A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 5) – Are you ready to race?

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 5

Are you ready to race?

 

So, you’ve done the training, entered the races, got your licence (if required) and your first race is fast approaching.  But how do you prepare for your first event?  Here is my survival guide to getting ready for racing…

1) “No Licence, No Helmet, NO RIDE!”

Those words never fail to fill me with fear – I go into a massive panic and start searching through my bag about five times to check I’ve got both of them.  It’s a bit like going on holiday when you’re rushing around at the last minute looking for your passport and tickets.  Take it from me – do as I say, not as I do – and get a list together (see below).

Obviously, if you’re riding a time trial you won’t need your British Cycling licence (unless it’s the National Championships), but I keep everything together so that they go everywhere with me – I get too confused otherwise!

2) Packing your bag

So, we’ve got two essential items for your list already – helmet and licence – but what else should you take?  Here’s a few more items that you should always have with you when turning up for a race:

  • Helmet
  • Licence
  • Cycling kit for racing (if you’re going to get changed when you arrive)
  • Long sleeve jersey to warm up in (sometimes called “track tops”)yc
  • Leg warmers
  • Arm warmers
  • Rain cape (or jacket) – these three items are to help you in inclement weather – I’ve seen far too many people turn up to races in short sleeves and shorts when it is freezing – look after yourself and invest in some arm warmers – you’re worth it!
  • “Start sheet” – if there is one available – print it out off the internet if the organiser doesn’t send you one in the post so that you know where the headquarters are (it does help!)
  • Cycling shoes and socks
  • Track mitts or full gloves (depending on the weather) – you want to ensure your hands are protected in case you come off
  • Safety pins – for the race number that you will be given (trust me, you can never have enough safety pins!)
  • Food for during the race – whether this be energy gels, energy bars or sweets!
  • Drink for during the race
  • Drink and food for AFTER the race – remember you will need to rehydrate and refuel before starting the journey home
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair bobble and a brush (if you have long hair)
  • Towel and toiletries for getting changed post-event
  • Plastic bag for your used kit
  • Clothes for post-race (can be forgotten if you’ve travelled in your cycling kit!)
  • Change for donation box for post-race cake and tea

Whilst I am at it, you may want to have a think about the bag you’re going to use for your kit.  I spent 18 months lugging a 90 litre cargo bag to races with me, but I could never find anything as it was all dumped in the one compartment and it was also pretty heavy.  In the end, I swapped it for a holdall with wheels (I couldn’t afford a posh one) but it has loads of pockets and now I can find everything!

3) Check out the Race Headquarters in advance

The beauty of living in the 21st century is that you can look at where the race HQ is in advance, using the internet.  Some headquarters are better than others and unfortunately, some can be somewhat lacking in space to get changed.  So, it can sometimes be worth being at least half ready before you set off to the event, depending on how far you have to travel.  Otherwise, be prepared mentally for the concept of having to get changed in a toilet cubicle, or in the car under a towel.  Luckily, some places have really good facilities nowadays where that isn’t a problem, but there are still some village halls that are a bit worse for wear.

In addition, if you plan your trip in advance, so that you know where you’re going and how long it will take, that will take a lot of anxiety away so that you can concentrate on getting totally psyched up for the event in question instead.

Finally on this point, and this is especially important if you are riding a time trial – check out how far the HQ is from the circuit!  The general rule of thumb is that you must sign on at least an hour before you are due to ride, but if there is a 20 to 30 minute ride from the HQ to the circuit (which can happen a lot in time trials), make sure you factor in that time in addition to the time it will take you to get ready – the last thing you want to do is set off too late and miss your start time (yes, I learn from my mistakes)!

4) Check your equipment in advance

The last thing you want to do is travel all the way to a race, only to find that your gears don’t work/you’ve got a flat tyre, etc.  So check your bike works properly in advance.  Either pump your tyres up in advance (one of the last jobs before putting the bike in/on the car) or take the track pump with you if you have room in the car and pump them up when you arrive (make sure you have enough time to do this).  If you’re using a computer or heart rate monitor which needs to be charged, make sure you charge it in advance and don’t forget your heart rate monitor belt if you are going to use one.  Make sure all the lids are on your bottles properly (you do not want half a litre of energy drink spilling over the back of your car, trust me).

