Ask Mike

Answers to your cycling questions and queries

Do you need help with your cycling?

Feel free to send me a question on equipment, training, nutrition, sportives, technique, recovery or anything else that may be on your mind and I’ll do my best to help. You can find all of the answers in the section below.

Ride safe and enjoy!

Mike

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Hi Heath, Super happy to hear you enjoyed the podcast and thanks for the message.  First question is how do you get on with the CAAD10 geometry? The reason I have mainly been using the EVO is that for some of my bigger challenges I needed a spare bike just in case. I already had an EVO so it was easier to build a second one of those with the exact same position as the first.  In all honesty the Synapse would probably be a more appropriate bike for what I do, especially if I want to hit some dirt roads which may well happen, so I may look at that in the future.  If you’re really focused on big rides and exploration them then I’d say that the Synapse has the edge.  The problem is, both bikes are just so darn good! :-) I hope that helps a little. If you need any more advice please feel free to ask.  Ride safe.  Mike  Hi Mike,   Thank you for the response!  I like the racier feel of the CAAD 10 on a certain level, especially for shorter rides.  I have to admit, that I bought it with the idea of racing but the truth is that I really don’t have much interest in the crit dominated races around my area.  I suppose that part of it is “image” as well.  Pros ride race bikes and so do the fastest riders.  My plan is to try some longer rides on my CAAD 10 and see how I feel.  But I think a Synapse might be a perfect compliment to it.    Heath Sounds like a good plan Heath! See how the long rides go on the CAAD10 and go from there. I reckon if you had both to choose from then you’d have a pretty sweet set-up. All the best, Mike
Hi Lenny, That’s a great question and to be honest it’s not easy to fit everything in sometimes to the level that I want. As with any business, running Media-24 with all the contracts and commitments that we have takes up a huge amount of time in itself and that’s before I even think about getting on the bike. However, cycling is also part of my life and has been since I was a child so a lot of it comes down to time management, early starts and late nights. I’ll admit, it can be very full on and consuming but it’s not so much that this means there is no time for living life, the challenges that I set myself on the bike are part of life itself they help keep me motivated, put things in perspective once more and give me the escapism I need to feel creative and alive again. So, I guess it depends which way you look at it and what your own personal priorities are in life. I hope that answers your question. Ride safe. Mike

Hi Barnaby,

Thanks for the message, really happy to hear you’ve been able to get something from the rides I’ve done.

1) I started at 9am because I wanted to get up and get on with riding. I knew I wouldn’t sleep much the night before due to nervous excitement so I started as early as I could based on being able to let breakfast settle before hitting the road.

2) Night time got down to just above freezing with wind chill. I was very lucky, it was a clear night and actually quite a bit warmer than normal but be prepared just in case.

3) Day time was scorching, 30 degrees C. I love the heat so this was perfect for me.

4) It got properly dark going up the Col du Telegraphe so I’d say around 11pm. You’ll need lights a couple of hours before this thought.

5) This came on the Vars at around 5.30am.

6) I’ve been riding my bike for 23 years, the training has been done over years and years. I like to keep things simple, if you want to be able to ride your bike for a long time then you need to be able to ride your bike for a long time in training first. Consistency is the key, don’t expect (or try) to replicate the full distance or time in training. Lot’s of quality endurance rides (maybe 3 per week) instead of one massive ride in a typical training week works best for me. Once again consistency is the key.

7) Take your time, focus on the can and not the can’t and whatever happens enjoy the moment.

Good luck!

Mike

Hi Kim,

Thanks for the message. Wow, super good work on the Majorca challenge! It sounds like you are both very active. From my experience consistency is the key even for the longer rides when you think you may not have enough in the tank. In reality when you break this down it’s often your head that is planting the seeds of doubt when in fact if you can cancel this out your body is capable of doing a lot more than you’d otherwise thought possible. I learnt this first hand during my most recent challenge last year. I was constantly unsure if I would be able to survive the ride. It was impossible to train up to the total duration of the ride, that would’ve just been too wearing on the body and mind so consistency was the key. If you are frequently doing two sessions a day then this really is a solid base to work from, especially if a large part of this is on the spin bikes where there is no distraction so it’s like a super-session for the body. As the weather (hopefully) improves no doubt you will be seeking to train on the road. Don’t think that you have to be able to ride for the same duration as you will do in Majorca (save that for the day itself), if you can consistently ride two-thirds of the duration then this should put you in a good place. To put it all into context the longest ride I did when training for the Road to Mont Blanc was 12 hours whereas the challenge itself took 54 hours! The thing is I did a stack of 12 hour rides and I knew that as long as I kept my nutrition constant and pacing at the right level the rest would come down to mental strength.

The main thing is to relax with your riding, it’s important to make sure it remains fulfilling and fun as opposed to a chore. Do what you can and go to Majorca with confidence. It’s going to be an amazing experience, there’s no point spending weeks stressing about it. That’s not going to help anyone. Take your time and keep perspective on the day.

I hope that helps. Wishing you and your wife the best of luck!

Ride safe,

Mike
PS – Check out the latest project over at TheColCollective.com. We’ve released the first handful of videos with lots more to come!

Hi Raz,

That’s so great to hear!

The main thing that you will need to work on is your endurance (lots of kilometres and hours on the bike) so that you can improve your efficiency. I’ve spent years training this area. Keep it simple, if you plan to ride a long way then you’ll need to train to be able to ride a long way. Gradually build this up over the weeks / months and don’t forget to listen to your body and take regular easy or rest days so that your body recovers from the training load. I’ve always found that consistency is better e.g. lots of good quality rides building up to around 250km. If you can ride this far then a great deal after that will come down to three areas (1) Pacing: Don’t push too hard too soon (2) Nutrition: Make sure you take on regular fuel and fluid throughout (3) Mental Strength: I’ve found this is the most important element. How bad you really want it.

Further to your nutrition, everyone is different. I try to eat organic whole foods wherever possible in every day life (no processed foods). I also don’t eat any animal products. Personally I’ve found this clean way of fuelling has worked really well for me but again we are all different. Concentrate on good quality food that isn’t precessed and you will start in the right way. On the bike I also like to eat proper food (gels and energy bars are ok for shorter more intense activities but are too much for the stomach to handle during long rides like this). I make up things like organic rice wraps, sweet potato slices and cereal, along with coconut water for natural electrolyte replacement. Again, we’re all different so experiment in training to see what works best for you.

I hope that helps to get you going. Best of luck!

Mike

Hi Warren,

Thanks for the question. It sounds like you are on for a MONSTER trip to the Alps, that’s what we love to hear!

