Apricot and almond bars

With racing season in full swing, it’s nice to have some extra bars stached in the freezer so I don’t have to worry come race day. I’ve been making a bunch of different bars to fuel for day-long races and this one is one of my favorite as it’s easy to bake, tasty and nutritious.

 

Ingredients

  • 1½ cup almond meal
  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter softened
  • 2 tsp mandarine juice
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse the pitted dates, dried apricots and sea salt until the dried fruits are mashed into a paste. wpid-psx_20140705_213517.jpgThey may try to ball up in the processor, in which case you’ll want to stop and break up the mixture with a spoon before continuing. wpid-psx_20140705_213650.jpg
  2. Break up the fruit mixture and pour into a ball. wpid-psx_20140705_213950.jpg
  3. Add the nuts to the dried fruits mixture.
  4. Mix with a wooden spoon until the almond meal is incorporated evenly into the fruit mixture.
  5. Add th juice and softened coconut butter until smooth.wpid-psx_20140705_214149.jpg
  6. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with cling film.
    Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, and use your a jar top to press it into an even layer. wpid-psx_20140705_214534.jpg
  7. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the flatten mixture and fold in half. PSX_20140705_214843
  8. Reflatten and wrap in cling film.
  9. Chill the baking dish in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut the fruit-and-nut blend into squares or bars. Wrap each bar tightly for individual servings.

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Superenduro #3 – Madesimo

View of the reservoir above Madesimo

After racing in the French Alps for the past month, we headed to the Italian Alps, less than a couple hours north of Milan, right by the Swiss border. This remote location, nestled in the high italian mountains is where the third round of Superenduro is happening. Welcome to Madesimo, a cute little family resort. There is only one lift for mountain biking here and a few trails in the bike park. There is a wide network of multi-use singletracks all-around town that go either down the valley or higher up in the mountains.

Madesimo mountains

The previous two rounds of Superenduro were on the mediterranean coast in Liguria and Tuscany, so it was a drastic change from the coastal trails. The Alpine courses that Superenduro concocted us was unfortunately disrupted by the weather. When heading to the high mountains, you have to expect the weather to change quickly. We had a nice first day of racing with a couple showers, nothing too dramatic and then the sky opened up from saturday to sunday and it was a proper downpour all-day sunday.

 

Stage 1

We were supposed to have a total of 6 stages over 2 days but with the dramatic weather conditions, the organisation decided to revised the race schedule. We ended up with 3 stages on day 1 and a single stage on day 2. The 3 stages on day 1 were a mix of what the mountain had to offer: first stage was more DH and technical with natural rock gardens, slippery roots, a descent downhill grade and not too much pedalling. This is definitely the type of terrain I like and that suits me. The second stage, on the other side of the valley, was more a natural hiking trail, with a bit more pedaling and a few trial-like sections, it was quite fun. For the last stage on saturday, we went back to the bike park and had a pedally stage to finish the day: a man-made rock garden, some nice burms and a few whoops, nothing really technical to finish sprinting in the center of town.

Stage 2

With the torrential rain that didn’t stop on sunday, the organization met with the rescue team and the riders and decided to shrink down the race to only one final stage: same as the last one from the day before. Even though we raced on it the day before, it was a totally different terrain due to the amount of rain that got dumped on us.

Staying dry before stage 4

Stage 4

This 3rd round of Superenduro being held between two rounds of EWS (Valloire last week and La Thuile in 10 days), it brought a more competitive field of international racers (Scottish, Swiss, Kiwi), which was really nice. I finished in 5th behind a stacked field of international women and ahead of my usual competition. It’s a small victory after last weekend trip to the hospital (I busted my hip in Valloire and as I couldn’t walk paramedics thought I had a broken pelvis. After waiting for the X-rays results for what seemed forever, it just turned out to be a bruised hip) and a bad crash on stage 3 this past weekend.

Women results

We are back home for a week, so we can chill, ride some home-trails, recharge. And then we are heading to La Thuile, Italy for the fourth round of EWS for some international challenges.

 

Racing pictures by Matt Wragg

Dates and chocolate bars

Ingredients   

  • 300g Moist Medjool Dates, pitted and chopped
  • 200g Raw Cashew Nuts
  • 150g Almond meal
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • A Pinch Of Sea Salt
  • 40g Unsweetened Shredded Coconuts
  • 2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp Cold Water

Preparation

  1. Line an 8 inch baking pan with  saran wrap, and set aside.
  2. Combine chopped dates, cashews, almonds, cocoa powder, dark chocolate and sea salt in a food processor. blander - dates, cashews, cocoa
  3. Pulse and process all the ingredients together until the texture is coarse.
  4. Add the shredded coconut, a quick pulse, and add the vanilla extract, a little water at a time until it reaches a dry but moist dough consistency.
  5. Scrape the dough mixture into the lined pan, wrap with saran wrap and press evenly with a rubber spatula. cocoa dates freezer
  6. Chill for about an hour before cutting into 2cm by 5cm bars. Store in sealed container for up to a month in the fridge. cocoa bars

