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.
We are delighted to team up with former pro cyclists Ronan McLaughlin and Philip Deignan of Panache Coaching who will be sharing pro training plans, nutrition advice and plenty of other hints and tips between now and the event on 7th June. Both Ronan and Philip are well known on the Irish and international cycling circuit and have achieved tremendous success throughout their careers.
Ronan is a former international cyclist and raced all over Europe with the An Post Sean Kelly team and Irish squad for 6 years. In 2014 Ronan moved home to Ireland and moved into a coaching role. Ronan setup Panache Coaching with the goal of passing on his experience and knowledge through his own coaching philosophy and ethos. Throughout the years Ronan has continued his racing, now based at home with one of the top domestic teams. He has also been involved in both organising and participating in many sportives across the country and has coached numerous riders to be at their best for these events.
Philip is a former professional cyclist, who rode professionally between 2005 and 2018 for the Ag2r–La Mondiale, Cervélo TestTeam, Team RadioShack, UnitedHealthcare and most notably Team Sky. Philip is also a former Olympian having represented Ireland in Beijing 2008. Philip was Ireland’s first grand tour stage winner in nearly two decades when he won stage 18 of the 2009 Vuelta a España, going on to also finish in the top ten in the general classification. Having retired from professional cycling in 2018 Philip has now moved into a coaching role and enjoys the new challenge of helping other riders achieve their best.
We are looking forward to working with the guys over the coming months!
You know that you always feel AMAZING after completing a physical challenge like a cycling event. So, you want your mate, other half or loved one to get that buzz too. Or maybe you just want someone to suffer a little with you as you train. Either way, here are 7 tips to help you persuade, cajole – or let’s be honest – manipulate them into joining you on your journey. Use them wisely!
1. Sell it to them!
Bring your buddy out on an easy walk, run or cycle – but one with incredible views. Make sure it’s a nice day. Then bring them to a cosy pub with great food so they get to experience that incredible satisfaction of treating yourself when it’s well deserved. Then raise the topic of a weekend away that would bring that experience to a whole new level. Do a bit of research in advance, focussing on restaurants and bars you might visit after your cycle. Finally introduce the notion of Wicklow, letting them know that there are two routes to choose from 100KM or 200KM
2. FOMO is your friend
Show your mate the photos of you with that huge grin on your face when you crossed the finish line. And boogying to the DJ while scoffing your post-race grub. Nothing like a bit of FOMO to ‘persuade’ a reluctant friend into doing what you want.
3. Make a bet
Little is more effective than bit of friendly competition to light a fire under your best pal’s behind.
4. The age-old tactic of reverse psychology
Tell them you’ve signed up for an amazing cycle but that you think it might be a bit too tough for them. Lay it on thick by suggesting that they might be too soft to tackle a hill in the elements.
5. Bribe them.
Offer treats, coffee, money, babysitting…do whatever it takes.
6. Romance could be the key!
If your buddy is single, explain to them that cycling is seriously friendly and a genuinely brilliant way to meet new people. With all the post-exercise endorphins flowing, Wicklow 200 has a brilliant party-like atmosphere at the finish. If that’s not an opportunity for romance, then we don’t know what is. And it’s an especially exciting opportunity if you’re sick of trying to meet someone on Tinder. Or if your idea of a soul mate is someone who occasionally likes to do something at the weekend that doesn’t solely revolve around drinking pints.
7. Go rogue and sign them up for a race.
If all else fails, just go ahead and sign them up for Wicklow 200. Give it to them for their birthday and tell them, “I’ve told your family and friends you’re doing it! No need to thank me! Let’s get training!”
Wicklow 200 takes place on Sunday 7th June 2020 and is open for registration
If you are taking up cycling for the first time or returning to the bike after many years, it can be daunting. Follow our top cycling tips to help you ride better and safer:
Cycling is like any sport in terms of gear, you get what you pay for. It is worth investing in the essential items for cycling. This includes:
2. Get a proper bike fit
Regardless of having a new or old bike it is important to get the bike set up to fit your body. Having a bike that fits properly allows you cycle more efficient and help avoid soreness after a cycle.
