How to prepare for YOUR race
The following information and advice is provided to help riders, and particularly first timers, prepare for the event.
Although written by mountain bikers, the same principles apply to gravel grinding! Happy reading grinders...
Training tips from elite riders
Paul Van der Ploeg:
- Don't try and do bulk training in the last week before the race. You will ride faster if you do less coming into the event.
- Ride your bike in the weeks or months before and freshen up coming into race day. Ride with a group to keep the training fun.
- Go to the race with a good crew of friends/family so you are in a good mental state... positive, relaxed, ready and prepared to suffer.
- Nutrition is key during the event, make sure you have plenty of Energy Gels, Bars and drink.
- Don't super-hydrate on water the day before because that will increase the onset of cramping (Trust me I have done that before!).
- The day before don't hold back on food, you can use it to get you through the next day.
- Eat breakfast a few hours before the race. There is nothing worse than tasting your breakfast a second time on the first climb!
- Make sure you have your equipment sorted. Nothing worse than being uncomfortable or fixing mechanicals in the race.
- Practice nutrition. It can be hot, it can be cold, so be comfy in both situations with your hydration and food. If it's hotter, you obviously drink more but in the morning when its cold, you MUST drink here, even if you make your concentration of your electrolytes a tad stronger, you will need this later in the day. Get used to eating gels and high energy concentrate bars. Why? They weigh less and take up less room and are very quick to consume. Who cares what they taste like or if you get the gag reflex from them, follow up with a swig of drink and keep riding. When you are racing, it's not about gourmet, it's about fueling your body to get to the end as painlessly as possible in the least amount of time. Hurt more for less time.
- Don’t copy my Strava! I don’t have kids or a full-time job and I’m training to ‘win-it-or-bin-it’. If you can fit in three x 3hr rides a week or two x 4hr rides you’ll be in great stead.
- Practice hydration. With long sections of single track it's hard to stay well hydrated so practice drinking on sections of single track at home or carry a pack if its comfortable for you. Remember to trial different powder mixes and throw a coke down at the final feed station for a pick-me-up. Hydrate leading into the race to prevent cramps.
- Practice nutrition. Get your body used to food consumption while riding. I vow by one gel on the start line and one every 45mins, which means 7-8, plus a double no-doze at 50km, but if you plan on riding for 6hrs+ you’ll need something more substantial like bars or fruit cake etc. I find oranges and lollies a great treat along the way!
- Have FUN! Remember why you do it and sing that mantra before training to keep you motivated.
Basic guidelines for event training and preparation
These basic pointers will help keep your expectations for the Gravel Grind realistic to ensure you enjoy your day.
- Keep things in perspective – remember that the emphasis should be on enjoyment, satisfaction and fun. Training and racing shouldn’t be a chore.
- Listen to your body. If you’re feeling unwell, don’t train on regardless. As a general rule of thumb for head colds, if you have symptoms below the neck (such as chest congestion) then REST. If you are injured, see a physio who can help you avoid further damage.
- Vary the speed (or intensity) during your training rides. Although you have entered a bike marathon race, your training rides should not be all long distance trundles. Long slow distance makes long slow riders - if you train slowly, you’ll ride slowly in the event.
- Remember to warm up and warm down and include time for stretching before and after each ride.
- Recovery – If you don’t allow your body sufficient recovery between training sessions, your performance will be affected considerably. Remember that the body gets stronger through the recovery process.
- Recovery means plenty of sleep and regular rest days in your training program, especially after longer training rides. Experienced cyclists might train on a daily basis but even they build in "easy" days.
- Technique – Once you can physically ride a bike, you tend not to think about your technique, other than not falling off. However, a good pedaling technique will make you more efficient and thus, a faster rider. A poor technique will cause muscles to fatigue and can lead to injury and decreased performance. See the text below about how to pedal smoothly and efficiently.
Get some advice
There are a range of friendly and accessible cycling coaches and clinics out there that will help you prepare for these events. They do not have to cost much money and could be well worth the investment if you want to make the most of your training effort.
As a starting point, and to recommend an organisation we have been involved with for a few years, look at Today’s Plan who provide online coaching programs. You don’t need to speak to anyone, just fill out an extensive questionnaire and provide your availability and limitations and it spits out a great program to get you started. Visit their website here: www.todaysplan.com.au