Coaches and competitors share their top tips on how to train for a long-distance bike race.
Fernando Ocampo wants a bigger belt buckle. When he signed up for the 2017 Leadville 100 on a bet with friends that he couldn’t finish, he’d never mountain biked. But he completed the race, loved every minute, and got his official Leadville finisher belt buckle. This year, he’s racing again, and wants to under nine hours, to get that signature buckle. And to increase his chances this time, he has a training plan and coach. Like Ocampo, you need a plan to succeed in any long-distance race. Here are some tips to make it happen.
Let Your Race Guide Your Training.
Most endurance athletes know the importance of laying an early-season fitness foundation, but thinking specifically about the demands of your race three-to-four months before race day will help guide your training.
Ask yourself, “How long is the race, and have you ever ridden that far before?” says Jake Wells, 2018 Singlespeed Cyclocross National Champion, cycling coach and runner up at last year’s 200-mile Dirty Kanza gravel grinder (see page 12). “That will tell you how many hours and what kind of terrain you’ll need to train for.”
For example, a race like the Leadville 100 requires long hours of climbing on a mountain or road bike, while the more technical Breck Epic might require more mountain bike training and recon of the course.
Be Flexible in Your Training.
Laurie Simonson has completed the Leadville 100 and the World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships among other long hauls and she says avoiding burnout is a big challenge when training for endurace races.
“One year, I was religious about doing every workout,” she says. “By the spring, I was burnt out. Let yourself be okay with having life and missing a workout once in a while.”
Alternatively, you might be unable to do all the workouts. Ocampo balances training with working late hours and family time. Sometimes, he admits, the day’s workout is a trainer ride at midnight.
“I try not to let a lack of time hijack my training,” he says.
Dial In Your Nutrition.
Find out what food and drinks work for you and start training with them. “The key is not to wait until you’re hungry or thirsty. Some people set a little reminder on Garmin or their watch to remind them,” Wells says. (Check out Well’s special Pizzelle Sandwich recipe below.)
Prepare for Everything.
You’ve spent a lot of time and money training—don’t let the unexpected derail your race. Prepare for flats and mechanicals, get your bike tuned and talk to racers who’ve ridden the course.
“Fitness is super important, but resilience even more essential,” says Simonson. “You prepare for something to go wrong, because in a race that long, it will.”
Jake Wells’ Pizzelle Sandwich Recipe
Looking for the perfect food to get you through those long training rides and races? Coach and Professional cyclocross and mountain biker Jake Wells swears by rice cakes from Allen Lim’s “Feed Zone” cookbook and this unique take on the pizzelle, a classic Italian cookie.
¼ cup agave, honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 ½ cup almond flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Mix the wet ingredients together, then add the dry ingredients. Spoon onto pizzelle press and cook according to directions. If you don’t have a pizzelle press, make saucer-sized “pancakes” on a griddle or cast iron skillet.
Using any filling of choice, make sandwiches from two pizzelles. Wells recommends cream cheese and strawberries, peanut butter, or chocolate and blueberries. Can be wrapped and frozen for later.