Papayas and cashews bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried papayas
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

  1. Line an 8 inch baking pan with  saran wrap, and set aside.
  2. Pulse cashews in food processor until crumbly, place in a separate bowl. cashew powder
  3. Pulse papayas in food processor until finely chopped.
  4. Add all other ingredients to the papayas  and process until well combined.
  5. Add the chopped cashews to the mixture and pulse until combined. cashews papayas mix
  6. Put the mixture into the pan and wrap the saran wrap around it. pre-bars
  7. Firmly press the papayas mixture into the baking pan, using the flat surface of a measuring cup to create a flat even layer. wrapped papayas bar
  8. Place pan in the freezer for one hour, then remove and cut into 8 rectangle bars (or more or less, depending on desired size).  papayas bars
  9. Place in an airtight container and store for up to one month in the fridge.

XMB challenge, WTF is this?

If you only want to ride long travel bikes. If you only shuttle or ride park. If you smoke like a chimney. If pedaling uphill and hike-a-bike do not do it for you. Then do not even bother reading the rest.
But if you’re a fan of trails with views. That a ride with at least 80% of singletracks is what you are looking for. If you dig technical descents. If you secretly dreaming of having Graves calves. If your motto is no pain, no gain. Then XMB is for you.

Trail with a view
Trail with a view

I discovered this new style of racing last fall. I had just moved to Sospel, in southern France, and didn’t know anybody to go ride with. So I bought a local map and began to explore the local trail network. I must admit that coming from the U.S., I’m addicted to Strava. Not only for the pseudo competition but mostly to discover new trails and I use it as a training tool. After uploading a few rides I did in Breil -sur- Roya, in the next valley over. I saw that three of my favorite descents were segments with the name ” XMB – descent”. A quick Google search and I found the XMB challenge website. From February to May, there are 4 events in the Alpes- Maritimes.
To sum it up quickly, each race has at least 1400m of ascent, almost all on singletracks for 35/40km. As Enduro season does not start until the end of April, it seemed like a good plan to get in shape.

Hike-a-bike during the liaison to the start
Hike-a-bike during the liaison to the start

The first round took place this weekend in Aspremont, a few kilometers inland from Nice. The day before the race, I suddenly wonder what I got myself into! I was sick all week and go race XC was perhaps not the best idea. In addition, while preparing my racing bag, I find myself packing my XC kit. Something I have a hard time admitting owning and even more wearing in public. And then, I realize there is 1400m of ascent in 29km, it’s going to hurt! So I decided to use my XC/trail bike: a Blur TrC (120mm rear travel) with a Revelation adjustable from 120mm to 150mm and a lockout system. And I also added a pair of shorts to cover my chamy.
On race day, I found out I wasn’t the only undecided one as to what to wear and what equipment to use. You could see everything from semi-rigid to 150mm and even a few freeride bikes. There was XC riders, all club-clad, with matching kits and a bunch of Enduro racers such as Yoann Barelli, Thomas Lapeyrie and Aurélien Giordanengo coming to test their winter training.

Thomas Lapeyrie on the way to second
Thomas Lapeyrie on the way to second
Hike-a-bike
Hike-a-bike
Maxime Folco, winner of the event
Maxime Folco, winner of the event

The atmosphere was friendly and we all met in the center of the village for the liaison to the start. Just 3km on the road plus a bit of hike-a-bike, not a bad warm up before the race.
The race is pretty brutal and if you go for GC, it is better to have trained all winter and have an XC background. Time is made on the climbs and not descents, even though the latter are awesome in this race format.
It was an interesting experience, although Enduro is definitely more my thing, as I do not have to worry about my time on the climbs. But once I get in better shape to race XC, I will give it a go. And above, just go ride it again as the trails were beautiful.

Riders are getting spreadout after the first climb
Riders are getting spreadout after the first climb
Proof that it is possible to keep smiling during a XMB
Proof that it is possible to keep smiling during a XMB
Descents were worth the sufferfest
Descents were worth the sufferfest
A good rest is needed after the race
A good rest is needed after the race
Top 35 Scratch
Top 35 Scratch

All results here.
And GPX track for those who want to challenge themselves.

All pics by Matt Wragg

Close to the podium in the first race of 2014!

This Sunday (16 Feb), I took fourth at the first round of the Urge 1001 Sentiers Enduro Series at Levens, France.

2013 was a tough year for me, major knee surgery at the start of the year left me recovering for the rest of the year, unable to find the pace I had in 2012. So I was nervous this weekend, as it was the first race I have felt healthy for in a long time, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.

