Whistler Gran Fondo – Tips from the Pros!
For many recreational cyclists in the Lower Mainland and BC the Vancouver-Whistler Gran Fondo is the culmination of a long summer of training and riding leading to one epic day on the sea-to-sky! After months and months of assessments, indoor workouts, and hill repeats the day you have been working towards is fast approaching. You have put in the time, effort and training for an event like the Fondo, now here are a few helpful tips for you to follow in the last few days leading up to the event.
Trust the Taper
You have already put the time and effort into your training that you need to succeed in an event like the Gran Fondo. The last few days before the ride should be about recovery and rest, so that your body is fresh for the big day. Some people may think they need to train hard right up until a few days before the race, but this is not the case. Doing this could lead to feeling tired on the start line, thus having a negative effect on your performance. Less is truly more in these last few days, so don’t panic and trust the work you have put in all season long and let your body be as fresh as possible on Saturday morning. You can find more information on the Taper through Peak Centre’s Lewis Morrison’s blog post.
Drafting and Riding in a Group
It is a well-known fact that a pack of riders will ride faster than an individual. You can save up to 30% of your energy used by riding in the draft. If a group of riders with similar ability levels gets together and shares the workload their times will decrease leading to a better Fondo experience. Here are a few things to remember when riding in a pack.
1) Packs usually start fast and then settle. The group will likely go out fast from the start line before they settle down into the group’s pace, so the challenge is to find the pack that will “end up” riding at the right speed for you. You may have to expend a little extra energy in that early stage before the group speed settles down. The trick is to judge when a pack is too fast and when it is time to drop back to a slower pack. Use your gut – usually we know when a group is moving too fast for us!
2) It is easier to drop back to a slower pack then to catch a faster pack. It is always a better philosophy to be a little more aggressive and try to stay with a faster pack and make the decision to drop back then to wish you’d caught a faster pack at the beginning.
3) Group Riding Etiquette: If you’re not familiar with group riding etiquette for pacing, drafting, signaling, movement, etc. then join a club or a group riding as part of your training. Similarly, if you join into an unknown group on race day be aware that you don’t know their group riding skills and they don’t know yours. Communication is key! Make sure to communicate with other riders anytime you’re moving out, speeding up or slowing down. Always try to be as ‘smooth’ as possible. Don’t make any sudden drastic changes in direction and/or speed. If you want to join on with a group it never hurts to ask them if it’s ok to ride with them and maybe even do some pulling at the front.
The Fondo is a gruelling ride, requiring being out on the sea-to-sky for hours on end. Fuelling yourself is a crucial part of performance. Not fuelling properly can have dramatic effects. No one wants to ruin their day by doing something silly like forgetting to eat or drink so here are a couple helpful tips to ensure you have the best day possible.
1) It is recommended to have an assessment by the Peak Centre in advance of the Fondo to measure exactly how much fuel your body requires to maintain a certain intensity for long periods of time. Obviously there is not enough time between now and the race to complete an assessment, so the general recommendation is between 20-40 grams of carbohydrates every 30 min. But even this is quite a large range for any individual.
2) Eat before you feel hungry. This is crucial. During an event like the Fondo you want to be constantly topping up your fuel stores. ‘Bonking’ or ‘hunger knock’ is not a pleasant experience, and if you start to feel hungry it is often too late. So always keep it in the back of your mind, that even if you are not feeling hungry, you should still eat.
3) Drink before you are thirsty. Just like with eating, if you start to feel thirsty on your ride, it is too late. You have become dehydrated. Sometimes it is easy to forget to drink during an event like this with all of the excitement going on around you. If you know you are a person who may forget to drink regularity it may be a good idea to set a stop watch to go of every five minutes or so, reminding you to take a sip from your bottle.
4) Your fuelling strategy is not only important on race day but in the days leading up to the event as well. Make sure that you are eating a balanced diet with high carb foods, combined with lean proteins and good fats, at least 2 days before the event to make sure that your glycogen stores are topped up and ready to go on Saturday morning. The same goes for Hydration. Make sure you are drinking lots of water this week.
In all of the excitement leading up to the fondo it is often easy to overlook the condition of your bike. It is your baby and keeping it in good working order is a must. Make sure the shifting is nice and crisp, the brakes are working properly, and check to make sure there are no cracks or holes in your tires. Nothing can ruin a great day on the bike like a flat or mechanical issue. If you are not very mechanically inclined, it may be beneficial to take your bike to a shop and get a quick tune up before the race. The morning of the race, make sure your tires are pumped up, and you have a spare tube or two and a pump in case of any flat tires on the course.
Ok, now you are all set. You have everything you need to have an epic day! Enjoy it, and remember to have fun. See you on the road!
BSc Kinesiology and Health Sciences
Peak Centre Cycling Coach
Former Elite Cat 1 Racer
Former Under 23 Canadian National Team Member