Each year thousands of cyclists line-up on Hertzog Boulevard, in Cape Town to ride the newly named Cape Town Cycle Tour, one of the world’s most popular cycle races. 35 000 participants are expected, a good portion of whom are newbies. But gearing up for your first race is not just about time on the road. It also depends on what you consume before, during and after the race. Here Wayne Allen from Juniva.com – South Africa’s specialist health, wellness and fitness etailer – shares his five top tips to get you across the finish line.

Stick to what you know

“When you’re on the road between three and five hours, you need a tried & tested nutrition plan – to get you to the race, through it and recover from it. This includes a combination of solids, powders and gels,” says Allen. Get race ready by finding out what you perform on best well before race day. Then stick with it during your training. “Trying anything new within three weeks of race day could end badly,” he says. The same goes for your kit.

What to take when

First, have a rough idea of how long you’ll be on the road. Then, plan accordingly. “If you’re aiming for a 4:10 finish for instance, keep a water bottle, two bottles of energy drink such as GU, Power Bar, Hammer or High 5 and four or energy gels handy,” says Allen. But don’t take them all at once! Rather start sipping once the adrenalin has worn off and you’ve found your groove. A handy trick is to use a permanent marker to mark how much you need to have drunk every 15 minute interval.  You can also add solids like a bar or energy chews after three to four hours. This retains focus and strength. “As do calorie dense products, such as energy drinks like GU Roctane, that keep your energy stores from being depleted before you reach the finish line”.

Come prepared

A first-time rider typically has approximately one hours worth of glycogen stored in their muscles (compared to a pro who has 90 min or more) come race day. Given that the average person burns around 600 – 700 calories/ hr racing, and that your body cannot absorb more than 400 calories per hour, you need to fill your tank well in advance to not hit the wall later on. “Throwing back a couple of energy drinks the morning of the race sadly won’t suffice.”

Start by having a good meal the night before. “This doesn’t mean a pasta party! While it’s a good source of carbs, don’t overdo it, especially with all the rich sauces and cheese that goes hand-in-hand with Italian. Rice or potatoes are also good options. And choose white meat instead of red – it’s easier to digest and won’t leave you feeling sluggish the next day,” Allen says.

Follow up with two breakfasts: “A few hours before the race have a hearty bowl of low GI cereal like oats. This provides sustained energy to keep you on the saddle for longer. Then add fast-fuel one hour to go: a muffin or pancake will do the trick.” 15 mins before the gun fires, take a gel to keep energy levels tip-top too. You can also sip on an energy drink for the hour running up to the start.

Last minute cram?

If you’ve not trained as much as you’d hoped to and are tempted to squeeze in a few kays the week before race day, you’re better off using the energy to get your kit ready. “You gain no more fitness within a week of the race. That last week is for short punchy sessions that consolidate all the kms that you have put in over the past few months. Take Friday off and on Saturday go for a very easy warm-up ride of no more than 30 minutes and include a few short 1 minute sprints. This helps activate your muscles, without putting any strain on your body.”

Keep it up in down time

Post-race keep your game plan on. “It’s tempting to start celebrating once you’ve got your medal,” says Allen. Instead hold off on the beer and reward yourself with a great tasting recovery drink like Powerbar Regenerate within 30 – 45 mins of completing the race. “This replenishes energy, starts replacing electrolytes and repairs muscle breakdown.” You can take another recovery shake or energy bar two hours after finishing, especially if you finish between four and five hours.  If you don’t replenish during this period you will delay your recovery and find yourself wanting to eat anything you can lay your hands on later on.

“Completing an endurance race like the Cape Town Cycle Tour is a huge feat! But prepare properly by doing the distance on the road and backing it up with a sound nutrition plan of solids and recommended supplements available from Juniva.com. It will make all the difference come race day, and help you recover faster,” concludes Allen.

To browse Juniva’s range of recommended sports supplements visit www.juniva.com.

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