Around the world

Lisa's Mum presents A Culinary 'Cross Guide


It should come as no surprise to regular Ride Happy readers that Lisa's Mum, while waiting patiently for SBS to respond to her petition to replace Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin on their Tour de France commentary team, has many things to fill her day. Being on call for the Tour Down Under, for example, means that she can never be far away from her computer and long-range binoculars. Should Lisa's Mum receive the call up, her fans deserve the benefit of knowing exactly how many Weet-Bix Rohan Dennis has for breakfast, or the brand of tea that Richie Porte buys in the supermarket. Mum is nothing if not meticulous in her research.

A fan has recently written in to ask Lisa's Mum her insights on a typical CX rider's diet. The query is fortuitous in its timing, for Lisa's Mum is currently serving as adjunct professor at the School of Dietetics at New Hampshire University while completing her PhD in exercise metabolism of waffles in off-road cycling athletes. The PhD has taken slightly longer than anticipated on account of the School's strict ethics policy of using mice as subjects, meaning that Lisa's Mum spent the first two years of her studies teaching mice how to ride tiny cyclocross bicycles. However, with the bulk of her work now behind her, and a fleet of competent bike-riding mice, Lisa's Mum is well placed to advise on the ideal diet of CX riders.

 The diet of a typical 'cross rider can change depending on the season. Given that CX is a winter sport, the end of the racing season (often an opportunity for post-season blowout) also marks the start of bikini season. One cannot indulge in too many frites if one wishes to be bikini-ready by Summer. Many riders, therefore, choose to join road teams in the summertime so as to retain the right amount of peer pressure required to keen one's skinfolds low. 2014 CX world champion Zdenek Stybar, for example, recently announced that he would not be contesting the 2016 CX world championships, choosing instead to focus on his bikini ambitions with Etixx-QuickStep. The exception to this rule is Antipodean CX athletes, who craftily avoid summer by moving from southern to northern hemisphere as soon as the weather gets nice, thereby ensuring maximal frite gains.

Niels Albert looking bikini-ready

Niels Albert looking bikini-ready

Leading into race season, a rider's diet varies depending on their season goals. Before Cross Vegas became a World Cup, riders targeting this race would focus specifically on beer-hand up repeats, which are broadly similar to hill repeats but with a bit more vomiting. Those focused on a strong performance at Koksjide incorporate a lot of sand-eating into their diet, particularly those expecting to fall outside the top 10.

This is delicious. It just doesn't have your best interests at heart.  

This is delicious. It just doesn't have your best interests at heart.  

In Europe, a typical pro rider's diet in race season looks like this:

9am: Wake up. Espresso and muesli (the boring muesli, not the chocolate one).

10am: Consider riding. Wait for rain to clear while drinking espresso.

11am: Still drinking espresso.

12pm: Ride a little bit.

2pm: Spaghetti (no cheese), recovery drink. Pangs of espresso regret.

6pm: Spaghetti (no cheese), de l'eau petillant, one segment of orange.

Occasionally, riders slip up and find themselves rapidly approaching race season being very much bikini-unready. This may be because their diet has looked like this:

Breakfast (9am): Muesli met chocolade. Croissant with speculoos.

Speculoos: the Nutella of Benelux

Speculoos: the Nutella of Benelux

10am: Consider riding. Wait for rain to clear with spoon and speculoos in line of sight.

11am: Dispose of empty speculoos jar.

12pm: Ride a little bit (to waffle store).

2pm: Pick up some Belgian chocolate ('for the kids'). Eat chocolate on way home, dispose of wrappers under car seat next to empty speculoos jars.

6pm: Celebrate the end of the day with a couple of Belgian beers to wash away taste of chocolate. Kebab on way home. Extra cheese.

Tyler Hamilton's pre-tour meal

Tyler Hamilton's pre-tour meal

For those riders, the days immediately leading into race season follow the Tyler Hamilton Grand Tour Weight Loss Plan (TM) of 6-hour rides followed by de l'eau petillant and 2x temazepam. Lisa's Mum has limited data on these riders, who when contacted for interview declined to respond to emails, answer the phone or admit they were home.

