Lockdown has not only meant that there’s been no road racing for several months now, but it’s also seen most people turn to training alone or indoors. This combination may result in a lack of race experience for some when it comes to pinning a number on and getting back in the bunch.
In preparation for the season restart, we’ve put together a simple list of things that you can do to brush up on those skills if you’re worried about not being sharp when racing resumes.
Get outside and tackle some hills
Many of us spent weeks on end staying home and hitting the turbo to train on Zwift, but now that we’re permitted to ride outside again for more than just 1-hour it’s a good idea to get used to being back out on the roads. Unless you’ve got the most high-tech of trainers, climbing will feel very different when you’re back out on the road, while descending will feel quite alien. So get back out there and ride in road racing conditions where you can, rules permitting, and practice feeling like a cyclist once again – climbing hills in and out the saddle, and finding your descending confidence once again.
Group riding, where permitted
In the UK cyclists are now permitted to ride with one other person from outside your household, and with as many from your own household as you wish. Even riding in close proximity with just one other will help you rebuild the confidence to ride in a bunch.
Practice following a wheel at speed, on the straights and through corners too, and also take corners alongside one another as well. You don’t want to find yourself overly nervous when back in the peloton and having to stick out in the wind just to feel safe, burning needless energy doing so.
Months spend riding in a straight line on Zwift will make cornering an interesting prospect again. The fluidity will soon return but practice taking corners with some speed – albeit safely on the open road. Losing wheels on every corner on your first race back will see you making a lot of unnecessary efforts just to stay in the race.
Ride in the wet
When it’s raining on Zwift, you don’t get wet. Riding on the road in the rain is an inevitability of racing in the UK. It also means that you should approach a race differently, from tyre pressures to what kit you wear. Even if you’re not a fan of it, make sure to practice riding in the rain where possible before you take to the start line again. Cornering, sprinting, descending and many other things need to be taken more carefully and with more thought in wet conditions, so don’t come unstuck on your first race back just because the typical British weather returns.
Eating and drinking on the bike
If you’re an experienced rider and eating and drinking on the bike is no issue then you shouldn’t have any problems here. However, if you were still finding your feet before lockdown took hold then this will be one to get dialled in on the road rather than indoors.
Being able to eat and drink on the bike is a vital skill for racing. For 4th Category races which last up to an hour only, you can survive on drinking alone, possibly with some energy gels to keep you sharp for the finish. Anything longer and you’ll need to make sure you can safely and confidently get food from your pockets and reach down to get your bottle while riding at speed and with riders either side of you.
Practice this on your own while riding out on the road first, and once you’re confident, switch to practicing it with a rider on your shoulder. We’ll have you putting on a rain cape in a bunch at 40km/h in no time!
If you can’t manage to get used to this, you’ll struggle as not eating or drinking in races will see you deplete your energy reserves quickly and also become dehydrated fast, both leading to a much reduced physical output.
Sprinting with another rider
You’ve been working on the top end and putting out some serious power on Watopia against your fiercest of rival avatars, but now it’s time to put that into practice out on the road alongside others. A simple exercise is to pick out several key markers along a training route, such as town signs or markings, and sprint together for then imagining they represent the finish line, mimicking some of the conditions of road racing.
Being able to read the body language of your opposition when sprinting is important when perfecting a fast finish, as well as reading the wind conditions and road surface to best effect. Go too early and you’ll burn out. Lead out into a headwind and you’re offering too much protection. Get it just right and you’ll have time to get your hands in the air after the ‘finish line’, before then getting ready to do it again.
Remember, when it comes to practicing race etiquette and skills out on the road, do so safely and remain aware of the environment around you.
There’s still some time before the first road races resume so there’s time to work on all the above and to regain your confidence in a bunch situation. There’s also still time to add some more discipline and structure to your training with a coaching plan to help you prepare for your first race back in the best shape possible. At Blackzone Coaching we don’t just deliver coaching plans, we are also on hand to offer first hand advice and share experience from across our coaching team.
Want to discuss getting a cycling coach to help you achieve your goals? Get in touch today.