Spring into Action
Ever turned up to an event without your shoes, shorts or helmet? Don’t let a moment of forgetfulness ruin your season. Be prepared. Yanto Barker mixes riding as a pro with running his own cycle-clothing business ( www.lecol.net ), so has to be super-organised. “I am actually a little dyslexic and find routine helpful to avoid forgetting important things. Always have your bike ready days before and make sure you’ve ridden it a couple of times since making any changes. “I usually pack my race bag the night before, and I like to arrive at the race HQ in my kit – it helps me not forget my clothing as I have most of it on. I have forgotten almost everything at one race or another apart from my bike, though I have heard stories of guys turning up without one!”
Prime the engine
To make the most of all that hard training you need to be warmed up and ready to go from the start. The more intense the event, the more important the warm up becomes as there’s no chance to ease in gradually. “For a hard effort like a time trial riders should start with five to 10 minutes at a steady pace,” says pro-turned-coach Dan Fleeman. “Then do another 10 to 15 minutes ramping up to zone four.” At this level of effort breathing should be rapid and powerful and it should be difficult to hold a conversation. “Finish off with two or three hard 30-second bursts.”
It can be difficult to warm up properly for a sportive where riders are herded into pens and so have to wait around before the start. “Practise warming up then cooling down again before a hard effort in training,” says Fleeman. “This will only come as a shock if your body isn’t used to it.”
It’s not easy to stay motivated all season long, especially if some well-meaning nutritionist has just denied you a doughnut. If the sofa seems more appealing than the saddle, it’s time to give yourself a quick pep talk, says triathlete and sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson ( www.sportspsychologist.com ). “Think about why you are training. Why do you come home from work and get on the turbo trainer? Remember that you have a goal, and the next training session is a good thing because it will help you reach that goal.” Picture yourself training to bolster your self-discipline. “On the way home from work, imagine yourself getting home, getting changed and starting your session. Picture yourself ignoring the distractions you will need to overcome, like not boiling the kettle or opening the fridge door.
“At the weekend, picture yourself getting up and going for a ride in the morning and have your kit laid out ready. That way there’s no decision to make when the alarm goes off – you’ve already planned your ride and seen it unfold in your mind’s eye.”
That said, Thompson advises against bullying yourself when you are feeling really run down. “It may be that you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and are genuinely tired, in which case you need to adjust your training downwards, eat a bit better and maybe get a bit more sleep.”
Feed the machine
Keeping your energy levels up, especially during a long event like a mountainous sportive, means eating and drinking regularly. Matt Hart, founder of Torq Fitness ( www.torqfitness.co.uk ), recommends consuming plenty of carbohydrate and avoiding fat.
“The recommendation used to be 1g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight per hour, but recent research suggests the internals of big and small people aren’t that different, so effectively a small person can consume as much as a bigger person per hour. We take this with a pinch of salt and generally suggest larger riders should try to consume more. You should be comfortable taking on board up to 60g of carbohydrate per hour with most low fat carbohydrate combinations. Keeping fat low is critical, because this severely slows down the passage of carbohydrate through the gut and its absorption.”
Downing at least one 500ml bottle per hour is a good rule of thumb for hydration, but Matt says the right amount varies depending on the individual and the weather. “If it’s warmer and perspiration rates are high, you should drink more than when you’re sweating less.”
As soon as you climb off the bike you need to start replacing your depleted reserves, advises pro cyclist Richard Lang. “There’s a 20-minute window when your body is primed to absorb nutrients, so you need to get in a good amount of protein and carbohydrate.” After a tough training session, race or sportive, aim to down a specially formulated recovery drink as these contain more protein than a standard sports drink – important for repairing tired muscles.
Eat a good meal within three or four hours of finishing, but don’t eat so much that you feel bloated. “Rice, chicken and red meat are good,” says Lang, “but avoid spicy foods or seafoods. You don’t want to eat anything which could give you an upset stomach, especially if you are riding a multi-day event.”
Pro cyclist Christopher Jennings says professionals need plenty of rest after a tough day on the bike, and the same applies to club cyclists. “Just because the stage finishes in a beautiful Italian village doesn’t mean you suddenly become a tourist. If you’re standing, sit. If you’re sitting, lie down. If you’re lying down, sleep.”
Jennings swears by massage to flush out the toxins from battered limbs, and compression tights to speed up recovery. A good night’s kip is also key. “Sleep is when your body goes into full-on recovery mode,” he says, “so obviously the better and longer you can sleep, the more prepared you will be for the next day’s race.”
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