How to Prepare for a Big Cycling Event
Cycling events are a great place to meet other enthusiasts and put your skills to the test. Showing up unprepared, however, can result in total disaster. Stick to your training regimen so you're fit for race day.
Training Two Months before the Event
Put in the hours at your base pace.Base training involves steady, moderate cycling to train endurance. You should be able to talk while biking, and your heartbeat should reach about 60–70% of its maximum rate. Base train four or five days a week so your body learns to burn fat efficiently, saving carbohydrate fuel for more intense exercise. Aim for at least two hours per session, but feel free to ride as long as you can without fatigue.
- Start this at least two months in advance. Three or four months is ideal.
- If possible, increase the length of the session until you are cycling for the same duration you will at the event.
Include short bursts of tempo training.Once you've adjusted to life back in the saddle, add short tempo training sessions two or three times a week. At this pace, you should breathe fast but not feel any burning or aching muscles. Start with 15 minutes sessions or shorter in the middle of your base training, and gradually increase the duration. After a few weeks, you may be able to tempo train for 40 minute sessions.
Add lactate threshold training.Your lactate threshold is the highest level of activity you can keep up for 60 minutes, while keeping your lactic acid levels steady. The higher you can push this threshold, the faster you'll be during the race. Add this intense training six to eight weeks before the race:
- Find a flat, outdoor route without stops, or use an indoor trainer.
- Warm up with twenty minutes or more of base training.
- Choose a gear that lets you pedal at about 90 rpm while at maximum effort.
- Start with two reps of 5 minutes threshold, 5 minutes base recovery. Do this two or three times a week.
- Gradually increase intensity by a couple minutes each week, up to a maximum of 2 x 20 minute threshold with 5 minute recoveries.
- For greater accuracy, find your LTHR (Lactate Threshold Heart Rate) or FTP (Functional Threshold Power).These are the maximum heart rate and wattage you can maintain for one hour. Aim to reach about 100% of your LTHR and FTP values during threshold training.
Practice sprinting with high intensity intervals.Starting a few weeks before the race, add two sprinting sessions each week to your workout. Add them about twenty minutes into your base training, so you're warmed up but not exhausted. The goal is to push yourself above your threshold level, to unsustainable speeds. Pick one of the following:
- Anaerobic training: Sprint for 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 seconds. After each sprint, recover with base cycling for an equal amount of time.
- VO2max training: This is effective for races involving intense, short climbs. Sprint for 30 seconds, drop to threshold level for 2–3 minutes, the sprint for another 2–3 minutes.
Rest for one or two days each week.Let your muscles recover one or two days each week. Over-intense workouts increase fatigue and wear out your muscles. If you only rest one day, choose a second day for light rides only.
Cycle uphill.Long-distance events almost always include some hill climbing. Incorporate some uphill efforts into your regular training:
- Practice on a hill that ranges from fairly flat to a 10–12% gradient. Climb and descend for eight reps, aiming for the same speed each time.
- Practice longer climbs. Try to stick to a steady pedaling cadence, adjusting gears before each change in gradient. Sit down for portions of the climb. This is less powerful but more efficient.
Learn to ride with a group.Join a local bike group or invite friends to join you for the occasional training session. If you aren't used to biking in a dense crowd of bicyclists, you might cause an accident on race day. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Stay behind the back wheel of the bike in front of you, to reduce accident risk. Don't bring your front wheel alongside it until you plan to pass.
- Warn your group members before switching positions, or if you notice an obstacle.
- If you're training for a team event, .
- During the race, try to stay in the front third of the group, but behind another rider. This provides the greatest aerodynamic benefit.
Training One Week before the Event
Race in a group the weekend before.About seven days before the race, ask your group to push themselves further to simulate racing conditions. Some cyclists join smaller races a week before to boost confidence, but don't try this as a beginner to racing.
Take it easy.During the last week before the race, taper your workout to short, gentle sessions. You want to be fresh and relaxed for the race. This is not the time to break your personal records or try an intense new route.
- Many professional cyclists take Monday completely off for a Sunday race, and take Saturday very easy. Amateur cyclists should consider taking Tuesday and Saturday off as well.
