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  • Writer's pictureEsko Lius

License plate training method and experiences from Finland

Kinga Őry is a Hungarian member of Cycle Club Helsinki. Online magazine 'We Love Cycling' did an interview with her. CCH has gotten a permission to republish the article.

Kinga is planning to visit Finland also in summer 2024. We may well see her taking part in CCH club rides and events. Let's hope we get a lesson on license plate training workout, too!

We Love Cycling magazine, WLC Heroes: 

Kinga Őry, the inventor of the license plate training, who always moves forward, no matter if it’s for a good cause to help sick children or on wet Finnish roads.

What’s the first thing come to your mind about Finland? Snow? Cold? Vast distances? Reindeers, frozen lakes and Santa Claus? Definitely not cycling though, which is understandable. Most people would probably go for a 310km ride either in the Austrian Alps or on the sunny roads of Spain. Unlike Kinga!

We awarded Kinga Őry with our special medal for heroes of cycling in connection with our Finnish endurance tour, but of course, this was not her first (and probably not her last) challenging adventure. Check out our newest WLC-hero.

WLC: What is your first memory of cycling?

Kinga: The first thing I remember is the moment when my Grandpa taught me to ride a bike without training wheels. It was the classic, broomstick grip, with him running behind me for support.

Did you start riding your bike regularly from that point on, or only later?

I have always loved cycling, but for the most part, I would just meet my friends after school or ride around the streets. I didn't compete in any races, and we didn't ride long distances either. I started cycling regularly after university, when I was 23 years old. It was then that I first got on a road bike, and from then on, there was no stopping me!

What races and challenges have you participated in so far?

Since 2018, I have tried my luck in numerous domestic amateur competitions in different parts of the country. I managed to win a road race in the women's adult (WElite) category, including Csákvár, Ajka, Lake Velence, and the Hungaroring. In 2021, I was a licensed rider for the DKSI Cycling Team, which gave me the opportunity to start at the mountain national championship, the road national championship, and the Garamszentkereszt event of the Slovakian Cup. All of them were a great experience and a serious opportunity to gain experience - especially the road national championship, where Kata Blanka Vas was also in the field. In addition to road races, I like to participate in endurance tours, BRM tours. You can't really look around and take in the scenery at a competition, but the tours are suitable for people to really relax.

How much do you ride on average in a week? Do you follow a strict training plan, or is having fun the real deal?

On average, I cycle 200-300 kilometres a week (5 days of training, 2 days of rest). In the morning, before work, I usually train for an hour and a half. I start at around 6:00 AM and go to my workplace in Nagytarcsa. I try to ride at a fast pace, like I'm training. On the way home, I usually take it easy and just enjoy the ride. This is about 60-65 kilometres per day.

I only worked with a training plan last year, which I received from the DKSI team. I learned a lot from my coach, Zoltan Nagy, this year, from heart rate zones to cadence to interval training. This gave me the foundation for longer bike tours, as I was able to find my base endurance performance range (heart rate zone and cadence), which allows me to sustain a certain pace for more or less any distance. But I always make sure that there are a few "cycling joy rides" on a weekly basis.

What region of the country do you live in? What is the cycling infrastructure like there?

I live in Gödöllő, Pest County (Hungary). I have to say that the cycling infrastructure in the area has improved a lot in recent years, but there is still room for improvement in terms of complementary infrastructure elements (service and rest areas, water supply and refreshment facilities). What is really positive is the continuity. You can see that there are new developments from time to time throughout Central Hungary.

What kind of bike did you use for the Finnish tour?

I rode the Saimaa Cycle Tour in Finland on a 2017 Giant TCR Advanced road bike. This was my own bike, which I transported separately in a special suitcase on the plane. 300 kilometres is not a short distance, and I think every regular cyclist knows how important it is to have precise, individual settings (saddle, stem, clipless pedals, etc.). I did not dare to risk riding the tour on a rented bike that had been adjusted before. In the end, I decided that, even if it was more of a hassle, I would rather bring my own bike.

How did you prepare for the tour physically and mentally?

This was a very complex and multi-stage process. It is completely different to prepare for a 60-80 km road race than for a 300 km endurance tour or race. The former usually involves 2-3 hours of exertion, but the constant concentration in the field often takes more out of a person mentally. In an endurance race, you need to be able to pace yourself over 8-10-12 hours. You have to deal with dead points that do not even come up in a short road race.

When I started preparing for the Finnish tour, about a year ago, my main goal was just to collect kilometres and find the zones and settings that I could sustain for a long time. I improved physically and mentally a lot with my own developed method, which I call "license plate training". After you see in a training plan that you have to push for 10 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of rest, it is simply predictable what will happen and what you need to keep. You can't calculate anything in advance on 300 km, so I wanted to model uncertain, sudden situations. License plate training: every time a car coming towards me had a 5 in its license plate, a 10-second sprint followed. I kept my pulse in the higher zone (extensive interval) until a license plate with a 4 came along (after the sprint as well). In the case of 4, there was a rest. There were times when I went on the border for 10-20 minutes, and sometimes nothing happened for 40 minutes. This was an extremely useful training method (of course, it shouldn’t be done in the capital, in heavy traffic). In addition, I trained in the rain, and in the summer I set off at noon in the biggest heat. I wanted to prepare for all these extreme conditions and difficulties."

