5 Great Triathlons Everyone Should Know About

I love racing. It means I’m motivated to get out training, which in turn means I can eat cake. I’ve been lucky enough to do lots of races, so thought I’d put together a list of my top 5 triathlon events. Races I’ve loved the most and would recommend to anyone. Some terrific races haven’t made the list – and those that have range from sprint to Ironman and even, God strike me down, a duathlon. We at Black Line would love to hear what your favourite races are and why.

So, here are my top 5 triathlon races.

5. Thames Turbo Sprint

Top 5 Triathlons - Thames Turbo

Our friends at Thames Turbo put on a series of four sprint races on every bank holiday Monday. There’s a couple of wrinkles – a red light in the middle of the bike course, the road surface is Beirut-esque in places and a seven minute ‘non-compete’ zone at the end of the bike to get back to T2 – but they’re all part of the fun. The Turbos run a cracking club and these races are spot on. Everyone in the club supports and marshals throughout the year, and it’s as much about first timers giving it a go on bikes with baskets on as it is those of us with trick bikes and aero helmets. Hampton Pool is awesome, it’s a short ride from home, the run goes through the splendid Bushy Park and everyone is lovely. I’m an addict. If you’re unsure about giving triathlon a go, then try this out. You’ll love it too. Just remember to respect the red…

4. Challenge Roth

Top 5 Triathlons - Challenge Roth

However big triathlon is getting in the UK thanks to the Brownlees, Chrissie et al, in Germany it is bigger. They love the sport. I suspect it’s the opportunity to swan around in Lycra, compression socks, Crocs and neon visors. Roth is the spiritual home of Ironman in Europe. The oldest race and a region that laps it up. There’s much awesomeness going on here… a swim in a narrow canal where you can’t get lost, a fast bike course on silky smooth roads, the most amazing Tour-esque crowd on the Solar hill, and locals that sit out all day drinking high strength lager, shouting ‘hop hop hop’ as you go about your work. If you’re into iron-distance racing you simply have to do Roth. It’s worth it just for the firework display that welcomes the final finishers in at midnight. And the Bavarian meat platter the following day.

3. Ballbuster

Top 5 Triathlons  - Ballbuster

Duathlons are like marmite to the triathlon community. Designed by pool-dodging wimps who aren’t tough enough for triathlon? Or is it just those super fast runners come out to play to make us look like the jack of all trades that we really are? I tend to avoid them… other than my annual trip to the aptly named Ballbuster. However, this is no ordinary duathlon. Races of any type or distance rarely come harder. It’s like a marathon, and I retired from doing those (unless preceded by a 6-7hr warm up splash and pedal) because they hurt so much. I train on Boxhill most weekends and it’s not particularly hard to ride up. However the challenge of climbing Col de Box by foot, three times by bike and then by foot once more for good measure is quite unique. The second run is pure hell with legs like blocks of ice. Plus it’s in March and November. It will be cold and probably wet. It’s agony. I love it.

2. Ironman Wales

Top 5 Triathlons - Ironman Wales

There’s so much to hate about this race. Choppy sea swim, 18% hills on the bike, more hills on the marathon, wind and rain. It’s just one tough bastard of a race. But those reasons are also reasons to love it. This is triathlon as it was meant to be – throw any targeted splits out of the window as the course is a brute, the conditions could be anything (although the rain will come in sideways, that’s written in the contract)… it’s just simply about getting yourself to the finish line in one piece however you can. Pembrokeshire is stunning – bombing down the hill through the sand dunes at Freshwater West at 40mph with a gale blowing in off the ocean while my disc wheel acted as a parachute throwing the bike across the road is one of my favourite memories of my racing year. Then Tenby during the run is amazing. Thousands of drunk Welsh folk screaming at you as you go up and down a bloody big hill. Madness. There are two Ironman races in the UK, both with similar ingredients – hilly and hard. For one reason or another I’ve never been attracted to Bolton, but at Tenby they throw a little magic into the mix. It’s a cracker.