Lisa's Mum hopes this answers your query, dear reader, and thank you for taking the time to write in with your question. Further insights will be published in Lisa's Mum's PhD thesis, entitled Waffles, waffle regret and Niels Albert, due out soon.


Ride happy.


Back in Sac


Day 1 in Sacramento and it's about 30 degrees. The kind of temperature where you can wear shorts and a singlet and not even have to pack a jacket in your back pocket. Coming from Melbourne, where the weather regularly hits 4 seasons in 1 day, you appreciate this kind of dependability.  It's forecast to be around 40deg for race day here, and around the same for Cross Vegas. So in the name of acclimatisation I'm off to work on my jersey tan. 


International Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle

It's been an awesome trip but today didn't continue the upward trajectory from yesterday's result at Heerlen. Oostmalle was quite different - twisty and mtb-y, with a lot of sand. I felt confident at practice but at race pace things just didn't click. Sanne Cant won, followed by Niki Harris, Loes Sels 3rd (she came in behind me yesterday in 7th), Ellen Van Loy then Helen Wyman. I was a fair way down the field - not what I was hoping for but a good lesson in the breadth of skills required to be a complete CX rider.

Today wasn't my day but I'm leaving Belgium with a heap of new skills, new friends and a heap of motivation for the next 12 months. Thank you to Christian & Hilde from Hof Ter Kammen -my new home away from home - Dirk & Leslie for all their help at races and everything in between, Maurice the masseur, Bruce my skills training partner, and all the rad people who have made my stay so enjoyable. And a special thank you to the Supercoach, who flew in to watch my last race and always has my back, no matter how crazy my ideas are.

Thank you everyone for your encouraging words and support from afar. Racing here is challenging- I'm always out of my depth, my body is covered in bruises (I mean COVERED) and each race is an exercise in resilience and humility. You don't have to tell me how big the job is to be competitive at this level - I'm well aware - but in two days' time I'll be back in the office and this whole caper will be another world away again, replaced by heels, power suits and early morning ergos, and I'll be dreaming of the next time I can come back and do it all again.

I'm lucky to be able to do what I love, both at work and on the bike, but it's only possible with a great team around me. So as always, thank you to all the A-team - you know who you are - and to Rapha, Focus,, Swiss Eye, FMB, SRAM, Kask, Perfect Pilates.

Ride happy.

*Photo by Jong de Jong

The Belgian Study Tour Lesson #2: Never take a banana CX training

The lessons keep coming in Oudenaarde. In the past week since BPTrophee Lille and Superprestige Hoogstraten, Bruce and I have been hitting up mud drills at the Donk. The Donk, apart from being the sound I make when I miss a remount, is also the name of the small forest in Oudenaarde which has a heap of features useful for CX training: mud, singletrack, stairs, sand and ruts. This past week we've done a couple of great skills sessions. We've videotaped sand work and running mounts and dismounts, practised race starts and off-camber mud descents, and on Thursday I conquered a mud climb that had got the better of me on Tuesday. Skills drills tend to be physically and mentally demanding, so it helps to have good company and to keep the sessions short. Note to self: Make sure you eat your banana BEFORE doing bike shouldering drills, or at least put it in the non-bike side pocket of your jersey. Riding the Koppenberg post skills session


This week has had many highlights, the best of which has been the rides I've done with friends here. From skills sessions to coffee rides it's been great to hang out with cool people and talk rubbish. Most of the riders I am riding with here I met in China at the Qiansen Trophy in 13/14, and it's been great to catch up on everyone's news. The CX community is rad. Have I said that before?

On Wednesday, Christian from Hof Ter Kammen organised for me to join the Sunweb boys for training on the Superprestige Middlekerke course (home of tomorrow's race). Generally courses are not open to ride before the day of the race, so this was a special treat. It's made me a lot more relaxed to know what I'm in for tomorrow, but it's a challenging course. Lots of brutal pinch climbs that are of either the power sprint or shoulder'n'run variety. And two sandpits.  The Sunweb boys were little whippets, and made everything look easy. The team includes recent U23 world champion Michael Vanthourenhout, who rode almost everything on the course.


