This is a sponsored article, brought to you in association with the British Heart Foundation.
You’ve entered a big event, done all (or as much as you can) of the prep work and the day has finally arrived. So, how do you get through it and make sure all that pre-event training and effort hasn’t been for nothing?
There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of other excited and nervous riders milling about, making it difficult to stay calm and focused. But if you’re well-prepared, organised and know how you’re going to tackle the day, you should be able to enjoy the unique buzz that a mass-participation event offers.
If you have the luxury of somewhere to store things while out on the ride, then take a warm top to wear before you set off and when you get back.
For the ride, you’ll need a helmet, gloves, glasses and layers of clothing that you can remove easily.
If you’re riding particularly early or late, or conditions are cold, items such as a neck tube, arm and knee warmers, and a gilet or lightweight windproof will help to control your body temperature. They also have the advantage of folding up small.
Pack a small waterproof jacket in case conditions change or you have to stop cycling, because you can quickly get cold when still.
Food and drink
A slow-release, carb-rich breakfast is advisable. Something like porridge is perfect, or an omelette too for a particularly big day.
Tea and coffee is usually on offer at the start. While caffeine will give your riding a boost, be aware that it’s also a diuretic, so don’t overdo it.
On the ride, eat and drink small amounts regularly; 0.5g to 1g of carbs per kg of body weight and 500ml to 1,000ml of fluid per hour, depending on your build, the conditions and intensity.
There will probably be food and drink offered around the route, so you won’t have to carry a lot, but check to see what’s provided and where.
At the end of the ride, try to eat and drink within 30 minutes of finishing to aid recovery. A protein-rich drink, such as milk, is great.
Hydration tablets are useful, especially on hot days and for rehydrating during and after the ride.
You won’t need lots of tools and spares, there’ll usually be mechanics on the course, but still take a few essentials: a spare inner tube, pump, tyre levers, multi-tool, chain splitter and master link. Extras could include a second tube, spoke key, penknife and puncture repair kit.
Riding without a backpack saves weight, so consider stashing tools on your body and bike.
Bib shorts with pockets are a good option (Specialized Mountain Liner with SWAT, Race Face Stash). Strapping a tube and CO2 inflator to your bike or fitting a saddle bag makes these basics easy to access and gets the weight off you.
There are also tools designed to be stashed around the bike, such as Specialized’s top cap chain splitter and Topeak’s Ninja C version, which fits in the ends of your bar. Pumps can usually be stashed alongside the down tube.
Warm-downs and recovery
A gentle cool-down after the ride, for five to 10 minutes, will wash metabolic waste products, such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide, from your muscles.
Consume plenty of fluids to rehydrate, and eat within an hour of finishing — include carbs, protein and veggies. If you can’t eat properly within one hour, consume something like chocolate milk or protein bars.
Elevating your legs, a massage (or foam roller) and compression clothing can all aid blood flow for better recovery (there are often free masseurs at events, so make use of them). It’s important to stretch out your quads, hamstrings, ITB, hip flexors and calves, in particular.
Sleep. A solid eight hours is ideal, because it’s when your muscles repair and rebuild.
The next day, go for an easy recovery ride, spinning quickly and with a few short, hard sprints.
Getting out on your bike more and preparing for big rides or events is a great way to improve your fitness and strengthen your heart, without any boring gym sessions. Gradually build the length and intensity of your rides for the best results.