A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 4) – Practice! Practice! Practice!

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 4

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Last week’s article was all about training – general advice and more specific tips about women’s racing and how best to prepare for it.  I know that at the end of last week’s article, I said that this week would be about race preparation, but unfortunately, you’ll have to wait another week for that as I thought I would concentrate on something that often gets forgotten about – things to practice for when you are racing.  So without further ado, here we go:

1) Drinking from your bottle

Ask yourself a question – when you decide that you want a drink whilst out on your bike, what do you do?  Do you stop, unclip and then reach down and grab your bottle?  If so, the first thing you need to practise is reaching for your bottle whilst on the move, taking a drink and then putting it back, whilst still moving.

This may seem really simple to some people, but the point is that if you don’t put your bottle back in the cage correctly and you subsequently hit a pot hole, I have seen so many bottles take flight, which then means that you have either

2011 Bedford Stage 4 ©www.VeloUK.net (Larry Hickmott)

2011 Bedford Stage 4 ©www.VeloUK.net (Larry Hickmott)

inadvertently caused a crash behind you, as people swerve to avoid your bottle, or you have to complete the race without any drink – not the best idea!

Whilst I am on bottles, please do not throw your bottle away unless you need to in order to take another bottle on board.  And if you absolutely have to throw your bottle, be careful where you throw it as again it could end up in the middle of the bunch, with possible crashes as a result.  Carrying an empty bottle won’t make that much difference to the weight of your bike, and unless you are lucky enough to get an unlimited supply of free bottles, if you lose a bottle every race, the cost of replacing them soon adds up, AND you become a litter lout too, so don’t do it.

2) “Clipping in”

So you are on the start line, and the flag is waved to start the race.  You look down, check where your feet are and push off, again looking down to clip your other foot in.  When you look up again, the rest of the riders have already entered the first bend and you face a chase to get back in contention.  And it’s only the first lap.

Again, this might seem simple, but a race can be won or lost, or points gained or lost, on your ability to “clip in” to your pedals quickly. It is easy to practise, and your riding will benefit from it as you will get used to clipping in and out easily, so there’s no more worries then about stopping at junctions, etc.  Plus, why use extra energy chasing to get back in the race when you could be up there from the start?  It’s a no-brainer for me.

3) Eating on the move

Joaquim Rodriguez having a snack on his bike. ©William Perugini/Shutterstock

This doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be a problem if you are doing a 30 or 40 minute circuit race as you should be able to survive on a gel just before the start and a bottle with energy drink in it, however, for anybody looking at doing road races, you need to be able to take food on board in order to replenish your energy reserves BEFORE they get depleted.

There are many ways to do this, and you should try different types of food to see what suits you best – some people will tell you to use energy gels, other people will say bananas, others will say sweets or chocolate.  I will give you some alternatives, but remember that energy foods can prove quite expensive and sometimes just toast and jam will do (that’s what I used to use in the 1990s!):

My advice would be to shop around, try different things and stick with what works for you, which may not be what your mates tell you!  Practice taking them out of your pocket, eating them and putting the wrapper back in your pocket – again no litter bug antics please!

4) Cornering

Hmm, now this is something I can tell you about from experience!  This can be a bone of contention at ANY race – circuit or road!  The first thing you need to practise is adjusting your speed going into the bend/corner – far too many people go into a bend at full pelt, only to realise on the apex of the bend that they have totally miscalculated their speed and brake

Image ©Huw Williams

to avoid going completely out of control. Not at all helpful for the people who are unfortunate enough to be following that person’s wheel.

When approaching the corner, look beyond the bend to see where you are going – do NOT look down at the ground.  If you look at where you are going, this will help you to hold your line (which I will explain in a minute).

If you lean in to go around the corner, this helps with fluidity and momentum, make sure you keep your inside pedal (in the UK this will mainly be your left pedal) up, which means that your opposite foot should be at the bottom, with your outside leg straight and your inside leg bent.  Also, keep relaxed to help you “flow” around the corner.

When you approach the bend, look first to see where you are going to exit the corner, brake as you approach the bend to reduce your speed, and keep your head up to see where you are going.  As you come out of the bend, do not drift to the other side (for example if you are going around a left hand bend do not drift to the right) – this is called “holding your line” – you must bear in mind that you will hopefully be in the middle of a group of riders at this point and any movements that riders to either side of you or behind you aren’t expecting could potentially cause a collision.  Even if you think you are on your own, hold your line as there may be other riders coming up behind you.

I think the key to cornering in a group is respect other riders – give them space (not too much though!) and keep an eye on what is ahead.