Course practice at Middlekerke


The weather has been kind to us this week, but rain is forecast tomorrow for Middlekerke. Sunday is another CX race in Eeklo, then on Monday I'm heading to London for a flying visit to see some friends. Then back to the mud!

Let me know if you have any questions or things you'd like to know about racing or training over here, and I'll do my best to answer them next post.

Ride happy.

*Main image courtesy of Kurt Van Hout



Cold beer and file treads

20140907-143744.jpg We're on the road again, this time driving from Sacramento to Las Vegas for Cross Vegas. Yesterday was the inaugural West Sacramento CX Grand Prix, and all three of us had a roll. Pete opened his international racing account in style, Paul put some guys into the tape, and I tried not to eat grass.

California has blown us away. From coffee in San Fran to trails in Tahoe and the friendliest people we've ever met in Sacramento. If you are going to Cross Vegas next year, drop past the West Sac CX Grand Prix. Do it.

This pic is from the Bike Dog Brewery, which hosted the launch today of Squid Bikes. Some of our Sacramento buddies who we met yesterday insisted that we couldn't leave without some jars of home made pickles and jalepeno jelly. I love California.

Bec Werner: Riding happy and racing in the USA

Bec Werner is a mate of mine from Adelaide and someone I really respect. She has come through the ranks of National Talent ID and has shown a lot of talent both on the road and the track. (Her palmares include a podium in the individual pursuit at Oceania Track Champs in 2010.) But the reason I really respect Bec is that she is a Top Chick. She is always positive, smiling, and maintains her sense of humour in a world that thrives on cut-throat competitiveness and personal sacrifice. Bec kindly agreed to do a guest post for Ride Happy reflecting on her first international season as a pro cyclist. I found it inspiring; I'm sure you'll find the same.

Bec Werner rides happy in the USA

My Ride Happy t-shirt* arrived in the mail a week or two before I was set to jet off to the mighty US of A on my first ever overseas adventure, bike in tow, excited at the prospect of a double summer and the chance to have a crack at some big races with the Webcor Bridge Team. My purchase was mainly influenced by the ‘ride like you stole it’ slogan printed on the back, which always brings a mischievous grin to my face, yet the two simple words printed in bright red on the front would prove much more significant.

Over the last 5 months I’ve come to discover what ‘riding happy’ really means. This is not to say that I was never happy when I was riding before. Or that I’ve cracked the Da Vinci Code of cycling, and now when my book is published and made into a big money motion picture everyone will forever ride in pure joy and look to me as the cycling Buddha. I’m simply saying that I’ve experienced moments on the bike, and come to be in a certain place in everyday life that have filled me with a great sense of happiness at being a cyclist and spending long, butt-numbing hours seated on a wafer thin piece of plastic.

It’s amazing how training in new and exciting places can change your perspective. Suddenly the rain isn’t quite so cold, the false flats aren’t quite as long and the climbs don’t hurt quite so much. Well that last bit’s a lie, the climbs always hurt, but you get the gist.

Training in my new stomping ground of the Bay Area, California, has taken me back to square one. With massive bunch rides that are more like races, it’s a melting pot of people who ride for all different reasons, yet also for the same – a simple love of the bike. It’s like being a kid again. Riding with childlike enthusiasm, free of any inhibitions. Sprinting for city limit signs as if they are the finish line at a world championship. Throwing around elbows a dishing out headbutts to friends to claim prime position in the bike lane.

I’ve ventured up paths to places that can only be accessed and truly experienced aboard a bike. Clambered up dirt climbs in the granny gear, setting a new max heart rate in the process, while passing through spectacular scenery and seemingly untouched country on the way to magnificent views. It was one of these moments that brought total clarity. This is what ride happy is about. Gasping for air, and with legs like cement blocks, I looked at the other totally wrecked, yet happy people standing around me in this picture perfect, magical place, and it just clicked. At that moment I knew that as much as I thrive on the competition of racing, and am driven to ride by ambition that doesn’t like rest days; if all that was taken away, I would simply ride for moments like these, and ride happy.