5) Are you mentally prepared?

Good question.  You may think that you are, or you may be absolutely bricking it.  In any case, I have drafted in Huw Williams of lafuga.cc to give you some advice on how to prepare yourself mentally for the race:

Where’s your head at?

“Psychology has long been known to be a key factor in athletic performance but recent successes by our cyclists at elite level in the Olympics has fired it into the forefront of our thinking. High profile wins by riders like Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton have highlighted personal mental issues overcome on the way to hitherto unconquerable targets and British Cycling’s chief sports psychiatrist Steve Peters has received almost celebrity author status for his work with metaphorically mental chimpanzees that all too readily pop out of their cages when you least need them too and scupper your best laid plans.

“At more modest grass-roots racing level, psychology is more often overlooked, but along with the other key demands of racing, physiological, technical and tactical conditioning, Developing riders’ confidence so that they can manage performance states successfully is an important objective.

“When it comes to a race you can be the most skilled tactician, best bike handler and the fittest rider on the grid, but if you’re a quivering, nervous wreck when the gun goes, and can’t implement any of your skills in the race, you aren’t going to perform. So whatever level you race at, psychology should play an important part of your training.  In the same way that your climbing technique or your power or your tactical awareness needs to be trained, so does your mental state. Think of it as developing ‘mental toughness.’

To help you do this here are a few basic truths:

1)      Sports Psychology is not Witchcraft or some new-age magic

2)      Mental skills, like physical skills have to be mastered over time

3)      Mental skills, like physical skills need to practiced in training before being implemented into competition

4)      Mental skills, like technical skills are an integral part of training and preparation

“As stated at the start of this article, there is a much greater awareness of the role that sports psychology plays in sporting achievement these days but success is not exclusively the preserve of riders with a strong mindset. Many other factors, some listed above, might contribute to the fact that even the most mentally tough rider might not win a race on a given day. What we concern ourselves with when looking at mental toughness is our own ability to perform at the highest level we are capable of and to do it consistently. Much else is beyond our control and not worth worrying about (and that in itself is a concept that many riders find it hard to get their heads around). For this reason, developing control of the emotional state in order to be able to perform optimally is often of more value than setting specific event goals. “I am going to win this race” is a positive mindset but any number of factors beyond your control might make this unachievable, whereas “I am going to perform the best I can” is completely within your control.

“Sports psychology is a vast area of study. As an example, pride of place on my bookshelf at home are two excellent industry standard textbooks published by Human Kinetics. The first is ‘The Physiology of Sport and Exercise’ and the second is ‘Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology.’ The psychology text is three times the thickness of the physiology text and also has an extensive online ‘further study guide’. I mention this as an example of how understanding the human mind and how to train it is a vastly more complex issue than understanding the human body and how to train it. There are no quick fixes here and given the individual character traits that differ widely from rider to rider, you’ll understand the complexity and scale of trying to cover the subject in great depth here is next to impossible. Instead we’ll look at a couple of areas most likely to be of benefit to the novice racer and how you can improve your mental state. The first is preparation and the second is performance.

1) Preparation.

“Observing the pre-race ritual of a road race is a coaches’ dream. You get to witness a myriad of different responses to what is about to take place indicating the different emotional states of the riders. At a recent race in Kent there were girls staring fixedly down the track lost in their thoughts while others were laughing and chattering away at high speed to anyone who would listen. One girl was nervously sipping form a bottle every 5 seconds barely returning it to the cage long enough before taking it out again for another drink. Some were even doing last minute stretches while straddling the bike, waiting for the off. Clearly the emotional states of these riders was hugely varied, each had their own ways of preparing and coping with the anxiety of what was about to come. So what’s right?

