The over-enthusiastic cyclist

If it involves pedalling then I'm probably into it…

Tag Archives: tenerife

The weighting game

For a middle aged man, I’ve spent an suspicious amount of 2015 on the scales. Unlike normal people though, us cyclists aren’t obsessed with losing weight in order to look slimmer, although there’s no denying that lycra and beer bellies aren’t a good match. No, for us cyclists losing weight really is about just weighing less. The theory isn’t exactly rocket science: in order to cycle up hills faster you either need to generate more power or gain an advantage on gravity by weighing less. Ideally, both.

Whilst I’m not actually overweight, I’m certainly not lean enough to be mistaken for a pro cyclist. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that I’ve spent large sums of money on making my bikes lighter, yet never really had the discipline to make myself lighter. It seemed that my love of food and drink was becoming my limiting factor, so when I started 2015 overweight and out of shape I knew it was time to sort it out.

This wasn’t rocket science either: cut out the take-aways, reduce the alcohol intake and generally try and eat better/less food. One notable change though, was the addition of juicing. My fiancé had embarked on a strict juice diet and I (mostly) went along for the ride. With the exception of emergency sandwiches, I embraced a juicing plan by the over-enthusiastic Jason Vale aka ‘The Juice Master’. I’m as cynical about fad diets as the next man, but you can’t argue with the idea of swapping burgers for large quantities of natural fruit and vegetable juice.

By April, 4kg had been lost and my third trip to Tenerife was set to be the test of the science. Thanks to the the ingenious site, my Garmin Edge 810 was going to let me race against my previous all-out efforts on the slopes of Mount Teidi to see whether the upgraded waist line had been worth the effort. The results were almost unbelievable. The steeper the road got, the more improvement I saw. I slashed over 8 minutes off the final category 1 climb from Vilafor to the top. I was now a mere 15 minutes behind Chris Froome’s right hand man Davide Lopez (and another 500 riders) on the Strava leader board. Riding that strongly felt incredible though, more than a marginal gain that Team Sky would look for and more like the advantage that a blood bag would have given the previous generation of pro riders.

Unfortunately, more typical holiday behaviour then took hold, followed by weeks on the road supporting cyclists and eating as much as them regardless of whether I was riding or driving. So whilst I’m not back to January’s podginess, I’m not quite the lean, mean, hill climbing machine that I was last month. But having experienced how dramatic the improvements are, I’m not going to stray too far up the scales again.

So next time you’re about to splash out on the latest weight saving carbon component for your bike, save yourself some money and take a look at your diet.


Back in Tenerife for more suffering

As Greg Lemond, the American Tour De France winner once said: “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster”. Returning to Tenerife for another training camp (or ‘holiday’ as I tactfully refer to them at home) was a painful reminder of the first half of Greg’s famous quote. Somewhere in my cycling obsessed brain, I’d decided that having pedalled up Mount Teidi several times earlier in the year that it would somehow be easier this time.
Obviously this was not the case. I might have moved to the edge of the Peak District, but any UK climb starts to look like a pathetic pimple once you leave your Tenerife hotel by the sea and embark on a continual climb to the lip of the crater at 7200ft/2200m. For an average amateur like me, that’s three hours of non-stop climbing, depending on route, fitness and form. For more specific route advice check out the blog from the last ‘holiday’.

Coping with the climb
If you’re not a veteran of long climbs you’ll be needing some coping strategies to get you through. 25 miles of uphill is obviously a lot to come to terms with, so break it into the three sections, but ride straight through onto the next one though or you might be tempted to stop. There’s plenty of time to think, although if you’re really serious you’ll only be concentrating on your pedalling and breathing. I can’t claim to be that disciplined yet though, so for me, life gets evaluated, perspective is gained and often these blogs get written.

I don’t think I could cope with any kind of long ride without a decent amount of data to look at, which is where the Garmin 705 comes in. Average speed, heart rate, cadence, gradient – they’re aIl decent distractions, but you can’t beat watching the altitude readout on a long climb. On a climb like Mount Teidi you see altitude figures on your Garmin that would normally have you planning a system reset and thoughts like ‘only another 2000 feet of climbing’ become almost normal.

I’ve gone off the route into the actual crater, with it’s howling winds, broken Tarmac and coaches, in favour of pausing to eat my squashed sandwich before the frantic hour of descent back to the hotel. It’s worth doing once though, just for the spectacle of it. In the UK I go out of my way to create rides that form perfect loops, or at least interesting shapes (that’ll be the OCD…) Out here though, I’m perfectly happy to retrace my route in order to relive and celebrate every hard earned slope and hairpin whilst (almost) graciously swooping downwards with gravity now very much on my side.

