Training Preparation your Epic Cycling Adventure

Riding through the Dolomites on Caesar

Deciding to take part in a Ride and Seek tour is a commitment to high adventure; it is also a commitment to yourself, other group members, and your friends and family. It will be a memorable adventure that will extend you in unexpected ways, giving you a real quality of life experience as well as a huge amount of fun. It is fair to say that the better prepared you are for your cycling adventure, the more you will enjoy the experience.

There is no set template for training but one principle will always hold sway. This relates to being consistent with your training. There is little long-term benefit from blitzing your training blocks and then having big breaks between the blitzes. Better to work off the premise of building up your fitness over a period of time through regular riding. In the context of our multi-day tours, we also recommend incorporating back-to-back days on the bike as part of your training as a way of replicating the flow of the tours themselves.

Looking down in Italy from Col Agnel (2744m) on Hannibal

Proper preparation will give you more enjoyment, and a  sense of achievement. Training is a big part of that preparation, but there are a few other things that are just as important. Tip number one is to negotiate with your stakeholders – family, and friends – and be open about what the trip means for you, and importantly, the time commitments involved in training prior to the event.

While we are talking about stakeholders, there is another consideration, safety, particularly when descending. I’m all in favour of enjoying the thrills of fast descents but you can have just as much fun at 80% of your maximum downhill speed as you can flat out. Descents around the world vary and are designed differently and it is easy to misjudge cornering speeds. Being a long way from home is also not the best place to let your downhill ego take control both on tour and training for one!

It’s worth thinking about the implications of being part of a group. Cycling can be a very solitary pastime but it is also a wonderful social activity. You will find that the interactions you have with the group will add a great deal to your enjoyment. A bit of give and take, mutual support both on and off the bike spread the happiness bugs and builds connections.

Pont Julien on our Local Adventure in Provence

Science has rapidly advanced our understanding of training, however, you can train “scientifically” for your tour and still get it wrong. We need to be discerning and do the sort of training that is appropriate for our event, and that is quite possibly very different from how you might train at present. Over the past few years, Jo Palazetti from Turbo Studio has been at hand to provide this scientific approach with her bespoke programs for our riders. Employing a ‘coach’ with a clear understanding of how to use wattage as a guide can be invaluable.

Jo Palazetti from Turbo Studio

Each tour requires the ability to ride consecutively for up to 6 days before a rest. If you choose the Hannibal tour you will also need the ability to ride tall mountains. If Napoleon is for you, then being comfortable on longer rides with the possibility of headwinds is what you train for. And if your preference is for a 2 cup tour on the lower difficulty spectrum you will still be looking to saddle up for multiple days in a row.

A couple of things may conspire to prevent you from doing the most appropriate training. One is the tyranny of Strava! Forget personal bests and being competitive with mates. Long and slow is the way to build the sort of endurance you need to flourish on these tours. One day of intensive work in your weekly or 10-day training cycle by all means, but no more. Most of us are time-poor and we compensate by going harder. When I train for these events I plan back-to-back days on the weekend riding with slower mates.

Being comfortable on the bike for extended periods is very important. Proper bike fit, good quality nicks, stretching and core strengthening work all pay big dividends. Recent saddle design changes have led to great improvement in comfort, particularly for women.

In a Nutshell

No mountain is insurmountable if you do the training 🙂

–  Rest. This is when your body adapts to the training load and adjusts to handle higher workloads. Increasing training load without increasing rest leads to poorer performance. Plan a 4-week cycle of gradually increasing distance then have a week with 50% less riding. Increase distance in the next 4-week cycle.

How to ride tall mountains when there are none nearby to train on?  Find some long hills, about 3- 5 minutes of climbing. Climb in a very low gear, spinning as close to 100 rpm as you can. Descend, then repeat seated but using the biggest gear you can, cadence between 55 and 60. Gradually repeat the number of efforts. Every third effort, do it standing in a big gear.

When you get to train in the mountains, start climbing in a relatively easy gear and spin. Towards the top, try and change to a harder gear and alternate standing and sitting. Break the climb into segments and focus on riding that segment well. Monitor and observe what is going on and focus. Match your breathing with pedal strokes. Relax the upper body and smile, it works!

Remember to taper and not arrive at the start of your tour completely smashed. Also, don’t underestimate the effect of jetlag, it will affect your performance so arrive a couple of days prior to the event if you can.  Get an aisle seat on the flight and walk/stretch often.

Thanks to Kieran Ryan who rode with us on Vietnam Untouched and has been coaching cyclists around Australia for more years than he can remember!



Nutrition: How to maximise your energy levels on tour

Helping our guests get the most out of their cycling tour experience is paramount to our team. By eating well on tour, it can help your recovery, energy levels and even your immunity. These points have been put together by our team member Megan Reynolds who is a qualified Dietitian. This not intended to be a list of do’s and don’ts and is a general guideline for eating throughout the day on tour.

1. Ensure you are drinking plenty of fluids during the day. It sounds obvious but this is one area most of us could improve on:

 

– Start your day hydrated by drinking some water in your room and/or at breakfast

– Throughout the day, sip on fluids. Bear in mind you may need more when the weather is hot.

– Electrolytes are not necessary, however, they will help give you extra sodium and carbohydrate. You could try taking one water bottle and one electrolyte bottle especially when the weather is hotter or you have a particularly hard day ahead of you.

– Otherwise, water is the best fluid.

– The best way to tell if you are hydrated is that you have straw-coloured or yellow urine.

– If you choose to have a beer or wine when you finish your ride, ensure you have plenty of water beforehand and in between drinks.

2. Consistency is key. Ensure you eat consistently through the day:

 

– Eat frequent meals and snacks that include some carbohydrate and protein- Don’t wait until you are starving as your blood sugar has already dropped.

– Higher fat options are OK but if you have a sensitive stomach it can make some people feel nauseous and best to avoid (eg chocolate, pastries, biscuits, cakes, cheese). Try to aim for healthier fat options such as nut butter, nuts and seeds.

– Sports gels can also be a useful option for those who find it difficult to eat in between meals (ideally a mix of glucose and fructose).

– We need more protein after 40, especially when we are active to prevent muscle breakdown and improve performance. We have a fruit and nut mix available to you on tour to help you eat some protein during the day and a variety of protein sources available to you during picnics and meals.

– Our nutrition partner Veloforte have some delicious and nutritious energy bars which we also have available on tour for our guests which offer the right mix of nutrients for cyclists. They have the added bonus of being gluten and dairy free so are suitable for those with dietary requirements. Some options are also vegan.

 

3. Good News! Caffeine/coffee is ok in moderation

 

– Caffeine can help us on the bike by reducing our perception of pain and effort (always useful when you have a day of climbing ahead).

– Generally, acceptable guidelines are between 3 and 4 per day (espressos) or 3-5mg per kg of body weight per day.

– Take care not to consume too much as it can increase heart rate, impair fine motor control and disturb your sleep.

With just a few tweaks you could help improve your performance and energy on tour. But overall, enjoy the gastronomy and opportunity to eat foods you may not have tried. It’s all about balance!

Sources:

– Sports Dietitians of Australia fact Sheets: Road Cycling/ Caffeine

– “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise” Jager et al, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2017, 14:20