Cycling holidays alps supported

Striving to improve your riding?

Rob Hawkins

Striving to improve your riding?

Hopefully the fact that you’re reading these words means that you have an interest in cycling and also have an eye on getting better and setting or achieving some riding goals in the not too distant future. Time is precious so I’ll not give a huge wordy introduction rather I’ll dive straight in and let you know what this is all about.

So who am I?

I’ll start by letting you know as you perhaps guessed that I run Colconquerors, a cycle company in the French alps and hopefully one with a bit of a difference. Sure we’d be happy if you visit us and experience the alpine riding one day but more importantly we want you to be a better and more knowledgeable rider. The best part of running this business has been seeing the expressions on peoples faces when they get to the top of a climb regardless of if it’s the first time up a mountain on their bike or breaking an hour on Alpe d’Huez. I’ve seen people go through hell to make sure they achieve their personal goals and that alone is inspirational.

Before we go on I should say that I’m no literary expert and a first time blogger and am sat here at the desk writing this (or another post!) wondering how I pull this off without sounding foolish and boring people to tears before things get going! Are you staying for now?

Onwards some background…

I’ve been riding since taking proud delivery of a Raleigh Winner road bike one Christmas in the early 80’s. There have been a few major interruptions to my cycling ambitions over the years due to the pressures of working in London for over a decade, however now in my mid 40’s the past 5 years has changed all that and I’ve been able to rekindle my passion for riding, getting to ride pretty much whenever I like. Lucky I know and a far cry from my first ‘long’ ride from Chelmsford to Waltham Abbey aged 11 to see the grandparents, no Garmin and no real clue of how to get there springs to mind!

Look at that cassette - Glad I don't have to climb the Galibier on her!

Rewind a little 10 years back from now and as I tell the people I ride with I still have very clear recollections of how hard it really is to ride out here. I can still picture Karen parked on the side of the road on route to the Col du Galibier anxiously looking at my strained facial expressions before realising that I’m not going to make it to the top yet again (this used to happen a lot!). I’ve ridden the Marmotte on four occasions failing to finish the first and getting a bronze, silver and gold in the subsequent years. I still have rough days in the saddle and that’s just fine so long as I take something from it for the next time.

Why am I telling you this? Well I learned more from that first painful La Marmotte failure about riding, training, nutrition, patience, pacing and the psychology of it all than I had at any prior time. In fact without that failure there almost certainly would be no Colconquerors nor would I have been spurred on to learn more about why things went wrong ultimately leading to me investing 2 years into becoming a cycling coach and realising all over again that I still didn’t know much even after all my efforts!!

Days like this spurred me on in La Marmotte and led to many more great alpine epics!

The expression on my face above in what turned out to be my first La Marmotte finish says it all, there has to be a way to make this easier, doesn’t there?

I’ve learned a lot in the past decade about how to equip yourself to survive riding in the mountains and I’d like to share as much of this with you as possible, no holds barred. Do I know everything? Absolutely not, in fact the more I learn about riding the more I discover there’s always something else to try or another way of doing something, we’re all different so I guess this should be no surprise?

There’s always someone better, faster and more knowledgeable on the hills and long may this continue - Every summer I ride with people that drive me to improve my riding and approach to doing things - No inspiration equates to no improvement in my book!

Why am I doing this?

There’s a ton of training material out there, books, web sites etc but it takes time to pull things together and determine what might or might not work for us as individuals. The past few summers I’ve been asked to coach quite a few people and realised that I couldn’t provide the training I wanted to everyone so after thought decided to give this a good shot in an attempt to help as many of you as possible and with a bit of luck saving you time and effort along the way.

What can you expect?

The “raison d’être” for the blog is quite simple, to provide you with meaningful information on riding out here in the alps, provide some hopefully useful training information that will help you become a better rider home or abroad and guarantee that if you do ever ride out here you’ll be ready for it.

Over the months I’ll be covering a broad range of topics ranging from the “Value of having a structured training plan” to “How to attack like Chris Froome on a climb”, seriously we’ll do that one, and soon!

What will you get and when?

Each month there will be a featured article that covers a topic that will hopefully spur you into action, set some new goals, get you motivated for riding wherever you choose to do it or just offer some straight forward advice on how to go about doing something. Going forwards there will also be an opportunity for some of you to discuss coaching/riding challenges in person with me via Skype once a month and correct I’m NOT selling coaching services here it’s free so long as it helps you to improve.

Each week I’ll be focusing on a specific training or riding related topic, this could be how to warm-up correctly, how to complete a Threshold test/set training zones or how to deal with the fact that you don’t think you’re not getting any quicker and are not sure why. My goal here is to provide help for those of you that have never had a structured training plan or access to a coach before whilst at the same time offering help to the more experienced riders amongst you that need some encouragement or new approaches to certain aspects of your riding to ensure you continue to be the best you can.

You can sign up to the blog on any of the pages and you’ll then receive a notification of when a new post goes live, if you get bored with things you can stop the mails coming straight away. You’ll not be bombarded with marketing info or ads, that’s not the point of this.

Will I always be right?

Almost certainly not!

As with everything in life there are many ways of going about solving problems. My goal is to provide information based on my personal riding experiences, the knowledge I’ve gained during the 2 years I spent training to become a British Cycling Level 3 Road & Time trial coach along with feedback relating to how certain things have helped whilst riding with many people over the past 5 years.

The last sentence brings me to an important point - Please if you have something to contribute please share it as your thoughts whilst reading a post could help someone out in a big way. Remember most people are afraid to ask for help and others are afraid to share! So, if you see something that you think will help someone else out share it, those buttons at the bottom of each post are there for a reason!!!

Well that’s it intro and first post over so hopefully my palms can stop sweating sometime soon. The walls around this place are a bit bare to start with but it won’t stay this way for too long. Take a look around, join the discussions, share your experiences and hopefully given time this will end up becoming the valuable resource I’ve envisaged.


  • Rob Hawkins:

    21 Nov 2014 15:22:59

    Glad you approve, and am reaching for the dictionary as I type. Thanks for pointing out the errors – Grand Merci Monsieur.

  • Monsieur Galibier:

    21 Nov 2014 15:06:24

    Chapeau, mon ami. Rouler longtemps, roulez heureux, et utiliser la vérification orthographique.

    Je l’attends avec beaucoup d’impatience le deuxième entrée.

  • 21 Nov 2014 12:55:57

    Thanks for the words Alex, I hope that the information over the coming weeks and months helps people along the way through the winter months and beyond!

    It goes without saying that it would be great to see you all again.

  • 21 Nov 2014 12:42:01

    Well done Rob, a really useful blog to share with the club. Hopefully we can get a group together and pay you and Karen another visit in the not too distant future.

  • Rob Hawkins:

    21 Nov 2014 12:37:27

    Thanks Michael, I’m glad you enjoyed the first post and am looking forward to covering some interesting topics over the coming months. Please feel free to contribute as you come across content of interest to you and your personal goals. If you sign up to the right you'll get notified of when new topics are posted.

  • Michael Bonderup:

    21 Nov 2014 12:24:36

    Nice read Rob,
    Really looking forward to hearing more from you and think this is a great initiatives. Very different from what else I have seen “out there”.
    Will also enjoy discussions and/or advice from all the other riders who will be following this !
    See you in the Alps :-)