Course strategies, break aways, riding in a small group or a large peloton – these are the thoughts and questions of cyclist wondering how to perform their best at bicycle racing. Now that the cycling season is in full swing, many are filling up their calendars with the big events of the summer season. While not a comprehensive list, following are some of the favorite Colorado races and tours on tap for late June and July.
- 40 in the Fort Endurance Mountain Bike Race
- The Bicycle Tour of Colorado
- Boulder Stage Race
- Firecracker 50
- Triple Bypass
- Big Mountain Enduro Keystone
- Breckenridge 100
Sounds good, right? Absolutely! So many different road and mountain bike events to choose from. The main question is how to prepare? How do you know if you are race ready? How do you handle the heat or prepare to ride at altitude? All good questions and we’ve got answers. Ultimately, the best way to approach any of these rides is to come prepared: mentally, physically, and have fully inspected your bike parts.
Previously, we shared in our Peak Cycles blog post 5 race day strategies to prepare for the Spring races in Colorado highlighting the importance of setting goals, knowing the race route, establishing race day rituals and getting into the proper mental state for racing. The post, 5 Steps to Being Race Ready, reinforces the need for mental and physical preparation, as well as nutrition and bike parts checks, but part of racing is using your energy effectively – especially during the summer heat.
Here in Colorado, we’re now into warmer temps and managing the heat while riding and racing is critical not only to comfort, but also performance. 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. 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, like those mentioned above, in hot weather.
If you can, 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.
Focus on 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.
This is obvious, but an often overlooked component. Hydrate. 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 consumption. For 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.
To train and compete at your best during this upcoming events, 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 in Golden, Colorado 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 keep you cool when the racing and riding gets hot!