Finishing Strong

No matter what route you’re riding, you’ve got to budget your energy throughout the ride so you can finish strong.

Andy Cicero, owner of Rise Above Cycles in Annandale, VA, which specializes in getting athletes’ bikes ready for raceday, recently returned from racing the Tour of the Battenkill, America’s toughest 1-day race. He shares these practical tips with us:

  1. Go out easy and “roll the carpet up”. Meaning, build your effort later in the ride. A good way to do this is to stay off the big chainring in the first hour except on long downhills. Alternatively, if you wear a heart rate monitor, stay in a low intensity zone range (i.e., 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate) the first hour.
  2. Pedal at a cadence or RPM that is both comfortable and manageable. You want to strike an economical balance between your aerobic strength and muscular strength. Don’t spin too easy a gear that you bounce in the saddle or your pace (speed) drops way off. On the other hand, don’t mash too big a gear and use up energy you’ll need later in the ride.
  3. Eat early and eat often, before you actually get hungry. Assuming you’ve eaten before the ride (you should), eat an energy bar or gel every hour. You’re burning lots of calories, so keep your engine fueled.
  4. Similarly, drink early and drink often. Take a big sip every 15-minutes. If you need a reminder, use your watch or timer function on your computer. Another way is to take a drink every time another rider in your group does. Proper hydration is critical to prevent muscle cramps. If it’s hot, aim to finish a bottle every 1 to 1.5 hours.
  5. Don’t spend a lot of time at the feed areas. Sure, the volunteers are friendly and it’s fun to socialize with other riders, but plan to spend no more than 10 minutes off your bike at a time. Why? Your legs will get tight. So take a bio break. Fill up your water bottles and eat a snack. Oh, and do some stretches. Then get back on your bike and finish strong!

In contrast to a race, Cicero reminds us that Storming of Thunder Ridge is a charity ride. Keep it fun. So, if you’re over-exerting to stay with a group, let them go and find another group that’s riding at a pace better-suited to you.

Most importantly, smile and enjoy your ride!