Consecutive days in the mountains can be a daunting prospect, but it's achievable by everyone
Most riders can manage a day in the mountains, even with little preparation. It might be tough, but usually it’s survivable. But when it comes to putting several days back to back in the high mountains, it can be a different matter. Here are seven ways to survive seven days in the mountains one after the other.
It’s obvious, but to get through a multi-stage sportive in the big hills, you are going to need to train harder. Extra time on the bike is what’s going to get you through it.
There are dozens of strategies, and 20 minute interval sessions going under and over your FTP, is a good all-purpose shout. It’s not essential to rehearse the event by doing several big days back to back. Come the event, it’s your mind, more than your body, that will get you through. More on this later.
As soon as you finish the day’s stage, there should be one thing, and one thing only, that is the focus of all your attention – recovery. Get horizontal and stay there, assuming the vertical only long enough to get some calories inside you.
Whatever recovery tricks are in your locker– it might be compression pants or a massage – try to transplant them to the event. If it works for you, and usually it does, leave room in the suitcase for a mini-foam roller. And use it.
3. Tough out the bad days
You will have one. On something like the Haute Route, it’s likely to come on day four or day five. This could mess with your mind, but it doesn’t have to.
If you accept that a bad day is inevitable, grit your teeth and get through it, there’s no reason it should have a lasting effect. In fact, it can be a relief just to get it over and done with. Even though it feels impossible, the day after the bad day is usually a good day.
If you’re anything like yours truly, normally you won’t keep Nutella in the house. It’s just too risky. On a big multi-stage ride, the normal rules are suspended.
If you want to gorge on Nutella at breakfast (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) then you can. Over several big days in the mountains, it’s almost impossible not to go into calorie deficit, so the Nutella binge doesn’t count. Another pro tip? A magnum makes a truly great recovery snack.
Don’t get isolated! The hills separate riders easily and if there’s one way of making tough days just that bit more manageable, it’s to get in a group and stay in a group.
Even if it means sacrificing a few km/hr from your ideal pace, the benefits of being in a group are enormous. However, one aspect of group riding that may be unfamiliar, and requires a lot of concentration , is descending at speed in a pack. Stay alert.
It’s not pyscho-babble nonsense – it’s really true. You will surprise yourself at what you are capable of achieving. But only if you stay positive. Set targets, for the next hour, for the day’s stage, even for the next ten minutes. Tell yourself you can, and will, achieve the next target. You are bound to have some mind game tricks stored up already – use them freely.
We started with the obvious. We’ll finish with the obvious.
A multi-stage race in the magnificent amphitheatre of the high mountains in the company of like-minded cyclists is likely the best thing you will ever do on a bike. Look up from the grind to the summit and soak it all in. You’re storing up memories that will last the rest of your life. As they go into the brain’s hard drive, send them in with a smile.