The 2015 Traveler’s Guide to Success at Colorado July Races

July 2, 2015

The 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.  In fact, Colorado has some of the greatest road bike rides and mountain bike trails in the country.   And, it’s host to one of the world’s favorite bike races – the US ProCycling Challenge.  However, one of the toughest challenges a cyclist can face is how to prepare for a tour or race when traveling from out of state.

A first step in preparation is selecting the road rides, mountain bike trails, and or road and mountain bike races you want to do.  July is packed with events including some of our top favorites:

  • Firecracker 50
  • Tour de Ladies
  • Clasica de Rio Grande
  • Big Mountain Enduro Keystone
  • Triple Bypass
  • Longmont Criterium
  • SOS Outreach Colorado-Eagle River Ride
  • Tour de Steamboat
  • Breckenridge 100
  • Salida Classic
  • Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb
  • Leadville Stage Race
  • Colorado Freeride Festival

Next, you’ll want to gather event intelligence.  As in, what are key elements you should know about the event for planning, preparation, etc. You’ll want to know the course profile.  If you are a flatlander, most likely, you’ll be interested in knowing how much climbing and descending to expect. 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 also want to have the appropriate gearing for your event. Your legs will thank you for this!

As the event gets closer, you will want to be aware of the weather conditions before, during, and soon after you expect to ride.  Colorado weather changes quickly and sometimes, radically.  It’s critical to prepared.  With that in mind, it is important to know which cycling apparel to pack and have available during your stay.

More importantly, travelers coming from sea level to higher altitudes will want to plan their trip accordingly to allow for acclimation.  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.  You may consider spending time at higher elevations prior to your event which 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.

Another option and an important one is to hydrate and 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.

Finally, during training and racing, 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.

Colorado tours and races in July can be rewarding experiences.  Part of what makes them fun is the scenery and the great Colorado experience. However, to make the even more memorable, it’s important to evaluate your results based on your goals.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What can you do for the next race or tour to get a better result?  Be objective and explore how your mental and physical training helped prepare you for this event.

It might seem unimportant to evaluate the experience, but post event evaluation is an important element in deciding if you want to do that event again the following year.  If you do, it’s helpful to make note of your bike and cycling accessory selections.  What would you change or do differently next time?  As in, you might wonder, did you race the right bike?  Would a different wheel set make a difference?  Build on this foundation to create success in planning and preparing going into next year’s event.

If you are coming in from out of state to participate in one of Colorado’s July cycling events and need help making bike part selections or deciding on the right gear for an event, give us a call at Peak Cycles Bicycle shop. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter and happy to help!  Happy riding!

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Keeping Cool When the Racing Gets Hot! Tips to Getting Race Ready for Late June and July Colorado Races 

June 25, 2015

hotCourse 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!