A few days ago I put together a blog post outlining all the MTB events in the Welsh calendar.
It's an inspiring list and I'm sure it will excite a few bikers to get their race number on.
Whilst we host some awesome events we are also lucky to have our very own Welsh MTB endurance champion in our midst, Huw Thomas. Huw can currently claim to be both the UK and European 24 Hour Solo MTB Champion. That means he cycles very hard and very fast on his own for 24 hours straight! Huw obviously has to train hard to be at the top of his game so I asked Huw what three top tips he would give to both novice event riders and more serious riders alike. This is what he had to say...
A little more about Huw...
Huw is currently the UK and European 24 Hour Solo MTB Champion. Sponsored by Loco Tuning he rides for Niner / Stans / Ergon UK. Huw is also supported by Rab UK and Rapid Racer Products (RRP). Huw works full time for the Forestry Commission as a Project Manager for Sustainable Flood Management. He spends most of his spare time training and riding his bike and spending time with his lovely wife Lou (who is No.1 Support for his solo race efforts!). Huw was the 2011 UK and European 12 Hour Solo Rookie Champion and ended his 2011 season by winning the Howies Coed y Brenin Enduro and the senior solo male 24 hour at Relentless 24. Keep up to date with what's going with Huw on Twitter @MTBHuw
Wales is hilly!
You can expect upwards of 1,500 - 2,000m of climbing, perhaps more, at any of the Welsh MTB events, so head for the hills on your training rides leading up to the event. For those wanting to be more specific during their rides, start to take in some "hill intervals", perhaps up to 5 to 10x 2-3 minute intervals at high effort during your rides. This will build aerobic fitness, tolerance to hard efforts and improves recovery between efforts. If you've not done this kind of training before, you must build up to the higher and longer efforts!
Stay hydrated and fed.
One of the most common things I hear from people coming away from these events, is that they got cramp. The exact cause of cramp isn't 100% clear but one thing is certain, riding long distances at high intensity, combined with fatigue and heat, can bring on cramps. One of the causes is thought to be an imbalance of electrolyte in the body as your body loses minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and salts.
There is no "cure" to cramp and it is often just one of those things that happens, but staying hydrated and fed with suitable liquids and food during a race can do wonders. Try and drink and eat what you would in a race during your training rides. In my opinion, it is no use expecting your body to know what to do with an overload of energy gels and drinks during a race if it has never been given these during a ride before. Your digestive system needs to be "trained" to handle and make effective use of this type of food or drink in my opinion and experience.
If you do cramp, then in my experience, the worst thing that you can do is stop. If at all possible, spin in a light gear until it clears. If you really do need to stop, move to the side of the course and stretch and massage the muscles.
Get your kit in order.
You can train your body as hard and as effectively as you like but if your bike doesn't work then you're not going to get very far. Make sure your bike is in order well in advance. Check your components. Don't go changing your chain the night before a race and then be surprised to find your gears skipping and sucking on that first climb, watching rider after rider pull away from you. I like to go on a couple of "shakedown" rides during the week leading up to a race, where I will ride with the kit that I'll be using on the start line, this includes everything down to the pair of socks I'll want to be wearing! This is personal opinion of course, I've seen riders build their bike up pretty much minutes before the start of the race and finish well, but that's not what I like to do.