CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS
Although helpful for all riders, these comments may be more applicable for those who have already ridden and finished an event of similar length and have broken through the psychological barrier of "knowing that they can do it". So if you're still looking towards finishing your first long event (metric century, century, whatever), it might be wisest to crack that psychological barrier first before aiming to shave minutes off your time.
DON'T FORGET THE BASICS
Don't just put in miles, put in quality miles. Consider riding at least three times a week at a pace faster than your event goal, including intervals, group rides where you feel pushed beyond your limits, and club or competition time trials. But don't over do it. Plan to limit total miles at this "super" event pace to no more than a tenth of your weekly total.
PUSH THE CLIMBS
Conventional wisdom is to take it easy on the climbs and then make up time on the downhills, but if you can push to your anaerobic limits, the absolute time in minutes you'll save on the climbs (climbing at 12 mph instead of 10 for example) will be more than you could ever make up on the downhill (going 37 instead of 35 for a shorter time on the descent). The secret is staying aerobic on the climb, and it will take practice to know your own limits.
STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY
Cyclists tend to lose upper body muscle mass, particularly during the riding season. The upper body stabilizes the pelvis and contributes to a strong pedal stroke, so be sure to include some upper body (especially abdominal) strength training in your program - particularly in the off season.
One study demonstrated a 5% increase in power from hamstring stretches. The added flexibility appeared to lead to better utilization of the quads. So remember to include some basic stretching in your program.
The intent is to utilize the glycogen sparing effect (or promotion of the use of fatty acids) at slower speeds to leave extra glycogen for the end of the ride or those high intensity sprints. The recommended dose is 350 mg of caffeine (2-4 cups of coffee) 30 minutes before the ride. But remember to experiment to be certain it doesn't adversely affect your digestive tract, to drink extra water because of its diuretic effect, and to abstain for 7 days before the event for maximum benefits.
Fluids are as important to optimizing performance as good nutrition. A fluid loss of as little as 2to 4% of body weight can rob you of both speed and endurance. So start drinking as soon as you start riding. Consider setting your watch to beep every 15 minutes to remind yourself to drink (and snack as well). It's important to eat and drink BEFORE you are hungry or thirsty.
Glycerol has been reported to increase performance, but has only recently been available commercially. So be sure to experiment with it before making it part of your training and performance program.
Chilling your fluid replacement (ice cubes in your water bottle, freeze your water bottle half full and top off before the ride) will help to minimize increases in bocy temperature (decreasing sweating and fluid loss) and may also aid in facilitating gastric (stomach) emptying and fluid (or carbohydrate from sports drinks)
Another form of carbohydrate replacement, it's unclear if there is ANY real advantage. But this has been suggested, and is mentioned for completeness. Cold Coke or Pepsi probably works just as well.
Keep a training diary and record your morning heart rate and weight. Overtraining is a definite risk with an agressive training program. If your resting morning heart rate is consistently 5 beats above normal, it's time to take a rest. If your weight is down, you may be behind in muscle glycogen repletion. Riding at slower speeds(60-65% heart rate max) that day - which uses a majority of fat Calories for your energy needs - may be fine, but don't push those intervals until you've had a chance to replace those carbohydrates and get your weight back up to baseline.
Rest is an important part of any training program. Overtraining is as much a problem for the recreational rider as it is for the cycling professional. There is a natural tendency to push hard for that personal record, but in many cases an extra day of rest will get you closer to your goal than another day of pushing your limits. Watch for those signs of physical and psychological fatigue, and listen to your body.
Spinning faster will cost less energy per revolution and will allow you to work harder over longer periods of time. Try to add 10 to 20 RPMs to your usual cadence. Perhaps 2 or 3 times a week shift into a smaller chainring and try to pedal an even, round pedal stroke. Over a few weeks you should see an improvement in your ability to spin at a faster cadence comfortably.
By moisturizing the skin, this approach has been proven to decrease skin temperature by 20% (and presumably fluid loss as well). In addition it will prevent skin cancer and skin aging-a major concern if you repeatedly ride long distances in sunny climates.
This antioxidant may help you recover from training rides more quickly, and may be of benefit in those few days before the big event. A bit "iffy", but certainly not harmful.
Expensive, but aerodynamic wheels (bladed spokes, composite spoked wheels) do give you an advantage. Guess it depends how badly you want that new PR.
Mental rehearsing for sports events has been demonstrated to be effective in tennis and golf. It creates a positive attitude and can strengthen muscle memory so your body is more likely to make the correct movements automatically. This is a form of meditation, so reduce distraction as much as possible. Replay the event in your mind until every aspect - physical feelings, emotions, sights and sounds - can be imagined in detail. Envision yourself pedaling smoothly and fast ... and it's more likely to happen.
PRactice actively pushing air out of your lungs and then passively letting it back in - just the opposite of our usual pattern. This has been demonstrated to increase airflow up to 14% and also keps you breathing evenly instead of gasping. As you grow short of breath, try breathing harder, not faster.
Even though these tips all sound simple and obvious, they need time to be woven into your own personal plan. Be sure to practice them individually and together during your practice
Day of the ride strategies are important too. They include: