This year’s Giro d’Italia is the 96th edition of the race and it started on the 4th May. Pre-race favourites such as Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Ryder Hesjedal (2012 Giro d’Italia winner), Italy’s own Vincenzo Nibali and over 100 professional cyclists from all over the world are competing in the 3405 km course around Italy.
Made up of 23 day stages, allowing for two rest days, the renowned race will start in Naples and finish in Brescia; not Milan its usual ending line. For the first time since 2008 the race will also see the first eight stages of the race take place in the south of Italy; Ischia in particular hosting a stage for the first time in 54 years. To learn more about the history of the race, previous winners and the destinations the race travels through with top places to eat and stay, visit the website of citalia.com who sent me the nice infographic above.
So why do I love the Giro so much? Well it is just so wonderfully Italian isn't it? Crazy, exciting, full of ridiculous mountain-top finishes and as macho as a gaucho in a spangled leather poncho, to slightly misquote Steely Dan.
So Where Have I Been All Your Life?I am sure that regular readers will have been wondering what has happened to project4cycling these last six months. Back in November 2012 I wrote of my plans to test out my training theories through a full winter and then to aim for better time-trial times and more sportives.
Long-term readers will remember that one of the first things I wrote was my theory of project4 in which I set out some ground-rules for myself. Number 1 was, "Cycling is never more important than family life". It really, really isn't.
In December 2012 I moved house and my partner was diagnosed with cancer in the same day. You know how people say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do? In our particular test-case we can honestly say it isn't.
Fortunately we're British, so the NHS swung into action with all the treatments she could need, free at the point of need. Soon we'll be returning to a more normal rhythm of life.
So, you will not be surprised to hear that I have hardly ridden my bike this year, although I have been jogging once or twice, and I am "carrying a bit of timber" as they like to say on Eurosport when Mark Cavendish rides the early season races.
Time for a New Plan of ActionI have no intention of returning to regular training this year, but I do have plans to start again in November when I'll pass on all the knowledge I acquired last year. However, I think it is time I tried to get a bit of exercise, so I'm going to set myself a couple of modest challenges.
Firstly, I am going to try to run the Ilkley Trail Race at the end of May. This 10km race leaves my home town, heads straight up a moor and straight back down again. I've run it four times now and have always hoped to beat one hour. This year my target is to get fit enough to complete it without stopping.
Secondly, in December I was one of the first people to register on the White Rose Classic Sportive, which also leaves my home town at the start of July. Last year I completed the 114-mile route and slayed a few dragons in the process. This year I'm just going to see if I can be fit enough to complete the 80-mile version. If I do, I'll be very happy.
Where there's a will there's a wheyI promise that's the last silly pun. But there is a serious point. As you can imagine, I don't have much time for training, so I plan to carry on using my commute to run and ride.
Although that's been the basis of all my training for the last two years, one problem I have always found is how to manage appropriate recovery. One of the well known techniques in training is to eat protein after training. This provides lots of benefits, primarily making use of the body's natural response to exertion to build muscle mass.
The problem is, that is difficult to do when you have just arrived at work and you need to, well, work. I'm not sure my employers would tolerate stinky Spandex and the smell of grilled chicken breasts.
At a recent sports nutrition talk organised by Ilkley Cycling Club, I learned of the benefits of using whey powder post training and to supplement meals. This would seem like the perfect solution to the morning commute. It is convenient and exactly what the body needs.
I am very grateful to the nice people at probikekit.co.uk who have sent me some of their products to try. The first is True Whey Ultimate Whey Protein from Myprotein. According to the website, "True Whey is the next generation whey protein supplement for anyone looking to pack on quality mass without gaining fat. The perfect blend of the highest grade whey protein concentrate and isolate. True Whey contains very little fat, zero added sugars and a only small amount of carbohydrates, but it is packed with the most biological available protein available and also contains a high amount of branch-chain-amino-acids (BCAA's)."
I also have several, "MP MAX MyBar® Oats & Whey [bars which] is a tasty and nutritious meal replacement bar for those looking to add quality protein and carbohydrates to their diet. Each 88g bar contains a massive 22g of tapered release protein derived from Milk Protein and Whey Protein. The carbohydrate content is based around the low glycemic index Oat Blend, providing a sustained supply of energy." I haven't quite worked out how to fit these into my training yet, but they might make the perfect option for the occasional lunch-time training session between meetings.
Keeping with the Giro d'Italia theme, there is a Giro promotion at probikekit.co.uk where you can pick some rather handsome jerseys. Personally I'll be avoiding figure hugging cycling tops for at least a few weeks after which I'll write a proper review of these products.
In the meantime I'll keep you posted on my progress, let you know any new, rapid training tips I can pick up and catch up on a few outstanding product reviews.