[During the race] I actually had one low point, the biggest I've had since I started cycling. We got soaked twice at night pretty badly. At the 220th kilometre, so much so that I didn't have a dry body part or piece of clothing. You go to the bathroom at the refreshment point and put on your soaking wet cycling jersey again - while it's only 14 degrees outside. The wind is also blowing constantly, as we're on the lakeside. I actually begged myself to start." - Kinga wrote in her Facebook post.

How did you convince yourself to keep going, even when you were completely soaked? What motivated you?

It is important to mention that the Saimaa Cycle Tour in Finland starts around 7 pm and we are on the road all night. However, the event takes place so far north that you can see a strip of light in front of you even in the darkest hour (because the sun does not go down completely). The temperature, on the other hand, drops back (from 23-25 degrees to 12-15) at night. So, when it started raining around the 100th kilometre, around 11 pm, we handled it quite well - because it wasn't cold. However, we got an extra round of rain at 3 am, and it was coming down even harder than the first time. This was the hardest point, to be precise: the hardest 80 kilometres. We stopped at a refreshment point to eat and drink something warm. Everyone looked ahead, you could feel in the air that many of us are now at the limit of our performance.

Two things made me decide not to give up here. First: we had already covered 220 kilometres, and only 80 kilometres were left. I thought that all the signs on the highway now indicated that we were approaching the finish line in Imatra. Looking back at the signs, I felt more and more that the finish line was near. Second, I was even colder sitting than if I had been moving. So I ate another bowl of hot rice, drank 2 coffees, and just set off not thinking about anything. By the way, it's interesting that many people jumped up from the table when I finally got myself to continue. Someone had to get started, so it was probably easier for the others too. After that, we went together in a grupetto, pacelining, all the way to the finish line.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over?

This is a very good question. I think I would try to somehow fit a change of clothes (shorts and pants) into a waterproof bag or pouch. Even if this requires an extra saddle bag or frame-mounted holder. I would also borrow a helmet camera. Everyone should see this miracle!

Is this the achievement you are most proud of?

If I only consider my physical performance, I am most proud of the Finnish tour and the 24-hour race (especially since I completed them in consecutive weekends in July 2022). The latter we also won in a women's duo with my teammate Veronika Balogh at the Hungaroring.

If I interpret the question more broadly and do not approach the matter only from a physical point of view, then I am most proud of the charity cycling challenge that I organized this year with a group of friends and a Celldömölk association. Under the CELLenge2022 project, the participants have already cycled a total of 6,200 kilometres (nearly 150 people), and the proceeds from the registration fee will help sick children and those in need in Celldömölk. Everyone who joins this noble cause will receive a unique commemorative medal. In addition, we will draw a signed cycling jersey from Attila Valter's donation as the main prize. If I combine cycling with the human side, then this is the project that makes me incredibly proud.

What do you think, are female cyclists really at a disadvantage compared to men, both at amateur and professional levels?

Yes, to a certain extent. In terms of perception and popularity, it is a bit similar to football, as it is considered primarily a men's sport - after all, in TV or on any sports platform, about 9 out of 10 matches are played by men. If we think about it, it is also the case with cycling, although in the last few years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of women's cycling broadcasts. We are still at the beginning of the process, but it gives hope that something has really started. Last year, they already organized a women's Paris-Roubaix race, and this year, a women's Tour de France as well. And let's not forget that, alongside our excellent male cyclists, our female cyclists are also getting more and more attention in Hungary. Just to mention a few names, who have done and are doing a lot: Kata Blanka Vas, Johanna Borissza, Zsófi Szabó, Barbara Benkó, etc.

By the way, from my personal experience, I can also mention the "mixed" start procedures at competitions as a disadvantage. The truth is, there fewer females riders than male riders. In amateur competitions, we almost always start the race with the men, but in professional, licensed competitions, the girls are often released with the U23 boys. This can lead to very dangerous situations, as everyone is trying to position themselves as best they can. And if you need to make room, no one looks at the gender of the person next to you.

How would you encourage women to ride their bikes more often?

Cycling is a form of exercise that can be done alone or in a group (depending on your mood and preferences). It is also much less stressful on the joints than other endurance sports if the bike is properly adjusted. And the fact that we can do our hobby outdoors, in fresh air, only makes the experience of cycling even better! It completely relaxes you.

It is also great to belong to a cycling community. For example, I am a member of a self-organizing group called the Kerékbár team. We have a relatively large number of members from different parts of the country. Among us are night owls who cycle in the dark. Early morning pedallers who set off for sunrise. Some people only use the bicycle to commute to work, as a means of transportation, while others use it as a hobby, or only on weekends. Then there are the more extreme ones who go off the map, or who practice this sport competitively. It is a truly diverse group, and I am sure that there are other cycling groups similar to ours in the country and abroad as well.

I would encourage everyone to cycle. It is a beneficial form of exercise, you can be a member of great communities, and there are many different options to choose from. In addition, the bicycle as a means of transportation is also worth mentioning from an environmental point of view!




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