By Coach Fred Matheny
This year’s USA Pro Challenge, won for the 2nd consecutive year by BMC’s Teejay van Garderen, was defined by cold rain at high altitude. Several of the stages featured downpours at crucial moments in the race, including Hoosier Pass on stage 5 and the stage 6 uphill time trial in Vail.
Nowhere was the misery more obvious than on the dirt road descent of Kebler Pass into Crested Butte during stage 2. Sodden riders had to deal with washboard, gravel, blinding rain and a dirt surface that quickly changed to slick mud.
To add to their woes, officials neutralized the race near the bottom of the descent so already freezing riders shivered in the cold waiting for the re-start.
Of course, the pros had team cars handing out rain jackets and long-fingered gloves when the conditions deteriorated. And in the Vail time trial, riding uphill blunted the effects of cold rain.
But when we recreational riders get hit with nasty conditions, there aren’t any soigneurs available to toss us gear. It’s not simply a case of being miserable. Cold rain, sleet and snow can present real dangers like hypothermia. There’s a less appreciated danger, too: if you shiver on fast descents, the bike can quickly begin to shimmy uncontrollably.
So we need protective gear, but we don’t have a team car following us on every ride. And we don’t want to haul a huge seat bag when weather threatens to turn on us.
The travails of riders at the Pro Challenge got me thinking: What’s the minimum needed to survive bad weather in the mountains or on any ride when temperatures may dip below 65 degrees F with rain?
Here’s what experienced riders tote along when the weather threatens mayhem:
Rain jacket. A light shell, even if it’s not waterproof, can help you retain body heat. Choose a high visibility color so motorists can see you when their vision is impaired by rain and mist. The best jackets have a long tail to keep spray off your rear wheel from soaking your chamois. If yours doesn’t, make a 1 foot by 18-inch emergency tail from a plastic bag. Pin it to your jacket for a workable substitute.
Food. Being cold drains calories fast. Your body has to use energy to create heat. That’s why it’s important to carry extra energy bars when bad weather threatens. Remember to eat even if you’re not hungry to keep the internal furnace stoked.
Hat. A thin wool cap or beanie under your helmet makes a huge difference in comfort. Pick one that covers your ears. Or opt for a light balaclava for neck and face protection.
Knee and arm warmers. Of course, anything you put on your legs will just get wet. But even so, a layer of insulation over your knees provides a surprising level of protection. Arm warmers under your jacket keep clammy jacket sleeves off your bare skin.
Long-fingered gloves. I like CoolMax gloves with rubber “sticky” dots in the palm. These gloves pull on easily over your short-fingered cycling gloves. The dots mean a good grip on the handlebars even when they are wet. Nothing compromises bike control like numb hands, so these are crucial. Some riders like to include a pair of latex gloves to trap body heat. They double to keep your hands clean during roadside repairs.
Foot coverings. Effective shoe covers are usually too bulky to carry conveniently. A few light plastic produce bags from the supermarket take up almost no space and work great as a heat trap worn over your socks.
How do you carry all this stuff? Light knee and arm warmers can go in one jersey pocket, a jacket in another. Save the third pocket for food. If you have room in your seat bag, stow the hat and gloves inside, along with tubes and tools.
You can attach a short piece of elastic cord and a cordlock to loops sewn on the back of a smaller seat bag. That’s a good place for the rolled up jacket with warmers inside. Or take a tip from the pros and tuck your jacket under the back of your jersey. This only works if your jersey is tight! And don’t let a piece of the jacket work loose. It will flap in the wind and eventually pull the rest of the jacket out.
With these simple additions to your usual cycling garb, you’ll be able to survive cold rain on a long descent in the mountains—or a slog across the rainy flatlands in spring or fall conditions. Because Mother Nature doesn’t discriminate between racers in the USA Pro Challenge, and the rest of us!
While his fellow pros were slogging through the nasty elements at the USA Pro Challenge last week in Colorado, Taylor Phinney was very gingerly and slowly getting back into cycling after a horrific crash back in June at the U.S. professional road race championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In a Cycling News story, Phinney said he was riding at 53mph (85 kph) when he crashed. The crash left him with a compound fracture of his tibia, a severed patella tendon and a compound fracture of his patella (knee cap).