In terms of preparation, the most important thing will be to try and build a solid base fitness through consistent time on the bike. Riding 4-6 times per week will be perfect of for this especially since you live in North Devon where you have some steep pitches to play with to help to build strength. One very important point in your preparation, and also when you are out in the Alps, is to listen to your body. If you’re feeling tired then back off a little to give your body a chance to recover. Try to build up to the same duration per ride that you hope to do when in the Alps. Use this build up time to practice pacing and experiment with nutrition so hopefully there will be no surprises when you’re out there. Try not to get carried away, it’s easy to get super focused and end up doing too much so once again take note of how you are feeling week in week out. You want to get to the Alps fresh both mentally and physically. The accumulative fatigue from all the climbing that you’ll do out there will mean you’ll definitely want to take some easy days, so good job on factoring those in. I’ve always found that keeping my training simple and as close to the intensity and duration of my end goals has worked well in the past. And finally, you’ve got a lot of time to prepare slowly, slowly, building up your fitness in a controlled way. Make sure you enjoy your cycling, it should always be fun. The moment it feels like a chore it’s likely you’re doing too much.

Ride safe and good luck!

Mike

Hi Heather,

Thank you for your message. You are in for a real treat next year, the Galibier is an absolute beauty!

We are planning a series of articles for the Learn section that we hope will be of great help to cyclists now and in the future. Gearing will be covered here. Of course, we don’t want to keep you in suspense until then! If it’s your first time in the Alps then you don’t want to get caught out by being under geared. Pacing will be absolutely essential, it’s not a race so take your time and enjoy the experience as best you can. I’d look at trying a 34 tooth front chain ring with a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. If you can try this sized gear out in advance then that will give you an idea of how it feels. Another little note to consider is that Alpine climbs feel very different to shorter more punchy ascents. I actually find shorter more undulating climbs in the UK where I’m from harder than the longer, more consistent, climbs as you’re not able to get into a rhythm.

I hope that helps. Make sure to post your photo when you’re at the top with #ColCollector. We want to see you here ;-)

Ride safe!

Mike

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the email and apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Super happy to hear you’re enjoying The Col Collective! You are going to absolutely love the Alps! If you have time try to ride the Col de la Croix de Fer and Glandon too. A couple of absolute stunners!

Regarding your question on mountain bike racing the basics of being able to go quickly on a bike come down to:

1) Having a good aerobic base. This is built over time, normally in the off season with longer, lower intensity, rides. A good base fitness helps put the building blocks in place to be able to cope with harder more intense training. If you think of it in car terms, you’re looking to build the biggest engine you can through your base training so that you can then super charge it with intervals and speed work as the season approaches. If you have a 1 litre engine then even if you put your foot to the floor it’ll only go so fast, and just like your human engine it’ll be over stressed and burn out quickly.

2) As the season approaches, lowering the length of the ride and increasing the intensity will start to tune the engine. Intervals can really help here but you have to be a touch careful, quality is always better than quantity and you should never overlook recovery time – this is when your body will recover and adapt to the training you’re doing. No recovery = no adaption = one step forward, two steps back = burn out.

3) For mountain biking, good technique is really important. How fast you can get through the technical sections, improving your bike handling skills and pedalling efficiency. I grew up mountain biking at a really young age and this helped me to develop a high cadence (which I still ride with now). Spinning a smaller gear will mean that you can accelerate out of corners easier (with less stress on your muscles so you should be less fatigued) and it’ll also make keeping momentum through the technical parts easier and more efficient. I’d try to incorporate a skills session into your weekly routine if time allows it. This could make a big difference to your overall efficiency on the bike.

4) You’re right, a higher average speed will naturally mean you’ll be finishing in less time. When you pre ride the course, look at each section and see what favours your strengths and where you may struggle. On the parts you know you’ll find hard, try to reach them not completely in the red so that you can concentrate and you have some energy to try and get them right. Use little sections where you can’t make up a lot of time to recover on so that you have energy to really push hard on the parts where you can make big time gains (normally the climbs). But don’t go crazy on the hills. If you can ride them hard but not 110% then as you get to the summit that’s the time to knock it down a gear and give it 20 seconds of hard effort over the top. You’ll be amazed at how much time you can put into someone doing that – we’ll keep that between ourselves, yeah? ;-)

Best of luck and keep us smiling by watching and sharing The Col Collective videos with all your friends :-)

Ride safe,

Mike

Hi William,

That’s a great question. In my experience losing weight while training is a fine balancing act. Fortunately with your event in April you have time to make it a gradual process, which really is what you need to try and do. If you try and drop the weight really fast it’s likely that your training will be compromised, you’re immune system will be suppressed and also your metabolism can slow, making consistent weight lose more difficult.

My personal recommendations would be to really look at what you’re eating. Eliminate processed foods (try to eat clean whole foods) and stay well hydrated by drinking a lot of water. Cut back excess and un-needed calories (e.g. from alcohol) When I’m looking to lose some weight I up my consumption of fresh vegetables and keep high calorie carbs like rice etc to a minimum, just to support my training. If you can eat 500kcal per day less than you need then that’s 3500kcal over a week which is approximately 500g of mass (based on 8kcal per g of fat). Of course this is only an approximate estimation, you won’t just lose fat. To avoid losing muscle mass try to eat good quality sources of protein, make sure you get enough sleep and try not to be stressed (sometimes hard). Nothing works properly when your body is exhausted and up tight. Your cortisol will elevate and make weight loss harder.

Really it all comes down to clean food, maybe up the duration of low intensity rides to promote fat burning and metabolism.

We’re all different so, as I say, this is based on my personal experience. I hope it helps!

Best of luck!

Mike

Thanks Ryan, really appreciate your message.

In terms of nutrition, that’s a really good question. It’s hard to be completely specific as we’re all different and what works for one may not work for the other. Having said that, this is what I have found to be good for me.

As a rule of thumb it’s best to try and eat 3 hours before you ride to allow time for digestion. You do have to be realistic and if you’re an early bird that wants to hit the road at dawn at the weekend then getting up at 4.00am is a bit excessive! If you’re going for a long ride of lower intensity then you’ll be able to eat breakfast later. Try to have something that will give you a sustained release of energy. I personally start the day with porridge topped with fruit. When out on the bike I’ve found that Torq’s fuelling system works well for me, I also like the Nakd bars (we’re all different so you’ll need to experiment). Little and often is the key. Overall aim to keep your diet as whole and natural as possible, refrain from processed foods if possible and you can’t go far wrong! Good quality whole foods are the absolute key. Post ride I try to have a serving of plant based protein powder (I don’t eat animal products) so something like hemp protein (as it has the most complete amino acid profile) or pea protein. I keep my diet really simple. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to try and eat whole foods in their natural form. It sounds a little crazy but basically if a food is made to taste nice there is a very good chance it is not good for you.

Let me know how you get on!

Mike

Hi Brad,

Great to hear you’re down for Etape! Good skills!

The good thing is you have eight months in hand to work on your training and preparation to ensure you get the most out of yourself (and the ride) come July. From experience I’ve found that the most important thing for endurance events like this is to be able to go the distance, so building a solid fitness base will be the key. First things first though, when trying to implement a training plan I would start by making a note of all of your commitments (work, family, social time etc) so that you can realistically identify how much time you have available for training. At this stage do not forget that you also need to factor in time for recovery as well. Your body will only adapt to the training loads when you let it recover (and that can be recovery from training or stress from work) so try not to overlook that.

