3 of the Best Race Strategies for The Leadville 100 MTB Race

July 31, 2014

photo credit: http://bit.ly/1mJZeVM

The legendary Leadville 100 mountain bike race starts and finishes in the heart of Leadville at 10,200’. With more than 90 percent dirt or double track dirt roads, steep climbs, serious descents and a seven-mile climb to the 50-mile turnaround at 12,600’, there is approximately 14,000’ elevation gain. That makes for a long and grueling day on the bike!  Yet, there are tricks and strategies  to make the Leadville 100 one of your best 100 mile mountain bike races.

The post, Top 10 Tips For Your Best 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race, suggest one very important strategy.  That is, do your homework. By this, we mean, read the entire race website to learn the logistics. Get the start location, day and time right. Learn the course profile.  You may consider taping key mile targets or heart rate goals to your top tube to keep your mind focused as the miles go by.  Also, determine how many aid stations and what services such as drop bags are at your disposal. Line up the details of where and when you will leave your drop bag and be reunited with it.  Basically, the support your provide for yourself in advance of the race by doing your homework enables you during the race to have your focus 100% in the game and not distracted with worrying about other elements.

Fuel right.  By fueling right, we mean, balance your nutritional needs leading up to the race as well as the day of the race.  But bike nutrition requires focused effort.  Guidelines for fueling a 100 mile mountain bike race are: every hour take in 60-90 grams carbohydrates, 18-24 oz. fluid, 400-700 mg sodium and 100-300 mg potassium. Frequently consume, in small amounts, any combination of water, sports drinks, gels, fruit, energy bars and electrolyte capsules to achieve these targets.  If you don’t think you can stay on track with your program, consider setting an audible alarm on your watch for nutrition and drinking reminders.

Game On! Leading up to and during your race, it’s critical to maintain a positive and upbeat mindset that is in alignment with your goals.  Your thoughts, emotions, and race behaviors are components of your mental state, so take inventory of your mental state and align them with your goals.  If you find yourself slipping into the pain cave with negative self talk, have a mantra ready to repeat and get yourself back in the game. In times of suffering, it’s easy to compare your racing and fitness to others.  Here is where having your race plan and goals specific to this event comes in handy. Know your plan and race your plan.

When it’s all said and done, congratulate yourself on your race experience. Most athletes love the Leadville 100 MTB race and do it every year.  So what’s next?  Use this experience to launch towards a better result in upcoming events.  Evaluate your results based on your goals.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What can you do next race to get a better result?  Be objective and explore how your mental and physical training helped prepare you for this event.  Remember to evaluate your bike and cycling accessory selections.  Did you race the right bike?  Did you suffer from mechanicals?  Now is the time to dial in, replace, and buy the bike parts that you need going into your next event or next Leadville 100 mountain bike race.  The strategies and training you used this time around only build for a better result next time.


Destination Hotspots for Colorado Summer Cycling Trips

July 24, 2014
Breckenridge, Colorado

BikeParts.com biking in Breckenridge, Colorado

The lifestyle here in Colorado celebrates the great outdoors. Even better, Colorado has some of the greatest road bike and mountain bike rides in the country.  Some rides are shorter and convenient whereas others offer steeper, longer climbs and extended distances. Locals and vacationers alike welcome the challenge of pushing the limits while taking in breathtaking views that only Colorado has to offer.

According to ColoradoInfo.com, what makes Colorado so special is that it claims 53 peaks higher than 14,000 feet and the cycling and hiking trails ascending them are very popular and demanding. The state is something of a mecca for both long-haul road bikers and mountain biking enthusiasts. Bike paths are abundant on the Front Range from Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs to Pueblo. In the mountains there are paved bike paths as well as hundreds of miles of single-track trails for off-road biking.

With that being said, which are the destination hotspots for cycling in Colorado?  No doubt, there’s too many great rides, trails, and locations to name them all, but following are a few of our favorites.