What wasn’t on my side this visit though, was the wind. Having quickly realised that none of the weather forecasts could be relied on, I just set off  each time regardless. Whilst it was never an issue on the way up, and once past Vilaflor it was ghostly still, the descents lower down became somewhat terrifying for a man trying to cling on to a lightweight carbon bike.

So was Greg right?
I’d certainly not found it any easier this time, but was I any quicker? Via the magic of Strava, it turned out that I was! Without the ability to upload my rides until returning to the UK, I’d been attacking the routes based on fairly imprecise targets and maximum efforts. It seemed to have worked though, as I’d shaved minutes off every category 1 segment and even PR’d on every descent as well. Although I did the same amount of rides as last time, I didn’t actually do as many miles and climbing, but what I did do was ride harder. And maybe it’s that intensity that’s been lacking from my riding this year. So whilst I’ve not achieved any of the sportive results I wanted this year, I’m treating my performance on Teidi  as an achievement.

Here’s the evidence on Strava: ride 1, ride 2, ride 3, ride 4. I feel like I’ve ‘done’ Teidi properly now and having been there twice, it’s probably time to find another training camp destination. Oops, I mean holiday…

The view from the hotel

The view from the hotel

The summit

The summit

I believe this is called a 'selfie' in modern parlance

I believe this is called a ‘selfie’ in modern parlance

Mount Teidi in Tenerife – if it’s good enough for Team Sky…

With a holiday in Tenerife booked, it would be a very strange cyclist who didn’t take/hire a bike. After the ‘shit hire bike and defective inner tubes’ episode in Portugal last year, I splashed out on a ‘Polaris Bike Pod Eva’ to protect my precious Boardman Pro Carbon – which it thankfully did.

So here’s some info for anyone planning a training camp (or ‘holiday’ as we refer to it to our partners). We stayed near Costa del Silencio on the South coast, just to the west of South airport, but most of this info should apply to anywhere round the south coast.

Routes up to Mount Teidi:

  • The first section (from where I was staying) was to climb up to San Miguel at 2000ft. The TF-65 is great once you get over the TF-1 (the only road you really need to avoid!). It’s fairly steady 7% ish, though I still got rapidly overtaken by a BMC pro rider who didn’t even have the courtesy to look like he was trying.
  • From San Miguel there’s a few options up to Vilaflor. My fave was to cut across East to Granadilla then embark on the gloriously twisty TF-21. There was one point where I was almost convinced the road had managed to tie itself in a knot, though it was probably just fatigue messing with my head.
    The TF-563 is also very nice – quieter and narrower but with super smooth tarmac. It gets a bit steep towards Vilaflor, but for me this road excels as the best downhill ever! The TF-565 option was also ok, but a bit rough as a downhill.
  • Fill your bottles at the garage on the left in Vilaflor (don’t continue if you’re running low!) as it’s way cheaper than the cafes, before taking the one and only road up to the top. This road’s a cracker – fairly steady gradient but a good 9 miles of slog. At about 6000ft my arms and legs would go tingly and I felt like I could only half fill my lungs, though altitude may affect you more or less.
  • The road peaks at about 7300ft before heading down into the crater. There’s a good layby on the left that I used as a feed point. If you want more, descend down into the crater and enjoy the wacko scenery, crap tarmac and possible cross winds. The hotel has a cafe, or you can carry on past to do more climbing. I did this on the first day, then settled for just ascending to the rim (!) and back via different routes.


  • For early April, it was 24 celsius at the bottom but a bit cooler at the top. I wore bib shorts/short sleeved shirt and though I could never be arsed taking any extra clothes up, it did get a bit chilly descending, especially if the clouds had come up. I was back at the hotel within 50 minutes though, so no major trauma! One odd thing I noticed was that my belly was stone cold on reaching the top, which was pretty weird.
  • There was one day that was ferociously windy, so I had a rest day. It would have been scary on a light bike in 25mph+ winds!
  • I was nagged into putting sun cream on my arms and neck and was glad I had no choice in the matter.

Pro Cyclists

  • If you follow pro cycling you’ll love this place. I got overtaken (either up or down) by riders from Lotto Bellisol, BMC, Cannondale and Team Sky, including ‘the Kenyan born Chris Froome’. I managed to hold Froomey’s wheel for about 200m, by which point I’d set a new max HR and elected to give it up. I saw six Blanco riders getting out of their van and marvelled at Team Astana launching themselves down the mountain in full aero tuck formation. 

In conclusion? I absolutely loved it; I did four rides totalling about 220 miles and 30,000ft of climbing and I’m already dreaming of getting back in the autumn!

Here’s my rides: