April heralds the start of the countdown to the Old Mutual joBerg2c and mountain bikers who have not been using Shan Wilson’s training programme to benchmark their progress could end up feeling rather foolish.
“This is their last push – the final block of training,” says Shan, who has been coaching pro rider Max Knox as well as novice team-mates Gary Barns and Sebastian Wilson in the lead-up to the event on April 27.
The former winner of the nine-day stage race has also been sharing his tips from the top via the nine-day event’s social media platforms since November.
“The training’s really about adaptation,” says Shan. “The harder you train, the faster you get.”
Over the past month, he has increased the intensity of his amateur subjects’ efforts, loading them with three to five-hour weekend rides, and this pattern is set to continue for the remainder of the programme.
According to Shan, it takes eight weeks for the body to adapt to what it’s being trained for and he advises riders to focus on their weaknesses, not their strengths.
“You can’t start doing hill climbs two weeks before joBerg2c. No matter who you are, going uphill requires effort. You go faster up the climbs by training on them.”
He says monitoring individual effort is extremely important as every body responds differently.
“If you don’t have a heart-rate monitor or a power tap, then record your rate of perceived exertion by rating your sessions on a scale of one to 10. You have to monitor how your body’s coping with the stresses of daily life and training.”
All of this takes its toll on the body and the former national marathon champion recommends that riders eat healthily throughout and drink at least two litres of water a day.
“You need to be as lean as possible without overdoing it. Carbo loading before the event doesn’t work and the more excess weight you carry, the harder you have to pedal.”
As the 910km race draws nearer, Shan will decrease the volume of training, while marginally increasing its intensity.
“I’ll taper the guys I’m training about 10 days before the event. It won’t be complete rest because they’ll ride right up until race day.”
With the last hard ride the weekend before, the final three or four days will see riders “just getting out there and having fun on the bike for 90 minutes.
“The day before we’ll do an easy two-hour spin in the afternoon near the start at Heidelberg. This is just to calm the nerves and keep the legs moving.”
Shan cautions social riders to take it easy in the early stages, especially on the first, which is not a racing day.
“Nine days is a long time so rather start slowly and finish strong. Feel your way through each stage – the demands are greater towards the end.”
His number one piece of advice is not to miss any feed zones. “During the race, you’ll need a lot of carbs to fire up the engines.
“If you miss a feed zone, you might have a cracker of a day but you will feel it eventually. We call it ‘fly now and pay later’.”
He says the first three days through the Free State are relatively flat, getting the legs pumping and used to long days in the saddle.
“As you come off the escarpment into KwaZulu-Natal, the climbs are big and demanding. You’ll need what you’ve saved in the first three days for the next third.”
After that, the final three stages are fast and technical and follow the famed sani2c route, characterised by its massive descent into the Umkomaas River Valley. Shan says, “Stay upright, stay out of trouble and get to the finish.”
For the pros like Max Knox on the other hand, every day is about riding at maximum effort, avoiding technical problems and forming tactical alliances to get their team on the podium, he says.
“It’s about not showing your cards. Whether you’re feeling strong or whether you’re hurting, you don’t want anyone else to know.”
For every rider however, the sheer elation of reaching the finish on Scottburgh’s main beach is unbeatable. But, warns Shan, the race is not over yet and one final psychological hurdle awaits.
“All big stage races, like the joBerg2c, put you physically on the limit. You go through heaven and hell with your partner and suddenly it’s over.
“Then two days later there are no more endorphins and serotonin levels are at their lowest – and that’s when a wave of depression may hit.”
He says its perfectly normal and to be expected. “When that happens to me, I just get on my bike again and ride it out.”
Follow joBerg2c on Facebook and joBerg2c_journo on Twitter for Shan’s weekly updates.
Visit www.joberg2c.co.za for more information.
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