5) Mutual Respect

One thing you will notice in a race is that people can get a bit annoyed if you do something that they don’t agree with – rightly or wrongly – and it will also get on your nerves if somebody does something to annoy you.  But that is a part of racing – it is emotional whether you like it or not, and you are competing for the win essentially.  Respect your fellow riders, give them the space that you would expect but don’t let them walk all over you!  So, if somebody else who is nothing to do with you, shouts at you to do some work, think about whether it would be of benefit to YOU to work  – if you are in a bunch, and your strength lies in sprinting at the end of the race, why would you do any work to help other people who aren’t on your team (you wouldn’t see Mark Cavendish riding at the head of the pro peloton on the last stage of the Tour de France if he thinks he is going to win, would you?)?  On the other hand, if you are not a sprinter but would prefer to get in a break and win that way, then it might work in your favour to put the hammer down.  Far too often I have seen riders do what their rivals (on a different team) tell them to.  But why would you do that?  Remember that you are competing – don’t be overwhelmed by riders who are supposedly better than you on paper – you have entered the race for a reason.

Next week, I will be covering race preparation and the final instalment will be what to expect on race day.

In the meantime, keep riding and stay safe!

 

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

CLIF Bar Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got our hands on a selection of Cliff Bars to review for you and Sim and Heather took on the taste and energy test.
 

Heather’s Opinion:
I had my first taste of CLIF Bars whilst taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain last year – the chocolate chip version kept me going from John O’Groats all the way to Glasgow, so when I was asked to review CLIF bars for CyclingShorts, I thought why not?

So, a large selection of CLIF Bars in all different flavours made their way through my door – There was the chocolate chip version which I had tried before, then Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour, followed by Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, then Chocolate Almond Fudge, with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bringing up the rear.

I must say that some of them sounded slightly exotic and I wasn’t convinced that I would like them, but I tried them all anyway (it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)…

So, what did I think? Well, some of the flavours and the texture of the bars are better than others. For example, whilst the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut version may appeal to some due to the lower calorific content than the others, I found that unfortunately it was a bit disappointing – too dry to have on its own, especially trying to eat it going uphill. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the most exotic-sounding one (in my humble opinion), the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut was in actual fact the best of the bunch, mainly due to the addition of white chocolate pieces compensating for the dry nature of the bars in general. However, the Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour came a close second, as CLIF have worked hard to make that bar more chewy and therefore slightly more moist.

The Chocolate Almond Fudge was a bit disappointing too – I thought that it would be the CLIF Bar version of Bakewell Tart but it just seemed difficult to eat, as did the Chocolate Chip version. The bars really fill a hole and contain on average 245 kcals per bar and provide plenty of slow release energy from the seeds and grains used.

CLIF pride themselves on using wholesome and nutritious ingredients and having no trans fats, hydrogenated fats or high fructose corn syrup. It should be noted though that under UK regulations CLIF Bar cannot state that the bars are organic or contain no transfats.

The wrappers are foil and although this keeps the contents fresh, it can hurt your teeth trying to rip it open (I can’t ride in a group of people non-handed so I have to use my teeth – but don’t tell my dentist!) however if you want weight for your £1, these are definitely substantial bars – you can feel the heft when you pick one up!

So, for marks out of 100, overall I would probably give the CLIF bar range 70% (good start, but some improvements needed) although I would give the White Chocolate Macadamia version 85%.

 
 

Sim’s Opinion:
I confess to being rather skeptical about using Cliff Bars as I have had mixed experiences using energy or nutrition bars when riding, to the point that I have reverted to using trusty old jam and bread on most rides. My experience is that some are gooey and sticky, others sickly and worse still some that encouraged the production of some rather unpleasant gases, which was not good in the bunkhouse when all ten of us had been using the same product with the same effect! So needless to say I was a tad apprehensive when I was among a group of friends taking part in the Manchester 100 who would be testing a range of Cliff Bars. Fortunately we would not all be staying in the same room at the end of the day!

On the day we had four different flavours, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond fudge, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, to test and we split them across the group of Team Parrotti riders. My son plumped for the Chocolate Chip and I tried the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.

Out on the road we were particularly impressed with the ease of opening the packaging and the fact that the bar stayed intact allowing us to nibble on the bar and keep popping it back into our back pockets without making a mess. Which is great if you want to use them for a little pick up as you are riding.

The consistency of the bars is moist but not too gooey and this works really well when riding allowing you to take small bites without the bar falling apart. However you do need a sweet tooth as the bars are very very sweet but then that is not surprising considering nearly a third of the bar is sugar (between 21g – 23g for a 68g bar). This was the general experience of all Team Parrotti riders who tested the bars during our day out at the Manchester 100. We all agreed that the bars are worth carrying as a back up source of energy but we all felt that they are a little too sweet to use as a regular nutrition.

Of the flavours tested the clear favourite was Chocolate Chip with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut a close second. The least favourite was Chocolate Almond fudge which was incredible sweet and rather sickly.

The bottom line has to be ‘would we use Cliff Bars again?’ and the answer is a resounding yes. They provide a good energy boost that be easily nibbled on when needed and they are really easy to digest with no adverse effects (if you know what I mean!).

To learn more about CLIF Bars and their extensive range of products visit their website: www.clifbar.co.uk

Cycling Shorts overall rating for the Cliff Bar Range:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

X