Training Advice from Prof. Richard Davison
Prof. Davison is an internationally-recognised exercise physiologist with over 20 years experience. Specifically he has an international reputation in investigating the factors that influence cycling performance and the physiological responses to cycle ergometry.
Richard was also a successful competitive cyclists winning 11 medals (6 gold, 2 sliver, 3 bronze) at Scottish Championships.
He has been a qualified coach for more than 20 years and is one of the most experienced cycling Coach Educators in the UK having helped British Cycling establish its first coaching scheme. Richard is currently a board member of Scottish Cycling.
Over the coming weeks Prof. Davison will be providing some invaluable advice to participants on preparing for the 24hr Challenge
Make sure you bike is ready
The last thing you want is for a mechanical failure to prevent you to taking advantage of all that training you have done. Main things to check are your tyres, chain and gear adjustment.
Any significant cut in your tyre can easily grow larger during the event and this is something that is not easy to fix at the roadside. So consider a new tyre if your tyres have some cuts. A puncture is always possible so make sure that you are carrying at least two spare tubes and an effective pump. And like all of your other cycling skills worth taking a bit of time practising you tube replacement skills. With a bit of practice it is relatively easy to half the time taken to fix your puncture.
Many riders neglect to regularly check their chain for wear and this eventually leads to sloppy gear changes or even worse a shipped chain causing a jam leading to you ripping your rear mech off completely. It is possible to buy a tool to check the wear on your chain but as a rule of thumb even if it is well lubricated and kept clean a chain will only last 1000-1500 miles. If you leave it too long before you change your chain it will wear the sprockets on your cassette and chainrings meaning that in the worst case you have to replace them all which is very expensive. It is much cheaper in long run to change your chain more regularly and it ensures that you have a much smoother gear change. What ever you do, DO NOT change your chain the night before the event as there is a high risk that the new chain will ‘jump’ on the old worn sprockets. Get it done now and test thoroughly. Finally with your new chain installed just check that your gears are all changing smoothly, particularly into the lower gears that you might need when you are tired and trying to climb those last couple of hills.
Make sure you have planned and tested your nutritional strategy and make sure you have all you need ready. The last thing you want on the morning of the event to be running round the house looking for the gels etc that you need. One final nutritional tip – if you find that the sports drinks and gels make you mouth very sticky and horrible one solution when it happens is to eat a ripe tomato and this natural mouth cleanser and will certainly make you feel much better. Also for a final boost over the last hour is to have a bottle of flat full sugar coke. Note, it takes a bit of time for coke to go flat. If you open a bottle before you start the following 23 hours should be enough time to do the trick.
The Scottish weather is notoriously unpredictable so make sure that you have prepared clothes for every condition. Probably the most important items will be arm warmers, gilet, gloves and rain jacket as these will give you the flexibility to cope with most weather at this time of year. Remember that the temperature will fall significantly during the night so extra clothes required.
On the Day
First things first, always start your day with a good high-carbohydrate meal. With your event starting at 10am breakfast will be very important to get you off to a good start to keep you fuelled for the first part of the day. Remember you probably do not want to be eating a substantial breakfast less than 2h before the start. After that you should continually sip from a bottle of sports drink on the lead up to the start.
Keep hydrated, a rule of thumb aim to drink around 500ml per hour of riding. Adjust this upwards if you notice your sweat rates are high or if it is significantly warmer.
Probably the most common mistake for 24h events is to start off too fast and pay for it later. Don’t go all guns blazing for the first few miles and get sucked along with much stronger riders. You know from your training the pace you are likely to be able to maintain so stick to it. Be particularly careful on the early climbs. There will be better climbers than you lining up at the start. So what? Set your own tempo on the climb focus on your breathing and pedalling a nice low gear and getting up it. Pace yourself, don’t worry about others around you. It is much better to start at a steady pace and feel stronger in the later stages catching those riders who have taken off too fast.
Improving your endurance
The most obvious challenge of your event is the time and thus distance that you are required to complete and thus it is vital that you build up your endurance capacity for this. It is your aerobic engine that keeps you going at a reasonable pace for the whole event.
You will see many magazines and websites that give you a detailed training programme typically for the 12 weeks leading up to Sportive type events. At Submax Coaching our philosophy is that we obviously agree you should have a training plan, however that plan should be individually tailored to your individual strengths/weaknesses and personal circumstances by a qualified coach rather than a general plan that cannot possibly suit all readers of the magazine.
Despite this there are a number of general tips that can help you get ready for your big day. Firstly you do not need to ride the full duration prior to the event. As a multiple 12h Scottish Champion I never cycled for 12h in one training session in preparation for my races. It is just as effective riding slightly shorter rides on consecutive days or even two shorter rides in one day. Basically the concept is that you need to prepare your body to continue riding when it is still tired and not fully recovered. You will also have to cycle during the hours of darkness which should also be practised, as this significantly alters your sensation of speed and effort.
The other advantage is that if you have a busy life and find it difficult to find large blocks of time in your week for training then you can be just as effective with these shorter rides back to back. With this approach you can also accumulate the benefits of two shorter rides back to back during the week as well as the weekend.
So depending on your commitment within your team as a minimum preparation it would be sufficient to say ride 5 hours on a Saturday and 6-8 hours on Sunday a couple of weeks before your event. Ideally you should have two or three weekends with back to back rides. You should aim to ride the Saturday at a slightly faster pace with Sunday being a slightly more relaxed pace. Think of the Saturday as a bit of speed training, faster than you aim to ride on the day, and Sunday establishing your endurance.
So with not that many weeks to go you should be building your mileage gradually towards the event allowing for a reduction in training for the 7 days immediately preceding the event to ensure that you are fresh for your big day. To be comfortable I suggest that you need to be averaging 10-15 hours per week for the three weeks leading up to the event, depending on your contribution and whether you want to be nearer the front of the pack.