 1. Ironman 70.3 UK – Wimbleball

Top 5 Triathlons - Wimbleball 70.3

I love Ironman racing, but top of the pops here is ‘only’ a half Ironman. But anyone who has done Wimbleball will tell you this isn’t really ‘only’ a half – it’s more like a three-quarter Ironman. There’s a theme to the sharp end of my list… hills. If you also like hills then get yourself to Wimbleball. Frankly it’s a bit of an organisational shambles down at Wimbleball Lake, as anyone who has sat in the weekend long traffic jam will tell you. The folk at Ironman UK try to get 2,000 people and kit down and out on a single track lane via a rickety fence into a mudbath of a field. Plus there’s no mobile reception within 10 miles. It’s a bit of a shambles. But when the gun goes it’s all worth it. A freezing swim, having to run up a massive hill to get you to T1, a reported 56 hills in 56 miles on the bike, then to top it off they throw the same sting in the tail at you as they do at Ironman Wales – a hilly run after a hilly bike. Only this time you need off road shoes as half of it is on the side of a grass bank. There’s this one hill on the run hidden away from view that must be 15% or so. Listen closely and you’ll hear grown men whimper and talk to themselves. Three out and back sections on the run mean you can’t shy away from a proper head to head race with anyone you know that’s close to you. Old fashioned racing as it should be, and I keep going back for more. Do it.

When BLL met Gary Kemp. Part 2.

In part one of our Gary Kemp interview, we spoke about cycling. Now, in part two, the conversation moves to something that makes up Gary’s DNA – music and culture.

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Manuel Quinziato’s Black Line London Playlist

Here at Black Line London we love bikes. And we love music. And we really love people who love bikes and music. So it was a massive thrill when Italian BMC Tour de France rider Manuel Quinziato agreed to put together a playlist for us…and you.

In his Twitter profile pic, he is holding a magazine cover of Thom Yorke over his own face….proof if it were needed that he really is a proper muso because why would you do that otherwise?

The photo above is Manuel with his friend Perry from the band Pendulum at the end of the 2012 TdF. It’s just a shame that an international rock star and world class cyclist struggle so badly with the ladies.

Here is Menuel’s musical story in his words, and you can listen to all of these tracks in the Spotify playlist widget below.



What song or band first really turned you on to music? And how old were you?

I remember I was 9 in 1988 and the first music cassette I bought that upgraded me from ‘cartoon’ songs to real music was the album of Europe, the one with “The final Countdown”

 What was the first record you ever bought with your own money? What do you remember about it?

The first CD I bought with the money I was winning at races when I was 15 was probably ‘Basket Case’ by Green Day in 1994. Well, I still listen to that.

First ever gig?

I live in Bolzano, and not so many good bands comes to play there, so excluding some shameful Italian bands the first big gig I saw was just in 2004 in San Siro, the AC Milan football club stadium. It was Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I was a big fan of them but the gig was pretty disappointing. Short one and Anthony Keidis has no voice live.

If there was one band or artist (dead or alive) you could go and see play live, who would it be and what song would they HAVE to play?

I’d kill to have been at a Nirvana gig! I was just a few year too young unfortunately. I love all their songs but I’d pick “In Bloom” if I have to chose one.

What is your most recent music discovery?

A band I just discovered is Built to Spill, thank my colleague Jacopo Guarnieri.

What song or artists do you listen to while warming up before a TdF stage?

For the hardest stages or for when I want to catch the breakaway Rage Against the Machine is a must.

Best song for a really hard turbo session?

For turbo session I need something that gives me a good pace so I chose electro stuff like Daft Punk, Justice or Hot chip.

What is your favourite band of all time? And what song will we include on the playlist?

I’m in love with Radiohead and they didn’t let me down either of the two times I saw them live. I love ‘Idioteque’ above all the live version.

What album is ever-present on your ipod?

Radiohead indeed but also Pearl Jam, ‘Ten’.

Best gig you’ve ever been to?

I say Foo Fighters at Madison Square garden. Me, Daniel Oss, Karsten Kroon and a non-cyclist friend of mine went in New York just for 3 nights to see that gig. Absolutely worth the travel. Song: My Hero.

Next gig? Where, when and who with?

Well tonight I’m gonna see Nada Surf in Madrid with my girlfriend. Next November I’ll see Muse in Bologna wit a couple of friend from Bolzano. For Nada surf: Bad best friend. For Muse: Plug in baby.

What song do you wish you had written?

‘Daughter’ by Pearl Jam.

Song or album to relax to on the bus after a tough stage?

A perfect band to relax and forget the pain of a hard stage is Sigur Ros. Saw them live, simply unbelievable. Let’s pick ‘Hoppipolla’.

You have won the Tour de France – what song will they play as you get up on the podium?

You can tell me I’m predictable but I pick ‘We are the Champions’.

