Summer is calling, with the days getting longer and the mercury inching it’s way up. Time to make sure those base miles are banked, the legs are turning smoothly and we turn our thoughts to the big ride of the year.
Whether you are booked on the Etape, Maratona, Marmotte or the incredible Haute Route, even as a seasoned rider, each one of these marathon events presents new challenges each time you ride them. As Velominati Rule 10 states: “Racing never get any easier, you just get faster”. This is the reason why we return year after year, to push our boundaries even further, and rewrite what we thought we were capable of.
Last week coach Kerry Bircher gave her top tips to riders looking to complete their first major sportive or gran fondo event. This week coach Joel Jameson gives his expert training tips for experienced sportive riders. Although you may have many a race under your belt, you can always get faster. If you’re looking for a quicker finish, looking to take on a higher, longer challenge or just want to finish more comfortably, trying something new in training could be the key to reaching your next level.
5 Training Tips For Experienced Riders – Joel Jameson, Head Coach at Jameson Coaching
1. Focus on your nutrition
Think Team SKY and their considered and healthy meals. This isn’t a marginal gain, what goes into your body has an effect on what you can put out. Test and experiment how different foods are affecting your performance. Is that coffee habit helping or just creating energy spikes and troughs.
Don’t be afraid to try with different nutritional approaches on long rides too, instead of sticking to the usual processed bars and gels. The Feedzone Portables book is a fantastic resource.
Finally, look at the course for your major event and on your long rides practice how the nutrition works on a similar route. It doesn’t matter how strong/fit your legs are if your fuel isn’t good enough to keep them pushing
2. Descend as well as you climb
Focusing on the fitness and strength for a race is an obvious pre-requisite. Looking into the route and the technical nature of the course is often overlooked. If it’s a hilly and technically tricky route with fast descents then find a hill and practice. Build your confidence, find the feel of cornering a hairpin and you can maximise the time you’ve gained from climbing well by making it count on the descent too. If you can descend well, it’s like earning free miles. You’ll feel fresher at the bottom, have more energy for the next climb and won’t have lost all your climbing advantage like Andy Schleck.
3. Be able to make the jump.
When you train at the same intensity every session, you become very efficient and strong at that speed but the chances are, you’ll be stuck at that speed. Consider building your range of speeds to cope with the varying terrain in the big sportives and be able to stick with other riders pushing different speeds. This might make the difference in being able to jump onto the right group early on, which will tow you to a top finish. Push harder in hard sessions and ride easy in easy sessions. And easy, means easy! Give your body time to recover from your ‘harder than usual’ session.
4. Try some fasted rides.
‘Fasted’ basically means without food. In practical terms, including fasted training sessions two to three times per week where you train before breakfast can have a positive effect on your ability to use fat and enhance the effects of endurance training. The purpose of these sessions is not to ride yourself into the ground risking the ‘bonk’, which dramatically increases the risk of overtraining and illness, or to lose weight, but to enhance your body’s training response and make it more efficient at using the energy stores it has available to it. Therefore, make sure you take some food with you in case you need it and start off slowly, riding anywhere up to two hours before eating. After these sessions, it is important to eat a good post-training meal to recover energy stores for the next training session.
5. Race your mates
Find people who will push your limits. This might mean looking to a joining club or local chaingang if you are not part of one already. There’s nothing like a little friendly rivalry to make you push just a little harder than you would do if you were just training on your own. This point relates to the previous tip of being able to vary your speed and it’s a great way of naturally introducing that ‘harder than usual’ session. Additionally it’s always good to ride in group to develop your handling skills, you’ll be riding amongst thousands of others in the summer.
About our coaches
Joel is professional Ironman athlete and coach. We managed to convince Joel to take some time out of his busy life as a pro-athlete to share the road with us at our Mallorca Cycling Academy and he’ll be there again this year. As a coach, experienced athlete and someone who travels from race to race for a living, Joel’s experience and knowledge has been invaluable for our guests, as well as making for some good stories around the dinner table.