Chase the Sun Italia 2017

Training and Preparation advice for your Chase the Sun longest day ride

2 November 2019

Training & preparation

200 miles in one day is a long way to cycle for most of us, so we’ve been talking to endurance cycling veteran Dr Ian Rodd for some tips on how to prepare and train for long-distance riding and long days in the saddle.

The concept is to be able to focus your training, riding and performance to one aim— to ride 205 miles in one day, and have FUN doing so!

Dr Ian Rodd
CTS rider & veteran of previous LEJOG world-record attempts

Training Rides

There are no shortcuts, you need to be putting in the miles riding regularly to build a base fitness early in the year. Then build up your training in the months before mid-summer, steadily increasing the mileage, working on pacing, feeding, navigation and the aspects noted below.

It is a good idea to set yourself targets using other organised rides during the April and May months, your eventual aim should be to be able to complete an event of circa 100-130miles, at a comfortable pace, minimising your stops, and feeling like you could ride further at the end.

On longer rides, measure your progress by comparing Total Distance covered against Total Time Elapsed, rather than average speed on the road. Concentrate on developing an even cadence, comfortable heart-rate, and delivering a constant power, using your gears to climb hills steadily and capitalise on descents. Ian’s motto is just either “Pedal or Brake”, no freewheeling!

Preparation Checklist

Kit Essentials:
  • Comfy saddle and good quality cycle shorts
  • A well serviced road bike in good working order
  • New/good condition puncture-resistant tyres
  • Fit a bell for ease of signalling between riders
  • Two bottle cages with two large bottles
  • Compact saddle bag for tools:
  • Inner tubes, puncture repair kit, pump, cash, phone
  • Detailed route map (issued prior to the ride)
  • Lights (for start + in case you ride past sundown)
  • Warm clothes are needed for the cold early start
  • Waterproof clothes depending on the forecast
  • Basic first aid, suncream, + carry personal ID

Spare parts etc. could be carried if a team does have a support vehicle, however it might be a wait for them to meet up, so plan to be self-sufficient.

If you want a change of clothes at the finish make sure it gets deposited in the BagVan service at dawn (bookable in advance) and they will be waiting at the finish line!

Sustinance Essentials:
  • Energy bars, drinks and other nutritional provisions

Fuel up with warm food options are available at lunch stops, numerous other shops and pubs are en-route.

Longer rides when you have time, should be supplemented by shorter sessions to work on speed and fitness. These can be focussed on the road, hill reps or intervals, or as Ian suggests, on the turbo.

“I find this a brilliant way of getting fit, without spending hours out on the road. When I am busy at work, I can fit the turbo in around my working week, if you are able to replicate these efforts on the road, all the better.

The bottom line is getting on the bike regularly, and focusing when you are riding, with the right motivation, training can be fun too!

Ian’s training programme

up to 4 turbos a week:

  • 50 minutes just below Lactate Threshold level 2 (Google it).
  • 2 x 20 minutes with 5 minute gap, going as close to LT2 and then to exhaustion at the end.
  • 4 x 4 min intervals with 2 minutes in between, as close to max effort as I can sustain.
  • 6 x 2.5 minutes with a minute in between at max effort.

Finally, train early, and make sure you wind down or ‘taper’ your training in the last 2 weeks. Don’t stop riding altogether, just go for easy distance and intensity, and increase rest and recovery periods.

Tips for Planning your Ride

Form Small Groups

Both individuals and groups of riders are all welcome to join the ride!
on the day it is advisable for participants to ride in groups of approx 6-8 riders on the road, this size enables ease of communication and navigation, limits necessary stops, and will increase the chances for everyone of successfully completing the ride.

Even if you don’t stay with the same riders all day, there will be numerous groups of riders along the road during the ride, so there will always be someone to ride along with, at a pace to suit you.

RELAY TEAM RIDES

opening up the CTS route challenge to many more riders—split the miles!

Ride the whole Chase the Sun route from sunrise to sunset, in a team. Break the ride into approx 50 mile segments over the day, taking turns with your co-riders. Meet at checkpoints to swap riders and spread the mileage amongst more legs, more time for recovery. This will need to be well organised by yourselves on the day, drive your own back-up vehicle and support your team-mates along the road.

