Tips for Racing Your First Leadville 100 MTB Race 

August 9, 2018

The legendary Leadville 100 mountain bike race is this Saturday.  This race is tough!  It 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!  For non professional athletes, what are successful race strategies to help conquer this demon of a race? 

Plan Right!  Start off on the right foot by getting your bike parts  in order, lubing your chain, checking your tires, etc.  Basically, the goal here is to have everything you’ll need for race day morning packed up and ready to go by Thursday evening.  Not only does this relieve stressful day before packing but if you forget something, then you have time to pack it. But, what happens out on the course?  Crazy stuff can happen out there too!  Plan ahead and be sure to carry an extra tube or C02  with you, have extras in your drop bag along with some tires , bike nutrition, and extra clothing.  Lube is good to carry on hand too if the course is dry. If you are unsure if a certain bike part will hold up during the race, then have an extra one handy with some bike tools  in your drop bag to keep you in the race.

Fuel Right! Proper nutrition leading into a race is critical.  Yet, staying properly hydrated and taking in appropriate levels of protein and carbs during your race will not only help keep your energy up, but it will help keep your mind fresh and alert for those technical sections.  Consider stocking up with bars, gels, and an assortment of nutrition requirements to have in your jersey and in your drop bags.  Also, consider how you are getting your fluids: bottles or hydration pack?  It’s important to plan your water intake between aid stations so if you think it will be a while between them, opt for a hydration pack.  Regarding the frequency of eating and drinking,  prepare a food/ drink schedule so you stick to it. Our post, Dialing in your Race Day Nutrition, may help.  The main point here is to eat and drink on a regular schedule so you avoid bonking, cramping, and ensure you have enough fuel in the tank to finish the race. 

Pace Yourself! While the nerves are high and the muscles and energy are fresh, it’s easy at the start of the race to get after it and go out too hard and too fast.  Keep in mind, the more you spike your heart rate at the beginning of the race, the less you have available to pull from at the end of the race.  The trick to finishing this race is to ride a steady ride keeping your heart rate in check and knowing when to back off.  Use your cycling computer to keep yourself in check. Another helpful hint is to write down all of the aid station mile markers and cutoff times to help pace yourself and stay on schedule. Tape this list to your top tube so you can see it while you ride

Dress for Success! It’s chilly first thing in the morning at altitude! There is quiet a bit of time that passes between lining up for the start and the actual time of the gun going off at the start.  If you are cold and shivering waiting for the start, you are going to lose precious body heat and energy.  Stand around with warm clothes that are easy to take off just minutes before the race start.  Also, consider wearing warm clothes at the start of the race. As in, arm warmers, possibly knee warmers, and even a light weight head cover.  Due to rain showers and storms, you may want to have a lightweight rain jacket in your jersey pocket of pack to take on and off as needed.  With all cycling apparel on race day, it’s a good idea to have the zipper unzipped and the jacket easily accessible so you don’t waste valuable time.  This is even more important it you are bumping up against cut off times.  

Get Your Mental Game On!  Check in with your mental attitude, preparation, and willingness to “get after it.”  The level of digging deep and mental suffering for this race exceeds that of training rides or even shorter (60 miles or so) races.  Your thoughts, emotions, and self talk are components of your mental state, so take during the event, periodically take inventory of your mental state. It’s easy during a race this tough and long to compare your training and fitness to others.  Don’t compare!  Be prepared with mantras or mini goals to keep yourself going when the going gets tough.  

What other tips would you add?  Share them on Facebook and Twitter! And finally, good luck to all racers at the Leadville 100 this weekend!

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Tips to Conquering Colorado’s Climbs 

June 7, 2018
BikeParts.com Team Rider Getting Ready to Climb

BikeParts.com Team Rider Getting Ready to Climb

Colorado has some of the best road bike and mountain bike hill climbs. Additionally, there are countless rides and events like Ride the Rockies, Leadville100, and the Colorado Summit Cycling Series that challenge riders to either push on or blow up.  No doubt the suffering imposed by climbing may cause us cyclist to fret, but the the post, Why You Should Love Climbing, suggests otherwise.  

“Hills also make you happier. Longer, sustained efforts trigger the release of mood-lifting chemicals like endorphins and cannabinoids, which, as the name suggests, are in the same family of chemicals that give pot smokers their high, kick in. Research also shows that regular efforts in the lactate threshold range, which incidentally is where you climb, may help ward off mood disorders like depression. Additionally, research also shows all that the fresh air, sunshine, solitude, and sweeping vistas that you soak in as you make your way up and over hills and mountains provide their own unique benefits.” 