10 Best Colorado Trails
– The Athlete’s Guide to Boulder
– 20 Colorado Front Range Bucket List Rides
– Colorado’s Backcountry Biker’s Huts
– Top 10 outdoor trips and activities in Colorado

Now, aside from selecting your ideal riding location, there are a few additional elements to lock in to ensure a successful cycling adventure. Extra considerations include preparing for riding in Colorado’s altitude.  The post,  Racing at Altitude. What You Need to Know, gives some quick tips on acclimation and don’t forget about having your cycling essentials on hand. Meaning, make sure you have your maps, bike parts, hydration pack, and arrange in advance the details if you are shipping your bike.

Now, all you have to do is visit!  At Peak Cycles Bicycle Shop, we invite you to visit Colorado’s cities, towns and mountain communities. Join us on road and mountain bike rides across the state and embrace all the beauty this glorious  state has to offer!


Mid Season Cycling Tips for Staying Healthy and Strong

July 17, 2014
John Polli racing strong and healthy.

John Polli racing strong and healthy.

Enthusiastic recreational riders and competitive athletes can make mid season training errors.  Namely, taking on too much physical activity, going too fast, exercising for too long or simply doing too much of one type of physical activity can strain your muscles and lead to an overuse injury. It’s easy to do during the summer months as the season beckons us to participate in outdoor activities. Yet, there are ways to enjoy ourselves and still stay strong all year long.

Pay attention to your equipment.  Yes, it’s true.  The right bike parts can make a difference in injury prevention.  A good bike fit  can make all the difference as well.  Periodically, review your setup.  Fit impacts comfort but also technique which is crucial to preventing overuse injuries.  Your body’s position on the bike affects how you ride. It affects how much power you can efficiently deliver to the pedals. It affects how comfortable you are on the bike. Bottom line, be mindful of your bike components and bike parts.

Strength train the whole year through.  Year round strength training matters. “One of the main goals with sport-specific strength training is to target your prime movers as well as the assistance muscles that support your prime movers. With proper strength training, each time you press on the pedal, your primary group of muscles (those that take on the majority of the load) will be stronger and have a stronger group of assisting muscles to help produce power. Since you are only as strong as your weakest link, the stronger system you build as a whole, the more potential you have for cycling specific gains.”

Add yoga to your fitness routine.  Some of the most elite cyclists use yoga as part of a successful training program, including 2012 Tour De France winner Bradley Wiggins.  According to the post, Yoga for Cyclist, cyclists need to focus on leg strength, which many poses in yoga target, but they also need to focus on flexibility and lower back strength.

Rest and recover.  Plan a day of rest once a week into your training schedule. No running, biking, swimming or strength training. Your body needs a day to recover. It will not hurt your performance, but will actually help it and is critical in muscle recovery.

Ultimately, training is all about stressing your body with hard workouts, and then letting your body adapt to that load.  The summer months invite us all to push the limits but with a little mindfulness, you can balance pushing the limits while staying healthy and strong.


What’s It Take to Ride Like a Tour Rider?

July 10, 2014

Pro cyclists are often all thought to be blessed with nature’s special gifts – a huge heart, enormous lungs and infinite leg power.  Yet, in reality this is hardly the case. The truth is that most of us have the physiology to be a decent racer if we trained as much as they do.  Granted, most of us don’t have the time or the resources available to pro cyclists but we can all optimize the talents bestowed upon us by training properly.  Here’s how.

Start with the basics.  Have good equipment.  Meaning, have a bike that fits, get the right bike parts, and wear the appropriate cycling accessories. It may seem obvious but even small things add up. This is an easy one to dial in, so get it right.

Next, focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t.  Some argue work and family commitments distract from proper training but there are other elements you can control.  You can control your the quality of your workouts, your bike technique, and your recovery.  When training, focus your efforts using power and heart rate. Both play a key role in training and you can use both to target weaknesses and strengths.  Dial in your nutrition on an off the bike so that you are properly fueled going into the workout and can bring your best effort to each training session.  Also, schedule specific workouts to build fitness, improve your climbing technique and bike skills.

While it may seem counter intuitive, easy rides or time off the bike is equally as important as training time.  The post, Four Ways to Recover Like a Tour Rider, suggests ways to conserve energy while riding in the peleton (aka your group ride) and use your cycling buddies as teammates to pace you and shield you from the elements.

