Saturday, 7 May 2011

European Solo MTB Championships - 24 Hrs of Exposure

Signing in at the 24 Hours of Exposure 07-05-11
By Richard Sterry
Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 13:10
rsterry's picture

24 hours Of Exposure was the European Championships for Solo Endurance Racing. It was an amazing experience cycling with the top sponsored riders on a fantastic course.

To save repeating an extensive report that is already on my blog I am going to include here the more technical aspects about endurance racing. Preparations started back in October where I use the Joe Friel periodisation training programme. This is where you build a really solid base of strength in the gym, then adapt to more cycle specific training as the race period approaches.

With such power in my legs and practice going up and down the ridge of Ranmore , I created an advantage on the hill climbs. Races are often won on the climbs rather than the descents. The other main area of training was my core. Regular Pilates classes and core exercises have made my torso rock solid when riding. This gives the legs something firm to push against when pedalling, saving energy. Often in endurance riding the weaker parts of the body fail first, strengthening the wrists, arms, neck and ankles etc are all important.

Riding for 3-4 hours requires only a little food to keep you going. As the ride duration increases so should the attention to your nutrition. Previously I’ve suffered from cramps 6-8 hours into a race. Noting the Carbohydrate, Sugar, Protein, Caffeine and Electrolyte content of a selection of energy bars, drinks and gels gave me a complete comparison of their contents. I was surprised at how much they varied. Experimenting with different volumes of each food type I needed per hour, enabled me to work out which combinations would work best for me.

During the 24 hour race I consumed:

  • 29 Gels – A mixture of High5, SIS and Torq
  • 3 Energy bars
  • 9 Bananas
  • 14 litres of High5 4:1 with 7 Nuun tablets
  • 4 ForGoodness Shakes
  • 3 Cups of tea

On the first few laps, I struggled with one of the hills, feeling low in energy. My gels generally take about 15 minutes to have an effect, so I took the gel earlier on the course, which then gave me the energy for this hill. This then gave me time to take another gel later on the lap for the final hills. When doing a lap race, listen to your body and make adjustments where necessary.

For the 24 Hours of Exposure, I had some friends in the AQR Race Team that kindly let us join forces. Once I got used to their ultra slick way of working, the results were amazing. Entering the pit area, a group of 2-3 would take the bike to clean and lube the gears, where another 2-3 people looked after me. Their jobs included; peeling a banana and offering it up to my mouth for me to eat, rubbing a warm flannel all over my face to clean away the mud, noting my hands were cold and swapping over my gloves, applying Deep Heat on my sweaty back without any hesitation, refilling my CamelBak while I was still wearing it, and announcing my race position along with my recent lap times.

Once back on the bike I was encouraged out on to the course with a mighty cheer! This teamwork was fantastic where I’m sure I completed an extra 1 or 2 laps due to the superb support. Following the recent rain, I started off on my full suss bike with intermediate tyres. This gave me a very minor advantage in the sloppy mud, then created extra drag when riding on the stony surfaces.

After the first lap I swapped over to my hard tail with the summer tyres (Kenda Small Block 8), which is lighter and faster for the climbs. The pit crew were primed on exactly what to swap over when changing bikes, saving time. I picked up a puncture around lap 3, where the slime did its stuff and the tyre held out until the next pit stop for topping it up with air. So many other rides punctured, having to change their tubes where I think it’s a worthwhile investment to use the slime.

In previous rides of 8 hours or more, my hands have suffered with numbness. After one race I realised that the padding on my RCC gloves had completely worn out. For the 24 hour race I changed the grips to the silicone ESI Chunky Grips that are used by many other endurance riders. This made such a difference and I could feel my fingers at the end of the ride. It’s also worth paying attention to the other contact points for endurance riding at the saddle and the shoes/pedals.

Another aspect of endurance racing is stretching whilst on the move. Freewheeling down a hill can give an opportunity to stretch the different parts of the legs. Riding hands free on a flatter section can be used to stretch the shoulders and arms.

Meeting and riding with the top sponsored mountain bikers was an amazing experience. I rode briefly with Matt Page from Wiggle, who later won the race. As we finished climbing a hill I could see the endless power emitting from his legs.

Reaching the single track, I kept up with him for about 100 metres before he disappeared out of sight. It was interesting noting his racing line. As for my next challenge, the World Championships will be held somewhere in Europe in the autumn. If I can get sufficient support and funding, I’ll be there with the big boys.

STOP PRESS: On Friday 13th (lucky for some!) I found out that I had qualified for the World Championship in Autumn 2011. This was thanks to coming within 25% of the winner. Next stop, the World!

Richard Sterry