Monday, 25 November 2013

Post race season rest and recovery

After Roc D’Azur, the last race of the 2013 season, I was tired. Fatigue, both mental and physical, started to appear after Leadville 100 in August but a short rest period allowed me to train and get in good shape again for the final few races in October. A long holiday after Roc D’Azur was my target, providing the motivation needed to get me through the last hard training sessions.

Adopting holiday mode immediately after crossing the finish line at Roc came naturally to me: I wanted (and needed) to rest, relax my diet ;) and do things not involving bikes! We pretty much drove directly from France to Gatwick airport where we flew to a place that we know well and where we have many friends, Barbados. Flying with an underweight hold bag and a small piece of hand luggage was a nice novelty. Quickly my body relaxed and in doing so I got a sore throat and aches, fortunately the sunshine, sand and sea (and rum) helped me to shake it off in only a couple of days.

Some people like to do nothing on holiday; sunbathing on the beach or chilling by the pool fills their days easily. After such a hectic and tiring race season many people mistakenly put me in that box. Wrong. I get itchy feet very quickly. I need to be doing something most of the time. Travelling far away from my bikes is important; otherwise I’d be tempted to ride. Without that temptation other sports gained my attention. Days were filled with windsurfing (a sport I loved before biking hence my old nickname ‘Surfa Sal’), surfing, stand up paddle boarding, TRX, Yoga and Pilates, and being walked by our friend’s 4 big boisterous dogs which took up to 2 hours! Barbados is great for people who like eating, so it’s great for me! The fish is amazing especially barracuda and dorado. The rum is also pretty good ;)

Five kgs heavier we arrived home in England and in a 3-day turnaround we moved house, unpacked and repacked for winter training. In a blur we found ourselves in Gran Canaria, a place that I absolutely adore for winter training. Picking up the bike after one month off needs to be approached with a little self-restraint – something that doesn’t come naturally to me and my ‘all or nothing’ attitude. Had we of headed straight to my familiar training routes in the south of the island I think I would’ve easily overdone it and/or become despondent with my speed over known ‘timed sections’.  One week exploring the north of the island from our base Villa Del Monte  - a rural bike hotel in Santa Brigida - provided the perfect place to start gradually building the hours on the bike. Our great host (and cook) Petra Wonisch provided all of the local knowledge we needed to maximize our time, she even hosted Ruta del Vino an MTB (or trail running) race with a relaxed approach, celebrating the local singletrails around the bodegas, the produce of which I can happily report to be some of the nicest red wine I’ve ever drank.

Excess baggage ;)
Ruta del Vino
Santa Brigida
Back in the south of the island we’re settled in to a remote rural apartment where our neighbours are horses, cats (including two mischievous kittens, one of which is currently stood on my laptop as I’m trying to type) and chickens. It’s an idyllic base to prepare and recover from hard training and we’re settling in to the routine of sleep, eat, train, eat, relax with coffee and cake, repeat.

A good day biking :)
It always seems odd to take a break from the bike at the end of the season; losing all of that hard earned fitness, strength and power. This year I was in particularly good shape when I stored the bike for a month, which made it seem even more ‘wasteful’. When it was time to dust it off I was desperate to get back on but when I did it was hard, really hard, especially the first week. Having such good shape before the break was a good thing; the level of my returning fitness was good, better than if I’d taken a month off at a time when I wasn’t in such good shape. Some people wait for enforced rest due to injury or illness, but a scheduled break provides an opportunity for more quality rest and recovery, and in doing so, hopefully, limits those times when your body simply breaks down making you stop.   

If you haven’t already, take a break, rest and recover (and enjoy it!) then start training for 2014.
Sal J 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Three weekends, three races, three wins :)

Malaysia or Ireland? Most people think it's a no-brainer, but for us it was a difficult decision. In the end we chose to race in Ireland rather than Malaysia. Something underlying this decision was the chance to recce the course for the European Marathon Championships which will be held in the Ballyhoura Mountains in Ireland next summer. It was my first time in Ireland and I was pleasantly surprised and feeling pretty smug to have chosen the wild card ;) The weather was good, the trails were fun, the food was great and we stayed in a really beautiful place.

