I was out on a 100km sportive bike ride yesterday. It was very windy and very wet. There were grumbles in the peloton and I just put my head down and chugged along at my pace. I took my turn at the front. After 10km I looked behind me and no one was there. After 20km a rider caught me and asked if he could ride with me. He said that they all watched me ‘go’ and it took him 15km to catch me. I didn’t feel like I’d put in a massive effort, nor had I intended to pull away from the pack.

A note at this point. I’m not a ‘great’ rider. I love riding, but there are many, many people better than me even just in my club. Also, I don’t enter sportives to compete or even compare myself with others. It’s just for fun and to ride a longer route with a big group. So to find myself in third place on the road out of 150 riders was quite bizarre. It really spurred me on and I kept that position until the final 20% climb at 90km.

Then I got cramp halfway up it. Really bad. So bad, both legs seized up and were locked straight. I had to fall off the bike into the verge to get off it. I led on the grass in extreme pain, as if being electrocuted for two minutes, massaging my thighs trying everything to get the blood circulating. Eventually I remounted and was on my way. But my legs were not the same at all, and I ‘limped’ home.

Turns out I was fourth and on any other day I would have been ecstatic with that result. But the cramp annoyed me. It shouldn’t be happening.

So I took to Facebook and asked my friends what to do. I’m lucky enough to count among my friends 2 personal trainers, 2 tri-athletes operating at a very high level, 4 seasoned cyclists and a 4x Olympian.

Here’s the solutions we came up with:

  • Pre-hydrate – drink plenty the night before, and before riding
  • Stretch before, yoga as an ongoing routine
  • Conditioning work – squats to help condition the quads, before and after a ride
  • Electrolyes and bananas during the ride – keep the potassium and sodium levels up.
  • 500-1000ml liquid per hour during the ride

I’ll be trying all these out over the next few months and we’ll see how I get on. Any more tips and tricks will be greatly received.

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