“The key to consistently performing well is preparation. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ a number of times and although it’s something of a cliché its certainly a reasonable mantra for a novice racer. And although we’re talking primarily about mental development in this feature, ‘mental toughness’ isn’t just mental. It’s also being physically prepared and emotionally in control. If you’re on the line knowing that you are in peak physical condition and you’ve practiced all your technical skills then you know you are in a position to perform at your highest level. You can use this knowledge to control your emotional state in a number of ways.

Imagery

“Firstly is the use of imagery or ‘visualization’. Imagery is a highly powerful tool in developing confidence and you can use it boost your performance.  Let’s say you’re working on your bike handling by doing cornering drills. You work at it by repeatedly cornering at increasing speeds until you develop the ability to do it well over and over again. Before each pass, stop and take a few moments to ‘see’ yourself doing it properly. What’s your perfect road positioning and line through the bend? What’s your ideal bodyweight distribution like through the corner? Where are your optimal braking and acceleration points? Are you looking ahead through the bend. Ingrain this image of what you, doing the perfect corner looks like, and visualize yourself doing it perfectly before each time you practice a corner.

Self Talk:

“Let’s face it if you see somebody on the start line of a race staring fixedly down the track and talking to themselves you’re probably thinking they’re a bit nuts and one to avoid when the gun goes. But far from being the first sign of madness, whether you do it out loud, under your breath or in your head, talking to yourself can be a great way to focus the mind. Negative thoughts, distractions and Steve Peter’s chimps invariably start to infiltrate your thoughts at times of high stress like before a race, but self talk can be a great way to turn your thoughts back to positives. So you might look apprehensively at the rider with full aero-wheelset and tanned legs next to you and instead of the negative thought that “she looks a bit good” tell yourself “I’m looking forward to the challenge of competing against this rider as I have prepared well and if I concentrate on doing what I need to do I will be fine.” Or another example, we all have a particular section of road (usually a hill) or element of a training session that we struggle with, so instead of saying to yourself “I’m coming up to the part of the ride that always defeats me” say to yourself “I look forward to another chance of beating that hill/interval whatever.” Self talk is a highly valuable method of turning negative thoughts that can undermine your emotional state into a very positive mindset.

 

2: Performance

“Both Imagery and self talk are great techniques to get into a positive mindset pre-race, but even if you are the best rider at controlling your emotional state and getting your mind attuned to what is about to take place, if everything falls apart when the action starts all those pre-race coping strategies count for nothing. Racing, especially in the grass-roots categories is a very chaotic affair. To the inexperienced rider, the constantly changing shape of the peleton due to random attacks, riders getting dropped and high intensity surges, is highly confusing. The lack of any recognisable pattern often leaves those unprepared for it unable to make any conscious decision as to how to react to any given situation until its too late – they’ve missed a break or are in totally the wrong position and unable to contest the final sprint. It’s option paralysis, a state where when faced with so many choices you are so confused that you make none.

“There is a lot of very fast decision-making to be done in road racing so remaining calm amidst this chaos is essential if you are going to be able to make the correct calls and this is something that needs to be learned. Force yourself to look at yourself when you are racing and examine your emotional state. Are you so tense that you’re bending the handlebars in a white-knuckle death grip in anticipation of the next attack – or are you so laid back rolling along in the middle of the pack that you wouldn’t even notice if a break went let alone be able to respond to it. Your mental state is key to how well you perform and the decisions you make during the race and if you’re overwhelmed by the chaos around you, you won’t perform at your best.

“One coping strategy is implementing the classic “if, then” strategy, a simple but effective means of pre-identifying certain scenarios (the problem) which you then react to in a pre-determined way (the solution). So you might have identified a strong rider in the early laps of a race or from previous events and your strategy would be “if that rider attacks, then I will go with her” decision made, no confusion. Likewise if you know you are going well on a certain day your strategy might be “If I am in the lead group with 5 laps to go, then I will launch a solo attack at the top of the climb.” Again, all confusion about if and when you should attack removed. Having a few of these pre-ingrained strategies in place can greatly reduce your state of anxiety during the race. The chances are that some completely unexpected scenario will occur to scupper your intention and make you revise the plan but that in itself could be part of your “if, then” coping strategy; “If something happens that I am not prepared for, then I will not panic but remain calm and quickly re-evaluate my race plan.”

