NJINGA

Kat Stevens

From a newbie road cyclist to a confident rider who has gone on to conquer some iconic climbs and ride a UCI course. Find out how Kat did it with help from Njinga...

NOTABLE PERFORMANCES WITH NJINGA

FTP Improvement: 48 watt increase from February 2016 - November 2017

Rode the Cyprus Gran Fondo - Completed 148km with over 3000m of climbing over 2 days

Completed first overseas climb in October 2017 by climbing the famous Sa Calobra in 59:07 mins

Completed a charity cycle event for StandUp2Cancer: 106km in 3 hours and 49 mins

Where my journey with Njinga began:

I first came across Njinga in the early part of 2016 after an ankle injury had forced me to stop running. I remember walking into the Lab for my first class and seeing all these really fit and professional people in cycling outfits and thinking “uh oh, might be out my league here”. However, the instructors and everyone who attended the classes were so friendly, welcoming and encouraging that it didn’t take long to get into it and I was soon hooked and doing classes twice/sometimes 3 x week, along with tracking my progress through FTP tests.

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My first steps to improving my cycling:

August 2016 saw me buy my 1st road bike – a Cannondale Synapse. I remember my first ride in Richmond Park where I successfully managed to clip in and out without falling over and take my water bottle out of the cage whilst riding…what an achievement!

In early 2017 I decided to do one of Njinga’s indoor programmes to help improve my overall fitness. As well as the cycling side of it, the programme also included a nutrition workshop and pedal technique. It was amazing to see the difference pedal technique can make to your overall power on the bike when you manage to get to 50:50 on your left vs right leg power and also when you stop stomping like an elephant and your cycle technique becomes more like the Italian Stallion.

The Njinga Academy got me riding outdoors:

I continued with the lab classes but really wanted to get to cycling outdoors with the Njinga Collective, however having had no experience of group or road riding I started to pester Togo and Leigh to run a training programme for new riders like me who needed to build basic road cycling skills and confidence.

My pestering paid off as in March 2017 Njinga started The Njinga Academy for new riders who had never done road cycling. It was great for technical aspects of group riding, signalling, safety checks, improving fitness and all of the ladies have become fantastic cycling buddies and among my closest friends. The Academy was run by Togo and Josh, both British Cycling accredited coaches.

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The Njinga Collective:

My next progression came later that summer when the Njinga Collective started a new speed group called Mbidzi, which averaged 12-13mph, designed to support The Njinga Academy riders. The Mbidzi speed group involved shorter rides and was aimed at building up confidence and km’s as we progressed.

The Collective is such a great way to enjoy cycling as you not only get to go out on different routes, it’s a really social affair and everyone meets up at the end for coffee and cake (always the best bit!). The routes we take are varied and give you a good challenge and as you improve you have the opportunity to progress through the different speed groups.

Hard work started to pay off:

In September and October 2017, I did several events that really pushed my endurance and meant all the hard work through Njinga paid off. The first event I completed was a charity cycle event through work for StandUp2Cancer. I took part on the last day which was from Oxford to Solihull a total of 106.6km in 3h 59m. It was a huge milestone to have completed this distance and at the same time I personally raised over £1500 to help beat cancer, a cause close to my heart. I also completed in early September the London Half Duathlon in Richmond Park and then in early October I completed another half duathlon at Dorney Lakes in October.

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First Overseas Cycling Trip:

In October 2017 I went on my first cycling trip overseas to Mallorca as part of the Njinga end of season social. Having never done a cycling holiday, I had no idea on what to expect but Njinga surpassed all my expectations. All of the meals cooked by Leigh were fantastic, the routes we cycled took us through beautiful and stunning countryside and we even enjoyed a few glasses of wine each night. Everyone got along brilliantly and enjoyed a laugh and a giggle and not forgetting the cycling of course where my personal achievement was to conquer the famous climb of Sa Calobra, which I did in under an hour which was the target I had set myself. 2017 ended on a definite high after so many different achievements all with cycling at their heart and from a starting FTP test in 2016 of 128, it went up to 176 by end of 2017.

Highs & Lows of 2018:

2018 got off to a good start with a trip to Portugal where we did some spectacular rides including one ride I’ll never forget with some seriously hilly ramps climbing Monchique via Foia. The total elevation of the ride was 2003m...my biggest ever hill climbing day!

After that I came crashing down in March with a serious viral chest infection and was forced to take 4-6 weeks off training. For someone who is used to running around and always being active, not doing any exercise for 4 weeks was tough and when I did start back training, I really had to take it slowly. The lab classes were brilliant at supporting my return to fitness as you can ride the class at the pace that suits you and just build up slowly. To help give myself a goal to aim for, I signed up for my first proper sportive ride which was the SWRC May Flyer, which I completed the shorter route of 90km in 3h 49m.

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Cyprus UCI Gran Fondo:

The next test came in March 2019 when we flew out to Cyprus UCI Gran Fondo. I clearly had no intention of seriously competing, but it was the challenge of riding a UCI course and seeing what I was capable of. The 2 days of cycling were the hardest mental & physical challenges I’ve had to face and to make it worse in rubbish weather conditions of wind and rain. Having given the time trial a miss on the 1st day, day 2 was 95km and 1651m of climbing, including about 1.5km on a gravel track on a descent of approx. 9%, but I did it and came in with a time of 4h 23m. A glass (or 2!) of well-earned bubbles was had when we got back to the hotel to recover!

Day 3 was shorter with a distance of 53km but still 1471m of climbing. Due to having tired legs from the day before I just couldn’t keep pace so spent much of the ride on my own. The hardest part was battling my own voice in my head when I felt like giving up, but I just kept going and a lot of what Njinga has taught me in terms of riding through the pain and not giving up kept me going to the end crossing the line in 3h 12m – more bubbles ensued to celebrate making it through and of course a relaxing spa treatment to help the legs recover!

What's next:

In terms of plans for 2020, the bucket list had been to go to South Africa to complete the Cape Rouleur and Cape Argus, however the universe had other ideas and I’m now expecting a little one with my other half (who I met through Njinga!) in February 2020. So South Africa will have to wait for another year but as soon as I can, I’ll be back on the bike and conquering the local surrey hills and using Njinga lab classes to help rebuild my cardio bike fitness…I cant wait!

START YOUR OWN JOURNEY

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Kat's journey with Njinga has included:

  • Regular wattbike classes
  • Njinga Training Programme
  • FTP Testing
  • The Njinga Academy
  • The Njinga Collective
  • Njinga Tours and Trips

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