Bike, Body and Mind

During your training, you need to focus on preparing the three key elements that you can control. Ian describes the concept of the ‘widening angle’ of influence—small deficiencies that are not noticed on shorter rides, are magnified over longer durations, to become insurmountable problems if not dealt with early.

Bike

Start now with replacing worn-out items, any planned component upgrades, or position changes (consider a bike-fit), puncture resistant tyres, to ensure all is tried and tested over considerable distance and time prior to the mid-Summer’s ride.

In the weeks before the ride, ensure your bike is clean, serviced, all spares and tools available etc. Trial new map mounts/water bottle cages etc in advance, see kit essentials above. Lightness is a noticeable benefit over such a distance, but for your bike, comfort is the most important aspect.

Body

Nutrition & Hydration THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, Be safe, Drink and eat regularly. Experiment in your training, what do you need, what do you like, what agrees with your body.

Fluid (electrolytes incl. potassium) – 500ml per hour advised, but varies hugely with different people, and in different conditions.

Carbohydrates 1g per kg of body weight per hour is the advice. Ian’s method:

I know that 1 litre of fluid with powder, a ‘Zero Lo’ tablet in each, a bar, a small amount of dried fruit and nuts does me perfectly for 2 hours. Find out what combinations work for you”

This is almost certainly not going to be expensive sports bars and gels. 16 hours of eating these is nasty! Find your preferred mix of sandwiches/flapjacks/branded gels/bars/fruits/nuts/sweets etc.

Mixed fluid intake by alternating between zero carb tabs with powder carbs through the day.

Clothing no new kit just before the ride, trial your layers and items in different training conditions. Remember, even if it is a sunny mid-summer, the early start will be cold, and if it does rain (quite possible at some point during the day) then layers to put on and off are crucial. Also carry spare chamois cream!

Get as Light as you can—200 miles is a long way to carry every extra pound. This will also increase your comfort, and speed.

Core strength, conditioning and flexibility this can be developed off the bike, e.g. yoga, pilates, simple stretches, etc, and have huge benefits over the latter half of the ride, improving comfort and therefore mood and speed, and minimising risk of injury.

Mind

Motivation is essential in both training for, and completing the ride. Set yourself realistic goals to enable you to meet them and then go further. 

Navigation stay alert, be vigilant, are you on course? Aim to spot any errors quickly and address them in order to avoid significant extra miles. Know where you are and where you are going next, don’t just follow others.

Timing as above, know yourself! You should know if you are ahead or behind your target time schedule, set time checks and landmarks.

Practise utilising maps, timesheets, GPX devices and spare batteries, etc, during your training rides.

Psychology CTS is a long day. Breaking it down into chunks and thinking about where you are helps. The first quarter should fly by. The second quarter should be fine, but may start to feel hard. The 3rd quarter is always the toughest. The 4th quarter is tough, but you are nearing the finish, and this should help you. Knowing where you are, and what you expect of your body at that point is key.

The Low you will at some point feel a bit low during the ride, perhaps because of traffic, weather, routing, hunger, dehydration, mechanicals, etc.

Overcoming this is all part of the experience. When you do get into the low, don’t think about the end destination, just think about riding for the next 30mins, or until the next town, or garage or pub or whatever, somewhere much shorter in distance that you can reach easily. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a 5 minute rest to calm down, relax, re-fuel, and begin to feel ok again. Doing some simple stretches off the bike can help. These periods typically occur between 40% and 65% of the distance. Practice recognising this point and dealing with it on your training rides.

On the day remember, have fun, enjoy the ride—it’s not a race. Don’t just focus on the 5 feet of tarmac in front of you. Look up, look around, enjoy the scenery and take in the view. Travelling 200+miles under your own steam is an experience to be savoured. If you have put in the preparation, you will succeed and most likely enjoy it too!

Further Reading

Bicycle a Double Century

A 16 week training plan. We’ve certainly done more and less training than this in the past for CTS, but its a good point of reference.

Verywellfit website

Nutrition & Hydration

Tips from our endurance training expert for how to plan to eat and drink for success over 200 miles.

Nutrition Tips

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