“Practice the above techniques in the areas of preparation and performance and instead of worrying about what the race might hold and underperforming you now have a preparation strategy whereby you visualise yourself doing the right things and can talk your mind into the correct place, as well a good basic race-plan that anticipates certain scenarios and how you will react to them, your first small steps to improving your mental toughness.”

Thanks to Huw Williams for the above, it is useful for every racer – male or female.

Finally, my thanks to Ed Rollason of Ed Rollason Photography www.edrollasonphotography.co.uk   for the photos.

Next week will be my final article in the series – Race Day!  In the meantime, enjoy riding your bike 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 Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 3): What training should I do?

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 3

What training should I do?

By now, you may have joined a club, maybe obtained British Cycling membership and even bought a licence and perhaps you’ve had a look at the various events that you are thinking of entering.  The next question is: what training should I do?  This is a “BIG” question!  So with that in mind, I have enlisted the help of a couple of cycling coaches who can help you in your hour of need.

Michelle Bergstrand-Evans, She Cycles Coaching Limited

First up is Michelle Bergstrand-Evans of She Cycles Coaching Limited who is a British Cycling Level 3 coach and who has over 23 years of racing experience.  I asked Michelle for her top tips for women and this is what she had to say:

“There I was, sat in my favourite ‘post ride’ café, devouring a well-earned slice of cake and savouring a lovely frothy, warm cappuccino, when, one of the café’s employees asked if I was a cyclist. I figured the fact I was dressed from head to toe in my finest cycling attire and having minutes before left my hefty winter road bike lent against the café frontage, was a slight clue, that, yes, I was a cyclist….a female cyclist at that !!! We engaged in conversation. The waitress explained very enthusiastically that she was on a post-Christmas fitness regime and had a love of cycling, but wasn’t too fit and wanted to enjoy riding her bike faster, longer and harder…..What could I advise her? Well, I came up with five training tips for the female cyclist (well six actually, as you’ll see!)

GET COMFORTABLE! 

“A hugely important issue which is so often is overlooked when starting out as a cyclist is the fit of one’s bike! A correct fitting machine allows for comfort, performance, safety and reduces the risk of injury.  85% of cyclists experience some form of pain in the knees, neck, shoulder, and wrist, hand, posterior or back.  If the bike is the wrong size/ set-up, the rider will end up trying to fit their bike, rather than the bike fit them, which will compromise performance. An inefficient and uncomfortable position can lead to permanent injuries. Also, a proper fitting bike is easier to handle, reducing the risk of crashes.

“Another important issue relating to female cyclists and comfort is the choice of bike saddle.  The correct saddle is so important for the enjoyment of an enjoyable, ride to the result of a race. The wrong saddle will cause all sorts of issues, basically it’ll cause untold pain that only a woman would understand:-/   So, which saddle?  To be honest, it really is down to personal choice; however, I would suggest to any female cyclist that a female specific saddle really is the way to go, as they take account of the female anatomy (wider sit bones). There are so many out there, and time spent researching will be time well spent. I would suggest popping into your local bike shop and asking to try out the female specific saddles they have.

WHAT TO WEAR!

DSCN1619

“There is nothing worse than setting off on a training ride/social ride and realising, within a few miles that you have over or under dressed.  I have a rule of thumb when it comes to deciding what to wear. Firstly, CHECK THE WEATHER FORCAST! Then, if it’s chilly, layer up. A good base layer is so important. If you really feel the cold, wear a set of arm warmers under your base layer. If it’s really very cold, I wear a skin suit. This really does bring an extra layer of warmth. Ensure you wear a good pair of Roubaix thermal tights and wind proof soft shell jacket. I’ve discovered the benefits of two pairs of overshoes in the cold….marvellous! Not forgetting thermal gloves. Its best to buy a pair a size too big as this allows for warm air to circulate around the fingers to keep them toasty warm. Finally, the head, a buff to cover the ears underneath your helmet works a treat. Not so good for the hair, but it will keep you warm.  As for warmer weather. I will tend to put on what I think is necessary, then stand outside, If I feel warm before I’ve begun to ride, I have too much on. Unless it’s 40 degs, then wear enough to be decent and don’t forget the sun cream! Remember, ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET and gloves or mitts.

