Guest blog post!
Tips on getting ready for spring racing from Steve Weller, professional cycling coach and consultant.
A Top 10 List of Things To Do
#1: Listen to your body: Sure, the spring races are coming up, but that’s no reason to dig yourself into a hole. Sudden increases in volume and intensity, or transitioning from a winter of XC skiing to more time on the bike, can put a big strain on your body. Pay attention to how you’re feeling on the bike, and how you’re recovering: remember that quality in your training is usually more important than quantity.
#2: Review (or set) your goals: Bike racing, and cycling in general, can be an emotional sport. Make sure you’ve got clear goals outlined for the season, so you can check in periodically and objectively review how things are going. Make your goals detailed and specific to this season, and make sure you can measure your progress towards those goals. Make them challenging, but not unattainable. For example: In 2011, I want to compete in 10 races; climb Academy Hill in 14:30 or less by August; improve my confidence in sprints.
#3: Make sure your bike and equipment is 100% ready to go: You might be a great home mechanic, but taking your bike to a good mechanic before you start racing should be a priority. The guys and gals behind the counter at bike shops are trained to look over every detail of your bike, so you can head to the start line with 100% confidence in your machine. Have them check your frame, put on new cables and housing, chain, bar tape, and inspect and replace your tires, shoes, cleats, etc. And, while you’re at the shop….
#4: Make sure you’re in an optimal position for this season: Bike fit is a dynamic thing, and changes from season to season. What you do, or don’t do, over the winter will impact your fit on the bike. Before you start racing and logging some hard miles, it’s advisable to see a qualified and experienced bike fit specialist to make sure you’re set up for success this season.
#5: Think critically about how early season races fit into YOUR schedule: Just because you CAN start racing in March doesn’t mean you SHOULD. It’s been a tough winter this year, and your training and racing should be adjusted accordingly. If you’re coming off of months of trainer time and XC ski season, it may be appropriate to hit the local group ride a few times before your jump right into racing.
#6: Take a few test runs of any new equipment BEFORE racing: New gloves, wheels, shoes, tires: try them out before you’re in a situation where you’re depending on them.
#7: Review your diet, on and off the bike: Winter can be a tough time for us bike racers on the diet front. Catching up with friends at the pub, holiday feasts, and even the shorter days all impact what, when, and how much we eat in the off-season. But, with the time change right around the corner, and spring on the horizon, now’s a great time to revisit your diet. Try out any new energy foods / drink mixes before you start racing, and get creative in the kitchen at home. Sign up for a farm share, and aim to eat 1 – 2 vegetables with every meal. Working those vegetables into every meal will help you eat well and get more creative in the kitchen.
#8. Schedule in some family time: This could arguably be the first item on this list. The early season transition from weekends at home to race weekends can be tough on your family. Make sure to carve out some quality time to spend with those who support your bike racing habit throughout the year – remember that a weekend at home spent catching up on quality time with the family can go a long way!
#9: Off-the-bike work: Don’t forget to keep up on your core work and stretching. It’s amazing how many riders are willing to put in 10+ hours a week on the bike, but can’t be bothered to spend 15 minutes a few times a week on keeping their body in tune. If you can’t get to a Pilates or yoga class two or three times per week, the work you can do at home is nearly as good.
#10: Train your weakness, race your strengths: Sure, it’s fun to smash your buddies in the town line sprints, or drop everyone on climbs. But, if you want to improve as a racer, you need to challenge yourself in training and not only do what comes naturally to you. Think about where you struggle in races, and try to replicate those situations in training. Have a hard time on steep climbs? Hit some repeats on King Hill at the end of your rides. Getting dropped in corners? Set up some cones in an empty parking lot, and work on increasing your cornering speed as you get more comfortable.