20 March 2007

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Cyclists Buffeted By Freak Weather

Any thoughts that riders may have had about the arrival of springtime were quickly dispelled last weekend. As North Down's team bus headed through snow showers on the way to Armagh for Sunday's St. Patrick's Classic, some of the riders were beginning to doubt the wisdom of tackling the 55 mile route from Armagh to Downpatrick. The prospect of a stiff, if biting, tail wind was being weighed against the risk of bomdardment from hail and snow and the prospect of slushy roads. However, regular sunny breaks in the weather and the option of climbing into the club bus if things got really bad created enough optimism to persuade everyone to sign on. A bit of hesitancy crept in due to an untimely snow shower twenty minutes before the start but it soon passed and the riders set off, the race being neutralised as far as the outskirts of Armagh.

For North Down's Declan McMackin and Brian Marshall this was the first competitive outing of the season and for the partially fit McMackin the biting cold air caused enough breathing problems for him to sit up after five miles and seek the warmth of the club bus. A couple of minutes later a puncture put an end to Paul Ferguson's race. A split formed in the bunch and Tommy Simmons managed to get himself into the leading group. Behind them a large second group formed with Brian Marshall, Noel Boyce and Norman Wilson well placed at the front. At the head of the race a small group broke away before Castlewellan and they managed to keep the gap and young Sean Downey of Banbridge attacked inside the final kilometre to take a terrific victory. North Down's Tommy Simmons finished strongly in the following bunch and a few minutes later Marshall, Boyce and Wilson came in with the second group. They say fortune favours the brave and the riders were rewarded for their commitment by the weather which, although windy and cold, managed to stay dry.

European Youth Olympics
As mentioned in last week’s column the first of the selection events for the European Youth Olympics, which will be held in Serbia in July, was held last weekend in Aughnacloy.  This event took the form of a short time trial, meant to replicate the course which the successful team will face in the summer.  However, whilst the course may be similar it could be expected that the weather would not.  Driving sleet, snow and gale force winds buffeted the young riders as they sped along the undulating border road.

North Down had two competitors in the event, Craig Swenerton and Stuart Henry.  Swenerton is a tremendous prospect only coming into the sport last year and managing to run away with the Under 16 Track Championship last summer – at his first attempt!  He put in a hard winter’s training, under the watchful eye of his champion time trialist father, Paul and I predict that he will have a superb season.  Indeed, Craig’s time on the day, in atrocious conditions was a fine 16.10 – just two minutes behind multi-champion Peter Williams from the Orchard club in Richill.  However, on the day it was Craig’s more experienced team-mate Stuart Henry who took the laurels , being the only rider to break 13 minutes in the difficult conditions.

1 Stuart Henry (North Down) 12.57
2 Jonny Beers (XMTB) 13.14
3 Jonny Cole (Madigan) 13.31
4 Peter Williams (Orchard)14.04
5 Brendan Meehan (Emyvale)15.09
6 David Neill (Madigan)15.33

Carbohydrate feeding during performance
With the racing season now in full force the club’s sports’ scientist, Darren McWilliams warns of the importance of building up carbohydrate stores.  For events exceeding 1 to 1.5hours he reminds us that it is important that you feed to maintain muscle glycogen stores.  These stores usually become depleted after 1.5hours of moderate to high intensity exercise.

The source of this carbohydrate is down to individual preference.  This could be in the form of energy drinks, energy bars, pieces of fruit, cakes bars, etc.  Remember the most important factor is the palatability of your chosen food source.  There is no point choosing a food source that gives you gastric problems during competition or the event.  Again it is important to try this out in training before trying it in competition.
The primary purpose of carbohydrate ingestion during strenuous exercise lasting longer than one hour is to maintain a sufficient concentration of blood glucose and to sustain a high rate of energy production from blood glucose and glycogen stored in muscles which can allow competitors to exercise longer and sprint faster at the end of exercise.  Most studies demonstrating improved performance with carbohydrate feedings have given subjects 25-60 g of carbohydrate during each hour of exercise.  It is therefore recommended that individuals consume 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour.

If you are taking asports drink during exercise this could provide approximately 30g of carbohydrate for every 500ml of sports drink.  For those involved in a road race feeding with solid food may not be practical.  In this situation 500ml of a sports drink and an Energy Gel would provide the required carbohydrate to sustain the intensity of exercise to the finish line.   

Up-coming events.
The first of the new Ulster Classic races, the Wallace Caldwell Memorial, organised by Ballymena/Scott's  Road Club is scheduled for Saturday, March 24th. This is a formidable race over 110 km (70 miles) and the event gets under way at 11am.  The following Saturday brings the Tour of the Ards, the second race in the Ulster Classic series.

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