Phinney lives in Boulder, Colorado, and did a little spin with his BMC mates when they were preparing for the race.
"I went out on the bike with the guys yesterday, and I was like, 'Did I used to be at this level,' because they were going way too fast," he said. "But it's good to be around here and be around the race. It's bittersweet.
"I do like 200-250 watts, just tapping it out," he said. "I'll just kind of progressively ride more and more over the next month through September, and then come October, judge where I'm at. It's really hard to put a date on things, because so many things can either go better than expected or worse than expected."
He chalks up as one of the only benefits of his situation the fact that he’s getting to ride with his dad, Davis, as he recovers. And Davis, apparently, has the rare satisfaction of besting his boy.
"I get to ride with him every once in a while," Taylor Phinney said. "He gets to win all the town sign sprints because I'm not allowed to accelerate."
By Coach John Hughes
Last weekend Elizabeth Wicks, who is familiar to RBR readers, took third place overall in the Mid-Atlantic 24-hour — at age 70! She rode 260 miles in those 24 hours. That was 21 miles farther than her personal best of 239 miles (which also broke the previous record) at the National 24-Hour Challenge in June.
Elizabeth had 10 weeks between the two 24-hour races. After two weeks of easy recovery riding, her weekly workouts consisted of two hard rides at different intensities and one endurance ride. Her two longest endurance rides were “only” 125 miles in about nine hours.
Elizabeth had built a strong endurance base in the spring, and between the two 24s she really only needed work on speed and power, doing just enough long riding to maintain her endurance. The last two weeks she tapered, maintaining the intensity but reducing the volume significantly.
Also last weekend Jack McCombs (another RBR reader, with Elizabeth in the photo) raced 102 miles in 5:50 on the same course, averaging 17.5 mph. A sub-6 hour century by a 74-year-old man!
Jack rode a perfect race. Based on his training I had projected an average of 17.5 mph, which he nailed. Rather than getting carried away early in the race, Jack rode at near-constant effort, the optimal way to go very fast in an endurance event.
Jack’s training was different from Elizabeth’s. He’s a road racer, and his key events are the 40K Delaware state championship road race on September 13 and the North Carolina state time trials on September 28. The 100-mile race was an important race, but the ones next month are his key events of the season.
Jack also built a great endurance base — he rides three to five hours every week with the Silver Riders, a group of senior cyclists. In addition, he does two hard rides a week: a power workout and a harder race simulation workout, riding at the intensities he’ll race at in the 40K road race. He also does training time trials offered by a local club.
How did these septuagenarians perform so well? By focused training at the right intensities at the right times of their seasons, as described in my new eArticle: Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Peak Fitness. The 39-page eArticle contains four specific programs to improve your fitness in one or more of the following ways:
1. Improved Endurance
2. More Power
3. Faster Speed
4. Higher Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max)
The programs are based on the individual programs that I use with clients like Elizabeth and Jack. The specific week-by-week workouts are designed to make any rider a better, fitter cyclist. You don’t have to be a racer or even training for any specific event to benefit from improvement in one or more of these key areas of cycling.
Before beginning any of the programs, the eArticle describes how to establish your current baseline fitness. Each of the four programs is then divided into two 4-week blocks. By following one of the programs for just 4 weeks, you’ll see measurable progress in your baseline fitness. And by following the program for 8 weeks, you’ll progress even further.
The programs are designed sequentially so that after following one program for 8 weeks, for example, Improved Endurance, you can then progress to the next program, for example, More Power. In total the eArticle contains 32 weeks of workouts.
The 39-page eArticle is packed with useful information that will benefit all riders in your 50s, 60s and beyond (and younger riders, too!).
It’s available for only $4.99 for instant download for non-Premium readers. After their 15% discount (on all our ePubs and gear we sell, along with other perks) Premium Members pay only $4.24 for the new eArticle.