Last weekend whilst doing back up service on the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford I noticed quite a few people who made the 160k challenge even more difficult for themselves than it needed to have been. Preparation and energy conservation are the name of the game when it comes to a six, seven or even an eight hour day in the saddle.
It never fails to amaze me how many people spend months training for an event only to turn up on the day with a bike that is not fit for purpose and for it all to end in tears. On a number of occasions over the years , whilst fitting a new tyre in the first 10k of the event I have been informed that a person was trying to get the last out of a very worn tyre.
Worn chains have a tendency to break on the steepest slopes of The Nire or Mahon Falls, although the inclusion of Tickincor this year was top of the snapped chain charts.
Tickincor resembled a mini marathon at times with so many dismounting their bikes and wearing out cleats, whilst many of those who made it to the top seemed to be struggling to turn over some pretty large gears.
Road bikes in the past had a standard set up of 52/42 up front with a 13 – 21 on the back. Modern bikes have either a 53/39 standard or 50/34 compact set up front with most bikes now having a 12-25 as standard on the rear. Many non racing cyclists now also opt for either an 12-27 or an 11-28 which gives a great range of gears to choose from on any hill.
But the secret is to actually use these gears.
On a 160k or 200k sportif, even though a rider might feel strong early on, by using really low gears and spinning the legs rather than grinding a larger gear energy will be conserved and cramping can be avoided later in the day.
Alberto Contador had a 36 x 30 on for the really hard climbs in this years Vuelta, and used it. If the ‘granny gear’ is good enough for him it is ok for an 90kg brickie from Ballinamult.
One person who had no problem with her gears on Sunday last was top Supermodel Roz Purcell. She was using my KTM Strada 5000 with electronic Ultegra Di2 gears and in no time at all had them well figured out .