
Starting at Bray Emmets GAA Club the route takes the riders to Enniskerry, Old Long Hill, Roundwood, Laragh, the Wicklow Gap, Hollywood, Baltinglass, Aghavannagh, Slieve Maan,Glenmalure, Drumgoff, Rathdrum, south through Ballinaclash before turning north for Glenealy and Ashford when the route takes the riders through Newcastle, Kilcoole, Greystones, up the short climb at Windgates before cutting west to Enniskerry and on to the finish at Bray Emmets .
The Wicklow 100 will veer left in Laragh and head straight to Rathdrum before returning on the same route as the Wicklow 200.
View the route elevation here – https://ridewithgps.com/routes/20453781
The I.V.C.A, supported by the Wicklow County Council and Irish Red Cross, will have approximately 200 volunteers helping out on the day providing first-aid cover, mechanical breakdown cover, route marshalling, car parking, changing rooms, showers and refreshment stops along the way and at the finish in Bray Emmets GAA Club. All finishers will be presented with a special Wicklow 200/100 medal.
Starting and finishing at the Bray Emmets GAA Club, the excellent facilities at the clubhouse are at your disposal. Along the way we have water, food and repair stops. Our roving repair vehicles will travel on the circuit and are always delighted to assist in the event of a mechanical problem. At the end of the day you will be rewarded with a medal, food, and tea/coffee when you can reflect on a great day on the bike with other finishers of Ireland’s toughest one-day bike ride.