Peaceful accommodation close to the trails
The race was the Irish National Marathon championships and under normal circumstances I wouldn't want to compete in somebody else's Nationals (I'm British and the current British Marathon Champion). Jenny Fay won the Irish title and now has the privilege of pulling on the National jersey for a year. Congrats Jenny! did a great job designing a course challenging all the skills a good MTB race should over a mixture of terrain. Now I'm looking forward to the Euros next year in Ireland :)

Thanks Max Power for the photo :)

With Jenny Fay and Ciara McManus
We took the overnight ferry from Ireland to France, the crossing wasn't too rough, though we were rolling around in our beds during the early hours, but fortunately no sea sickness ;) Just like last year my last two races of the season were UCI World Series races Xtreme sur Loue, Ornans and Roc D'Azur, Frejus. 

When we arrived in Ornans the weather was great and the trails were fast and dry. It didn't stay like that. Two days before the race the rain arrived and stayed. Same race, different year, same muddy conditions as last year! Last year the course got the better of my equipment and me. This year I made different decisions: Canyon Grand Canyon CF SLX 29er, Conti Race Kings Race Sport (rather than X Kings) with really low pressure front (16psi) and rear (17psi) and Sram XX1. My legs felt amazing, my bike was awesome, the XX1 worked perfectly - front shifting in that mud would've been a nightmare! - and I had stacks of grip on the slippery rocks (less so in the mud, but hey, you've got to compromise!). 

With Esther Suss and Milena Landtwing

And now the season finale! Just like the last 4 years, Topeak Ergon Racing Team ends the season in the South of France at the Roc D'Azur bike festival. One thing that was different this year was my new bike: Canyon Lux CF 29er :) It's taken a long time for Canyon to develop a size small 29er full suspension for me, but it was well worth the wait!

Mean machine: 29er full suspension :)

First race, first win for my new bike! This was the perfect race for it. I'll write more soon about the bike but for now my overall opinion: awesome. Taking my 4th consecutive win at the Roc D'Azur was cool, but doing it on this bike was a totally new experience :)

Now it's time to swap the bike for a bikini and the energy drink for a pina colada :D

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Winter training in the sun :)

If you fancy some sunny training miles and even a 4 day race in the depths of winter then check out the week long training camp and stage race at Club La Santa in Lanzarote (follow the link below for a deal on accommodation and the race). Club La Santa is a cool place for sporty people (so many free sports throughout the day) and also those who just want to chill by the pool, it's also great for children.

Hope to see you there!
Sal :)

Friday, 20 September 2013

Privateer Interview

After a year of getting to know journalist Collyn Ahart she has written an in-depth article that's out now in Privateer. There are stockists internationally, so go grab a copy! Got to get mine...just hope she's not written anything bad ;) Happy reading!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Interview with Total Women's Cycling

Learn a bit about me in this interview about beginning cycling, giving up work and turning pro:

Follow this link.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Norwegian adventure

We've just returned from nearly two weeks exploring Norway. Our first stop was in the south where I raced in one of the largest mountain bike races in the world: Birkebeiner. Birkebeiner is a really fast point to point race (Rena to Lillehammer) on fire roads. There is no singletrack and it's not at all technical. The weather is often wet and it can be cold. I guess I'm not selling it, but I haven't mentioned that more than 20,000 people participate over 2 days and for that reason it's worth taking the trip over and giving it a go, because it really is a spectacle. The organisation for a race of this scale is top notch and pretty impressive. Despite the mass participation you can race uninterrupted across the 97km course because there is no congestion; riders set off in waves throughout the day. It's a race where you can ride amongst thousands and compare your time to the pros. There's a pretty good after party at the finish too.

