The physical demands of any multi-day cycling event are extreme, let alone one that requires 5218m of vertical ascent through the stunning, yet fearsome, Cape Winelands. The 2017 Bestmed Tour of Good Hope (TOGH) is a must-do event for anyone serious about cycling. There’s just something spectacular about saying you made it to the other end of 5 gruelling days of back-to-back physical exertion across tough, hilly terrain, phenomenal mountain passes and some of the best and most famous cycling routes in the Western Cape. But it won’t be easy.
Here are some tips for conquering the TOGH:
1.) Do your prep work
Have you trained long and hard enough to handle the demands of the race? It may sound obvious, but making sure your fitness level is up to par is pretty important. If you feel utterly exhausted after 5 hours in the saddle and 3000+ kilojoules of work, it’s going to be a struggle to get up and going every morning. Make sure you know the demands of the event you’re getting into. Tony Harding, manager of Team Protouch, who will be competing in the event, agrees. “Five days of cycling over 490km along with 5218m of climbing can quickly take its toll on those that are not well prepared.”
And with so many pro teams taking part, the competition is stiff. Who should we be keeping an eye on this year? “On current form, we would recommend that close attention be given to two form riders at present: Team Road Cover’s Willie Smit and Team Di-Data’s Stephan de Bod. They are riding really well and have strong teams to back them up. They are also both great TT riders, and this should play into their hands in the second stage, even though the distance has been reduced to 25km.”
2.) Commit to your nutrition plan and stick to it
Finding out what works for you and what doesn’t is extremely important. Different sports drinks contain varying amounts of carbs and electrolytes, and some contain things like protein. If you haven’t trained with these products, it’s not wise to consume them during the race, as you risk causing stomach issues.
HIGH5 Nutrition is a great choice for those with a sensitive stomach, as it uses mostly natural flavours and colours, and has many products within the range that are gluten- and sugar-free as well. HIGH5 undergoes rigorous testing in both the lab and with athletes in the real world, which means it won’t let you down when it matters most. It’s also Vegetarian Society approved.
3.) Eat with the next day in mind
The most critical aspect of stage race nutrition is getting in enough nutrients to maximise your body’s ability to repair and recover from one stage to the next. The TOGH is particularly tough since it involves extensive climbing, which requires considerable energy expenditure. Avoiding fatigue means proper pre, during and post-race nutrition.
If you’re used to training for single-day events, not getting in enough nutrition can be a common mistake. If you empty your carbohydrate reserves in one day’s riding, it’s almost impossible to fully re-fuel by the next day and you will start with a part-empty tank. You must make a major effort to focus on fuelling your carbohydrate reserves during and after each day’s riding. This is critical to consistent performance in multi-day events.
4.) Hydration is key
“The best advice to start with would be to ensure that you hydrate as often as possible. Often, you’ve already passed the point of no return in terms of being dehydrated if you wait to drink only when you are thirsty,” says Tony.
Dehydration will severely affect energy levels. Your muscle cells are almost three-quarters water, so if you’re short on fluids, you’ll feel the strain. Drinking little and often will give you the best chance of hitting your targets.
But what should you be drinking and how much? During endurance exercise, you need to focus on both hydration and energy to keep you going for longer. Carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions enhance the absorption of water to optimise endurance performance. HIGH5 EnergySource is a scientifically formulated carbohydrate and electrolyte sports drink designed for use during exercise to both replace key electrolytes and supply energy to your muscles. HIGH5 Nutrition will be available throughout the course of TOGH, so it may be worthwhile getting your body used to it now. They’re also the official on-course nutrition partner for Ironman, should you be considering the next big challenge.
Even with a good hydration strategy, you often finish exercise mildly (or more severely in hot conditions) dehydrated, so it’s important to continue drinking after exercise. You should aim to replace 150% of your fluid lost through exercise within 3 hours of finishing. This means that if you finish exercising with a one litre fluid deficit, you should drink 1.5 litres. A drink that contains carbohydrates and protein, like HIGH5 Protein Recovery, will enhance your recovery and help grow your muscles.
Thirst is the initial sign of dehydration. Symptoms of intermediate dehydration include: dry mouth and lips, reduced sweat output, muscle cramps and lightheadedness.
5.) Don’t faff around
When the riding is done for the day, don’t just stand around in your sweaty kit. The sooner you can get cooled down, clean, fuelled, hydrated and off your feet, the better. Anything else is just delaying valuable recovery time.
A dirty, sweated-in chamois is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria – E. coli, salmonella and C. difficile, to name a few. The pros’ shortcut is to hop in the shower, kit and helmet on. The padding of your helmet accumulates bacteria and sweat just as quickly as your kit, so don’t leave it out. When you’re done, you can just remove your gear and hang it out to dry for the next day.
A post-ride rubdown can also work wonders. Nothing too vigorous or hard, just a light massage to help increase circulation and assist the muscles in clearing lactic acid. In a study on cyclists who got a massage on only one leg, biopsies showed greater muscle regeneration in the treated leg. Another study conducted in Canada found that post-exercise massage reduced inflammation and promoted the growth of new mitochondria — the parts of your cells that produce power. TOGH will have massage facilities available for riders in need of that extra recovery boost.
Have you done the TOGH before? What was your experience? Do you have any tips to share? Let us know by commenting on this post, or by getting in touch with us on social media:
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