Switching between one-day and multi-day events can be a daunting task. For some, hours are precious and you never have the opportunity of easing your way through a week-long event or even a three-day event for that matter. However, with the growth of stage racing in South Africa, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you are going to give it a crack. The following pointers will make the switch a little more pleasant and give you more time to enjoy the big race and less time to stress about it. As I write this I have finished two big one-day races; Clarens and Gravel Travel. Now I’m preparing for Sani2c.
What to do when switching between one-day and multi-day events…
Arrive with your bike and mind prepared
Stage racing is all about preparation, so make sure most of the equipment on your bike is new and worn-in. You don’t want to be a few days into a race and find you need to replace all your equipment, it can be hard to find the right components in small towns and it’s a waste of energy. Mentally preparing for the challenge is also an important task. I look over each stage and see what my nutrition requirements will be and make sure I have the correct items at my disposal.
In the build-up to a stage race, it’s important to have a little more rest than if you were doing a big one-day race. Usually a short taper of three to five days will suffice.
Plan for tomorrow but ride for today
Put together a good stock of spares and supplies for the event, as often during stage races you will be in small remote towns and cycling related stuff can be hard to come by. You don’t want to have to pull out because you don’t have something. You have done the hard work and probably spent a few randelas, so pulling out because you’re missing a small part can be devastating.
Stage races are all about the art of pacing. Remember what you do today will have an effect tomorrow. Don’t waste energy on unimportant things. Focus on getting to the end of the stage, your interim goals (20km, 40km etc) and doing the essentials correctly.
Eat and hydrate
Eat and drink for tomorrow. Remember to eat and drink as much as you comfortably can as this will help fuel the body in the coming days. If you overlook this step you could be in for a world of trouble.
Find a routine
Get in a routine as quick as possible. It seems like a strange idea, but finding a routine is a great way to conquer any stage race and get the most out of your body. Keep it simple so you don’t have to think about much, just focus on the essentials to get through the race. A day at the Cape Epic is like this for most pro riders: Wake up, eat, brush teeth, race, eat, afternoon nap, physio, eat and sleep. Repeat daily!
Afternoon nap your way to the finish
A short afternoon nap daily can do wonders for the body and turns back the fatigue. Don’t sleep for more than two hours though as you may struggle to sleep at night.
Receiving even a 30-minute massage daily during a stage race will help with recovery. A massage increases the blood flow to muscles which brings more oxygen to them, speeding up recovery.
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Your main concerns should be eating, sleeping and riding your bike. At the end of a stage race you go through a withdrawal when you hit the real world. The hardest part of any stage race is getting out of the tent and onto your saddle every morning, but paradoxically, suddenly not doing this anymore is also difficult!
After each stage, drink a beer or your favourite healthy celebratory drink.You earned it!
Originally published in the July/August 2013 issue.