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Stage Race - Haute Route Pre-ride Prep


Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
As promised here's my blurb on the othe side of the ride whcih is getting to the start itself! Dragging yourself out of a deep sleep at 4am feeling, stiff, sore and tapped is not ever a great way to start the day. But this is pretty much what you are faced with. Everyone deals with this differently. Music is a pretty good way (thanks, Joe) to get your spirits up even though your body is saying no way.

You could tell the riders who have done this before by a few things:

Time is everything. The more time you spend preparing means less time either on the bike warming up or just sleeping longer.

1) Minimal kit changes and accessories. The less you have to choose, the easier and faster it is to get into.

2) Routine that borders on ritual. Going through all the steps that get you mentally , physically and mechanically prepped for the ride are very important. You need to have a very tight, clean, well rehearsed process.

3) KISS. Keep It Simple and Stupid. Reduce your process to the most basic and simple components.

4) Less is more! Again, distillation of everything. Only use or do what is required. Nothing more.

Tradition and Ritual weighs pretty heavy. Personally I have a few quirks that stem from some old school rules and traditions - and also just my own.

- No shower or bath before riding. Just towel off briskly, wash face and hands and feet. Shower or bath could unnecessarily chill (or heat) you , or even you could fall down. Also , as typical in most of Europe, there are few showers or bath for alot of riders - so this just takes precious time compared to a wash basin.

- Massage and stretch. Do this upon waking up . Get the muscles invigorated right from the beginning.

- Eat a light and non-sugary breakfast. Actually this was hard to do. I was craving simple oatmeal, muesili or other whole grain cereal. But we did have some fresh fruits , lots of coffee and of course bread and cheese. As much as I love cheese - I ate none for breakfast. My main breakfast was banana-nutella sandwich with yogurt drink and juice. Still more sugar than I like, but it was nice and enough to get me going. Besides, I used my High 5 stash for this critical pre-race fuelling.

- Keep well hydrated. This is a never ending process. And soon as you wake up, you need to be on the case. In the mornings I drank at least 1l Contreaux water and finished the last 500ml with some High 5 2:1 mix before hitting the bike (with another 700ml High 5 4:1 in the front bottle).

- Embrocation. I swear by having some kind of embrocation on my legs. I just can't ride without it. Whether it's for cooling or heating or just as a mental security blanket. Mainly I used plain Olive Oil with some Chinese Red flower or Bergamont Oil added. Or sometimes Peppermint Oil. In anycase - besides feeling and smelling good - it works great when you need to massage your aching muscles.

- Equipment. My bike and accessories for this event were really well tested and nothing changed up to a week before the event. In fact, one week before the event I glued on my race tires and jsut did some light riding to 'proof' them. Then went through some harsher sections, sprints and pressure - de-pressure cycles to make sure 100% I had a good set of clean tires ready to go. Contrary to last week when I think everything from the frame down was either new or suspect. I had nothing but trouble. My fault for not following these simple rules.

-Clothing. I carried only 2 kits and used only 1. I had a couple of sponsor jerseys that I wore on stages requiring them. Having a good kit is very important. Even the slightest irritation can turn into a show stopper. My kits were custom made by ABPRO - the same folks who make Ironman wear. If you spend money on anything- spend it here! My kit was made especially for multi-day events and it was snug fitting, just the right pockets and the fabric choice was a fast drying, multi-purpose MITI fabric with HEIQ treatment for UV cut and anti-bacteria. I used a Cytech pad that is common for Pro Tour kits. Dense, but well padded and also very quick dry with good wicking properties especially important in case of rain. Mega props to the AB folks for pulling this together for me!

-Before the start. Pretty much the hour before the start, the experienced riders were already on their bikes warming up and using the local ditches and fences as community pisseurs. You never see so much pissing, actually. I guess you don't see this on TV coverage of the tours - but it's one of the biggest parts of the start of any race. Hundreds of riders pissing along the road. If you aren't pissing at this point, you are in trouble. It generally means you aren't hydrated enough.

- The start. All the pre-ride B$ stops when the gun sounds. At this point, you are ON. So - the whole attitude changes and your entire mental state becomes focused on the race. No matter how crappy I felt up to that point, once the start gun fired, I could find myself back in the mix again and from that point - you become a racer.

I was worried alot because of some issues with pre-existing injuries that cause pain over time. Mainly my left foot getting completely numb then developing severe metatarlurgia(??) which feels like stepping on a railroad spike and twisting it in your foot. After meeting with the on-ride medical crew, they suggested I take 200mg Ibuprofen at every summit and along with moving my foot forward as possible on the cleats. So, I did that and the pain was manageable. These med staff are pros who have seen every form of rider issue possible. Thousands of riders and hundreds of races. it was pretty awesome to have them on the course. I also added a few strips of tape to my insole to act as a metatarsal button. With this under control - I could get power back into the pedals and live for the next day.

Unlike alot of people, I did not have any saddle sores or other irritation issues. My whole kit-saddle - cream routine worked perfect. I didn't really think about my saddle at all. The Zoncolan is a pretty stiff saddle, but I have the one with carbon rails and it soaked up alot of road vibration. Along with the Gokiso wheels - I have to admit - my ride was pretty cushy. I traded for some of the Kyserium's and they were noticably harsher. Great wheels, for sure , but I was definitely spoiled by my setup. Especially for such demanding roads.

To me, just begin able to get up every day and do a demanding ride was amazing achievement in itself. The satisfaction of this was a huge reward. To get in under the cutoff was the icing on the cake. To see your results go up was simply sublime. Prepping for a daily stage race is different than a weekly club ride in that you must be much more prepared and at the same time much more conservative. We look forward to the weekly club ride with a huge degree of anticipation and potential butt kicking. In a stage race you consider the start with a degree of pessimism ,temperance and fortitude. Also, you take very careful stock of how much you have 'in the bank'. Every withdrawl counts - and you need to be very careful not to bankrupt for the next rider tomorrow! So, you watch around you - feel the bunch and plan strategy to optimize your ride and attacks.

I think anyone who races knows these things already. I'm just rflecting mainly on my personal experiences - especially as an older participant with a former history of racing. I can say the best thing about riding nowadays is the far superior knowledge in nutrition and supplements. Back 'in the day' it was mainly voodoo, witchcraft and snake oils. We all knew we need to drink and eat - but it has evolved to a much finer tuned and effective process these days. As a result, the riders can and do perform at higher levels than ever before. Even in spite of using various PED's.

For confidence inspiration to those thinking about thes types of events. There were participants from 18yo - 70+. The common denominator was a tenacious spirit and willingness to to ride as hard and often as possible. One rider had only 1 leg and 1 arm. he started an hour early as his 'handicap', though that could hardly be called a handicapped - because he made the cutoff times on nearly every stage!

I can't wait for next year!


Maximum Pace
Feb 5, 2012
Again, great information and detail. I have always been pretty nuts about my pre-ride, ski race, mountain bike etc rituals and even though I do not race I agree that it takes a few things of the mental plate so you can focus on others. If I don't get it right then I have this nagging feeling that my whole day will be thrown off, I've been called all sorts of things for this, haha oh well.

That is great to hear about the diversity of the riders; a friend of mine rode with this guy in Vancouver that was an ex-pro cyclist with one leg and he said that guy gave him all the motivation he would ever need. The guy was riding in Italy and got hit by a scooter, and subsequently pinned between the scooter and a brick wall. I saw him at some local crit's and thought 'wow...'
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