5 Lessons from the Pros

While watching some old Tour de France footage last night I started thinking about¬† how us mortals can take some pointers from the professional riders of cycling’s toughest race. Below are a selection of five things i think most amateur riders can copy from the pro’s to improve their riding.

1. Eating on the Bike

The professionals are lucky in that they have designated feed stops on stage routes where their team support hand out packed lunches for the riders to eat on the move. In addition

For us mere mortals we usually have to carry what we plan to eat mid ride. In the Tour you’ll often see riders eating gels or picking up energy drinks from the team car.

When it comes to what to eat it’s all about what works for you. A good mix of gels, energy drinks and real food such as bananas and jam sandwiches is a good place to start. If you’ve ever wondered what the pros eat then be sure to check out this recipe to a infamous peloton favorite…the rice cake:

The key lesson to be taken is that rather than eating one huge meal they eat little and often throughout each stage. By constantly grazing every 1/2 hour or so. The key is to eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty. If you haven’t read it already check out our article about on bike nutrition.

 

2. Well Maintained Equipment

I was amazed to see the Team Sky mechanics lorry before the start of this recent Tour – it looks like something you’d see in Formula 1. Unfortunately non of us can employ mechanics to maintain our equipment but we should pay just as much attention.

I always give the bike a once over before heading out for even training rides. Checking the brakes are working (and not rubbing on the rims), checking tyre pressure, test the gear changes as well as checking the tightness of the headset and quick release levers.

In addition ensuring your drive train is well maintained (chain/cassette/chain ring wear, replace as necessary) will ensure your bike is not holding you back and you’re getting the most out of your fitness.

 

3. Drafting

The professional peloton thrives on drafting. It is well known that drafting can save a rider up to 40% of energy, more if you”re heading into a headwind. Every day in the Tour de France the peloton let breakaways develop then depending on who’s in the break they’ll usually use the benefits of drafting to reel them back in before the finish of each stage.

If you’re riding a sportive or century ride you can use the benefit sf drafting to conserve energy during tough parts of the ride. While you shouldn’t just wheel suck other riders if you can form a small group of like minded riders to share the work then you’ll all benefit, just as the pro’s do.

 

4. Dedication & Effort

While it’s clear that the pro’s are well looked after and supported it would be a mistake to underestimate their dedication and efforts. Throughout each winter they’re heading out on their bikes for multi hour rides everyday to ensure at the stat of each season they’re already lean and fit.¬† Add in to that grueling team training camps and then racing day after day over the course of a season and it’s clear that these riders earn their money.

Dedication Pays

The above is a picture of Greg Lemond after the 1991 Paris-Roubaix one day race. It just goes to show that if you want to put in a good performance you’ve got to be ready to fully empty the tank!

5. Recovery

Professional riders are given the best possible recovery after each stage allowing them to start the next day as fresh as possible.

Quite often after a Tour de France stage you’ll see a post race interview conducted while the rider is pedaling away either on a set of rollers or a turbo trainer.This emphasizes the importance of cooling down after big intense effort allowing your muscles time to flush out any lactic acid build up and prepare for the best possible recovery.

 

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