Go on short, easy rides.Two or three times this week, go on a gentle cycle ride. Don't include any interval training or even tempo pushes. Just keep up your aerobic activity to avoid getting out of form. Most of your sessions should only last 1.5–2 hours, or 15–30 minutes shorter than your normal sessions, whichever is lower.
Add a long distance session for long races.About four to six days before the race, go on a long ride at your base pace. Ride 80-100% of the distance you'll be moving in the race.This will alert your body that some serious exercise is coming up.
- You should have some sense of how long it takes you to recover. Do this far enough in advance that you are back at peak shape by race day.
Train with light sprints or climbs later in the week.Most professionals will keep their legs at top power with a mild sprinting session during the last few days before a race. Consider one or two 15-second sprints or speed climbs, or up to five for criteriums and other sprint-intensive races.For amateurs, four 45-second sprints the day before might be enough, with several minutes of recovery time in between.
Relax the evening before.A massage is a great way to relax the evening before a race, both mentally and physically. Get to bed early to get plenty of rest.
Watch your diet.While eating healthy is important for the entire training period, what you eat in the last couple days can have a direct effect on the race. Eat a moderate dinner the night before, the same size you normally would. Include plenty of carbohydrates, such as brown rice or pasta, along with a lesser amount of vegetables and meat (or other protein). Eat a high-carb, low-protein breakfast (such as oatmeal or toast and peanut butter) two or three hours before the race to give yourself time to digest. Drink plenty of water in the 24 hours before the race. Tone down the water drinking in the evening to avoid waking up in the night.
- Look up carbohydrate sources on an online glycemic index. Foods with low glycemic index values may be more efficient sources of racing fuel.
- Serious athletes sometimes carb load a couple days before a race.
Packing and Preparing
Check your bike.About a week before the event, check your bike for possible issues. Here's a quick checklist to help you out:
- Check the tires for cuts or bald patches. If any are larger than 3 mm (⅛ in), or if you see any fibers poking through, replace the tire.
- Spin each wheel. If it wobbles more than 3 mm (⅛ in) to the side, it needs adjustment. If you can bend it to the side by hand, replace the wheel bearings.
- Replace the brake pads if wear is approaching the marked line. Adjust them if they are not squarely on the rims.
- Tighten your handlebars if they're loose.
- If your gears aren't shifting smoothly, reindex them. Confirm by hand that you can't push the derailleur past its maximum limit (the lowest gear).
- Only replace a worn chain if you have time to spare. A new chain may not work with worn gears. Lubricating the chain should help.
Pack a bike repair kit.Assemble a light package to bring along on the race. Include the following components, and make sure you know how to use each one:
- CO2cartridges and inflator.
- Tire levers
- Mini bike multi-tool
- Two bicycle tubes
Plan your snacks and water intake.Stash high-carb, low-fat snacks in a fanny pack or pockets, so you can eat them on the go. Dried fruit, bagels, energy bars, and energy gel are all good options.Drink plenty of water or sports drinks along with the food, and frequently throughout the race. It's easy to forget to eat and drink while you're full of adrenaline. Don't make that mistake.
- Too many carbs can cause nausea, especially if you're using concentrated sources like energy bars or gel. Try them during your regular training sessions, so you have time to switch to a food that works better for you.
Pack other necessities.Check the weather forecast. In cold weather, bring a light, warm jacket, gloves, and leg warmers. Pack sunscreen, cash, and your identification card.
- Check well in advance to see whether a racing license is required. Buy it in advance and bring it to the race, or confirm that you can buy it in person on race day.
Prepare the morning of the race.Arrive at the race with plenty of time to spare. Go through the following checklist to prepare for a great experience:
- Check your bike for problems one last time. Adjust tire pressure if necessary.
- Register as soon as you can to avoid a line.
- Warm up before the race begins.
- Move to the start line once you notice a group forming, so you can get a good position.
QuestionWhat vitamins should I take before a big ride?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust eat healthy and you won't need any vitamins.Thanks!
- Bicyclists often refer to "zones" of training intensity. There are several different systems, but the simplest works as follows: zone 1 for aerobic exercise, zone 2 for anaerobic exercise, and zone 3 for short bursts above your maximum sustainable threshold.
Video: How to Prepare for a Long Distance Bicycle Tour
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