What's Cool In Road Cycling

Overcoming Stage Race Problems

With Monday being the first rest day of Le Tour, the entire peloton is probably breathing a big sigh of relief, while at the same time contemplating the battles to come over the next two weeks. We talk to Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United) and Aaron Olson (Saunier Duval-Prodir) about some recovery and motivation tips for stage racing.

House of Cards
Watching the Tour de France year after year and seeing how many things must go right in order for a rider to win the overall or simply win a stage never ceases to amaze me. Not only do riders have to be super fit from a prior training and racing program, but you must have a certain amount of luck to be successful in the Tour or any stage race. This year’s Tour may not be decided based on who is the most dominant rider, but which rider makes the fewest mistakes, has the least bad luck and has the fewest bad days (e.g. Valverde’s crash which resulted in a broken collarbone that cost him a chance at the overall win.)

We asked Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), current US National TT champion and Aaron Olson (Saunier Duval-Prodir), 2006 Giro finisher, what are the biggest challenges they have to overcome in stage racing that can prevent them from performing at a top level.

Pez: In stage racing, what are the biggest athletic challenges that you encounter and what do you do to solve them or at least cope with them?

Chris: The obvious problem in stage racing is recovering day to day. I use a recovery formula with protein and carbohydrate, drink plenty of water right after each stage, stick with my stretching routine even if I am tired, and try to get as much sleep as the race allows.

Aaron: For me, the biggest problems an athlete can encounter would be an injury, especially from a crash. Nothing worse than training hard, both physically and mentally preparing yourself to do well, and then have an injury keep you from finishing a race or performing up to par. But, if you can stay positive and continue to race, things may go well for you. If you are motivated, you can go a long way in racing (and life); once you lose the motivation for whatever you are doing, it is time for something else.

Let’s summarize:

To no surprise, recovery and injury are the two main issues to deal with in stage races or any race, but the odds increase in a stage race, especially a long event like a Grand Tour. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to assist in day-to-day recovery:

Warm down – A good warm down is important, and begins the process of loosening up the legs after hard efforts. Don’t just stop and toss away your bike after a hard race, but grab a bottle of water or recovery drink and then go for a 5-15 min EASY spin. This begins the recovery process by keeping blood flowing to your legs to remove the built-up wastes. Think of it as an on-bike massage. This active recovery is especially critical for the typical weekend stage race featuring multiple stages in one day.

Get out of those clothes! – Once you are done with your race, especially in the heat, get out of those cycling clothes immediately. The last thing you should do is hang around in those “bacteria traps.” Proper recovery starts by changing and cleaning up the sweat and sodium stains immediately. Keep a pack of body wipes in your post-race bag along with a wash cloth and spare water.

Recovery drink – Have your preferred recovery drink ready to go in a cooler. There have been a lot of studies on recovery drinks and as we all know, there are many products out there. Use what is best for you, and start the hydration process immediately after finishing the race. I like to have my athletes start first with a serving of cool, clean water, then about 30 minutes later, take their favorite recovery drink.

Hang the legs, drain the lymph node system – Simple and easy to do, lying on the floor and putting the legs up against a wall is a great way to drain the lymph node system. Lymph nodes are the filters along the lymphatic system. Their job is to filter out and trap bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and other unwanted substances, and to make sure they are safely eliminated from the body.

Massage – No doubt, this is #1 on most athletes list. Not only does a good massage aid in the recovery process, it also relaxes athletes. If you don’t have a personal soigneur, then do some self-massage in the evening after draining your legs.

Stretching – As Chris made a point of saying, he continues his stretching routine. I suggest purchasing the book “Stretching”, by Bob Anderson. Known for years as the “bible” of stretching. There is never a really wrong time to stretch, but doing so shortly after the race, while the muscles are warm, helps to kick-start the whole recovery process.

Ice – Ice packs on the legs can help reduce swelling. Swelling is one of the major causes of delaying the recovery process.

Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) – Ibuprofen can help with the aches and pains, as well as assisting to eliminate swelling.

If you suffer a crash or have some type of overuse injury during a race, it is important to assess the situation with a doctor. Obviously, if you suffer a broken bone, it will be difficult to continue. The important thing, as Aaron put it, is to find a way to stay motivated and make the most of an unfortunate circumstance. For example, even though Chris Horner has already fallen in this year’s Tour and hurt his hand, I can guarantee that with his attitude, he is looking forward to getting better while on the road and making the best of the situation. A positive attitude can take you a long way in sports and life! Ride safe, ride strong.


About Bruce
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com

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