3. Know the rules of the road
Always cycle with the traffic and obey the traffic signs. Be alert to car and never cycle with headphones on.
4. Hydrate and fuel-up
Drink and eat a little and often to avoid dehydration and a drop in energy levels. When cycling you burn a lot of calories. Carry dry snacks such as granola bars, bananas and plenty of water.
After an intensive training session ensure you give your body time to recover and repair before your next training session. List to your body, if you are sick or injured take a few days rest from the bike. Taking a few days off from a training programme is better than been forced to stop for months due to injury.
6. Join a cycling group
You can get lots of tips and advice from other cyclists. In addition, cycling with a group can help you stay motivated on a long cycle.
When living in a country like Ireland it’s inevitable that rain is on the way!
Remember the following tips when cycling in the rain to ensure a safe ride.
It is a good idea to invest in a winter set of tyres such as gator skin tyres. These tyres have a thicker sidewall making it harder to puncture. It is also a good idea to use slightly wider tyres to offer more grip.
The road surfaces will be slippery and more dangerous after rain. Avoid metal surfaces such as manholes covers, cat-eyes, wet leaves and painted traffic markings.
Bike brakes are much less effective when wet. Take it slower than normal and give yourself lots more time to stop.
Avoid potholes and puddles
Even little puddles can hide nasty things like potholes, nails, or glass, which can cause a flat tire or a crash.
Invest in waterproof clothing to keep you as dry as possible. Wear good gloves and overshoes as well as a waterproof jacket. Neon and bright high visibility colours are especially important in dark wet days.
Light up like a Christmas tree
Drivers may have problems seeing through wet or steamy windscreens when it’s raining. Put plenty of bright LED lights and reflectors on the front, rear, and sides of your bike to insure you’re seen at all times.
We have teamed up with John Phelan, chartered physiotherapist and nutritionist who will be helping us get ready for the 2020 cycling season. In the first in a series of blogs John shares his views on strength training and how it can improve cycling performance.
“You expect me to lift something that heavy” and “how will that help my cycling” are two expressions expressed by some of my bike fit clients. There are also those who don’t verbalise it, but I suspect they are thinking along the same lines as those who do! As a physiotherapist, I am responsible for keeping up with scientific research and relay this information onto my clients, with clear explanation, so that they fully understand and are therefore more likely to comply. Numerous science studies have shown a significant relationship between strength training and improved cycling performance. The purpose of this blog is to explain the connection as best I can, so that you the reader will see every reason to get stuck into some strength training over the Winter months.
Building muscle and why it’s important
Only right that I should start with my strongest card. Resistance training builds muscle. We are destined to lose between 3-5% muscle mass every decade after 30 if we don’t do anything about it. Loss in muscle, called sarcopenia, is responsible for decreases in quality of life and lifespan itself. If we strength train twice per week and ensure we are getting sufficient protein and recovery, we can stave off sarcopenia for as long as possible.
Cycling and strength training
If that frightening fact doesn’t convert you, then it’s time to bring your favourite past time into the mix. Cycling is brilliant, but it has its weaknesses. As you well know, cycling is a non-weight bearing activity, making it great for early stage lower limb injury rehab but not so great for healthy bone production. Weight training gives a bona fide benefit when it comes to bone building. Cycling pushes us to keep going, improving the endurance capacity of our muscles and raising our cardiovascular fitness like nobody’s business. BUT, it’s not proper strength training. Here are a couple of definitions to help explain my statement.
Muscle strength is the ability to lift, push or pull something heavy with full force over a short time. E.g a squat with dumbbells for 8 reps and the last 3 reps must be very difficult.
Muscle endurance is the ability to keep doing something over and over and over without fatiguing.
