In reality, most reasonably fit people can ride 100 miles on a bike and cyclists of all shapes and sizes can ride 100 miles and achieve their goal.
However, a century ride remains a daunting prospect, and with it comes a bit of preparation both for your mind, body and of course a certain degree of training. Start working backwards from the date of the event so that you have a plan as to what you will be doing in relation to miles each week/month. Find yourself a coach and he can help do that with you (plug for Rule5 Cycling Coaching!!)
Experienced riders typically embark on a period of base training through the winter in order to build a solid foundation of aerobic fitness before the sportive or racing season ahead.
That’s even more pertinent if you’re new to the sport or are significantly increasing your mileage. Slow and steady wins the race, as far as base training is concerned, and it’s important to steadily build your fitness and mileage through the months ahead so you’re prepared to ride 100 miles.
Base training teaches your body to utilise oxygen as efficiently as possible, helping you to ride longer (and faster). Think of your fitness as a pyramid – the wider (i.e. stronger) the base, the higher the peak of form you can reach.
The key to base training is to right at the correct intensity. That intensity is often easier than you think and a general rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold a conversation while riding, but it’s more accurate to use a heart rate monitor and aim for your ‘endurance zone’, or, in other words, 60 to 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
YUP, YOU NEED TO HIT THE HILLS I AM AFRAID
Your first 100 miles is probably not going to be in Holland and somewhere along the route, generally in the middle or worse for most, at the end, will be a number of hills to sap your energy.
Don’t be intimidating by the prospect of climbing in training, and don’t avoid hills. See it as a challenge and like base training, take things slowly. If there’s a steep local climb which forced you to put a foot down the last time you rode it, head back and try and get further up the climb. Keep going until you reach the top, or time yourself to give yourself a measurable target to beat.
Technique is key to climbing. Try and stay seated, and maintain a steady cadence of around 80-90rpm. On that note, make sure your bike has an appropriately low gear for your fitness level (for many riders that will mean a compact chain set). It’s also important to relax, focus on your breathing and putting power through the pedals, and don’t be drawn into racing other riders around you as you’ll likely pay for it later in the ride by putting yourself in the red zone!!
FIND YOUR FUEL SCOURCE
Nutrition is inevitably an important part of any bike ride and it pays to be confident in your nutrition strategy. You should aim to drink 500-1,000ml of fluid per hour, depending on the heat, and take in around 60g of carbohydrate per hour to top up your glycogen stores and stave off the dreaded bonk. How you want to take on that carbohydrate (whether through a drink, gels, bars or ‘normal’ food, is down to personal preference) but try out what works for you on your training rides (and particularly your longer rides in the summer months as the event approaches) so you’re not left second-guessing and once you find what works for you DONT CHANGE IT ON THE DAY!!!
GET FAMILIAR WITH THE ROUTE BEFORE THE EVENT
When you know what’s coming on the route you can prepare for the hills, feed stops, the flat bits and even the descents. Use Google earth, read reviews of the hills, look at Strava and even read the reviews of the previous year’s event to see how the climbs pan out and how tough they are. If possible and the route is local then ride some of it. Having a plan on the day and knowing that at 65miles you are hitting the climb of the day and the rest is all downhill is great to know, or if you are flagging and know that a feed stop is only 5 miles away makes all the difference. You can place the info on a piece of paper attached to your stem so you know exactly where things are.
Do you think the professionals simply turn up and ride the tour de France????
Preparation is everything and without it you are simply stabbing in the dark. When you hit the climb and remember it flattens out on the third bend can really make the climb seem much easier.
So that’s my 5 basic tips and I haven’t even mentioned kit, bike, bike fit, coach....blah blah blah!!!!!!