It is always interesting how we manage to get ourselves committed to things well outside of our comfort zone. Often in a moment of over exuberance or an elevated view of our current abilities, the laying down of a challenge can give a very distorted view of what we are capable of. So now to find yourself, with a cycle challenge laid down, with years away from the bike, about to embark on a bike ride further than you drive most weeks.
The great news is, half the people doing the event will have matched your blind commitment, you will not be alone, and that’s why it’s so much fun. And on the day, you will find each other on the road or trail, although you will be a little tired and sore, you will be the riders with the biggest smiles, you are achieving something, and it took the satisfaction of some hard work to get here.
Depending on the magnitude of the challenge, your current physical condition, depth of cycling experience and weeks, preferably not days, until the big event, what are the basics you can do to have the best possible experience?
The first thing to look at is the event itself. To take an event such as a Gran Fondo, what is the distance? If you had to set a realistic time for the event, knowing that on the day you will probably be riding in bigger groups, and hopefully somewhat fitter, what would it be? So if the event is 120km, you may pick a bunch average of 30kph, which would give you a time of 4 hours. Now we have a training benchmark to build to.
I have never been a believer that you need to be able to ride the actual distance before a big event, you simply need to be able to ride the time the distance will take you on the day Then combining the element of a bigger group to shelter you, eagerness and new found fitness, before the actual day you need to be able to ride 75% of the estimated time. In this case 3 hours.
So with a new found training goal of achieving a 3 hour ride, you can start to layout a basic training program. If you had 6 weeks until the event, work on achieving 33% of the target training time by the end of the first week, which would be a ride of 1 hour. Don’t worry about terrain or speed, just focus on managing to ride 1 hour with pain or discomfort. If you had 4 days available to ride, you may aim for 2 x 45 minute rides through the week building to two 1 hour rides in the weekend.
Then aim to lift each week’s workload by 30 minutes, until one week out from the event you can achieve you training goal of a 3 hour ride on week out. The week leading into the event go back to week one distances to ensure you have recovered from your five weeks of training and fresh for the big day. The amount of time until the event will determine the build-up, the more the better, but short lead ups just need to adjust expectations, which ultimately equals speed.
In the last week use the extra time to prepare your bike for the big day. Treat it to a clean using bike degreaser and bike wash as well as some basic maintenance. One the day of the big event ensure you have a good breakfast, take ample food and drink, and focus on enjoying the ride. Before you know it the extra company, hard work in training and excitement of the day will have you achieving something special. Enjoy your ride.