Depending on your current level of fitness and the amount of time you have available each week for training this will help to set a realistic goal (perhaps your anticipated finishing time for the Etape) that you can work towards. You will then be able to focus your training on where you are now and what you need to do to reach that goal.

Moderation is the key to progression. Start slowly with your training and monitor how you feel. It’s important to build fitness slowly, increasing the length of your ride or time in the saddle gradually over several weeks (again, allowing time for recovery). At this time of year, when the weather is less than perfect, this is when a turbo trainer can come in useful. With your holiday in April, try to time your training so that this is in a recovery period (e.g. build your workload up to this point knowing that when you go on holiday you’re there to let your body adapt to the training). If you’re able to get some gentle walking or swimming in then both of these are great activities to get the heart rate up without over stressing your body. During this time it is important to remember that you are on holiday! The Etape is important but it shouldn’t be the only thing in your life! Stay relaxed, keep things in perspective. Fear and nervousness is natural, and to be honest that’s a good sign. It’s a trigger reaction that gets your body and mind into a state that’s ready for action! Don’t think of it as a negative, turn those feelings into a positive.

One of the biggest points that I can make is to never underestimate the strength of your mind. I’ve learnt a huge amount about this through my personal experiences over the years. It’s your mind that often tells you what you can or can’t do, that plants the seeds of self doubt, and tells your body to stop. Endurance is a lot about your mental strength, just how much you really (really) want it. Again, try to keep perspective on the situation. We all go through bad moments (in training and actual events) so it’s important to understand these, take a deep breath and be ready to respond int he right way mentally.

Since we are all unique and without knowing your current fitness levels and available training time it is difficult to give a set plan to follow. If this is the first time you’ve done something like the Etape then it would be useful to speak with a professional coach who will be able to assess your fitness condition and tailor a specific training plan based on your lifestyle. They’ll also be able to give advice on things like heart rate monitors and power meters so that you have a better understanding of each. Having the tools is one thing but knowing how to use them properly in their basic form is important so that you can get the most from them. The guys at Torq Fitness have been a great help in the past giving me valuable advice on training and nutrition to help me achieve my goals. I’d highly recommend them. Cramp can be a number of things, fitness, injury, electrolyte imbalances. This is another area where a specialist company like Torq could offer some advice based on your personal situation, identifying exactly where and when the cramps are occurring. I used to suffer with terrible back / leg spasms which eventually I found was caused by a super tight piriformis muscle. A regular stretching routine for this has made the world of difference to me.

I’ve written a number of articles here that may have some sections that you’d find interesting.

Ultimately whatever happens on the day you have to remember three very important things. (1) For sure it will hurt but do not forget to ENJOY the whole experience (2) BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and (3) KEEP PERSPECTIVE at all times.

I hope this helps to set you on the right track Brad!

Good luck!

Mike

Sounds like you have a big challenge planned for next year, just what I like to hear! In terms of preparing for this it’s easy to assume that intervals and intensity work are the key here and while each will serve a purpose it’s important not to overlook your base training and overall aerobic conditioning. In an event like this you’ll need to try and be as consistent in your pacing as possible. It’s unlikely you’ll be redlining it (and if you are you’ll probably want to slow yourself down). The goal will be to remain at a comfortable working level that you hope to sustain throughout. At first this may feel too easy but as fatigue starts to creep up on you the tables will turn at which point it’ll start to become even more of a mental battle. I’d focus the majority of your training at the intensity level that you’ll be working at during the challenge, to try and build your efficiency at this level. It’s important to try and lay the foundations early in the year (higher volume, lower intensity, longer rides) to build a solid base. As the event approaches start incorporating more specific workouts – are you able to train on the climb or something similar? If you can then I’d start to replicate what you intend on doing on the day. Riding the climb at the exact intensity, seeing how you feel, checking your gearing, understanding how your legs cope with lots of short recovery sections on each downhill. It’s not the same as doing a long endurance ride where you keep a consistent force on your muscles whilst turning the gear over.

Whenever I have a challenge I look at the end goal and then work backwards to put a plan together that replicates as closely as possible what I intend to try and do. You need to get to a point in your training and preparation where you feel confident in your technique, equipment, nutrition strategy as well as your physical and mental well being. Don’t forget that recovery is one of the most important elements of training and that you don’t necessarily have to build up to the full elevation before the event (this could cause too much fatigue). Consistency is the key with your training and if you’re regularly able to build up to rides of 4,000-5,000 metres elevation then this will put you in a very good place. You want to get to the event physically and mentally fresh so that you can pull out all the stops on the day. Keep it simple, take a deep breath, believe in yourself and whatever happens as long as you try your best then you’re always a winner!

I hope that helps Dave. Best of luck!

Mike

Hi Timothée,

Thanks for your message, I’m glad you enjoyed The Road to Mont Blanc! It was a truly special experience indeed and one that I shall never forget.

Regarding lighting, I use a range from Exposure Lights, and in particular….

Front: Six Pack MK5. This is a beast, massive power and burn time but to be honest could be more than you need. I used this and a Joystick MK9 on my helmet during the first night of The Road to Mont Blanc when the weather was shocking. The second night I used the Strada MK5 on the bike which is a light that Exposure specifically developed for road use so it has a high and dipped beam which is great for seeing further up the road and lighting up areas in your peripheral vision.

Rear: This year I used the new TraceR rear light (mainly as it saved me a few grams). If you want slightly longer burn times then you could check out the Blaze too. Both have been great for what I’ve needed them for.

I hope that helps!

Ride safe.

Mike

Hi Staffan,

Thanks for the message! Is that the Styrkeprøven you’re training for? Great challenge!!

From a personal point of view I have found that the most important aspect for endurance events is to have a solid aerobic base. It’s sometimes easy to get carried away, up the intensity and push the pace when riding with friends and whilst this is not a problem at all it’s important to remember that good quality hours on the bike at a lower intensity (zone 2) do a lot more to your body over the longterm than you may realise. It really is the training catalyst for aerobic and muscular efficiency. As mentioned, it’s not a problem to go above zone 2 if you want to do a more intense session but overall you want to make sure that a high percentage of your training is focused towards endurance.

Having said this, one thing that is very important for an endurance athlete is to stay mentally fresh. Keep tabs on how you’re feeling. It’s sometimes hard to put in big rides week after week after week and still stay motivated. Don’t forget to factor in enough recovery time. Mix up shorter rides with longer rides if you have to. From my experience training consistently is the key.

If you can build up to riding for 10 hours, and regularly put in rides of this duration, then you should be in a good situation when it comes to the 540km. Of course you can ride longer than this but once again you have to try and remain mentally fresh and the prospect of 12, 15, 20+ hour rides can sometimes wear down your mental reserve. I’ve found it’s better to do more frequent rides of say up to 10 hours and be very consistent with training than going all out for bigger rides closer to the distance you’ll be doing but with less frequency.

