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Monday, July 9, 2007

It's Tour Time!

With the start of the Tour (sans Lance this year), everyone is in full cycling mode. I am thinking that many people have decided this week to bring the bike out of storage, put on their coolest, most colorful cycling jersey, and get on the roads for some summer riding. I am doing my fair share of riding, yet tapering again this week, as I have a race this coming weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota (the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon). I have written down what I think are 6 Key Rules for Efficient Riding and Improvments to your overall cycling repertoir. Hopefully the Tour, in addition to my 6 rules, will get you out the door and on your bike-Have fun!

6 Rules for Cycling (for Triathlon...or simply cycling):

#1: Keep the Turnover Fast: The turnover you have, or revolutions per minute, on the bike is called cadence. You want a high cadence, as it helps keep your steady state of lactic acid balanced, which also helping you to have fresher legs on the run. Lance Armstrong was one of the first cyclist to have a high cadence and still win races- as most thought you needed to “mash” in the biggest gear and blow your legs out in order to get to the finish line first. Some people still believe this, but when you have to run several miles after your time on the bike, you want to conserve your legs as much as possible. Spinning at a high cadence (>90 RPMs) will help you to achieve this.

#2: You Feel What You Eat: Nutrition on the bike is ultra important for how you will feel on the run. Obviously, the longer the race, the more time you will have to consume calories on the bike. Most people forget about that, and don’t eat/drink enough on the bike, which can lead to bonking on the run. Make sure to figure out how many calories you need per hour on the bike (see our Nutrition chapter for a guide, but a good estimate is 200 calories an hour) and practice your nutrition in training so that it is not new to you come race day. Remember that calories are calories and if you think that liquid and or gel calories are better than solids (snacks or power bars), then you can go with that- as long as the nutrition is higher in carbohydrates than any other nutrient. Also, be aware that you might want to stop drinking at least 20 minutes prior to the run to keep you from getting stomach cramps or discomfort.

#3: Don’t Mash on the Hills: The most irritating thing I can see at a race is an athlete grinding the crap out of a hill as I sit back in my “granny” gear, cadence high and legs fresh, thinking how nice it will be to have some legs on the run ahead of me. I am all for getting up out of your saddle, getting the heart rate up and pounding up the hills if you are in a road race. But, you are not. You still have to run after your bike, and you can very well blow 6 miles of your run in a short, steep climb if you mash it and burn out at the top.

#4: Free Speed, Get After It: This rule couples well with the one above it, in that after your spin your way to the top of the hill, you can get in your aero position and shoot straight ahead as fast as you can for the downhills. You want to coast as much as you can and give your legs a rest- no need to pedal as you are cruising down hill. Coast, simply coast. You can also keep in mind that the best strategy for drinking your Gatorade or other drink is during the climbs, not during the downhill. You are already going slow up the hill, so you want to grab your drink at this point and get down as tight as you can for the downhill to make up for any speed you may have lost.

#5: To Race Fast, Train Fast: One of the best ways to increase your Lactate Threshold on the bike, in addition to your VO2 Max, is to practice some time trialing. In the off-season, it is a good chance to get into some road races and practice in a group that pushes you out of your comfort zone and into pedaling as fast as you can for set amount of time. You can practice picking your pace up in the rides that you already to do simulate a TT. Try riding hard for 1 mile at a time (90% of max HR) and then dropping to 75% of max for the next 5 minutes. Then repeat. You can also do shorter bursts and give yourself triple to five-times the length of time it takes you to do the work in rest (1:3 or 1:5, work to rest ratio). This will help you become faster during a race if you are comfortable racing at this speed and effort. It will eventually become very natural to you and your cadence will mutually benefit as well.

#6: Do Hill Repeats: When you can, go out and practice riding up hills. Some people are just naturally gifted climbers and some are not. If you are not, there is good news. It may take some time, but you must practice riding up hills and getting up to at least Zone 4 or Zone 5 in order to get faster. You can actually improve your time on the flats by climbing more frequently and efficiently. To top it off: try doing hill repeats with a head wind, while also keeping your cadence high.

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Clancy, Mike and I

Clancy, Mike and I
SB Tri Finishers- Nice Tiles!