Training in position is a serious consideration that should not be overlooked. Many of the race-stopping ailments, such as saddle sores and abrasions, are brought on much earlier by adopting a position on the saddle that has not been adapted to in prior training.
If the athlete is planning on using a clip-on style of time trial or aero bars, then this position should be adopted early in training and used extensively in the time leading up to the race.
A bike fit specific to this new position is a worthy investment as saddle height, fore and aft measurements can vary hugely between traditional road and time trial positions, as can the comfort of saddles and the interaction between pelvis and saddle in some individuals.
Riding in the TT position for prolonged periods can place a huge strain on the shoulders, back and neck, which ends the race prematurely for many.
Training in position is the key to minimizing the chances of suffering needlessly with back and neck issues. I like to see athletes training in their race position for at least 12 weeks prior to competition.
3. Sleep and performance
At pretty much every level of rider we see sleep become a factor in self-supported racing. At the sharp end we take this for granted: It’s hard to win these things if we spend too much time stopped.
But as aspiration is often linked to ability, riders much further down the field have to operate on less sleep as their traveling speed is lower than the guys and girls at the head of affairs.
Rehearsal of sleep-deprived scenarios is a wise investment in training time prior to the event. I like to get athletes to practice very simple tasks that they will encounter in the event whilst in a sleep-sensitive state but safe environment.
A good exercise example would be setting an alarm that awakes the athlete in the middle of the night. The task once the alarm goes off is to don a head torch, grab their pre-packed bike and take it into the garden. There they set about unpacking their bivy and sleeping bag, set up their planned competition sleeping arrangement and then attempt to go back to sleep.
Fear related to sleeping in the wild, remote, or even heavily populated areas should first be overcome in training. Several overnight excursions that replicate the environment likely to be encountered during the race should be factored into the training period prior to the race. Sleep is critical to performance and recovery; and with time at a premium in this style of racing nothing in this area should be left to chance going into the event.
Finding our own way from point-to-point can add additional time to anyone’s race. Each stop, or indecision, decreases the average speed, which in turn eats away at valuable time for resting and eating.
Practicing navigation, both with GPS and traditional maps is essential to a solid race performance in the main event. Familiarity with your GPS device is crucial, and regular use should be scheduled into the training plan.
Complete some shorter mock events to practice navigation in unknown terrain prior to the event, which will help ensure that the least amount of time is squandered. It is wise to practice navigation on a regular basis leading up to the event, in various weather conditions and at different times of day and night. I like to factor in at least one navigation ride per week for the eight weeks of an athlete’s build phase of training.