If you’re looking to push your limits, or to find a new challenge on the bike, consider participating in a multi-day tour, stage race or charity ride. The challenge of riding long distances over the span of several days is new for the majority of cyclists. Regardless of your event, there are commonalities in how to prepare for these adventures:
While many of the same training techniques and principles apply to preparation for a multi-day event as a single days, there are a few key tweaks you can make. First, in the months leading up to the event aim to ride 3–4 days in a row one weekend a month. The first day is usually short but very intense. The second day is moderate intensity, perhaps a Saturday group ride and then the third and possibly fourth day will be more standard endurance where you keep the pedals moving and ride longer than you are used to — perhaps approaching the average stage distance or time.
A second tweak that can be hard if you live in an area very different from your multi-day adventure is riding event-specific terrain. Ideally at least one ride a week will be on terrain similar to the event — and, as the event approaches, on the specific gear, bike and nutrition you will use at the event. This testing and preparation helps avoid many common multi-day ride errors. Testing your bike makes sure your position and saddle are comfortable for long distances; testing your fueling makes sure your gut will handle the nutrition you take in and riding the specific terrain helps condition your body and brain for the challenges ahead.
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TRAIN LIKE AN ATHLETE, NOT JUST FOR ENDURANCE
Do not neglect your mobility, intervals and recovery days. Too often endurance athletes focus too much on duration and distance but forget that fitness, including your endurance capacity, is improved through a variety of training volumes and intensities. Some strength training, even just core training at home or yoga, helps you avoid common stage race overuse injuries like back, knee and calf pain. Do not hesitate to take recovery days; they improve the quality of your training and allow for more challenging interval days each week. Fatiguing yourself excessively before the race is much worse than arriving fresh, healthy and prepared.
TAKE CARE OF THE LITTLE THINGS
Preparation for any cycling event should make the event day simply about pedaling. Technical skill, mechanical skill, travel to the race, pre-race routines, nutrition and general health should all be taken care of prior to your event. You want your fitness and work ethic to shine on these days. While fitness is undeniably important, chances are your week will go well if you have prepared for the race, but if you get sick or your bike malfunctions, it won’t matter how many crazy-hard interval sessions you did. For multi-day adventures, the preparation, health and mechanical skills require as much time and focus as your on-bike training.
Multi-day cycling tours and races are among the best adventures you can have. Given the distance, you’ll likely enjoy amazing scenery, remote areas and pushing your physical limits. If you have signed up for a multi-day adventure, do your homework on the demands of the event and train specifically for that event, remembering that the event demands include being healthy, athletic and prepared. After all, you want to enjoy yourself along the way.