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The trails in Levens are super-rocky and rooty, but really fun. For the first stage we started from Col du Dragon at 1,100m, which was under the snow still after the storms a few weeks ago! I felt good on course, fit and able to keep my pace up over the 20 minutes of timed stages we raced on. As this was my first time racing this series I was not seeded, so started a little way back in the field and had to pass 5 or 6 riders on every stage. I finished fourth, 13 seconds off the podium, which I’m really pleased with, as I haven’t ridden at race pace in so long. I feel like I could have made the podium if I hadn’t had to pass so many people, and with a bit more racing to get back up to speed, I feel really confident for the coming races.

Next weekend there is another local race in Asperemont, but this time it’s XC, so I can find out how fit I really am!

Chocolate and pear muffins

We have been having some ugly weather for the past couple days which made me crave comfort food.

I had a couple pears on the verge of getting spoiled, so it was an easy call to combine those with chocolate and almond to make some delicious snack.

Ingredients

  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 70 g sunflower oil
  • 2 pears
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g almond meal
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 11g baking powder

Preparation

  1. Melt chocolate and oil, smooth and pour this mixture into a bowl.
  2. Skin the pears and remove the non-edible parts and dice them.
  3. Mix into the chocolate/oil cream, with an electric mixer, the following: eggs, almond meal, baking powder, and sugar.
  4. Add the diced pears, and use a wooden spoon to gently mix them in.
  5. Pour into muffins pan and bake for 20 minutes at 180°C.
  6. Stick a knife into a muffin, if it comes out clean, muffins are ready.
  7. Let cool a bit and enjoy!

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Persimmon muffins

There still is quite some persimmons on a tree along one of my rides, so it’s quite easy to grab a few to carry home in my backpack to eat fresh or cooked. This recipe is quite simple and fast and really yummy.

Ingredients

  • 4 very ripe persimmons
  • 270 grams flour
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 6 grams baking powder
  •  1 soupspoon candied ginger with syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 140 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 200 grams plain yogurt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Line muffin cups with paper liners or grease the cups with vegetable oil if you don’t have paper liners.
  3. Cut the persimmons in half and scoop out the pulp into a food processor; pulse until smooth.
  4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger,and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk the persimmon puree, the eggs, egg white, melted butter and yogurt in a small bowl.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (it’s fine if the batter is lumpy).
  7. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each three-quarters of the way, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 30 minutes for regular muffins.

IMG_20131128_105927

Persimmon marmalade

The persimmons I had spotted on my ride a couple weeks ago have started to be ripe. So we went to pick some up and I’ve decided to make some jam qith it to be able to keep it as long as possible during the upcoming winter month.

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Ingredients

  • 1kg persimmons’ flesh (it has to be really ripe, aka mushy, otherwise it has a horrible meal taste)
  • 700grams sugar
  • 75ml freshly pressed orange juice
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Preparation

  1. Cut the persimmons in two and scoop the flesh out, leaving a couple milimeters until the skins. Put in a salad ball
  2. Cover the persimmons’ flesh with the sugar, orange juice and vanilla extract and mix well. Let marinate for 2hours.
  3. image

  4. Put the mixture in a blender to you don’t have big chunks in your jam, then pour in a saucepan and cook for 6 to 7 minutes on medium heat, while stiring often.
  5. Sterilize your containers and caps and pour your marmalade in. Flip them over to expel the air and let cool down.
  6. image

  7. Once it has cool down, store in a dry place.

A.B.Cs energy balls

For the past few weeks as my knee has finally been getting better, I’ve been able to ramp up the mileage and do longer rides. While going on longer rides, it’s also getting colder out here and I need extra calories to fuel my rides. As I don’t digest well processed food and most energy gels/chews/bars – they give me stomach aches – I’ve been bringing homemade marzipan with me on those rides.
Marzipan is ready in a couple minutes: almond meal, sugar, water, mix them up, make a ball of it, wrap in plastic and take with you; but it would be bice to have something with extra taste to bring on the trails.

The acronym came up as I was writung down the recipe: Almond, Banana, Chocolate and Coconut.

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 25 grams dark chocolate (I use Nestlé Dessert)
  • 300 grams almond meal
  • 210 grams sugar
  • 2.5 cl water
  • coconut flakes

Preparation

  1. In a ball, mash the banana and grate the chocolate with a cheese grater over it. Mix well and set aside. banana+choco banana+choco 2
  2. In a bigger ball, stir the almond meal and sugar. Add the water, mix with your hands and it form a ball with the dough. marzipan
  3. Add the banana/chocolate mix to the dough and keep mixing with your hands, so it forms an homogeneous dough. Form 2 centimeters of diameter balls and place on a chopping board. making balls
  4. Pour the coconut flakes in a plate and roll the newly formed energy balls in them so they are fully covered of them. getting there
  5. A.B.Cs energy balls can be eaten right away or frozen to take along on your next rides.

done