“On a ride of this length, nutrition is absolutely key to doing it well,” advises Tim. “Once you’re out past the five-hour level, poor preparation for your event day nutrition could make all those hours of training almost a waste. If you just forget to eat or don’t plan to eat you could end up doing about as well as if you’d turned up having done almost no training.
“In an endurance event like this, getting your nutrition right plays a huge part in riding a good time. It’s definitely one of those parts of the ride where you need to put a plan in place.” To help with that plan, Tim suggests it’s a good idea to pack your back pockets in a way you can keep track of. “I always used to eat from the inside pocket out. I’d go through the middle pocket first – it would be a way that I could keep track of what I was eating and I’d know within myself that the middle pocket needed to be empty after 60 km. I’d actually have a plan in mind when all that food in the middle pocket should be gone, then move on to grabbing something from the left or something from the right pocket.
“You need to be as structured with your eating schedule as you can – although often the situation you’re in at the time won’t allow that. If you thought you were going to have something every 20 minutes or half-hour and that came around and you were on a really hard climb and were struggling a bit or on a fast descent, you’re obviously going to be better off to wait until it plateaus out. Don’t panic if the time gaps are not perfect – it’s always about knowing that you’re eating within 5-10 minutes of when you did plan to eat.”
According to Tim, one of the toughest challenges riders face is timing their nutrition breaks. “The best time to eat is actually within the last few hundred metres of the top of a hill on your way up,” he says. “If you watch the Tour de France – which is obviously on a bigger scale because the riders might be climbing a 10 km col – you’ll see the riders start eating and drinking over the last few minutes of the climb. That’s because they know that once they crest the hill, they need to be focused and ready for the speed of the descent.”
He says this often this isn’t the case with some riders tackling the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, though. “People will push really hard all the way to the top and then they will sit up and grab something to eat. But as soon as the road starts tilting down, all of a sudden it’s quite rushed, so people are trying to put their food back in their pockets or replace their water bottle while the smarter guys have already ridden off down the road.
“My advice is to back off a little earlier on the climb, take your time, eat while your heart rate isn’t through the roof; then once you’re over the top, you’re gone – while the other guys are still floundering around in their pockets. Now it’s not the easiest thing to do when you’re gasping for air near the top of a hill, but whatever you can do to replenish before you reach the crest of a hill can make quite a difference.”
Practice, Practice and Practice
Tim suggests practicing the tips he’s identified on a scaled-down version of the ride itself: “Not all of us have the time or ability to do 160 km training rides, but it’s very useful if we can do some 100-120 km rides and look at implementing the plan you need to have in your head on the day [of the event.]
“That’s trying to ride nice and smooth for the first two hours, maybe going over a hilly section in the third hour of the ride where there’s some really tough climbs; then in the fourth hour giving yourself one tough challenge to go over, and have a crack at pushing relatively hard up there and continuing that effort down the other side and the rest of the way home.
“By doing this, you’re giving yourself a little bit of the same structure that you’ll face on your day out in Taupo, where the first part is riding smooth and steady, then it gets quite hard and the last hour is more about how you’re going on the day.”
Your training rides are also the time to practise eating on the climb: “It’s riding, say, a five-minute climb at a good steady rate and then, in the last minute trying to button off, get your heart rate under control and then eat – so you can crest the hill ready to carry on with the ride. Don’t just think of the hill as a big hard effort and then a picnic on the other side.”
It’s just a few days until NZ’s biggest annual cycling occasion, the BDO Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. And it’s not too late to enter. Online entries are available until midnight on Wed the 21st and you can also enter on event this Friday the 23rd. Make a weekend of it with heaps of festivities all weekend, kicking off on Friday with registration, the Sport & Lifestyle Expo, presentations from cycling legend Robbie McEwen and the boys from The Big Bike Trip, the all new Cycle Mania, and action packed Criterium racing on Friday night. Check it all out and enter now at www.cyclechallenge.com
Words: Liam Friary, Chris Gaskell and Tim Gudsell
Images: Cameron Mackenzie
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