Practice with nutrition to see what works for you, taking in real food for big endurance events can often work better than some of the high energy bars and gels which may not sit so well in your stomach after 15 hours.

In reality, if you can get to a situation where you can ride for 10 hours, and do this regularly, then you should be in a good situation. There’s a big difference between 10 hours and 540km but the fundamentals of how you achieve this are the same. Don’t ride at an intensity you know you can’t sustain, keep fuelling little and often, stay hydrated and remember to relax so that you can keep perspective on the situation. There will be hard times, highs AND lows, this is natural and that’s why it is especially important to go into the event mentally fresh. Physical ability is one thing but mental strength is what will actually get you to the finish.

I hope that helps. Good luck and don’t forget these words “your legs may get you to the top of the hill, your mind can visualise the road ahead but your heart will make your dream come true”.

Respect.

Mike

Thanks Chris! Glad you enjoyed the ride!

It’s not a set route, I spent a massive amount of time with the maps and a week in Europe checking out possible roads the month before the challenge. It’s actually quite a tough route to map without going on some pretty busy roads. I think we really came up with the best possible route, and managed to avoid the busiest sections by riding them out of hours through the night. My recommendation would be to do each of the mountain ranges (Dolomites, Eastern Alps and Swiss Alps) but transfer by car between each to avoid a lot of valley roads.

If you need any more advice just give me a nod.

Good luck!

Mike

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the question! Great to hear you’re planing on training for an endurance ride!

I’ve written quite a few different articles that you may find helpful here here.

Overall the top tips that I can give you are:

1) Build your fitness gradually over time. Don’t go faster or longer than you are capable of as this may result in a negative result. You want to progressively build up the number of hours / miles that you are training so that your body has a chance to adapt to the training load without over stressing it.

2) If you want to build a solid base for endurance riding then try to allocate a good percentage of your time training on the bike. Basically if you want to be able to ride for a long time then you’ll need to focus your training on this, which normally means time on the bike.

3) Don’t forget about the importance of nutrition. Make sure you’re well hydrated and fed before training. Eat and drink little and often during the ride to maintain energy stores, this is really important so that you have the fuel to keep going.

4) If you’re going to spend time training in the gym, work on your core strength. This will make you more efficient as a rider which is very useful for endurance riding. Stay away from lifting heavy weights (focus on high reps with a lower weight) so that you don’t build muscle that you don’t need on the bike.

5) Make sure you get enough sleep and recovery sessions. It’s only during this time that your body will have a chance to repair and adapt to the training load so make sure you don’t overlook that.

I hope that helps!

Best of luck. Ride safe!

Mike

Hi John,

Thank you for your kind words towards The Road to Mont Blanc, I’ll admit it was one serious ride!

In terms of winter training, this is the time of year to really focus on building a solid base so that you have a foundation to work from as next season approaches. I really can’t stress how important it is to build this base. It’ll be the fundamentals of your efficiency and where you can go in terms of speed and interval work later on.

At this stage of the game, I would try and focus on a single objective. Let’s look at hill climbing. What will it take to improve? How is your technique, cadence on the climbs, where do you struggle, is it the length or when the road pitches up to a harder gradient? By answering these questions you’ll start to build a picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Often the most improvements are found when you work on your weaknesses. By identifying specific areas that you need to work on you can try to tailor your training accordingly. When it comes to climbing an important area to consider is weight. Winter is a great time to slowly reduce any excess body fat and by doing this you’ll naturally see improvements in other areas of your cycling such as your speed and also endurance.

For sportives it’s important to be able to go the distance so I’d spend this part of the year working on your endurance. If you’re in the gym, then use this time to build a strong core (as opposed to building big muscles that are heavy to lug up hills) which will help with your efficiency and form on the bike when you’re on it for several hours.

Try not to fixate, keep it enjoyable and never forget that cycling is, and always should be, fun!

I wrote a short article on Creating a Winter Training Plan along with a few more guides in the Cycling Education section on my site. I hope they help!

Ride safe.

Mike

Hi Andy,

Thank you for your message and kind words, very much appreciated. The honest answer is that I still do not fully know how I managed to stay awake for that long. Although I’d trained as hard as I could for the challenge asking your body and mind to do this is something you can never fully prepare for and is always a massive step into the unknown. I just focused 100% on the present moment, pedal by pedal. The prospect of riding through two nights in the high mountains gave me many sleepless nights in the build up to it so I guess that served as some good training too! In all seriousness though it really proved to myself just how strong mental will power can be, at the end of the day I believe that’s what got me to Chamonix.

Ride safe.

Mike

Hi Barbara,

When the rain came in the Dolomites I was very nervous. 2,000m up with thunder and lighting kicking off around you isn’t so funny. Once I made it to the valley I felt a little safer but the cold really affects my body in a bad way and things start to shut down quickly. By the time I got to the Stelvio I felt exhausted (and I’d only done just over 300km). The weather really took its toll early on. The Stelvio was hell. My legs were screaming and it was 4am so my head was also going into shut down mode. The only thing I could do was grind my way to the top. Strangely I never thought of stopping, it’s just not something that ever crosses my mind. As long as I’m moving then I’m going in the right direction. It took at least 7 hours to recover from the cold, when the temperature started to rise the next day. I often laugh at the situations I find myself in, then laugh some more when I finally get myself out of them!


Thanks for the question.

Mike

Hi Sébastien, It’s just one part of my job, you’re right the training does take up a lot of time but I have to fit it in around running my own business which means a lot of very early starts or late finishes. Fortunately I consider very long hours with little sleep part of the training. Thanks for your question. Mike


————

Thanks! Which level do you have before? Ex professional? I was an ex-pro, now making amateur races. I know very well the Stelvio, Mortirolo, Ggavia….my favorite roads for training…and what do you gives me ideas for the future.

————

I made it up to Elite level (and still race Elite on the MTB). I was never a pro racer, that was a dream when I was a kid. But I did dedicate 20 years to training, racing, working, living and breathing cycling so it wasn’t a fast process to get to this point. Ride safe! Mike

Hi Joachim,

You can see the route on Strava. We spent a lot of time putting it together to try and get as many of the best / quietest / most beautiful roads we could.

Ride safe and enjoy!!

Mike

Hi Barbara,

From the beginning of the year I clocked 900 hours on the bike and approx 22,000km. By the time the challenge came I was really on the edge of holding this type of volume together along with work and other commitments and I couldn’t wait to get to the start. Over the years I’ve had various people help with advice but I put my own training together. I like to keep it as simple as possible (life is already complicated enough). If you want to be able to ride a long time then you have to train a long time. Well, that’s my theory any way!