With that motivation, how can we learn to love climbing?  

Ride Hill Repeats
Hill repeats are a foundation of any good training plan.  Basically, the plan is to riding up the hill as hard as you can, recovering on the way back down and then doing it again. A good heart rate monitor and power meter can aid in bio feedback and motivation and help you to judge your effort better.  However – remember that whilst power numbers respond immediately to increased effort, heart rate takes time to accumulate – so expect it to take a few minutes for your heart rate to reach your target zone.

Decide to Sit or Stand
To sit or stand while climbing – that is the question.  Actually, it depends on rider preference; however, we’ve found lighter riders prefer to stand while heavier riders prefer to sit.  Regardless, you may want to train doing both. Opt to sit on one climb or hill repeat, then stand on the next. Testing the limits of your ability to climb in both positions will make you a stronger all-around climber.

Focus on Your Breath
Obviously while climbing, you are excepting more effort. That requires more oxygen.  So, a simple way to to maximizing your oxygen uptake is learning to take deep breaths.  Avoid shallow ones and breathe to your belly. This may require you to straighten up to allow your belly and ribs to actually expand.  Given your bike fit, you may or may not need to adjust bike parts so be mindful of your body position when climbing so that you can inhale for optimum oxygen intake.

Gear Adjustment
Gears can be a complicated thing. In fact, many people buy a road bike or mountain bike and never modify their gears.  Yet, depending on the climbs you are doing and your aspirations, you may consider swapping the cassette or chainset.  If you’re struggling to turn the pedals on the climbs, changing your gear set up – going for a smaller chainset and wider ratio cassette – will help as you’ll be able to spin more quickly.

Relax
A deathtrap on the handlebars, swinging your body around, and tense muscles make climbing much more difficult.  Also, it’s a waste of precious energy!  Just relax! Find your rhythm and get into a groove that you can sustain.

Pick one or all of these tips and try them out.  Give yourself some time to evaluate your progress.  At Peak Cycles Bicycle Shop, our bet is after a few weeks of one or all of using these tips, you’re climbing performance will increase.  Whether or not you actually fall in love with climbing is another matter – but at least you will be better at it! 


Finish the Season Strong – Colorado’s Bucket List Rides and Races for 2016

August 4, 2016
BikeParts.com team rider Dan Dwyer in action!

BikeParts.com team rider Dan Dwyer in action!

While the temps are soaring and the days are still long, soon – summer will come to an end.  Now is the time to get rolling.  All of the rides, races, and cycling adventures you hoped to complete this summer need to have a check mark next to them.  Who wants to look back on the season with regret? No one!  So get out your planner and make August your best month yet.  

If you are competitive cyclist, you may still have the itch for more racing.  Fortunately, in Colorado the cycling season finishes strong in August.  Following are a handful of road races and mountain bike races happening this month: 

Racing isn’t for everyone.  If competition isn’t your thing, there are several Front Range rides you can do.  Following are some of our favorites: 

  • Historic Lariat Loop
  • Deer Creek Canyon
  • Bergen Park or Idaho Springs to Guanella Pass
  • Red Rocks Park Loop
  • Bergen Park or Idaho Springs to St. Mary’s Glacier (Alice)
  • Idaho Springs to Loveland Pass
  • Golden to Cold Springs Campground via Golden Gate Canyon
  • Bergen Park to Echo Lake
  • Idaho Springs to Juniper Pass
  • Manitou Springs to Pike Peak Summit Parking Lot (Pikes Peak Hill Climb)
  • Morgul-Bismark Route
  • Jamestown Canyon Ride
  • Flagstaff Hill Climb
  • NCAR Hill Climb
  • Lookout Mountain Hill Climb
  • Sunshine Hill Climb
  • Magnolia Hill Climb
  • Mt. Evans Hill Climb
  • Pikes Peak
  • Trail Ridge Road

The best way to make the most of your bucket list rides is be prepared: mentally, physically, and have fully inspected your bike parts.  You want to make the most of your rides, don’t you? Of course! No one wants a mechanical during training or racing.  Obviously, functioning brakes are essential on the long, fast descents.  Proper gearing can make or break your chance of making a climb.  And, having the right bike toolscycling accessories, and extra bike parts  on hand make a difference between a stellar ride and a bail out. 

Better yet, why not get a new bike for your bucket list rides? Yep, that’s right – a new bike!  Get 20% off all bikes $1000 and up and 10% off all bikes under $1000. Stop by the Peak Cycling Bike Shop for help or visit us at bikeparts.com for all your cycling needs. 


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

July 31, 2014

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.


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.