With just over a month to go, the start line's probably seeming a little more real. Hopefully you’ve all been making the most of the good weather over June and July to get some training miles in. To help you over this last push towards to the start line, here’s a few tips and considerations for the coming month.
1) Reassess your training and plan in some rest time
Very few training plans go exactly to plan. We all have busy lives that get in the way of how we’d optimally like to train. But if you’ve been steadily increasing the distance you should have felt your fitness improving.
If you're a few miles behind where you should be, don’t fall into the trap of 'panic training', and overdoing it in the last few weeks. Sure, you’ll get a little fitter. But, you’ll also end up at the start line already exhausted.
You can increase the distance in some of your longer, weekend rides to play catch-up. But if you do that, make sure you don’t overtrain, and consider decreasing the distance of your shorter rides, so that your overall weekly distance doesn’t jump up too much. Remember to plan in a much lower volume of training in the 5–7 days before you start. Don’t stop completely, but make sure you’re not pushing yourself too much in this time.
2) Start thinking about hydration and nutrition
Over the last few months training, you should have a rough idea of how much water you usually get through over each ride, and be able to make a rough calculation of how many bottles you need every hour. It’s also worth paying attention to how much your fluid intake changes in different weather.
If you don’t already, make sure you have two bottle cages on your frame so you can carry plenty of fluid for the long days in the saddle. Two bottles also gives you the choice of having different drinks; energy drinks, electrolytes and water. This variety also allows you to customise your fuelling strategy around a mix of solid and liquid intake.
While on the move, carbohydrate and electrolyte drinks are the easiest to take on, as well as gels. You can then use the aid stations and stops to take on solid foods. Over longer rides, this mix of fuelling is much more interesting than gels and drinks alone, and is likely to fuel you better with less gastric upset. Because, let’s face it, you don’t want to be living off gels for days on end.
3) Layering and clothing
With the wonderful range of weather and temperature our summer provides us, you’ve probably been out in a mix of different kit over the course of your training. Make note of the temperatures when you ride and what kit you’ve been using, and whether you were too hot/cold or just right. This will help you plan your layers each morning before you set off.
You’ll likely be in your Bloodwise branded cycling kit for as much of the ride as you can be, so it’s good to get rides in this kit before you go to make sure you’re comfortable. Having layers such as arm warmers, a lightweight gilet and/or pack away waterproof will ensure you cope with most weather throughout the day. And thin base layers are great for keeping constant temperature in colder weather as well as absorbing sweat when it gets a little warmer.
Make sure your bike is in optimal condition before the ride. Even if you’re pretty good at maintaining your bike, it’ll have done a lot of miles in training. Clean the chain and gears and re-lubricate to make sure your peddling and shifting is smooth. Clean the frame, wheels, and especially the brake surfaces, and check the tyres for any signs of over wear or large cuts.
If your bike's been making noises or you feel it’s not shifting or braking as well as it should then you can adjust the cables or replace the brake pads. If you’re not sure how to do this, there are loads of great videos online, or book it in for a service at your local shop a couple weeks before you go.
There is mechanical support on the ride, however, you don’t want to be stranded at the side of the road for ages, waiting for help for something that you can easily fix yourself. Punctures are the main one. Make sure your repair kit it stocked with self-adhesive patches, levers, a mini pump as well as a spare tube. And also pack a couple of extra tubes in your kitbag so you can restock in the evening if you’ve had to use one.
5) It’s a hill, get over it!
While most of the route is flattish or undulating, there are a couple of roads that head a little skyward. There’s no way to avoid it, the best way to train for a hill, is to ride up them.
The good thing is that they all come in different gradients and lengths, so finding a hill to train on that suits your ability should be easy. Plan a short hilly route so that you can practice, or do repeats of one hill as part of a weekly hill/strength session. A key to climbing hills is pacing your effort and using your gears well. It’s a long, endurance ride, not a race, so conserving energy is key.
Get into your small chainring (the one at the front), early on in a hard climb, then use the gears on the cassette (at the back) as the gradient changes to keep your cadence (pedalling speed) to a level that you can maintain. Don’t be afraid to get into your lower easy gears early. I know there’s a temptation to want to 'save' your easy gears for when it gets tougher, but if you ride a gear that’s too large, you’ll just end up spending the energy in your legs. Practice makes perfect!