HAVE A GOAL

“Why do we set goals? Well, goal setting, whatever they may be, is the first step towards improving as a cyclist. Goals will give you direction and purpose to what you are doing, this in turn enables the rider to define their training strategy and plan.  Your goal may be to finish a Sunday club run for the first time. It may be to podium in a National event.

When setting your goals, they must be:

  1. Realistic – the goal must be something that is possible for you to achieve, otherwise you’ll become de-motivated if you’re unable to achieve your desired goal.
  2. Measurable – You must be able to quantify your goal.  For example, you must be able to say ‘I did X, so I achieved my goal’.
  3. Challenging – your goals must stretch and push you to greater heights, otherwise you won’t see any gains. Goal setting is there to improve you as a cyclist.
  4. Yours – your goals are personal to you, they are there to motivate you.  A common mistake from riders is to set the same goal as that of their training partner/team mate.  Furthermore, when setting your personal goal, think of a long term goal, maybe two years hence,  such as ‘in two years I will be fit and confident enough to finish a National Women’s Road race’,or  finish a particularly challenging sportive.    The long term goal setting will enable you to set short term objectives, such as entering a Sportive for the first time, or completing a session you’ve never been able to complete before. These short-term goals will enable you to attain your long-term aims.  Finally, setting and achieving goals has a huge impact on motivation; regular success = lots of smiles.

SEEK GUIDANCE

” Cycling is fun….competitive cycling is a blast. However, as you improve, at times, you’ll find your desire to improve will overtake your ‘common sense’, as many riders make the mistake of riding too hard, mistakenly thinking that continuous hard training will result in improved results. This may be the point where the rider decides they need someone qualified to guide their training to enable them to continue to achieve their goals.  The best resource is a coach, someone who can get to know you over time and you get to know them. A coach will devise a training plan according to your goals and lifestyle and will communicate with you on a regular basis, as communication is the corner stone to an effective coach/rider relationship. The coach will prepare a plan with the correct level of endurance, interval and conditioning work, as well as advise on nutrition, psychology, recovery and sometimes the shopping! A coach does cost money, but is often money very well spent.  If the cost is too great, joining a local cycling club and picking the brains of experience riders is always a good start….

Competitive cycling can be fun!

Competitive cycling can be fun!

FIND A GROUP

“Cycling on your own can be a very peaceful experience, particularly if you work in a pressured environment or have noisy children, however, one of the benefits of cycling, is it is, at times a very sociable activity. I would suggest that any rider wanting to improve or even just make friends with like-minded people joins a local cycling club. Not only will riding with other riders develop your social side, but it will develop your riding skills as you will be mixing with cyclists of various abilities and experiences. Riding in a group will also improve not only your handling skills, but being able to ride ‘further/faster/longer’ will do wonders for your fitness and confidence. One word of warning, beware of the ‘weekend warrior’, someone who takes any training ride as a race, to the detriment of other riders and sometimes your training aspirations. Or failing that, start your own group!

THE GUILT BOX

“Now this point is an extra and aimed at those riders who have families/partners/children. As a female cyclist, at any level, you will find at times, when you’ve planned to ride, you may battle with a ‘guilt trip’ as your position of mother/wife/girlfriend has been put to one side. I would suggest, when it is your cycling time, or ‘me’ time. Imagine you have a ‘guilt box’. Remove the guilt from your head, put it into the box, put the lid firmly on the box and put to one side. You are entitled to ‘do your thing’, without distraction. Think only about completing your session and worry about nobody but yourself….HAVE GUILT FREE FUN, ….when you’ve finished your session, your partner, boss and kids will have you back….everyone’s happy then! And just remind your kids what a fantastic role model you are. Remind your partner/husband how fit you look and mention to your boss how motivated you must be to want to train and improve yourself!

