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Are you riding a cyclo sportive or Gran Fondo this summer? We know that you’ll have spent the last few months preparing for your race. But we want to help you with a few last minute tips from our expert guides!
Before any event you should always try to get your bike serviced by a professional. But even you’ve left it until the last minute, there are still some basic checks you can do yourself to improve your chances of avoiding a mechanical.
Wheels – Check for trueness. If it’s looking quite wobbly, get a mechanic to have a look before the event. This should hopefully help prevent you breaking any spokes during the ride.
Tyres – check for cuts etc and replace if anything looks bad. If the tyres look ok, pick out any debris that might be lodged in the small nicks/cuts on the tyre. Get those tiny glass fragments out before it works its way through to the inner tube. If you do end up changing a tyre, make sure you ride your bike for at least 5 minutes before you go to bed. A quick test ride, will give you confidence that you’ve done it properly.
Brake pads – Check there is plenty of wear left, especially if it’s going to be wet and you have big descents to negotiate. If they look worn, replace.
Gears and gear cables – Check the night before and replace any cables if they looked frayed.
Dress for the weather and lay out all your kit the night before. I always put my jersey on and fill the pockets to make sure that everything fits and is secure. Hilly events, especially in the big mountains can be difficult to dress for; you get hot on the way up, and cold (or freezing if it’s raining!) on the way down, so you’ll need at least a gilet or a rain jacket or both: (an insulated gilet is great under a rain jacket if rain is forecast). Carry at least two spare tubes, tyre levers, patches, a tyre boot, a quick link, a multitool with a chain tool and a mini pump. Put this inside a small saddle pack with the pump going in your jersey, beside the jacket in your middle pocket.
Only take what you know you will eat. When you are half way through your ride, your tastes can change and food you think you would love may actually make you feel sick. Think about how accessible items are and at what points you might eat them. If there are plenty of feed zones, you might only need an emergency gel or two as you can pick up extras on the way. Make a plan and stick to it.
Ensure you have a good breakfast before the start and preferably a few hours before. Porridge, muesli, and toast are all good options. If you have a transfer first, take something extra – flapjack or cereal bars are good here.
We all know this but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Set yourself a pace goal (or a heart rate/power goal if appropriate). Then find other people riding at a similar pace and ride with them. If you do find yourself clinging onto wheels and pushing too hard, you’ll definitely pay for this later. Make the difficult decision – sit up and let them go. Just tell yourself you’ll probably see them later “turning squares” when the going gets tough.
If the “hunger knock” (glycogen depletion) catches you, you’ll start to really struggle. Don’t be tempted to stop for a long time at the next feed stop to recover.
Start dealing with it immediately, eat something (anything) and drink even if you are feeling sick. If you do stop for long, you’ll actually never recover and when you set off again you’ll experience ultimate “café legs” as all your blood will now be in your stomach. Eating little and often and not stopping is key.
The same strategy should be applied to dealing with cramp. Keep going, don’t stop, eat and drink straight away to combat it.
This is what you’ve trained for and remind yourself that this is exactly where you want to be and what you want to be doing on this day. Look around, relax, enjoy the views and enjoy being immersed in a unique cycling experience.
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