MC 


Wow, that’s a tough question Tommie! The Splugenpass was incredibly beautiful, caught me totally unaware as I hadn’t done it before. A super small road with loads of old tunnels cut through the rock face and switchbacks that fall away to the valley below. It was amazing and I’d highly recommend it. For the descent, on this ride I really enjoyed the San Bernadino, the road was dry and as it was at night I could see / hear that no cars were coming the other way which meant I could carve all the way down it at full speed using the whole road. One word. AWESOME. Two words. Do it!


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Cheers! Added to the ‘to-do’ list! Tommie

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Don’t stop there my friend, add the whole route to the ‘to do’ list. You’ll be smiling for a lifetime afterwards!! ;-)

Hi Richard. I’d love to ride full time (as in nothing to worry about apart from riding and recovery). Unfortunately this is only a small part of my working week. I run my own business which can sound like you have all the time in the world but as anyone knows keeping things afloat normally means you’re juggling a lot of hours, contracts and projects to keep on top of it. I normally have to put in at least 50 hours into the business before I start thinking about bike riding. It’s tough, but that’s what get’s me out of bed in the morning. Thanks for the Q. Mike


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What about end to end records etc is that something that interests you, a lot of the rides you do are remarkable but cannot be measured. I understand the constraints of time, but a lot of your business is tied into Cannondale, Mavic etc I’m sure they’d cut you some slack if an end to end was in the offing, you looked fantastically fresh when you finished your 300 mile ride from Kent to Southampton.

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I started racing when I was 11 years old and have done MTB, Cyclocross and road racing to a pretty high level. I still race off-road on the MTB and Cyclocross as you just can’t beat the feeling of drifting both wheels around a corner on dirt. Anyway, back to your question. I’m not so into chasing times or setting PB’s. The challenge is about the journey, the exploration and ultimately will I actually make it at all? That’s what inspires me to ride. Treading in my own footsteps and the unknown road.


Peace

Hi Marcus.

I’m a bit of a lone wolf, I like to dream up my own ideas which mainly revolve around exploring the mountains where I feel a lot of serenity and peace. The mountains seem to give me extra energy. I’m from the windy flat lands of the New Forest so love to escape to my mountain playground whenever I can.

Cheers!

Mike

Hi Dewi,

I’ve dedicated the last 20 years of my life to cycling – although I only look like a teenager I am in fact quite a bit older than you may think. My training has been a consistent progression over this time. Building a solid endurance base, clean healthy diet and of course lots of hours on the bike. In reality you can’t really train 100% for challenges like this. They are always a huge leap into the unknown. Mental strength out weighs physical strength. It’s your mind that keeps you going so you have to learn how to trick it into believing that you’re doing fine, or you’ve just started – even if you have 3, 4, 500+ KM’s in the legs. I had a couple of really crazy moments during the second night where I started seeing things. I don’t have a real answer as to how I made it through this. I just kept saying to myself. “Come on MC, you have to believe”.

Hope that helps.

Mike


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Very impressive Mike. I’m a recent convert to cycling and I’m finding that the biggest challenge is always the mind! Thanks for the reply. Dewi

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I totally agree. My mind gets me into all sorts of mischief, but fortunately it doesn’t stop until I’m out the other side again! Mike

Hi Jukka.

At the moment I have no plans for another monster ride like this, but the winter is coming and my brain rarely switches off (actually it never switches off) so you never know what may come! My support team was absolutely incredible. I look at the photos now and say to myself “did that really happen?” They really caught the moment in a beautiful way. I hope the video will be out before the end of the month too. Pain in HD, now that’s something everyone likes, right? ;-)

Cheers!

Mike


Excellent question!

I experimented a lot in training and knew that for a ride of this duration I’d need to try and eat as normal as I could. We made up some organic wraps filled with rice (tomato for savoury and honey with nuts for sweet). We also made up potato slices with salt. This formed the basis of my nutrition intake. I also used Torq energy bars and used their Vanilla energy drink (it’s super mellow so perfect for really long rides) or I had water. I think over the duration I had 2 cans of Coke and 1 Red Bull when my mind needed jump starting. The goal was to continually graze little and often every 30 minutes or so. For me this worked really well, I had absolutely no digestive problems or cramps at all. Everyone is different so it’s best to experiment and find out what works best for you.

Good luck!

Mike


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Thanks Mike. My kids are in awe of what you just did. Remarkable.
 Sally

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I recently found the Torq bars…they are perfect…after reading this I will give their energy drink a try as well. Thanks! Jur Lutterop

Hi Bryan,

To be honest I’m not sure. I didn’t ride with a power meter so can’t give an accurate measure. At the start it was hard to get my heart rate down (adrenalin, well recovered and pure excitement) meant that I was above zone 2. I work on feel and how my breathing is to measure my effort. I’ve done that for years so you get to know your body pretty good. For me that’s the most important measure of all, how I actually feel, moderating the pace accordingly.

Thanks for the question.

Mike

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Thanks Mike! You had a fantastic route, I’ve done most of the Italian passes – over a few days! Congratulations, you inspire many of us to push ourselves to greater challenges. Bryan

Hi Anne,

I rode the whole route on my own. I think the support team were having enough trouble keeping going themselves at times. I could’ve certainly used someone to shelter behind to escape the headwind. Jeez, it was brutal at times, but strangely satisfying by the end.

Take care,

M
ike

Hi Rich,

Normally I ride back home listening to music, podcasts or audiobooks. I know the roads so well that I need some extra stimulation to keep me from the boredom on mega long training rides. During the challenge I prefer to ride with no headphones. I like to listen to the road, the sounds of the mountain, nature, traffic. With headphones I definitely feel like my senses are one step away from where they should be. During the 2nd night I did actually try putting some music on. I was finding it hard to stay awake but every track was annoying me so I was constantly pressing skip – until Passenger ‘All the little lights’ came on. I love that song so listened to it about 5 times and then pulled the plugs out and got on with the job in hand with a revived focus.

Cheers buddy!

Mike


Hi Shaun,

Thanks of the question!

Recovery is going well thanks!

In terms of core work, it’s an important element of your overall conditioning. A strong core will give you the platform to really push hard so if you don’t do any now it would certainly be an idea to try and factor some into your routine.

Yes, I do talks, I’m off to the Haute Route on Saturday to speak to their riders which I’m really looking forward to.

Take care.

Mike

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the message.

Without having a solid and in depth understanding of your fitness and previous training experience it’s always going to be tricky to drill down specifics so I’ll do what I can in terms of advice based on my experience.

Firstly, everyone is different so there is no right and wrong, a lot of training comes down to what you find that your body responds best to.

With respect to the below, the immediate thing that springs to mind is “that is a very hard session”. So my advice would be to definitely make sure that you are able to recover between sessions otherwise you’ll soon find that you aren’t able to get the quality of training in that you’re aiming for. I know for one that I would struggle to perform 3 sessions at this intended intensity each week and recover well between each.