The compulsory 3.5kg backpack adds to the 'unusualness' of the race. The weight symbolises that of a baby prince who was rescued by an XC skier, or so the legend goes. The contents of the backpack becomes pretty useful if the weather turns bad and I guess the number of hypothermic riders being recovered from the mountain has reduced since the introduction of the compulsory clothing (water proofs, thermal top), a drink and food, and additional things such as spare chains, tubes, CO2 canisters etc. The only downside of the bulky baggage was that my backpack was bigger than me ;)

Ninja Turtle ;)
After an incredibly successful race season and one where my legs have performed time and time again, I cannot really blame them for finally saying 'no'. It was around the 5km point where my legs simply stopped responding and I had to let three girls ride away while the group behind started reeling me in. I felt terrible and doubted if I could make it to the finish. All I wanted to do was to stop and sit down. But I never DNF in a race unless I really cannot continue, in fact the only time I have DNF'd was when I collapsed from dehydration and woke up in an ambulance in 2007. So I decided that I would make it to the finish even if it took me 5 hours! In the past I've been upset when other girls who've been deemed race favourites have DNF'd because they were having a bad day. Out of respect for the other riders I wanted to cross the finish line. As the race progressed, my legs painfully turned and the kilometres slowly accrued. Amazingly, I eventually joined the girl in 3rd position and together we passed the second placed girl on the last climb. In a scramble to the finish I managed to secure 2nd place. Of course I'd have liked to have won, but I was really pleased for Borgild Lovset (my partner from the 2013 Transalp) who took the top step.

Our next stop took us to the very north of Norway - a 2 hour flight north of Oslo to Alta in Finnmark. We then drove another 2 hours north to Hammerfest, the northernmost city in the World. We were greeted with the best hospitality, amazing food and a real cultural experience, all part of the Skaidi Xtreme mountain bike race. On the first day we took a boat to Honnigsvag where we caught, cooked and ate king crab; biked to Nordkapp - the most north part of Europe; and finished off the day with an overnight stay and great meal at Kokelv Seahouse, set on the banks of a secluded and peaceful fjord.

Fishing for a big halibut but returning home with a small cod!

The one that got away. The fisherman was perplexed by my decision to rescue this king crab. Think I'm the first person to throw one back overboard!

Kokelv Seahouse
The Skaidi Xtreme is an exceptionally well organised event which prides itself on providing a complete cultural experience. The food - included in the price of the race entry - is high quality, locally sourced and cooked by experienced chefs (they go out of their way to cater for fussy diets like mine!). With free drinks throughout the event, it's unbelievably good value. We arrived at Skaidi Hotel on Friday just in time for lunch (gluten free pasta with locally caught salmon; smoked reindeer and potatoes; blueberry salad; and stacks of fresh fruit). After more than 20 years of not eating red meat I can now highly recommend smoked reindeer ;) Later than evening we had a BBQ and once again the food was really delicious (barbecued fish cakes and home made gluten free focaccia). Now you're probably starting to realise that I absolutely love eating!

Reindeer on the race course
The race started at 11.30am on Saturday...hooray, no early wake up and a long, relaxing breakfast :) After mild weather and sunshine all week the rain, starting almost at the same time as the start gun, added to the fun by making the course muddy and slippery :) Better legs than the previous week meant that I was able to push harder, have some fun and win too. 

A perfect week was finished with a banquet after the race. The only problem is I've returned home with an extra kg or two around my waist ;) 

Until next time Finnmark 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A few nights in my own bed.....

After returning home from Colorado we were able to spend a week training in the Peak District, which is where I grew up and where my parents still live. The riding there is really great both road and off road, and it's even better when the sun is shining! Since my dad has discovered a Garmin I've ridden hundreds of miles on amazingly quiet country roads; each day he would load a new route and off I'd go simply following the arrows. Cool :)

Classic Peak District: Cut Gate Path 

Last weekend we went to Minley Manor, Surrey for TORQ 12:12 where I raced as part of the TORQ mixed team in the 12 hour event. Our team of 4 riders - Lee Westwood, Chris Andrews, Neal Crampton and me - took it in turns to race around the 8 mile loop, crammed full of forest singletrack. This perhaps sounds easy but racing full gas for 35-40 minutes every 2 hours for 12 hours gets more and more difficult! It's the cooling down and then having to start up again that I found hard, but it was also difficult to get lunch and dinner - very important, I hate skipping meals! With the podium starting at midnight I also missed my 10am bedtime curfew! Despite a pretty bad mechanical that cost me 18minutes on my second lap, we still managed to win! Big thanks to the boys for having me on the team :)

After a few days at home in my own bed, I'm now packing again (well actually I never unpacked!). Tomorrow we go to Norway for a couple of races. First, we go to Birkebeiner which is a 122km point to point race (starting in Rena and finishing in Lillehammer) in which all riders must carry a 3.5kg backpack. Then we fly 2 hours north of Oslo to Alta, in the Arctic, for the Skaidi Xtreme. This is a race that I'm really looking forward to and we'll spend a week there getting to know the area. Skaidi is in the far Northern part of Norway and is home to the Sami people - semi-nomadic reindeer herders. Being semi-nomadic ourselves, we should have a lot in common, except the reindeer of course.

