Cycling fitness: tapering form for the big day

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Fitness: from Bronze to Gold in 2013 – part nine (tapering)

You’ve done the groundwork, got the miles in, used smaller events to practice pacing and hone your nutrition strategy. Now the final countdown to the big day begins.

The final weeks leading up to your goal sportive may not leave time for huge improvements in fitness but your training over this period is still vital to get the most from yourself on the day and bag that gold time.

Author, Tom Kirk, advises reducing training efforts in the build up to your goal event

In most sports, the final seven to14 days preceding a major competition consists of what is known as the pre-event taper. Put simply, the purpose of this period is to arrive at the event fit and fresh and in the best possible physical condition to get a fast time. This article will look at what this should involve and how best to deal with travelling to your sportive to minimise fatigue and maximise performance.

Training

By now you should have ideally worked up your long ride to close to the full distance. Look to plan your last very long ride seven to 10 days before your event. Thereafter the idea is to gradually reduce the training load to keep fresh while continuing to ride. In the last week, you might only do half the volume of on your peak weeks, so add an extra rest day and reduce the length of the rides.

The purpose of the pre-event taper is to arrive at the event fit and fresh and in the best possible physical condition to get a fast time

It’s a good idea to keep some harder intensity efforts in the training so that higher intensity work of the event is not a complete shock to the system. The general rule is to maintain the intensity but decrease the volume of work, so if you normally do  two 20-minute hard efforts, reduce this to two 10-minute efforts. If you normally do six hill reps, reduce this to three, but maintain the intensity of the effort.

Nutrition

Reducing nutrition intake before the event is useful if you’re reducing your training effort, but stay fuelled throughout the event

As you will be reducing your training volume quite considerably in the tapering period, your energy intake should decrease too. This can be hard when you have become used to large volumes of food to fuel your hard training sessions but aim to cut down the portion sizes while maintaining the quality of your diet with plenty of carbohydrates, good quality protein sources, and plenty of fruit and veg.

In the final week, you might only do half the volume of your peak weeks, so add an extra rest day and reduce the length of the rides

In the final days before a long sportive, you should begin to increase the amount of carbohydrate in your diet to ensure that your body’s stores are kept full and ensure that you are keeping hydrated following the guidelines in the last article.  Getting your diet right can be especially important if you are travelling abroad for your event, think about packing familiar foods that may not be available where you’re staying so you know you have enough to eat and help to prevent any digestive issues that can play havoc to even the most well prepared rider.

Travel

While you may be lucky and have a short drive to the start of your event, many of us are planning events further afield such as the Marmotte in the Alps or even outside of Europe.  Travelling places additional strain on the body so you should look to plan your training around this.

Events in the mountains can expose you to altitudes much higher than you will experience in the UK

Don’t be afraid to take a day off for travelling if needed and if you have the time to get to your destination a couple of days early to prepare and acclimatise to the heat and/or altitude which may both be significantly higher than we’re used to in the UK this can make a big difference.

Travelling a few days before the event also gives you the chance to deal with any last-minute mechanical issues

After travelling take a short, easy spin the following day to loosen off the legs and test out the bike if you’ve had to dismantle it for a flight. Travelling a few days before the event also gives you the chance to deal with any last-minute mechanical issues that can ruin even the best prepared ride. Having done so, you can get to the start line confident that your fitness, diet and bike are ready to do you justice.

Summary

You’ve done the hard work, so you only need to focus on getting the basics right: stay fresh, eat and drink well, and have a great ride.

Good luck!

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