Pre-season Snowdonia trip for the TORQ-tuned.

After an exhausting yet exhilarating weekend in Snowdonia, North Wales, the TORQ-tuned riders return home both physically and psychologically primed for a season of peak performance. This was fitness weekend number two for the TORQ riders, except this time, in the absence of the dreaded foot and mouth epidemic, it actually happened when it was supposed to…


The aim of the weekend was twofold:

1) To discuss some of the latest performance issues. I always jot down any significant research findings or ideas when they pop into my head and this is an opportunity to present the important stuff to my riders.

2) To induce a physiological overload. All of the riders’ training is stacked-up over the weeks approaching the training weekend, the sole purpose of which is to finish their legs off. Yep – if they can walk at the end it’s not been successful. Not quite as bad as that, but you get the gist?

Anyway, we all gathered in the bar of our hotel in Betws-Y-Coed on Friday evening. Of course we abstained from alcohol and instead emptied pint jars of energy drink down our necks – TORQ glucose polymer of course. The mood was jovial and of a non-competitive nature. We discussed the itinerary, which set a few pulses racing and then we peeled off in dribs and drabs to our cozy beds.

Breakfast was at 8am next morning and all the nasty stuff was taken off the menu. Paul Whiteman still managed to get bacon on his beans on toast though (the food police were obviously looking the other way at the time). I can’t say that it affected his riding much that day though, he was storming along. We washed breakfast down with a couple more pints of TORQ polymer and then jumped astride our faithful jalopies and cruised off into the morning sunshine.

It all sounds very romantic doesn’t it? Well I thought it was, but then I wasn’t about to charge up the rocky ascent from hell 15 times (I was holding the clipboard though and it did feel quite heavy after a while). As I approached the riders who’d just done a recky of the climb, a few of them had a moan, so I listened intently before roaring ‘mutiny’ and ‘we’re bloody doing it alright!’ Hence they despised me from the outset and by the end of the interval session I aptly assumed the mantle of the devil incarnate – not a popular chap. I decided to bribe them with hot tea and homemade flapjacks and promptly resumed my angelic status.

We were late for Hillary, our guest speaker who’d traveled all the way from Swindon, and so we racked our bikes up outside the hotel and swarmed like sweaty locusts into the dining room. Hilary was excellent. She talked to us about Sports Psychology – the real applied stuff, energized us mentally for the afternoon ahead and left everyone confident about his or her performance potential. Sporting performance is soooo mental; you’d better believe it! Hillary and I are currently discussing a partnership, which will give TORQ a truly comprehensive approach to sporting performance.

We tucked into lunch, sank a few more pints of wonder-fuel and off we span again. This time the guys and gal had a steady afternoon’s riding planned through Betws woods. I’d marked a trail up the day before using flour (good job it didn’t rain really) and alas it went up the same hill as they’d used for intervals that morning. Yes, the poor buggers had to get up there a few more times today. I managed to evade their hateful glares by pointing at the boot of my car and referring to the flapjacks that awaited them. Cyclists are very basic creatures. Once you understand that they are exclusively motivated by food, especially the sweet stuff, you can get them to do anything (coaching tip number 1).

The weary riders returned to their humble abode to shower and freshen-up before our first fitness discussion and dinner. The content of our discussion is obviously top secret, but dinner was splendid. You’ll have to join me on my September weekend if you want me to spill the beans on the latest fitness info. I might leak a few bits’n pieces onto this site though too, so keep logging on regularly.

With our coffee after dinner we played that silly game again where we stuck the name of a famous person on the forehead of the person next to you, and they have to guess who they are. A TORQ t-shirt was up for grabs for the winner this time, so the competitive spirit rightly emerged. With such a motley crew assembled around me, there was going to be a fight…

Mike Jackson won, but I can’t remember for the life of me who he was. With 18 of us playing, it wasn’t long before people started falling asleep and getting thoroughly dissatisfied with their lack of progress. After all, the T-shirt had gone. I think the sorry leftovers battling it out for the wooden spoon were Gengis Kahn, Orville the duck, Stalin, Fred Flintstone and Ringo Star to name but a few.

Breakfast was at 8am again on Sunday morning, because we had a 30-minute drive to make to Beddgellert before we could ride our bikes. The first meal of the day was made that bit more amusing by a vivid account of Rob Embury’s nightmare the previous night. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that it involved a portacabin, an ‘industrial’ catapult, his room mate Paul and lots of shouting and hoohaa.

Today was ‘Race Simulation’ day. The aim – to extract every last morsel of energy from my riders’ legs. Again I’d marked the trail with flour a couple of days before, but failed to acknowledge the fact that the hungry wildlife might be partial to a bit of the nutritious white powder, so some of my markings had faded somewhat. It was suggested to me that on my impending vacation that I should read ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and it would never happen again. I may do, but Lance Armstrong’s autobiography gets priority this time round I think. Anyway, I zoomed round with me bag’o flour and patched things up rather nicely I reckon.

The route took the riders up a long steady climb through forestry land, then across an open moorland stretch of bridleway and up a long rocky climb, which crossed one of the paths to Mt Snowdon. At the end of this 3 mile climb of about 400 meters, they turned round and came straight back down again, joined a short section of road, and then looped back through the forestry land and back to the start. The whole thing took about an hour, so some did one lap, some two and some three. I think Phil Rayner would have ridden all day if I hadn’t pulled him off his bike and shoved him into the car (obviously didn’t try hard enough in the intervals).

They were all totally shattered by about 1pm, so the job was done…

Back to the hotel we drove for lunch and some final fitness discussions and that was it ‘game over’. I found the weekend hugely encouraging. These guys worked so hard and with such determination, but it was a good laugh too – wasn’t it?

I will be running some very much ‘milder’ fitness weekends in the near future for normal folk, the next one running from 13th – 15th September. These weekends basically involve fun off-road riding and fitness seminars, so don’t be daunted by the severity of the one I’ve just described. If you would like more information on the TORQ fitness weekends, visit the fitness weekends section of this site, or send an e-mail to and I’ll forward you a booking form. If you’d prefer to have a chat, please feel free to call me on 01923 212856. Places are limited to 15 on each trip, so please book early to avoid disappointment.