Follow me on facebook for photos and updates :)

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Second time lucky: Leadville 100

After returning to England and finally getting rid of jet lag, here is my Leadville 100 race report. Follow this link to 

Enjoy and have fun, 
Sal :) 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Hell Yeah :)

Full report to come but for now a brief update for those of you who don't already know: On Saturday I won the Leadville 100 with a new course record (7:17). That alone was very cool, but the fact that Alban won the men's race also with a new course record (6:04) made it a very special day for Topeak Ergon :)

We're now at Denver airport waiting for our flight's sad to leave Colorado but I'm really looking forward to 3 nights in my own bed!

Have fun,
Sal :)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Ready to go: Leadville 100!

Tomorrow is the Leadville 100.....follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Race across the Alps: 2013 Transalp

We're driving home from Riva del Garda, Italy as I type. Amazingly we had no traffic between Riva and Calais, but now we're stuck in traffic during our final stage from Folkstone to Poole!

Last week I raced the 8 day stage race, together with Borghild Lovset, starting in Mittenwald, Germany and finishing in Riva del Garda Italy. The course took riders through the heart of the Dolomites and in total we covered almost 700km and climbed over 20,000 vertical metres. Stage racing is really hectic and there is little time for anything other than racing, recovering, packing, eating etc. etc. (even if we do have mechanics and team supporters!) so I made the decision not to write daily blogs, but I did keep my Facebook fan page up-to-date each day....if you haven't already then please 'like' it ;)

The race went perfectly and we won the first 7 stages and the final pink Leader jerseys...I'll write more in a few days, but now we have to unpack and re-pack because we fly to America on Wednesday to prepare for the Leadville 100 :)

Bye for now,
Sal :)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

No rest for the wicked ;)

Thanks to Team Mechanic Peter Felber for the nice words on my stem!

The day after the World Champs we drove straight to Villabassa, Italy to prepare for Dolomiti Superbike which is a special race for me because it was here in 2008 that I made my international debut. Although this was my fourth time competing here, it was the first time that I raced the course in the clockwise direction - each year the route alternates between clockwise and anti-clockwise. This was also the first year that the ladies course was shortened in accordance with the UCI regulations for women's marathon races. So rather than racing 113km the UCI ladies raced over 80km with 2300 metres of vertical climbing. After a pretty full on race calendar over the last couple of months, the shorter distance was fine by me!

After the Worlds I was pretty tired physically and mentally, so I had a relaxed week before Dolomiti and this allowed me to chill out and ride with Dave to various cafes and lakes :) We get to ride together less and less now, so it's nice when I can reduce the throttle and ride at his pace ;)

Our apartment is set high above the town in a small cluster of alpine houses and we have neighbouring  cows (complete with bells) and a Church (complete with louder bells than the cows). It's all very chilled and very nice :)    

The UCI ladies started at 7.15am on Saturday morning...puh, another early start! After an easy week I was ready for a fast race, so at the bottom of the first climb I set the pace. Elena Gaddonni stayed on my wheel for a while, but after a short time I found myself alone with only the two lead motorbikes for company. The race isn't technical, but for what it lacks in technicality it more than makes up for in stunning mountain vistas. Taking my second consecutive win in the race which marked my entry to international racing was a really nice feeling.