A little R&R or active recovery is good too.  Some of the most elite cyclists use yoga as part of a successful training program, including 2012 Tour De France winner Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins’ benefits from the focus it brings to his cycling, while others, such as pro mountain biker and Olympian Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, use yoga to gain strength. From power to endurance, athletes at all levels are incorporating yoga to gain an edge over the competition, and prevent injury.

You may not make it as a Tour rider but you sure can embrace the training elements of a Tour rider lifestyle.  And, if all else fails, put on your best suffer face!


Can You Take the Heat? Heat Acclimation Tips for Cycling in the Summer Months

July 3, 2014

It’s one thing to ride/train in the heat it’s another to RACE in the heat.  It’s that time of year, the summer heat has arrived and is making up for the lack of heat we had from the cooler temps to start off the cycling season.

Many cyclist, whether recreational or competitive, find dealing with the heat an issue.  Suffering from some degree of cramps at one time or another or heat related stomach issues, the heat brings on specific challenges to overcome in the summer months.   Specific to racing, many cyclist have encountered the negative effects of heat on race results. What, if anything, be done to help you train and race best in the heat?

When it is hot, especially when temps are in the 90-100F (36-40C) range, your body needs to work harder to keep your core temperatures in a safe range to allow the organs to function normally.  There are numerous heat–coping strategies to consider when planning a high-intensity workout or doing a race in hot weather.

  • Acclimate.  It takes about 10 to 14 days of frequent exposure to heat for your body to adapt. During this period of time workout daily in hot conditions at a lower-than-normal intensity. After a couple of weeks of near-daily exposure to hot conditions you will begin perform better in the heat than prior although performance will still likely be diminished from what you might have done in cooler conditions.
  • Nutrition. You want to eat “quality” carbs leading up to, and including, a hard effort or race day.  That includes eating plenty of fruits, veggies, etc.  Watermelon is a great fruit (carb) to consume even during race day.  Also, remember to stay away from the simple carbs. i.e. sugars, sweets, prior to the race or training in hot conditions.
  • Hydrate. This one is easy but also easy to forget! Water is 60% of your body weight and the number one concern on any athlete’s intake list. For both performance and health, the importance of your water intake exceeds that of your vitamin, calorie, and electrolyte consumptionFor your road racing needs, be sure to carry the water bottles and containers that you need on your bike but have extras available for bottles that are tossed and extras for immediate refueling post race. If you’re a mountain bike rider, you know tricky descents can bump a bottle right out of its cage.  This time of year, it’s best to wear a full camelback as well as have extra bottles on hand. For longer rides, opt for the Deuter Bike One 20 Hydration Pack- 100oz.  You’ll have enough fluids to get your ride in and also soak up the views.
  • Stay cool. Think shade and proper clothing.  Stay in the shade, warm up in the shade and cool down in the shade.  While it may seem insignificant, every effort to keep your body temperature down is important.  This includes wearing your sunglasses, having a light-colored helmet, and opening your the zipper on your jersey.  For longer rides, draping an ice-filled container around your neck may improve endurance performance.

To train and compete at your best all summer, it is important to understand how your body copes with heat, and what you can do to keep cool.  Everyone adapts differently to heat stress.  Need more tips?  Stop by the Peak Cycles Bicycle Shop to chat with our racers, mechanics, and other cyclist to see what works for them. Maybe you’ll learn some new heat-coping strategies that will work for you too.


Consistency: The Secret Sauce to Your Best 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race?

June 26, 2014

Peak Cycles Race Team What makes for a successful first 100 mile mountain bike race?  Is it riding a ton of trails? Picking the best race?

Or maybe, it’s knowing the difference between riding and training.  Sure, many think if they ride a lot it will get them to the finish line.  And it will.  But training and preparing strategically for your 100 miler will not only get you to the finish line feeling your best, but it can actually prepare you for better performances in the future.  Here’s why.

According to the post, Nine Golden Rules for Training, consistency is key. That means consistently training but also, consistently racing builds fitness too.  Consistency in racing builds all kinds of fitness: mental, physical, and psychological fitness.  To ensure a successful 100 mile mountain bike race, you need to train all the systems.

