Entering your first self-supported race or bikepacking event? Wondering where to start with your training, or what the essential elements should be? Read-on to discover the essential training framework that has helped several athletes to their best-ever finishes in this popular style of event.
Self supported races have seen a healthy increase in popularity over recent years. Whilst this style of racing is not new, much of what we now call professional road racing was originally run to this format. The Paris-Brest-Paris audax can trace it’s roots back to 1891, however the recent rise in media coverage and sponsorship has lead to a situation where new (or relatively inexperienced) cyclists are considering this race for their first taste of cycle competition.
Before we commence training we should first consider exactly what it is we are training for, or to put it another way: what will be required in order to succeed in our event?
With many of the cycling, and multisport events there is a degree of forgiveness for those of us who focus purely on the physical aspect of training.
In a non-stop, self-supported race, often run over several days or weeks, there are so many other factors that impact the final outcome that a reliance purely on fitness can be the undoing of many an athlete.
Many of these events see a huge proportion of athletes scratch from the race. Some of these are inevitable due to the harsh nature of this competition. A fair percentage, particularly those early on in the event, can be avoided by preparing adequately for the demands of this style of racing.
The following elements are 10 of the most important essentials to prepare for in order to cement the key skills, mental attitude and fitness that is required for success in self-supported racing.
1. A loaded bike
Training on a loaded bike prior to the event is essential for the first time bike packing competitor. Whilst most athletes contemplating a self-supported race will be well accustomed to the handling characteristics of their bike unloaded, not all will have ridden a fully loaded bike.
This training is best integrated into a plan at the earliest opportunity as several important considerations need to be hinged off this experience:
- Can the athlete climb with current gearing once carrying the extra weight?
- Is the daily schedule realistic?
If anything, it would be better to train “slightly heavier,” making race day less of a surprise. In the event that the athlete is coming from a low fitness level I recommend they add weight to the bike gradually as fitness improves.
For all other levels I recommend that training on a loaded bike be done at least once a week through all the major phases of training.