What is the perfect Sunday morning song/artist?

Ben Harper is perfect for a Sunday morning. Saw him live and he’s, good vibes for almost 3h. Glory and Consequence can be the song.




Stef Wyman Interview : #FanBackedWomensCycling

Stef Wyman picture

If you watched the thrilling women’s road race at London 2012, or any of the incredible moments in the Velodrome that made household names of some incredible young female cyclists, you might think that it’s a sport in rude health, right?

That is not quite the case, but there is something pretty incredible happening right now due in no small part to the efforts of one guy – Stef Wyman. Owner/manager of Matrix FitnessPrendas cycle team and key protagonist behind #FanBackedWomensCycling Stef is a doer with a great story and one which resonates with Black Line London’s own ethos.

You can listen to the Fan Backed Womens Cycling story from the horses mouth and follow Stef on Twitter @DS_Stef



Get Plan. Do Plan. Fly.

With the end of the triathlon season now a few weeks behind us, and the fading of the pain, your thoughts might just be turning towards 2013.

Mine certainly has, and ‘The Plan’ is beginning to form.

I’m telling you this for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve found that if you tell lots of people you are going to do something and then don’t do it, you look like a tool. So avoiding that scenario is pretty good motivation. Secondly, I’ll be writing, posting and Tweeting the shit out of all of this, so consider it a heads up.

Run More:

My 2012 season was defined by poor running, so improving that is key. I don’t really enjoy running, and certainly didn’t run enough in 2012. So I’ll be addressing that by getting more miles in my legs. And to really kick start that I’ll be doing #50Runs#50Days, starting soon – look out for lots of Tweets about that.

 Get Strong:

Like most people I probably know enough about strength and conditioning to be dangerous but not enough to really nail it. I want to be sure I’m getting the most possible gain from the time I spend on it and have benchmarks along the way to measure by. and So I’ve booked a session at  St Mary’s University for a full physio assessment and strength and conditioning clinic.

Bike Race:

Why the hell not?! It looks like great fun and can only make me a better biker. I’ve got my Cat 4 racing license and hope to try and do some winter crit racing.

In addition, I’ve entered some mountain bike races. Again, mostly for fun and I figure a great way to keep it interesting and develop some bike skills over winter.

Become a Training Peaks super user:

I love Training Peaks. It’s a fantastic training tool and not only is there a great free version, it just works. I’m drawn to data, it appeals to me and I think provides measurable benchmarks in training and performance. So, I pledge to really get under the skin of this brilliant tool and share tips, experiences, data files and insight from all of the above along the way.

So these are the things I will be building my season around, starting now. I’d love your comments, questions and maybe even your participation…..

What’s your plan?



Slow Cooked Oxtail Stew Recipe

Diet is important, and if you are anything like the BLL guys you probably think about food a lot.

And after I posted a picture on Twitter recently of my mostly make-it-up-as-you-go-along Oxtail stew I got loads of incoming mail asking about it so here is the recipe. Some people are a bit freaked out by the thought of eating oxtails, but if you are happy to eat eggs………

It’s full of gelatine and fat which is vital to the taste and texture, and because it’s cooked for so long is really tender, flavoursome and extremely healthy. Fat is not evil…right!


6 large piece oof grass fed/organic oxtail. I got mine from my local organic butcher and it cost about £8.

1 Head od celery

2 large onions

5 large carrots

1 bulb of garlic

1 bowl of frozen peas

2 Star Anise

Tablespoon of butter

To cook:

Turn your over up to full heat.

Roughly chop all the veg. And I mean roughly – it shouldn’t take more than about 60 seconds to do the lot. I just crushed the garlic with the flat side of a knide, and the skin flakes off.

Brown and seal the oxtails in a big pan that is also safe to put in the oven. Remove form the pan and set aside.

Melt the butter and chuck all the veggies and Star Anise into a pot. Keep on a high heat until they stat to sizzle, give it another 5 or six minutes then add the oxtails back to the pan. Add some salt and pepper.

Pour water into the pan, enough to cover the oxtails.

Turn the heat down to 150 degrees, and put the whole lot in the over, with a lid on the pot.

Come back about 6 hours later and add the frozen peas to the pot, and stir. Add a little more water if required – mine didn’t need it.

The meat will more or less fall off the bones, so you can fish them out if you like.

It took me almost as long to write this post as it did to cook the meal – this is a really easy dish to prepare and would be ideal to come home to after a long bike ride.