You can start by looking at the type of race or races you like to race.  What types of terrain, geographical areas, and elevations profiles suit your strengths.  What about your weaknesses?  There are numerous 100 mille mountain bike races to choose from including the National Ultra Endurance Series, the 100 Mile Mountain Bike and Running Off Road Race Series and the the Leadville 100 Race Series.  Racing longer distances consistently builds an endurance baseline to build upon year after year.

Consistency in race preparation makes a difference too.  If your race day strategies are scattered, unorganized, and left to chance, all your training leading up to the race can only take you so far.  The post,  Top 10 Tips For Your Best 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race  states the importance of race day preparations.

Other resources reinforce dialing in your race day nutritional needs and bike inspections to avoid mechanicals, flats, and other bike related issues due to not having your bike parts in order for racing.  Imagine doing all the prep work for a major race and having to DNF due to not replacing a chain, derailleur, or tire.

Consistency in training helps you physical body prepare for the physical stresses of racing a 100 mile mountain bike race.  But minimizing or eliminating other stressors like those mentioned above helps you free up your mental and psychological energies so that you can successful focus on the task at hand: racing your best 100 miler ever.


Racing at Altitude. What You Need to Know.

June 19, 2014

trail aThe beautiful scenery and challenging terrain of Colorado’s cycling scene beckons riders from all over the world to ride along the backdrop of blue skies and snow capped mountains.

However, one of the toughest challenges a cyclist can face is completing all of their training at their low-elevation residences, and then traveling to ride or compete in a race at high altitude.  For events like the Leadville 100, The Breck Epic, and The Triple Bypass, many are left questioning what to expect when riding at elevation and what are the best ways to acclimate faster to ensure optimum performance.

For starters, it’s best to understand how the body responds to altitude. The post, Understanding the Challenges of High-Altitude Racing at the Leadville 100 and USA Pro Cycling Challenge, gives us a detailed understanding. “The basics of altitude work like this: as you go higher the air becomes less dense, which means the oxygen molecules are more spread out. As a result, when you breathe in and fill your lungs, there are fewer oxygen molecules in that volume of air.”  More so, as you increase in elevation, heart rate and breathing rates at rest will be increasing elevated as your body tries to pull more air through the lungs so it can grab the oxygen it wants.

While at rest at altitude, you might experience a combination of headache, poor sleep, fatigue, and dizziness. While training, racing, or participating in an event at altitude, most likely you’ll discover an elevated heart rate and reduced power. And, your recovery rate between hard efforts will be longer and maybe not even complete.  So, what can you do if you want to perform your best at altitude?

Obviously, a no brainer is to have your bike and the correct bike parts in order!  If you are accustomed to riding on flat terrain, you’ll want to have the appropriate gearing for your event.  Specific to altitude acclimations, there is definitely science and research behind acclimating for cycling performance but without getting too technical, following are some of most common approaches.

  • Acclimate  - Spending time at higher elevations enables the body to adapt and increase the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This improves your ability to deliver oxygen to the brain and working muscles at all levels of activity, including high-intensity exercise. The longer you can acclimatize – the better.  Keep in mind, true acclimation can take three weeks or more.
  • Hydrate Drink plenty of liquids. High elevations can cause fluid loss, so it’s important to stay well hydrated. Your best course of action is to stick with water or liquids that replace electrolytes and avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages. These liquids act as diuretics and can dehydrate you.
  • Tools – Use your training tools for biofeedback.  It’s important to know your limits going into an event and modify your strategy if necessary. This includes dialing in your race day nutrition requirements, heart rate limits, and using your power meter for feedback. Power meters are especially useful because they help riders to gauge their efforts.  To maximize your opportunity for best performance, consider running course intelligence and learn the course and the conditions due to time of day.  You’ll be better equipped to know when to attack and when to recover as it relates to time of day (heat), and course profile.

Overall, different people respond differently to attitude.  Experiment with what works for you.  And, while you might not get the same results racing at altitude as you do at sea level, the rewards of riding in beautiful Colorado is a reward in and of itself.


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