Whether you lost a bet around a braai, or the cycling bug just got you – preparing for your first (or even your second) Medihelp Stellenbosch Cycle Tour can be daunting.
But it boils down to simple preparation. Here is the low down on training and preparation for the big day.
- Give yourself enough time to train
Most of us have some time off in the festive season – use this time to put in those miles. Let your body adapt to the hours you will spend in the saddle on race day. It‘s not only your legs and lungs that need the fitness, but your sitting bones (to put it politely) that also need training. If you are a runner or fitness junkie and think you’ll be fine, keep in mind those hours you are going to spend sitting on that bike saddle. It can get a little uncomfortable, to put it mildly.
- Get familiar with the route
See what you are up against regards to elevation (climbing), because let’s face it, that is most of the hard work. Websites like www.strava.com can give you a good indication of hills to tackle near you that are similar to those on the route. Ultimately first prize is to ride the climbs and know what you will be up against.
- Go out on group rides
Join a club. Your local cycling club provides an instant supply of riding buddies, as well as a fun and safe environment in which to hone your cycling skills. Visit www.cyclelab.com andwww.pedalpower.org.za for more information.
Avoid riding alone: it’s good to develop the skills needed when riding in a group and will also ensure that help is at hand in case of an emergency. What often happens is newbies can get overwhelmed by the number of people around them, so learn the do’s and don’ts of riding in a big bunch. Safety should always be your main concern.
Entering fun rides is the perfect environment to develop skills, and expose you to real-time race conditions. While indoor cycling is a great way to train for nervous first-timers, it is imperative to practice riding among other cyclists. Visit www.pedalpower.org.za or the calendar section on www.cyclingsa.com for a fun ride near you.
- Test your nutrition plan
It is practical to determine beforehand whether you will be eating during the race and how you will manage that. Are you comfortable reaching into your pocket and eating while you ride, or do you need to stop?
Remember to open the wrapper of an energy bar or snacks before you go, so that they are easy to get to. You can also peel the first part of a banana to make it easier to handle with one hand when you want to eat it.
- Train four times a week
Get at least four training sessions in a week. With one being a long ride.
With increased training you’ll feel hungry all the time, so try to keep balanced meals. Your muscles need protein to recover, so eat a good protein based meal for lunch after hard/long rides.
We call the rides before the race a ‘coffee ride’ – we drink coffee. You can literally do a 30min spin. Remember this is to check if your bike is good to go for the next day and just feel the legs, all your training is done by now.
- Don’t change your bike too close to race day
It is not recommended to get a new bike the week before the race. If you think about upgrading your steed, do so at least two to three weeks before the race. You have to be confidant on your bike – knowing what it can and can’t do is very important.
The day before the race is really nerve wracking! Go for a ride the morning before. Check if your bike and gears are in tip top condition – by now you should have had the bike serviced at least 2 to 3 months in advance to check that everything is in good order.
<sidebar> Tips for the evening before:
- Pack your things the night before. Don’t forget the following:
- OFFICIAL RACE NUMBER: Lay out your clothes and pin on your number low down on your back.
- RACETEC CHIP (or Winning Time): worn on the ankle facing outwards or on a bike mount secured to front axle
- BICYCLE STICKER: stuck on handlebars or stem
- HELMET: no helmet, no ride. Check it fits snuggly under your chin
- START CARDS: DO NOT HAND IN YOUR START CARD AT THE FIRST CHECK – keep it safe and hand in at the 2nd Check (when you enter your designated start chute)
- Prepare your drinks for the ride and refrigerate.
- Pump your wheels the night before
- Double check the time you have to be in your start chute and work out arrival accordingly. Allow for traffic going into CBD. It makes it easier and less stressful if you have an idea where to park your car. Eliminate as much stress as you can by organising things before the morning of the race.
- Just as your nerves will be running high, you will also be running for the toilet on more than one occasion – allow time for long queues.
As they are counting down the seconds to your start group and remember the race is long. Don’t get caught out by the adrenaline; don’t go out too fast in the beginning.
Good luck to all doing the Medihelp Stellenbosch Cycle Tour for the first time, it will be a special experience. Stay safe and enjoy it!