I’d also look to build up any training in a progressive way. Starting with lower intensities or duration and building gradually over time, otherwise you may find that you’re pushing too hard too soon and you subsequently have no where to go. Also, from a mental standpoint it’s nice to be building up progressively than riding at the same level for weeks on end through the winter which may see you plateau and be less productive.

Personally, I’ve found if I want to work on my cadence then I try and ride at a higher cadence for longer periods so I’d maybe look at just doing 45 minutes (or more) regularly at 100rpm or 110rpm with low resistance as opposed to 1 minute blocks.

I always try and simulate my training to match as closely as possible with the riding that I intend to do. In the past I’ve set a turbo trainer up with the front wheel elevated to simulate a climb. I’d then do 20, 30, 40mins or more (depending on how long the climbs are that I’m generally riding) mixing in and out of the saddle exactly like I would on a normal climb out on the road. For me it’s always been more effective to simulate it this way. To keep things fresh you could focus on climbing out of the saddle one session and in the saddle for another. Once again, I try and make any training that I do as closely matched to the riding that I do, e.g. if I want to improve my endurance and efficiency then I’ll try to increase my volume.

Finally, you could look at focusing just on cadence during one session and then hill climbing for another, again to keep each session as specific as possible. You’re looking to improve two different areas so you want to really get good quality training in on each every time.

I hope that goes some way in helping, as I say we’re all different and this is just based on my experience. Whatever happens, don’t be as lave to your training. If you find one thing isn’t working for you then switch it about. Make sure you get enough recovery in between sessions and over the long-term and most importantly enjoy what you are doing!

Ride safe and good luck!

Mike

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Thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your advice & will definitely incorporate it into my training plan.

Thanks again.

Martin

Hi Michael,

Thanks for getting in touch!

Your ride from Geneva to Venice sounds fantastic. I’d love to do that route so next time I’ll be the one asking you for advice :-)

In terms of nutrition, I’m very similar to you in that I like to eat as healthy and natural as possible. I use Torq’s products as I’ve found they are as good as you can get from a concentrated energy source (a lot of natural ingredients and not loaded with stuff that’s in there just to make them taste good). Personally I use their energy bars / gels and really get on well with their vanilla pod energy drink. It’s very subtle and not sickly like other energy drinks. Aside from this I also like to have fruit, dried fruit, coconut water and plain water rotating between everything so I don’t get tired of the same foods / tastes. If I have a supporting vehicle then I’m also able to have naturally prepared snacks like rice cakes (either sweet or savoury) but this takes a lot more time to prepare and can be more difficult to manage on a multi-day event when you start early and finish late (all you want to do off the bike is relax and sleep!) I’m not a massive fan of all the energy products out there in general as they are highly processed. I try as best I can to eat normal food – for breakfast (oats and fruit) and dinner (vegetables, beans, pulses, fruit, rice). I don’t eat animal products.

When on the bike it’s good to try and eat little and often. Torq’s fuelling system may be useful here. I would start with taking on 2 units per hour to see how you feel. Recovery wise, it’s important to think about this even before you get off the bike (eating more than you think you need when cycling taking into account you’ll need that energy for the next day as well) and then as soon as you have finished cycling. I find that cereal and fruit is a good option immediately post ride as it’s quick and easy. An important thing is to find out what you like and what works for you. If you can’t bear the thought of what I’ve mentioned then it’s not going to work too well. We all have individual taste, the important thing is to eat and drink consistently throughout (both on and off the bike). Try to keep it simple and enjoy the challenge of the open road as much as possible!!

I hope that goes some way in helping, some more info may be useful here

If you need anything else please do not hesitate in asking.

Mike

Hi Matt,

In terms of really simulating the climbs have you considered trying to do this on a turbo trainer? You’re obviously much more in control of everything in terms of power output and duration than out on the road. I’ve elevated the front wheel of my turbo in the past to simulate a gradient.

Aside from that, having a solid base is important so sounds like you’re in good shape there. The key to riding a climb well is to not go above your limit. Ride it like you’re on your own (forgetting everyone else around you) and stick to your own pace. Ensure you have an adequately low gear (I use 34 x 25 or even 28 if it’s really steep) so that you can maintain a good cadence. I live in the flat lands of the New Forest so don’t have many (er, any) mountains to play with on a regular basis.

If you improve your aerobic threshold then this will go some way in improving your overall performance whether you’re on the flat or climbing but remember to respect your limitations – we all have them! I’d definitely use my best wheels. The roads in Europe generally put our roads to shame. The Tourmalet has a lot of fresh tarmac on the descent after the flooding last year so I really don’t see why you would have any issues there. Just make sure your bike is well packed if you’re travelling by plane. That’s where frames and wheels can take the most punishment! Baggage handlers back away from my bike!

I hope that helps.

Best of luck, ride safe and enjoy the experience Matt!

Mike

Hi Paul,

firstly, how do you feel on the 25’s? I used 23mm for years (like most of the world) but found the added comfort of a slightly wider tyre better for the longer rides that I typically do. It’s often thought that the harder and skinnier the tyre the faster but there’s a fair amount of science out there now that has proven the opposite. In terms of pressure, this depends a lot on how much you weigh and the conditions (e.g. wet or dry). In good conditions I run approx 105psi in the rear and 100psi in the front, dropping another 10spi if it’s wet (I’m 60kg). It’s best to take some time to practice before the event to see how you feel at different pressures. I was amazed at how much more traction I got when I lowered the pressure a touch.

Ride safe and best of luck!

Mike

Paul Barnes

I’ve found them really good, and I can’t notice being slower on them, and I think they handle better. Just that typical thing; is there a marginal gain to be had. I weigh just under 70Kg and run the tyres at 110psi; to be honest. I am travelling to the Alps this weekend so will be testing a few of these things. Thanks, Paul (ps I asked you about altitude chambers; they do seem to work!)

Michael Cotty

Glad to hear you’re getting on well with the 25’s! The preconception is skinny is fast but as you’ve found out wider doesn’t necessarily mean slower! Sounds like you have the pressures pretty good too (most folk run tyres too hard – again preconceived that hard is fast). If you’re more confident and can corner better then you’ll always be faster and you’ll use less nervous energy as well to boot!

Great question, a man after my own heart! In terms of endurance I’ve found that it is a case of building the base fitness over time slowly increasing your volume. Don’t try and hammer it along for hours straight away as you need to work on your efficiency which is done at the lower levels of exertion. My top two tips would be to look at pacing and nutrition – keep the speed under control and the fuel coming in little and often. I put a little piece together earlier in the year here that may help too! Welcome to the world of endurance cycling!!

Wow, that’s a big question Dave as without knowing your current fitness, ability, goals and lifestyle it’s always a little tricky to recommend something as specific as a power session. A couple of considerations to think about would be – where do you want to develop your power (e.g. top end sprint / explosive power, sustained aerobic power) and where do you currently struggle? From this it would be a starting point to identify what type of training may be best to address your goals. The important thing with power data is taking the time (or finding someone with the time) to analyse your numbers so that you can get the most from it. Hope that helps!

