Peak for Telkom 947 a cycling challenge
by Ian Craig
in Blogs

Your big build-up of training towards the 94.7 cycle race on the 18th of November is almost over. Have you devoted your life to racing 100km at top speed over hilly terrain with the hope of a sub-3hr time, or is your target to simply complete this challenge, no matter how long it takes and how sun burnt you get?

It doesn’t matter which camp you fall into: you should be saluted for your dedication to your 5am starts or for giving over hours of your life to a stationary bicycle!

Most of your hard work has now been done, but these final couple of weeks will play a large part in your success. Do too much and you can blow it on the day; do too little and you just might lack the vital spring in your legs.

Training

It is important to leave yourself with about two weeks to taper your training before the big day, so that means that this weekend should contain your final long ride of a meaningful distance and next week should see a big drop in your overall ‘k’s’.

During the next week is a good time to ride one or two ‘key’ sessions – sessions that will help you to ride the 94.7 faster. If you are a semi-competitive rider, much of your race will be spent close to a pace where lactic acid can accumulate, especially if you are riding in a fast group and when riding up the long ascents. You will notice a slight discomfort or even burning in your thighs, plus a desire not to speak and to breathe rather heavier than usual. These key sessions are designed to replicate some of that discomfort!

  1. 2-3 x 15min hard riding with 10min easy ‘spin’ recoveries
  2. 45min – 1hr tempo ride (most of the ride should feel like you are ‘on the edge’)
  3. 3 x 10mins or 5 x 5mins steady hill climbs at a hard pace (recovery is your descent)
  4. 20mins of 30secs sprinting, alternating with 30secs spinning (this is a great session to cover gaps that develop in your group)

*Each session should be started and finished with a 15min easy ride

Remember that these key sessions are now going to be inside your two-week taper zone, so the overall volume should be low and you should feel fairly fresh afterwards – only ½ to ¾ of the volume (e.g. 2 instead of 3 x 15mins) and at 80 per cent of normal effort. Your long ride this weekend should ideally be in the 50 to 80km range (dependent on prior training), and very much at conversation pace. Within race week, complete one key session early in the week and then taper off with very low-key ‘spins’, rest on Friday and then do an easy 30-60min spin on Saturday just to check that your legs are still awake. Rest plenty during the race week and don’t take on any new work challenges that are mentally taxing.

Nutrition

Most top cyclists will tell you that nutrition makes a huge difference to race performance, especially since it is an endurance event. Firstly, there is the need to support your general health in the weeks before your event – immunity, energy, muscle strength, etc. Secondly, there are race-day preparations, nutrient timing strategies and your choice of sports drink to optimise energy and power output on race day.

At this stage, two weeks away from the event, it is important to get the basics right. That is, eating for optimum health: eat enough food for the amount of exercise that you’re doing, ensure that there is some quality protein in each meal and snack, and aim for at least five portions of veggies per day (1 portion = size of your fist). Be aware that nutrition is very individual and if you listen well enough to your body, it will tell you what you need to feed it.

During the actual 94.7 ride, depending on your own metabolism, about 50 per cent of your energy will come from fat burning and most of the rest from carbs. So, in preparation for the race, fat burning will be important, but without sufficient carb supplies, you’re not likely to hit your higher paces. I don’t suggest that you carb load in the way that we used to think of this term, with pasta parties and the likes – I prefer to suggest that you simply ease up the percentage of your food coming from carbohydrate sources 2-3 days before the event. For reference sake, here is an example of a 2500Cal moderate-to-high carb diet for a lightly exercising average woman or small man – add more if you’re an average/larger man and if doing more than 30-60min per day on the bike.

  • - B-fast - 1 cup oats, 125ml milk/yoghurt/kefir, 10g whey powder, 4 dried figs, 1 medium banana
    - Snack - 2 apples
    - Lunch - 2-3 thin slices sourdough rye bread, thin smear butter, 50g cooked ham or cheese, 1 tomato, ½ cup red bell pepper, 2 tbsp hummus
    - Snack - 10 small dried apricots plus 20g mixed nuts
    - Exercise - 500ml DIY sports drink
    - Dinner - 80g cooked risotto rice, 40g flaked fish, 10ml olive oil, 1 clove garlic, ½ cup onion, 1 cup mixed veg, 0.25l veg stock.

Aim to eat evenly through the day and don’t just have a small breakfast and lunch, plus large dinner as many people do.

Hydration

Hydration is extremely important for a long ride like this and dehydration can hamper your performance. In the three days before the ride, aim to consume around two litres of water per day, and more if you are hot and sweaty. Additionally, you can actually increase your overall hydration if you add ½ tsp of sea salt to each litre of water.

Ian regularly consults with cyclists, runners and triathletes in preparation for their particular endurance race. Click here if you would like some individual support.