“To be honest, the above list only scratches the surface. However, I think the above six points cover the important factors that will make cycling far more enjoyable for the female cyclist. As with many activities/sports that are entered into as a novice, there is a huge learning curve to scale. This shouldn’t put you off. It’s exciting, learning new skills, making new friends. Even the most accomplished cyclist will learn need to revisit their skills and continue to develop them. So, off you go…….ENJOY ….”

Huw Williams, La Fuga 

Next up is Huw Williams, who has been organising the sessions at the Cyclopark venue in Kent for women, under the #fanbackedwomenscycling umbrella.  Huw is a British Cycling Level 3 coach, and is a director of La Fuga Cycling Academy (lafuga.cc).  As Huw has been helping women start out on the road racing scene, I asked him to give you an insight into what happens in the race and what you can do to keep up.  Here is what Huw has to say:

“If you’ve been reading the previous posts in this series you’ll have a good idea about the way in which cycle racing in the UK is structured, what kind of races are available to you and how to go about setting some ‘SMART’ goals in order to prepare for them. For the novice racer though, that first event can be more than a little daunting and the small step onto your first start line can be a massive leap into the unknown if you don’t know what’s coming. So in this short article we’ll take a look at what a typical first race looks like, what you can expect to happen and how you can prepare for it.

(c) Huw Williams

(c) Huw Williams

“In your first race you’ll probably be riding with 3rd and 4th category racers on a closed-road circuit and it’ll last anywhere between 40 and 90 minutes. In your mind you probably envisage a race which looks like a mini Tour de France stage with a perfectly compact peleton of riders winding it’s way around the various laps until the bell goes and there’s a mad sprint for the points at the finish. I hate to be the one to tell you that this is not going to happen. What’s going to happen is that the gun will go and the stronger riders will occasionally attack, winding up the speed when you least want them to, and splitting the pack until there are only a few riders left capable of contesting the sprint at the end. This will happen repeatedly until there are riders strung out all over the road in ones and two’s, many riding individual time trials to the finish. So a novice race often more closely resembles a disorganized club-run than a stage of a grand tour and the reason this happens is that so many riders despite being reasonably well trained, are unprepared for the intensity of the attacks, get dropped and quickly end up riding on their own.

How fast is FAST?

“Consider this fairly typical question recently posted on a women’s racing group forum page; “I have never raced before and would love to start but have no idea how fast I need to be. What sort of speed do the cat 3/4’s go at?”  This typifies the problem. The question is miss-directed as the speed the 3/4s go at can be anything from moderate club-run pace to eyeballs out sprinting. And therein lies the problem, it can go from one extreme to the other several times in the space of a few minutes and if riders aren’t prepared for it your race can be over in the first couple of minutes. So more realistically the question should be; “How fast do I need to be able to go for short bursts in order not to get dropped?”

“From our example of a typical race scenario, you can hopefully see that training which targets a uniform speed is not what’s required in this kind of race. More realistically, what’s required is the ability to go VERY fast, repeatedly, in order to stay with a given group. It’s not uncommon for a rider in a one-hour circuit race to have to produce as many as 20-30 efforts of around 80% of their maximum power in order to stay in touch with the leaders. So it’s a question of going VERY hard, then recovering quickly in order to go VERY hard again. Suddenly sitting on a turbo trainer or in a group of riders at a steady ‘x’ mph doesn’t make a lot of sense does it?

“The good news is that as we know this is going to happen, we can train much more specifically to prepare for it so that it doesn’t come as so much of a shock when it does, and you have the tools to deal with it. And remember, if all this sounds like its going to be very intense (believe me it is), it’s going to be just as intense for everyone else in the race. So if you’re training specifically for the requirements of this kind of racing, and others in the race are not, you’re going to have a big advantage when the gun goes.

“So here are a list of the key elements needed for your first road race and how to go about training for them.

1) Endurance

What is it? Firstly you need to be able to complete race distance, and an ‘endurance’ event, as opposed to a ‘sprint’ event is anything that lasts over a minute.

How do I train it? Simple, This is where your longer rides either with a group or riding solo at moderate pace are necessary in order to develop a good ’endurance’ base.

