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Training for your first big ride: Great Manchester Cycle 2015

Posted on June 2nd, 2015

The Great Manchester Cycle takes places on the streets of the city – and Trafford – on June 29th, giving cyclists the chance to speed along closed roads and take in the sights from a new perspective.

Catering for the increase in enthusiasm for the sport, organisers have designed a course which is suitable for riders of all ability level.

There are three distances (13, 26, 52 mile). All use a 13 mile-circuit which starts at the Etihad Campus, heads over the Mancunian Way towards Old Trafford, and then loops back on itself.

For those who are training for the ride, here are six tips that’ll help you go the distance:

1. It’s all about the bike

Having a bike that fits you properly becomes crucial over longer distances. Once you increase the miles – beyond trips to the office or the shop – you’ll need a bike that fits your body.

Poor bike setup can lead to small niggles and more serious injuries, leaving you sore for days.

Your local bike shop will provide a bike fit service, making adjustments to your equipment to make things as comfortable as possible, and also increasing your pedalling efficiency.

On the day, make sure you’ve pumped the tyres up to the recommended PSI to optimise your rolling efficiency.

Also, remember to take enough spare inner tubes or puncture repair kits in case you need to make a quick change.

2. Build up slowly

To enjoy the distance you need to have the miles in your legs. This means putting in the training miles over the weeks and months leading up to the day.

But don’t do too much too quickly as you’ll get injured. If you’ve never cycled a long distance before, try adding another 10 miles onto your rides each weekend. And now we’re into spring, there’s no excuse for not going for a ride after work.

Before the day, if you’ve ridden 75% of the total distance at a steady pace, that’ll be enough. But if you have any speed targets in mind you might want to add a little more structured training.

3. A need for speed?

The organisers suggest that for the 52-mile route, riders complete the course at an average pace of 15mph. This is achievable with a good level of fitness on a well-functioning road bike.

To accomplish this – or to go even faster – high-intensity interval training is useful. Bursts of harder efforts build fitness rapidly and help you pedal for longer before fatigue hits.

When out on a ride, try doing one minute on, two minutes off. Racing to the next lamp post or town sign is also a great way of incorporating intervals into your preparation.

After a short period of structured interval training you’ll be quicker. Your aerobic capacity will also increase, as will your metabolism – which is fantastic if you’re carrying more pounds than you’d like.

4. Improve your core strength

As rides progress, you might find yourself rocking in the saddle as tiredness kicks in. This is your tired body involuntarily employing your core muscles to keep you moving, such as your abdominals and oblique muscles.

Despite your body’s good intentions, this is unhelpful and will make you more tired. A solid core will eliminate this upper body movement, keeping you steady in the saddle and leaving your legs in control.

Many pro riders use a core routine throughout the winter. So if it’s good enough for the pro peloton…

A successful core regime might involve planks, crunches, weighted lunges, push-ups and squats.

The good thing? You can do all this at home.

5. Pace yourself

Unless you’ve got Olympic medals or yellow jerseys by the shed load, there’s always going to be someone fitter and faster than you. So know your limits and pace yourself.

During the ride it’s much better to start slowly and steady and finish off stronger.

Take it easier to begin with. Overtaking slower, more tired riders will also fill you with confidence as the miles tick by – you’ll also feel much better doing this rather than burning all your energy before crawling your way to the finish.

The course is as flat as you like, as you’d expect from Manchester. So don’t worry about being strong in the climbs, but if you do have climbing legs you’ll be well set for setting a great pace on the day.

6. Fuel yourself before, during and after the event

Training is important, but don’t underestimate how vital the right nutrition is. Whether that’s supporting your training with the right diet, or fuelling your body closer to the event.

The night before you need to fill your body with carbohydrates found in pastas, vegetables, wholegrain bread and fruit.

Carbohydrates contain the glycogens your muscles need to stop you “hitting the wall” or “bonking” during the ride – so fill your body with the good stuff.

Unlike running, the motion of cycling means you can eat lots before a big ride without suffering an upset stomach. Eat a carb-based breakfast two hours before the event to top up your glycogen stores, while drinking between 500ml and a litre of water will fully hydrate you for the start of the ride.

Cyclists love a good coffee. This is ideal. Caffeine benefits endurance by altering muscle metabolism. It also improves mental alertness, giving an overall boost when it’s most needed.

During the ride you should keep hydrated and take a small drink every 15 minutes. Avoid sugary foods on their own, as a combination of slow-release carbs such as flapjacks and glucose-based snacks will stop you from having a sugar “spike” before crashing down again.

Test your nutrition plans before the event to make sure you are confident with the amounts and the regularity of your food intake.

Get your cycling training right

U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike”, so don’t let a lack of preparation spoil your day.

Remember to check out our blog for more cycling fitness training tips from our specialists.

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