Hi Andy.

Awesome ride you have planned! The great thing with having a solid endurance base is that it doesn’t disappear over night! If you’re time crunched then taking the volume down and upping the intensity can be a good idea (but you don’t have to go crazy with the intervals!) As well as the training, one thing that I can’t stress enough is your recovery time. It’s better to be fresh and ready for the ride than trying to fit too much in and starting under par. There may be some helpful tips here

Enjoy the C2C!!

Hi Paul, as a rule of thumb it’s best to try and eat 3 hours before you ride to allow time for digestion. Having said that you also have to be realistic and if you’re an early bird that wants to hit the road at dawn at the weekend then getting up at 4.00am is a bit excessive! If you’re going for a long ride of lower intensity then you’ll be able to eat breakfast later. Try to have something that will give you a sustained release of energy. I personally start the day with porridge topped with fruit. When out on the bike I’ve found that Torq’s fuelling system works well for me (we’re all different so you’ll need to experiment). Little and often is the key. Overall aim to keep your diet as whole and natural as possible, refrain from processed foods if possible and you can’t go far wrong!

Cheers Richard. All of the wheels that you mention can certainly handle themselves on the terrain you mention. I’ve ridden the Ksyrium SLR’s for a monster week in the Alps last year and the CC40C’s in and around Ventoux and the Pyrenees too so in some respect it comes down to your budget along with what may be most suitable for your normal riding when back home – e.g. do you ride flatter or more hilly routes? The Ksyriums are a tad lighter so may help in the mountains, but the CC40C’s will roll better with their more aero profile. To be honest, if you’re anything like me, whatever you choose will have you smiling – after all you’re going to the Pyrenees! Hell yeah!Oh, and personally I’d stick with the 25’s. M

Richard Treen Cheers Mike. I used the Ksyrium SLR’s last year when I was over there, and loved the braking from the Exalith rims more than anything. That is what makes me want another set. I am now lucky enough to own a set of the C40’s but have not been able test them yet on anything close to the Pyrenees either up or down so your feedback has been useful! Thanks again – Rich

Michael Cotty CC40C’s with the SwissStop yellow king pads offer great performance in the hills and wet. If in doubt and you can’t test them in advance then stick with what you know. Either way you’re on for a good time! M

Oh Matt, I feel your pain! Seriously, I’m at a stage in my prep where it’s a mental battle hitting up the same roads week-in-week-out for hours at a time. My solution is to explore. Grab a map and head off in the other direction to normal or plot a route at http://ridewithgps.com and load it on your Garmin in advance. My other tip which I’m not sure I should recommend is find some good podcasts to listen to. I used to listen to music but I was starting to go crazy and I’ve found that this has helped – anything from business to audiobooks have kept me sane and in the game the last weeks. If you do decide on this then go easy on the volume. Keep it low so you’re not in a complete bubble of internal noise. Ride safe my friend. Mike

Hi Ed, Excellent question indeed. Personally I think that S&C work can bring definite benefits to cyclists at all levels. Away from the bike I spend approximately 30 minutes stretching per day (used as a form of relaxation as well). I would like to do more core work as I’m sure this may help, but also have the job of trying to shoehorn an endurance athlete level of training alongside running a business into the working week which at this point in the season is not easy. I am in favour of the 28 hour working day though!

It sounds like you have a serious challenge on your hands as well!! I generally use the Torq’s fuelling system as a guide. I particularly like their vanilla energy drink as it’s mellow in flavour and not sickly like many energy drinks. The key is to keep the fuel coming in consistently, little and often every 20 minutes. Everyone is different so it is VERY important to experiment in advance. On my monster rides I normally have a support car so I don’t have to carry everything with me. I’m not exactly sure what the set-up is at the Dragon. If you’re able to prepare food and leave it at the aid stations then this would be good as you then know exactly what you have. Aside from Torq I like to eat as natural as possible – dried dates, figs, apricots, bananas etc. Adding some savoury options into the mix as well can also help help limit digestive problems, for example nuts or something as simple as a ham sandwich (which will also give you some protein) although personally I’m a vegan so don’t eat meat. There is every likely hood that at some point in the ride you will have a downer. When / if this happens do not despair. Ease back and take some time for your body to come through this (it will). I hope that goes some way in helping. Best of luck and if you need any further help just ask! Ride safe, Mike

Hi Nick, A wheel set certainly can offer advantages in terms of lighter weight for climbing or aerodynamics for generally flatter terrain. The goal is to find a wheel set that compliments your riding objectives and terrain – e.g. do you spend most of your time in the mountains, on the flats or somewhere in between? If you take an Ironman event then you’ll see all the guys adopting an aero preferance whereas an equally long ride in the mountains would benefit from a shallower, lighter, wheel. So it all comes down to what you’re mainly doing and what the intended use is for the wheel. Ride safe, ride long, ride FAST! Mike
Hi Jon, Good work on the multi-day Raid Pyrenean trip! That’s the way! When it comes to multi-day riding recovery is super important! I penned a few cheeky words together on this subject not so long ago here, maybe this can help? Enjoy the ride! Mike

Hi Nick, It sounds like you’re well on the way to greatness! That’s an impressive list you’ve already achieved. From my experience if you have a solid base of miles (which it sounds like you have) then a lot of taking the step up comes down to nutrition (keeping the fuel coming in) and mental strength (the will to keep going when your body may be saying otherwise). It is natural to be nervous. Use this as a positive, believe in yourself and best of luck!

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I think greatness may be overstating it…but all encouragement greatly received. When it comes to nutrition, do you have a specific pattern you follow for endurance events? One final question – what do you suggest in terms of long training rides? I was thinking maybe one a month, building up distance and aiming for something 200 miles or so in May time before cutting back for a June ride. Are they helpful or do they just knock you back too far and prevent you from training effectively for a week or so? Thanks for the help.

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I follow a pattern that I’ve pretty much lived by forever now Nick! Make sure you are well fuelled for your training and event. Breakfast is the key meal of the day. I personally like porridge with fruit as it gives a good release of energy. When on the bike I try to take on approx 60g of carbs per hour (I use the Torq fuelling system) mixed with real foods (cereals and fruit) as the hours pass. In terms of long training rides this will depend on how tired you feel afterwards and how quickly you recover. You don’t need to be 100% recovered before every ride, it’s the process of over stressing the body followed by recovery that will make you stronger. However, it is important to ensure that you are totally recovered both physically and mentally when you take on the big one! Don’t be afraid to adjust your training based on feel. Be flexible and you will get the most from your body and mind. If endurance is what you need then you must be prepared to get consistently get the miles in. Ride safe. Mike

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Thanks Mike – very helpful to get your view on everything. If nothing else it is going to be a good challenge! Nick

Hi Neil, Absolutely! The more you pedal the more efficient you should become. Not only will your cardiovascular system improve but also the recruitment of muscle fibres to make you more efficient. Concentrate on good pedalling technique – for example a higher cadence as opposed to grinding the gear over. In terms of monitoring your efficiency you could try riding on the rollers at a given speed. Take your heart rate and record it over a number of weeks (try and keep the variable as close as possible each time – speed, temperature, time of day, hydration, tiredness etc). In theory you should see a drop in heart rate over time. Good luck!

