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The big day
To get the most out of an organized ride, be ready for anything.
By Alex Stieda
When you sign up for an event, certain questions may run through your mind: Will I be able to handle the challenge? How should I prepare? Even the pros go through this kind of stress. I remember riding the cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix Classic in all kinds of conditions, including snow, pouring rain and heavy dust. By following the plan below, you should be ready to enjoy whatever cycling challenge you've chosen.
FIRST STEP As soon as route information is available, make sure you're aware of the course length, any big climbs or descents, and rest-stop locations.
TWO MONTHS TO GO Plan your training around the length of time you'll be riding, not the distance. Over a period of at least two months, gradually increase your riding time. Take your bike to the shop to make sure it's in working condition.
ONE MONTH TO GO While you're training, visualize good pedaling and breathing techniques (Cycling 101, Dec. '08) so that when you get tired, you'll be able to ride as efficiently as possible.
TWO WEEKS TO GO Make a list of items to bring: a floor pump, a tool kit, water bottles, embrocation, sunscreen and extra clothing. Plan for a ride this week that will take the same amount of time as the event.
ONE WEEK TO GO It's taper time: Do two or three shorter, easier rides. Clean your bike and lube the chain. Pack your seat bag with two tubes, tire levers, a minitool, CO 2 cartridges, cash and an ID.
ONE DAY TO GO Inspect tire treads, looking for cuts and debris. Pack your clothes bag with all possible options. Long-finger gloves (worn over your cycling gloves), arm warmers, and knee or leg warmers can be stashed in jersey pockets during the ride.
EVENT DAY Bring a vest or raincoat that can be stored in a jersey pocket, along with food bars and a baggie of drink mix. Apply embrocation and sunscreen, pump tires to the proper pressure and give each wheel a spin to make sure the brakes aren't rubbing. You're good to go!
Alex Stieda, the first North American to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, with 7-Eleven in 1986, leads tours and skills camps (stiedacycling.com).