We've had another 4 or 5 days to relax and enjoy the Dolomites, but now it's time to pack up again and get ready to race: the Transalp 8 day stage race starts on Saturday in Mittenwald, Germany. Originally, I was supposed to be teaming up with Milena Landwing, but she's hurt her hand and she's unable to race. It was short notice to find another partner and for a time I wasn't sure if I'd be able to race; however I'm very happy to say that Norwegian rider Borghild Lovset has stepped in and we'll be riding 676km across the Alps and climbing a total of 20,242 vertical high metres together. Fingers crossed for good luck and fun, and a great after party at the finish in Riva del Garda on Saturday 20th July!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

There aren't many mountains where I live ;)

Training in England for Alpine races isn't so's a short video of my local trails, they're flat but fun :)

Monday, 1 July 2013

World Championships Race Report

So here it account of the World Marathon Championships in Kirchberg, Austria.....follow the link

Sunday, 30 June 2013

World Marathon Championships: Silver Medal :)

Yesterday was a special day: my first World Championship medal. A medal was my goal and to take Silver was truly amazing. More to come......but for now here are some photos :)

Monday, 24 June 2013

Mountain Nomads :)

After our win at the National Marathon Championships in Scotland we had a few days at home in Poole, England before loading up our van for another 5 week long Euro road trip. We were blessed with one sunny day before the weather changed and I was once again battling the wind and rain - and dodging black birds and road cyclists; the roadie missed but black bird didn't! Ouch!

At home in Poole: Days when Dave agrees to ride with me are becoming rarer and rarer! 

Our first stop was Kirchberg, Austria, which is home to the famous Kitzalp Bike Marathon. We have a lovely apartment really close to the start and we were able to spend a week re-familiarising ourselves with the course. As always the UCI have reduced the distance of the ladies course for the World Champs, so unlike previous years the women will race over a shorter course which misses out the Ehrenbach descent and the long steep climb back up past Hahnenkamm. I would happily race the full 95km/4400m distance, as I have the last 2 years, but this year I'll have to be content with just 85km/3700m ;) 

Final Kitzalp climb: Stunning views and  searing heat: 36+ degrees last week!

Last week Dave and I were really excited about visiting the Maloja Head Quarters near Lake Chiemsee, Germany. Maloja is a very cool clothing brand which is really popular in continental Europe and which, at long last, has finally found it's way to the UK. Hooray! We've always loved the brand since first seeing it at one of our very first races in Riva del Garda, but after visiting the office, meeting the people behind the scenes and learning about their philosophy, we're now passionate fans! Not only do they produce eye catching and technically advanced clothing, but they're also heavily focused on giving back to the community and being as ecological as possible. Now Dave and I will be the best dressed cycling duo in MTB :)

Last Thursday we left our base in Kirchberg for a few days and went to Selva val Gardena, north eastern Italy, to take part in the Sellaronda Hero. This was our first time there and I hope it isn't our last. If you love the mountains as we do, then you have to visit this area. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

Dantercepies Pass 2298m

The Italian's certainly know how to host events: the race took over the area with top level organisation. Following the UCI regulations the Women's race was shorter than the men's covering only 62km, but cramming in 3300 metres of vertical climbing. Consequently the climbs were steep, which is fine, but the fact that the climbs were covered in extremely loose, large gravel stones meant that finding traction wasn't easy and every time the rear wheel slipped it took more energy to keep moving forwards! The terrain on the descents was also similar and in this case finding grip on the front wheel was top priority! With very little asphalt; lots of single tracks in the forests, on mountain traverses and open ridges; and inspirational views the Sellaronda is one not to be missed. More to the point it is a tough and challenging course and I'm excited that it will host the World Championships in 2015.

The women started separately from the men at 7.20am. The separate start was perfect, but the time, well, that was a little too early ;) Elena Gadonni set the pace from the start and I was happy to go with that, we stayed together for 15 to 20 minutes after which she started to fall off the pace and from then onwards I rode alone with only the lead motorbike, a quad, and a helicopter for company - no toilet stops for me then ;) In a live interview with SKY after the race I was asked when the race was won for me. The answer to that was easy: at the finish line! I never relax until I'm over it!

Spectators could watch the race from the finish line

1. Bigham Sally 4:17.37,2 
2. Gaddoni Elena, 4:30.37,0 
3. Veronesi Daniela, 4:37.40,8 

You can watch a reply of the live race footage here.

The evening podium was like no other and it was certainly the first time that I've been driven directly to the stage in a Jaguar convertible sports car! Perhaps the winner of the 2015 World Champs will parachute in from a helicopter ;)

Now we're back in Kirchberg focusing on our final preparations before the World Championships on Saturday. All the hard work has been done and now it's time to eat, sleep, relax and cross our fingers for good luck and fun.

Happy biking,
Sal :)