Everyone has their own way of doing it. Setting a rhythm, counting the pedal strokes, humming a tune, (hard when out of breath). If you want to join us on the Alpine Challenge, conquering the mountains is a must. Here are some tips from former bike racer and current video blogger Francis Cade.
The lighter you and your bike are, the better. There will be mechanical support on the Alpine Challenge, you won’t need to carry a full toolbox in your second bidon! Compact chainrings are an excellent way to increase your gear range. A 28T or larger cassette also gives you more versatility. There’s nothing worse than running out of gears on the way up.
My muscles need a break. Sure, in a perfect world staying in the saddle is ideal, you avoid wasting energy and it’s the most power-efficient position to ride in. I like to take small, out of the saddle breaks, just for a few seconds. It makes a world of difference comfort wise. If Contador can get away with doing it, so can you.
If you’re riding a big climb, your heart rate is going to be up and you’re going to be burning more calories than usual… for quite a while. It’s easy to forget and not want to eat, especially in the heat, but it’s something you have to force yourself to do. Keep an eye on the time and aim to eat something small every 45 minutes. I find energy gels work well when it’s not – no chewing necessary.
There will be support at the Alpine Challenge, don’t worry about running out of water. Drink little and often, ideally something with electrolytes in – it makes a huge difference over plain water or squash. This will stop you from getting muscle cramp, it’s hard to come back once this has set in.
If it’s sunny (of course) and sometimes even when it’s not, at altitude the effects of the UV radiation are magnified. The Alpine Challenge is three stages, don’t ruin the last two getting burnt on stage one!
Along with increased risk of sunburn, you’ll also notice how thin the air is the higher you go. Don’t be alarmed if your power suffers slightly, this is normal. Continue to ride within yourself and expect a longer recovery time once you do take a break. You can always speed up when nearing the top, but careful not to go too hard at the start. It’s easy to do in the heat of the moment with other riders around you. If you have a heart rate monitor or power meter, know your zones and stick to them – for a while at least!
Unless you’re Bert Grabsch, you’ll probably get more out of yourself if you pedal an easy gear. Aim for around 90 revolutions per minute. Your legs will thank you.
Have a recovery shake – or eat, within 15 minutes of finishing the stage. Followed by a proper meal within an hour. If you’re really serious, have a 15 minute spin later that evening, as easy as possible – think glass cranks. Stretching and massaging is personal preference, do what feels good and you’ll go better the next day.
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