2) Short Term Muscular Endurance

What is it? Think of this as an extended sprint, when riders attack, and try to break away, you need to be able to sustain a hard muscular contraction for a minute or so in a big gear in order to stay with them.

How do I train it? Practice 1-2 minute intervals on the turbo or on the road in progressively bigger gears, with several minutes easy-spinning recovery between them. Try to get your cadence up to around 100rpm and match it each time you increase the gear.

3) Power

What is it? The initial jump when an attack goes – you need to be able to get up to top speed, fast. As an example, if two race cars each have a top speed of 180mph, the one that gets to the finish line first is the one that REACHES that top speed first as it spends more time AT that top speed – so even though you might have the ability to ride as fast as the other rider, she’s going to ride away from you if you can’t cover that initial burst of power.

How do I train for it? Practice very short, explosive sprints of just 10 seconds. Ride along at 15-20mph then jump out of the saddle and drive the gear up to full speed as quickly as possible but ease off after just 10 seconds and ensure at least 3 minutes of easy spinning recovery between intervals. Use a variety of gears for these, you never know what point an attack might go at in a race and might not be able to select your desired gear. These intervals are great to include on longer rides on the road.

(c) Huw Williams

(c) Huw Williams

4) Lactate tolerance?

What is it? When constantly being asked to ride at high pace, as well as repeatedly going close to max for short bursts in order to cover attacks, your heart rate remains very high even when you try to recover by sitting in the bunch. This means high levels of lactate accumulation and high levels of discomfort.

How do I train for it? Unlike the previous intervals, where you allow several minutes for recovery in order to produce the next hard effort, lactate tolerance is about making near maximal efforts with minimal recovery periods. This is ideal for 60 minute turbo training sessions. To start with, to a good warm up and simply ride at 90% effort for 30 seconds followed by one-minute recovery easy spinning. Keep this going for a 15 minute ‘set’, recover for five minutes then do two another set. This develops both your physical ability to recover from the efforts and psychological courage in the face of repeated hard efforts. Progress this session gradually by extending the length and number of sets, and/or reducing the recovery times between intervals.

5) Warm up

What is it? The process by which you ready your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system for the effort that is about to follow. The warm up is hugely maligned by inexperienced racers who make the cardinal sin of believing that they need to save every ounce of effort for the race proper. The result? Someone makes an early attack and riders are not sufficiently warmed up enough to be able to cover it. It’s called oxygen kinetics – the speed at which your cardiovascular system can deliver oxygen-rich blood to muscles that suddenly demand a huge amount of it because you’ve asked them to work so hard, so quickly. If you’re not sufficiently warmed up the speed and amount of oxygen moving to your muscles is compromised and you’ll be playing catch-up for half the race while your body tries to come to terms with the intensity of what you’re asking it to do.

How do I train for it? Simple, formulate a set-warm up which you implement before every race and training session. A good rule of thumb is ‘the shorter the race, the longer the warm up.’ You need to put in place a series of ‘steps’ designed to rasie  your heart rate to very close to the kind of intensity you are going to experience in the early part of the race as well as turning the legs at similarly high cadences. Do this very gradually and finish the warm up with some 10-second maximal sprints with 3-minute recoveries between them.

(c) Huw Williams

(c) Huw Williams

 

“Hopefully this gives you an idea of what goes on in a race and as if that wasn’t enough we haven’t even touched on the tactical elements of race-strategy and positioning [that will be covered next week], the technical elements of bike handling and the psychological elements of getting your head round all of these things and being able to put them all together. Those are things we’ll cover in future articles but for now you at least have an idea of the physiological demands of a road race and some ways in which you can prepare for the intensity of it.”

I am grateful for both Michelle and Huw’s assistance in helping with this article.  Hopefully, you will now feel more confident in that racing is something you CAN achieve – so what are you waiting for?  Get entering those races, ladies!

 

 

 

 

To contact Michelle, you can email her on [email protected] or visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SheCyclesCoachingLtd for more information.

To contact Huw, you can email him on [email protected] or visit lafuga.cc

Next week, I will be concentrating on how to prepare for your first race, including what to pack in your kit bag.

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 Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

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