Before a big cycling event it is important to put in the hours to train a few times a week. You may want to start training a few months in advance to make sure you are fully prepared. If you cannot get out on the open roads regularly you should consider a turbo trainer.
It’s important to put in some Base Training, maybe 3 or 4 times a week, in order to build up endurance. Base training involves cycling at a steady, moderate pace I order to train the body to burn fat more efficiently and to save carb fuel for more intense exercise. If possible try to work the length of the session up until you are cycling for the same duration as the race you will be participating in.
As you progress you can also add in short bursts of tempo training; cycling at a mid-pace that lasts around 6-8 minutes, and over the duration of a few weeks you can try to build this time up to 20-30 minutes per session.
Lactate threshold training is also important for a big event; this type of training tests the highest pace you can keep for 60 minutes while keeping lactic acid levels steady. The higher you can push this level, the faster you will be able to ride in the race. Start this around to 6-8 weeks before the event and start with 2 sessions of 5 minutes with 5 minutes recovery at base pace. As you progress you can work your way up to a maximum of 2 sessions of 20 minutes. Remember to have at least 20 minutes warm-up before these sessions.
Also, you can add in Sprint training; do this 2 times a week, after 20 minutes of base training. The goal of this exercise is to push you to go above your threshold level to unsustainable speeds. Begin to sprint for 15 seconds a time and gradually work your way up to a maximum of 90 seconds, have an equal amount of recovery time.
Remember to have at least 2 rest days a week.
As this is your first race the Number one priority is to get on your bike and have fun, so be sure that you don’t push yourself too hard that it comes to the point where you are not enjoying it, cycling should be fun, not a chore!
If the race you are entering involves uphill climbs, try to incorporate this into your training. It is also a good idea to gain practice riding in a group, do this by joining a local riding group or asking friends to come out for a ride with you; it may be good to have at least a dozen group rides under your belt before the race so you can familiarise yourself with drafting and positioning in the pack.
Relax a bit as the event gets closer.
Take it easy the week of the race and have shorter, gentler sessions; you want to be fresh and relaxed for the race but you also need to avoid becoming out of form for the race For a Sunday race, many professionals take Monday off and have a very relaxed session Saturday; you may want to consider taking the Tuesday off too.
Watch your Diet! Of course keeping up a healthy lifestyle and eating well is important all year round for your health, but what you eat I the week leading up to race can have a direct impact on your performance.
Have a moderate dinner the night before, with a lesser amount of veg and protein, and a high amount of carbs. Have a high carb, low protein breakfast around 3-4 hours before the race in order to give time for the food to digest; foods with a low GI may be a more efficient source of racing fuel. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water in the 24hrs leading up to race, but not so much that are waking up in the middle in the night!
Pack and Prepare! In the week leading up to the race make sure to check your bike for any faults and give it a good clean. Plan your snack and water intake and make sure to check the weather so you can dress accordingly. Get all the start times, directions, and a map and try to get there 1 or 2 hours before the race start to check out the track. In particular, take a look at the final stretch of the course, this is where the race really picks up and you don’t want to be stuck at the back.
Don’t forget your racing licence.
Probably the most important thing to remember is a Racing Licence! You will most likely need one if you wish to complete so sort this out well in advance. Read more about racing licences here.
Don’t make the main goal of this to win, remember this is only your first race so make the goal to gain experience to eventually win.