TIPS & TRICKS
A 7 stage race that covers over 500 km and over 17,000 m of ascent in one week abroad is a serious undertaking for nearly anyone. Here are a list of tried and trusted tips and tricks that will help you get the very most out of your race, enjoy yourself while you are in the thick of it and sidestep any avoidable pitfalls.
BEFORE THE RACE
Get everyone on Board
It’s critical to have your loved ones on-board. From the outset make sure they understand the level of training commitment you will undertake to race La Leyenda. The same goes for the important people in your work life.
Might sound obvious but like all major challenges the secret is in the preparation. To do your very best and to really enjoy La Leyenda you will need to turn up really fit. Train to a carefully devised plan, get as many hours in as you can – but always leave at least 10% during any given session – you don’t want to over do it. If you treat your training with the same level of seriousness and commitment as you do a race, when race day comes chances are you will be brimming with confidence, relaxed and ready to take on the world.
Get to the Gym
Build gym work into your weekly schedule. You need strong arms and a solid core to take on and enjoy a race like La Leyenda.
– be prepared
One of the marvels of La Leyenda is the extraordinary variety of climates and landscapes you will race through. This means that you will need to be ready to deal with considerable difference in the weather, sometimes even during the same stage. The trick is, then, to bring layers that you can put on and strip off as the case may be.
– invest in the best
You are going to be doing some really long hard stints in the saddle, day after day, so invest in the very best shorts you can afford and have at least 3 pairs. Never try out a new brand of shorts near to the race, or during the race itself. An awkward seam can turn into a nightmare on a long hard ride. The same goes for shoes, and gloves.
Bike and Gear
Again, get your hands on the best bike that you can afford but don’t change bikes in the run up to the race, or any other component, however tempting it may be. Over a 7 stage race your bike and gear will inevitably take on quite a bashing so make sure you roll up with everything in tip-top condition. A complete, rigorous bike service about 3 weeks before the race is essential.
Bring Tools and Parts
Bring with you what you might need to get you or your partner out of a tight spot. During the race you are advised to carry at least two inner tubes, brake blocks, a comprehensive mini-tool, a rear derailleur hangar, tire levers, chain link, a tire boot, zip ties and duct tape.
High Altitude Preparation
Bearing in mind that challenging stretches of the race will be taking place at relatively high altitude (remember that Manizales itself lies at 2,160m) it is important to be well prepared. Have your iron levels checked and make sure that you bring your inhaler if you use one on a regular basis. In addition, the earlier that you can arrive at altitude prior to the race the better particularly if you are coming from a city that is at a very low altitude or sea level. It is recommended to arrive 3 - 4 days before the start of the race to allow your body to have enough time to adjust to Manizales and the starting altitude.
Immediately prior to the race it is recommended to avoid alcohol, sleep medication, narcotic painkillers and anything else that may suppress your breathing rate. It is very important to hydrate well when at altitude. Clearly in a race of this nature hydration remains a critical component, but competitors need to ensure they significantly increase their water consumption to cope with the effects of the altitude. It has been proven in high altitude mountaineering that increasing water intake aids in combating the effects of altitude sickness. In addition riders should ensure they consume small meals on a regular basis throughout each stage to maintain energy levels.
DURING THE RACE
Don’t Underestimate the Mental Factor
A long stage race like La Leyenda calls for good mental preparation as well, so make sure you build some big 4 to 6 hour solo sessions into your training to learn how you react. Many racers have a bad day but don’t let that overwhelm you, particularly if you hit a rough moment in the early stages. Remember that in an endurance race no matter how good or bad you feel it won’t last. Many riders find that their form improves quite considerably over the course of the race, so keep any negative thoughts at bay and soldier on. The trick is to take the race one day at a time.
Ride Within Yourself
When a big international stage race rolls out on stage 1 for most people it’s pretty well near impossible not to feel excited and charged up. Don’t get carried away, though and waste energy. On a tough race like La Leyenda you really need to pace yourself especially over the first few stages. Keep it smooth at the beginning, bide your time and attack later on in the race. And make sure that you and your partner agree on a strategy before the race begins.
Shit happens, sometimes right near the start of the race. If you lose a lot of time early on, re-set your goals. After all each stage is a race in itself, so there is a lot to race for.
• Keep it Clear and Simple with Your Partner
Admitting when you feel weak or tired isn’t easy but it’s part of racing in pairs. Frequent, straight forward and honest communication between partners is really important. Your energy levels and mental states might not always match but this can be managed shrewdly if it’s out in the open. Bear all this in mind when you are choosing your partner.
Drink Loads and Eat Smart
Never wait until you are thirsty or hungry to eat or drink. You need a tried and trusted nutrition and hydration strategy and you need to stick to it, otherwise your performance and enjoyment can really suffer however good your form is. Remember that being well hydrated means that you should be urinating clear and urinating fairly often. Make sure that you take big refills at aid stations and resist the temptation to pass one by. Choose a hydration pack that is easy to use in the heat of the race. Select food that doesn’t cause spikes in your sugar levels and remember that relying on gels and isotonic drinks alone over a 7 stage race is unadvisable. Treat your stomach to solid food as well, otherwise it might rebel. Over the last hour of a stage, when the going gets tough, keep the food and drink coming in. Don’t stop just because you’re close to the finish, this is a stage race, so think about the following day and eat wisely.
Riding at High Altitude
Remember that Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) can affect even the fittest riders. The important thing is to learn to detect the early symptoms and be honest with yourself about how you feel. This can be a challenge, especially if in the heat of the race you are well placed after having trained months beforehand, but acting early will make all the difference. Typical symptoms of AMS are headaches, fatigue or weakness, dizziness, light headedness, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, listlessness, heart palpitations, nausea or vomiting.
You will be riding as a two man team and it is therefore very important to communicate also with your team mate about how you are feeling during the various stages so that you can support each other. If you are worried about the symptoms that your team mate is showing please ask for assistance.
This being a demanding event it is quite feasible that some of these symptoms may be experienced due to other factors, and it is precisely for this reason that racers must make sure that they really know their body and their limits well so that they are able to distinguish how they are reacting to the race. If you detect light to moderate symptoms stay at the same altitude until they subside, but if you register some of these symptoms and they worsen or do not improve begin to descend immediately.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms inform any member of event personnel immediately so the necessary precautions can be taken. From the perspective of our medical team and other event personnel if you are in any way ill at altitude your symptoms will be taken to be due to altitude until proven otherwise. Remember that our team in high altitude areas are equipped with oxygen, medication and are trained to deal with AMS. We will also have additional support from the Defensa Civil (Mountain Rescue - people in orange uniforms).
Please consult your own medical advice before taking on an event of this nature and ensure you are well educated with respect to Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) and the best ways to manage and look after your body. Please discuss any medication with your doctor that may have a side effect of acting as a diuretic or being in conflict with the symptoms of Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS).
RECOVERY AND OFF THE BIKE
Get Serious about Your Recovery
On a 7 stage race smart riders get serious about what they do off the bike. However, exhausted or elated you feel when you cross the line, eat a good supply of carbohydrates and protein as soon as you finish to repair muscle damage and replenish energy levels. As soon as you can get out of your sweaty race gear, get washed and organise everything for the next day. With that out of the way you can get down to some serious, uninterrupted recovery with nothing hanging over you. Stay off your feet as much as possible, sit in the shade and keep your feet up for short periods of time to facilitate blood circulation. Make sure you drink plenty of liquid.
Make the Most of It
Multi-stage races like La Leyenda give you much more opportunity to get to know people and make friends from all over the world. It pays to put your device down and make the most of it!