Here’s the best bit
A recent study in Norway showed how strength training improved cycling performance, fractional utilization of VO2Max and cycling economy in female cyclists. That all sounds very good! Fractional utilization of VO2Max is defined as the percentage of your VO2Max that you can sustain for a sustained period of time. If you are not sure what VO2Max is, fear not, it will be covered in a later blog. The point I wish to make here is that strength training not only makes you stronger on the bike (handy for climbing hills and racing your club members to the nearest café) but it also improves your endurance capacity and cycling economy. A win-win if you ask me.
The science of how
Trying to stay brief with this one, blogs are supposed to be easy reading! I will attach a link to the scientific paper at the end of the blog for any willing readers to check out for themselves. The female cyclists in the study followed a structured strength training programme over 11 weeks, at a frequency of 2 times per week. This caused a change in the lower limb (quadriceps) muscle fibres from type IIX to type IIA, which happen to be more economical and less fatigable than type IIX. What some more? If I mention mitochondria, who understands what I mean? They are the powerhouses within our cells. It’s where our energy to move is made. Since strength training increases muscle mass, then it goes without saying that it also increases your mitochondria count. More mitochondria – more energy.
Right then, who’s in??
If you are completely new to strength training, I would advise watching this short YouTube video with Martin Evans, head of strength and conditioning for British Cycling. He takes you through the basic movement patterns first, before you start to add weight and get stronger.
And the full scientific paper for all our science nerds. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275102845_Strength_training_improves_cycling_performance_fractional_utilization_of_VO2max_and_cycling_economy_in_female_cyclists
John Phelan runs a clinic in Cork by the name of Life Fit Physio.
Wicklow 200 takes place on 7th June 2020 and is now open for registration.
Registration for the 2020 edition of Ireland’s longest running annual challenge ride, the Wicklow 200, will open on the 06th December, 2019. The 2020 event will be held on 07th June, 2020.
The Wicklow 200 – and its partner event Wicklow 100, take in many of the most iconic climbs in Ireland’s ‘Garden County’ in an event that is among the most arduous and most revered annual cycling events on the world calendar.
The event organisers, the Irish Veteran Cyclists Association, are busy finalising plans for the 38th edition of the event which has become a ‘must-do’ for bike riders all over the world thanks to the challenging nature of the course and the epic scenery encountered along the way.
Now is the time to reap your reward.
You’ve put the ‘hard yards in’ over the winter, going out in all weathers and, failing that, churning out the watts through a sauna fog of sweat on your home trainer. The kilometres have been carefully accumulated, the strength maintained and, perhaps, enhanced as the training starts to take effect.
Now, at last, and not a moment too soon, the clocks have sprung forward, there’s a stretch in the evenings that is positively grand and to go with it we’ve been treated to a little mini heatwave to kick start the final phase of preparation for the big day.
Even if the winter hasn’t gone precisely to plan – that cold that put your training back by a fortnight, the mechanical issues that kept the bike in the shed on too many days and even that little bout of SAD that prevented you from getting on the bike as often as you would have liked are depressingly familiar to all of us – now is the time to kick start the final push to glory.
With two and a half months to go to Wicklow 200 2019 there’s still plenty of time to rescue a slightly moth eaten training plan. What is that old Native American proverb? ‘The best time to plant a tree is ten years ago. The second best time is now.’
Even if everything has been going swimmingly (and if it has, celebrate it, because you’re almost certainly in the minority!), there is much to be done in the next 10 weeks and much that can be achieved.
The switch back to summer time opens up the delightful possibility of evening training and the chance to ride on the road more often than just those weekend spins is sure to offer a shot of motivation to both the training laggard and the super focused alike. Just remember to stay wrapped up well. The sun that fuels your enthusiasm is often accompanied by a biting east wind.
More than anything embrace the temporal adjustment and the climatic transition that partners it. As the weather improves, hit the hills to recce the key elements of the route for the big day.
Okay, let’s not delude ourselves that the good weather arrives with an automatic binary shift from the winter drudge. But you can be confident that there will be more opportunities to stretch the legs on the more remote and beautiful roads in the coming weeks and that can only be a good thing.
Enjoy the bike now more than ever. You deserve it!