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

The Good Old Off Season, As Confusing And Unsuccessful As Ever…

 

Avoiding the DIY - Image ©Copyright John Steel Photography - www.johnsteelphotography.com

 

So the season is over, the racing bike is back in the shed and the long winter months are upon us, but what happens now? Where do all these riders go to? If you’re a ‘normal’ member of society no doubt this change doesn’t seem a big deal, maybe you will swop your summer stead for the trusty winter machine, find the lights you hung up last year and carry on your daily lives like nothing much has changed, but if you’re a full time cyclist this change is much bigger and more disturbing than you could ever imagine.

The easiest way to describe this is to split it into stages, so here goes I’m going to let you into the unknown world, give you an insight to where everyone of ITV4 fame (sort of?!?) goes.

Stage one is best described as ‘unsuccessful social season’, it’s the same every year, the racing bike goes away, the phone starts beeping and large groups of cyclists gather at charity events or show’s where after a meal and some speeches are taken care of, everyone forgets they haven’t drunk much in the last eight months and gets stuck into a session they really can’t back up. It all gets messy and everyone makes big statements of intent for next season. It’s ridiculous and tends to go on for a good month or so before the realisation that cyclists although capable of putting on a good party are rubbish drinkers! This problem is multiplied if you have to go to a non-cycling related party in which case you try to keep up with people who aren’t built out of nothing like us cyclist’s and can drink you under the table, stay away from these gatherings they are dangerous!

Stage two is a combination of DIY and too much coffee, after the ‘unsuccessful’ drinking season hasn’t gone down with your other half too well, you will promise to fix everything in the house that has broken over the last eight months of the racing season to repair the situation. Although the problem with that is when a cyclist is left at home all day, the majority of that day will be spent thinking about fixing things and not actually fixing them as the permanent state of ‘coffee bonk’ takes hold as the coffee machine takes the full brunt of a day at home, you will end up with an ‘unsuccessful’ DIY season at the end of this stage, much the same as the before mentioned drinking merry go round!

After being caught up in Ian Bibby's & Geraint Thomas's Tumble in The Tour of Britain

Into stage three and by now most cyclist’s will either have started to beat themselves up about been unfit, got bored of destroying the house through DIY or waking up in the morning after having been drunk under the table by a rugby player again. Now they will have begun to think about starting some sort of comeback. The main problem of this stage is that it involves getting the winter bike together and no matter how well you looked after it before you put it in the shed last year it isn’t going to work. My own personal list of problems this year involved a stuck seat pin (that was 2cm to short? Work that one out), and a distinct lack of working brakes. This is the time of year you are most likely to see domestic pro’s in their local bike shops as they attempt to head off on rides but lose bits of the winter stead on route and have to bail into the shops for help, if your after your favourite domestic pro’s autograph this is the best time of year to be creeper and hang around in bike shops.

The light at the end of the tunnel will start to show by now though, the realisation that a comeback to training is required or more that it’s easier hiding out on the bike than having to attempt DIY SOS LIVE at home has hit all cyclist, you will start to see them come out of the stages as you read about where they and their team have taken off on a training camp to get ready for the coming season. These training camps are where the demons of the winter are thrown off and cyclists become cyclists again, back to reality and the safety of the bike!

Important! No cyclists were hurt in the process of this blog!

 

 

Minty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X