Alpe d’Huez assault part six: Easy riders

With their race steeds now arrived, Team 33Shake hit the road for some early miles. Warren Pole was there to coach them through...


After the excitement of the last post here where the girls collected a bevy of sparkling Dolce race bikes from Specialized HQ, the next item on the training menu was to transfer the basic pedaling groundwork laid in the gym and on the Boris bikes into some fine spinning reality.


But where those of us with a background in bikes, or a few tris under our belt would immediately start looking at cadence, heart rates, aero positions and nutritional strategies, for raw beginners there are a few very different hurdles to overcome before any of the above come into play.

Because for Team 33Shake, there’s no history of cycling to speak of. Erica’s last bike before her Dolce was when she was ten, and even that was stolen two weeks after she got it, Anya similarly hasn’t had a bike since she was a kid and Giovanna is the old hand of the group having cycled around Sydney for a couple of weeks while living there in 2010…

Session one on the road therefore was all about two things: getting used to the peculiarities of road bikes for the beginner (odd-shaped bars, more gears than you know what to do with, and a deceptively easy turn of speed), and the plain simple basics.

On the deserted inner streets of Regent’s Park at 6am on a Sunday morning the girls first spent half an hour familiarizing themselves with the bikes, using the brakes independently to feel the difference between front and back, changing up and down the gears while leaving the front ratios on the middle ring (eight gears at the back is quite enough to deal with for starters when the most gears you’ve seen before is three on a Boris bike), and turning figure of eights at slow speed.

The latter provided plenty of fun and games as well as a few near misses but as they gradually learned that their bikes will go where they look they were soon swanning about like a trio of synchronized swimmers. It was time for the open road.

Here we dealt with the basics of not getting squashed by cars including riding a metre or so from the kerb for breathing space (and to avoid the worst of the puncture hazards) and to encourage passing cars to make room for you, spotting parked cars or obstacles ahead early and pulling out equally early after a quick look over the shoulder to check the coast is clear, and watching all junctions ahead with eagle eyes, concentrating on any waiting car’s wheels (you’ll see these move long before you can tell the car’s pulling out) to avoid becoming bonnet ornaments.

All told, it was as mentally tiring as a full race, and that was before we dealt with the different riding positions for steady cruising, hill climbing, and sprinting, not to mention pulling away on hills and emergency braking. Future planned lessons include using a water bottle on the move, puncture repair, and basic maintenance.

Somewhere between that lot there’s also the small matter of getting race ready for the big climb on raceday. On this last point, Erica has stolen a march on the others with a holiday to France conveniently near the base of Mont Ventoux. Yup, her first real climb anywhere other than the hillocks of Richmond Park will be one of the most feared ascents in pro cycling. Find out how it goes in the next installment…


Team 33Shake is naturally fuelled to perfection by 33Shake, 100% natural superfood sports nutrition (, with additional big thanks to Specialized bikes for the Dolces (