If you take those good vibes from training and living as a full time athlete, free of the stresses and complications of everyday life and then add to it living in a happy and passionate, bike crazy environment, it’s sure to flow into racing. Racing over here is big and exciting, with all the American bravado and hype that only they can bring, which in turn brings the crowds, and your adrenaline level up all at the same time. It’s been a total adventure. Jumping into an environment full of unknowns and where no one knows you, it takes away any expectations and perceptions, and lets you re-invent yourself on the bike if you like. Nothing to lose, and oh so much to gain.

I’ve had my most enjoyable, and subsequently my most successful racing season ever. It all adds up. There’s no cold, hard facts, but I’m convinced that some of these simple things that we often overlook, not only ‘recovery’, but resting and relaxing your body and mind and simply ‘riding happy’ play a massive part in performance and success.

Now it’s back to reality, and the real world that moves at a faster pace, and doesn’t allow for waiting until the temperature is just perfect before you trundle off. Hopefully I can take some of that ride happy back with me, as I’m sure it doesn’t really matter what road you ride on, the road is what you make it.

So ride happy, because it’s true, life is too short to ride mad! 


[Ed's note: The Ride Happy tees are producd by the awesome St Mel Designs in Victoria. Get your hands on one here.]

Converted to the sword: help get this man riding

I was contacted the other day by a friend asking to spread the word for a couple of good causes. The first is to convert a guy to cycling, and the second is to raise $5,000 for charity. The good guy in this story is an Aussie who rides to work and is routinely told by a co-worker that he should be hit by a truck. I'm sure we have all been there at some point. People just don't make the connection between idle jokes and very real dangers. Anyway, this guy has taken up the challenge of convincing this Office Douchebag to ride to work on Ride To Work day in October. The OD has said he'll ride only if the guy can raise $5,000 for charity.

You can read more about his story here and donate to the cause here. A great website I frequent, Podium Cafe, has taken up the cause too and you can read the whole story on its forum.

Aussie women dominate Giro Donne stage 2!

A massive day for Australia in the Tour de France (Cadel Evans 2nd stage 1)... But the big news is that Shara Gillow won the 2nd stage of the Giro Donne and the pink jersey! This is the first pink jersey for Australia EVER. I rode the Giro Donne with Shara last year and she is such a big talent. Big things are in store for that lady. The other big news is that 2nd in the stage was none other than Sharon Laws (aka nicest chick in the peleton). Shaz exited the Giro last year with a broken collarbone and spends most of the year being super-domestique for Emma Pooley on Garmin-Cervelo. Sharon is also an honorary Australian as she lives in Melbourne over the Aussie summer. What a huge weekend! It's all so exciting. I love July!

Ride Happy.

My riding happy in Adelaide photos

20110628-060459.jpg I took the chance while I was in Adelaide to find some bike pictures from my childhood. Despite finding everything from my first day of school to my last Magic Cave visit, I couldn't find any of me riding a bike. I put this down to the fact that our family car was a Triumph 2500, which was a great and noble car but also a SEDAN. No chance of fitting two little girls' bikes in on Summer holidays.

So here are 2 pictures I did find. The first is the tricycle pic above, with my sister Cathy, me in the middle and our friend Christie at the helm.

The second (below) is my sister on her tricycle, fending me off.


And this (below) is as close to recumbent cycling as I'll get.


Tracking the Tour

This weekend, the biggest men's and women's races in the world kick off- the Tour de France for the blokes and the Giro d'Italia Feminin for the women.I've just installed the SBS Cycling Central TDF iPhone app (it's free- avail on iTunes) which has tour routes, results, videos and a lot more. It looks unreal. Next stop is to finalise my TDF tipping team for Milesini's 'Le Tipping' comp run out of Canberra (a real highlight of the tour for me).

The Giro Donne, or women's Giro d'Italia, is the biggest women's pro race in the world. I raced it last year and it remains the hardest thing I've done. What an awesome experience. This year, the Aussie national team won't be racing it but there are several women flying the flag- Ruth Corset, Shara Gillow, Rachel Neylan, Carla Ryan, Bridie O'Donnell, Tiff Cromwell and others I can't think of right now. Special mention to TE's Sharon Laws who is coming off 3rd at British nat champs last week to race for Garmin-Cervelo. Go Shaz!!

Best of luck to everyone and I'm looking forward to some sleepless nights ahead!