Hi Joel, I generally use a 34/50 with 11-25 in the mountains so I can keep my pins twiddling away! On my really big rides (the monsters!) I change to a 28 on the back so that as I become more fatigued I can still turn the legs over properly. Sounds like you’re in a great place of some hilly riding! Ooh the Peak District! The Tourmalet is a consistent gradient, normally around 7% (up to 10%) where as Hautacam ramps up to 13% and the gradient fluctuates more, meaning it’s harder to find a rhythm. Experiment in your training and don’t be afraid to fit a smaller gear than you may think necessary. It’s always better to have an extra cog just in case! Enjoy! Mike

Hi Lorena, Did you ever see my performance on The Cycle Show Rolla Paluza? I think I did a 27 second 500m against Liam Phillips!! #beasted. Anyway, in terms of improving your sprinting you could try working on your explosive power (short intervals, big gears, starting from a standstill). In some respect sprinting, climbing, endurance ability comes down to your split of fast and slow twitch muscles fibres. I remember having a chat with the legend that is Mr Daley Thompson many moons ago and he said that he was 98% fast twitch muscle which basically meant he had immense explosive power but couldn’t run to the end of the block without needing respiratory apparatus. If you focus on your sprint then you can no doubt improve, but why win the bunch sprint when you have the ability to cross the line solo after dropping everyone on the last climb!

I’m a simple being and try to keep my training / cycling that way too. For endurance the best thing is time on the bike. Miles in the saddle, building your efficiency and stamina over time. Try to incorporate some night riding if possible. Every time I have ridden through the night I’ve hit a mental low point, where it feels like time has stopped. It’d be good to experience this before the Le Mans, so you know you can get through it. It may seem like forever but when you hit dawn you’ll feel like you’ve just been born again! It’s a feeling like no other! Ride safe.

Hi Aaron, If your main goal is cyclocross racing then you’ll obviously need to mix some high intensity into your training. Before doing this it’s important to build your base miles. Use part of the summer to do this if possible so that you have a good platform to start from as the CX season approaches. Start building in higher intensity sessions 6-8 weeks before the season starts. I find I can normally manage 2-3 per week max – don’t forget recovery is crucial for a consistent race season and remember it’s a long time to be flying from September to February so don’t be afraid to start off a little slower. Moderation is the key to progression. Training in the winter can be a real chore. I use The Sufferfest – Cycling Training Videos to get me through the darkest depths of the cold months! Smash it!

Hi Robert, I do the same thing. My knees gently skim the top tube at times. It’s what feels natural. Whilst there is obviously a text book position on the bike everyones biomechanics are unique. As long as you aren’t getting chronic knee pain then I would say that your style is ok. Welcome to the “knock-knee” club. We should get T-Shirts made….start a revolution!

Hi Steve, that’s a really tough one to answer without being able to see your position on the bike etc. A couple of questions you can ask yourself are – do I feel too stretched out or crunched up? Does my saddle feel too high (possibly shifting your weight further forward)? Are your hoods in a comfortable position? I believe that a good bike fit is absolutely essential to get the most from cycling, but at the same time you shouldn’t be afraid to tweak it accordingly to what feels right for your body if needed. Although it may sound strange also consider anything off the bike that may contribute to this. 70 miles is a long way and your body will be subject to a huge amount of vibration during this time (especially on our roads!) so it only takes a small weakness before you know about it. A carbon handle bar and thicker bar tape can reduce these vibrations but it’s always better to try and prevent the cause than treat it afterwards. Hope that helps. Mike

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Thanks Mike, was wonder about getting some gel pads for the bars. also tweaking the position is worth a go. With the Peterborough 100 coming up it might be worth getting to the bottom of the issue! Thanks again, pedal on….

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Perfect! Sounds like a great plan. Definitely worth trying to get to the bottom of it! Cheers! Mike

Hi Zoe, Everyone has their own technique. I do spend a lot of time out of the saddle, especially when climbing. I’ve just found for me it’s more comfortable at times than being in the saddle when I don’t have the power to keep the legs turning. It’s really an individual thing. If you are comfortable with your climbing technique then I wouldn’t necessarily change it. It’s good to be able to mix seated and standing positions so that you can rest some muscles and parts of the body while you use others. Find what works best for you, and what feels most natural, and you should be in a good place. Ride safe. Mike

Hi Martin, I ride a 56cm frame and use a 172.5mm crank. I’ve tried both 175 and 170’s in the past but settled on the 172.5’s based on personal feel. Cipollini used to ride on 172.5’s y’know so I figured they would be ok for little ol’ me!

One thing to look into for on the bike strength training could be seated big gear intervals, with a slower cadence, really concentrating on keeping your upper body still whilst your legs work all the way around the revolution. Just pay attention as they can put more strain on your knees so watch out for that! I answered a question on stretching earlier to Martin Ross that may be of help. Basically I don’t do anything technical when stretching, I made my own routine up that felt good to me. I’ll need to make a video or blog on that – seems there’s hot demand for it! Stay safe. Mike

Hi Guys and Gals! Nutrition and diet, ooh that’s a favourite subject of mine but one that is also really individual to everybody. Firstly I don’t think that there is any one diet that is right for everyone. It’s about finding what works well for you, what you are comfortable with and what you can sustain. In this respect I normally refer to diet as “lifestyle”. Find the lifestyle you are comfortable with and you’ll never be on a diet. Right, now down to business! Since approx 2002 I’ve been a vegetarian with the bulk of my calories comes from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, legumes etc. It wasn’t a massively conscious decision not to eat meat at the time I just found I felt better when I didn’t. More recently I’ve adopted a plant based diet (cutting out dairy) and have found that I’ve felt even better (so I’m still learning). I’ve found on this diet I’m very rarely ill and recover well after training. Basically anything that you can grow or pick, nothing processed or containing anything that I cannot pronounce. I like to keep it as pure and natural as possible. With regards to cakes and sweets I’m lucky in as much as I’ve never had cravings for any of this. There are so many incredible things that you can make with fresh food that I never really had that as part of my diet.

Hi Richard, cadence and gearing are an interesting point of discussion. From a personal point of view I use a compact chainset for nearly everything. I did some basic power testing in the mountains a few years ago and found that if I use a smaller gear and higher cadence I produced a significantly higher wattage. I don’t have the raw power of a guy like Jan Ullrich! Maybe you are naturally more of a fast pedaller? If this is the case you could look at dropping the size of the ring down a tooth or some specific strength training. Try to identify what cadence you are most comfortable with and adjust your gearing to allow you to hit this cadence for the majority of your TT work. Ride fast my friend!