On race day of the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge there is a lot to contend with - the distance, the route, the race day nerves, other cyclists getting in your way and, of course, the weather.
If you’re like most endurance sport participants in South Africa, you probably keep two eyes on the weather in the week (or weeks) leading up to race day, hoping that perfect conditions prevail. But if they don’t, you should be prepared to handle anything that comes your way.
By now everyone who’s ever entered a cycling or running race knows that when you sweat you lose electrolytes, so you need to replace them via an electrolyte-rich sports drink.
Individual fluid requirements during exercise vary, but in general, you should drink to thirst, with small consistent sips, avoiding gulping or drinking too quickly.
Practice this during training to make sure you’re not trying something new when 20 000 cyclists are flying past you.
November can get warm, and while it’s not easy to train through the winter months in similar conditions to November, you should also try and ride a few times in the hot weather you might experience on race day.
Rain and cold
Thankfully in sunny South Africa we don’t have too many days where multiple layers are required for cycling - but when the temperature does plummet, or if you’re a cyclist who needs to ride in the early hours of the morning - the important word is “layer”.
A base layer, cycling jersey and windproof jacket should see you through most conditions. The reason for layering is quite simple - eventually you’ll warm up, and being stuck with a heavy, bulky jacket will suck all the joy from a ride.
If race day turns out rainy, it’s a good idea to wear a cycling cap - to deflect the rain - and change the lenses in your sunglasses to clear or yellow. Riding without some form of eye protection in the rain can hamper your vision, while riding with normal sunglasses means you won’t see anything either.
Stay out of puddles - you never know what lies beneath - and try to avoid the white lines, manhole covers or anything that looks like metal. Another damp danger are the oil patches left behind by cars. You should notice these by the rainbow shimmer that appears when it rains. If you’re uncertain, stay away from the middle of the road, as this is where most cars will leave their leaks.
Try a “heat” cream in really cold conditions. If you take a while to get going on your morning rides, maybe try an embrocation. Used by horse owners to warm their racing beasts, legend has it that the Belgians adopted it for the their cycling legs at some stage in the recent past. Just remember to apply the chamois cream first, then the “hot sauce”.
Listen to what PTS Cycling Coach Steve Saunders advised in this episode of The Coffee Stop podcast with Jenni Green...
Some might say that the best way to ride in the wind is to pull the duvet over your head and live to ride another day - or just never visit Cape Town.
But if you’ve trained for an event, it’s unlikely that you’ll do that.
First thing, make sure you have your tightest-fitting gear on - nobody likes a flapper in the peleton, plus any loose clothing will only slow you down or aid the wind’s blustery effects.
Getting low and getting cheeky are also surefire ways to battle a breeze. For getting low simply use your drop bars; getting down into the drop position will make you more aero and mitigate a horrible headwind. Getting cheeky; just hide behind the biggest rider you can find, and then buy him a cold beer at the finish.