The Art of Stage Racing: Recovery
With the race schedule coming to a close (at least for road races) and the off-season in full swing we're finally catching up on a lot of content from the 2012 racing season that we weren't able to get published this summer. Stay tuned for a wide assortment of material over the next few weeks - product reviews, race reports and a few miscellaneous posts. This post falls under the latter category Team Sixcycle-RK&O prides itself on appropriate off the bike recovery, often in the form of a post-ride beverage. However when it comes to the four day monster that is the Green Mountain Stage Race, the team kicks recovery up to another level. Check out Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Corey Morenz' report on recovery techniques from GMSR, which ran the gamut from mountain streams to Ben and Jerry's and Magic Hat Ale.
The Art of Stage Racing: Recovery
Rest. Recover. This cycle is drilled into us all year. Ride 20 minutes at threshold, recover for five, repeat. Complete three sets of 12 squats at 2x bodyweight, rest 3 minutes between sets. Three week build cycle followed by several consecutive rest days to allow the body to rebuild.
Never is this principle more important than while stage racing, especially during the largest and most competitive race of the year – four days of grueling races in the Green Mountain of Vermont. Stage racing strings multiple races together over several days – sometimes even packing in more than one race in a single day. Riders compete for wins in the individual stages as well as for prestigious spots in the overall classification and for the yellow (overall winner), green (sprint competition winner) and polka dot (hill climbing competition) jerseys. The overall winner is based on cumulative time throughout the four days of racing.
The ability to race at your peak day after day after day is crucial to a strong performance in the overall classification. Riders who don’t recover properly between races or who are not used to repeated hard efforts may find themselves in great position after racing for one or two days but with no “legs” for the remainder of the race. It only takes one race, or even one moment in a race such as a short but steep KOM climb, to find that you don’t have the kick you need to stay with the peloton Soon you find yourself riding alone losing valuable time to the top contenders.
Racing is sometimes the easy part – adrenalin is flowing, illusions of grandeur and of podium finishes dance before our eyes, all you need to do is reach the finish line before those other riders… Then the race is over, results are tallied and you have to decide how to spend the next 24 hours before the lineup for the next stage. Do you go to the local pub and drink a few pints of Vermont’s fine microbrews? Maybe indulge in a few milkshakes that you’ve been craving over the past month as you tried to cut those last few stubborn pounds? Or do you choose to quickly leave the smiling faces surrounding you at the finish, get in your car, get home and get off your feet?
Recovery techniques ran the gamut at the Sixcycle-RK&O house. The amenities were certainly not lacking – hot tub, mountain stream, steam shower, large kitchen, a surplus of couches. At various times throughout the day you could spot cyclists donning various pieces of compression clothing, using massage sticks and foam rollers, napping, stretching, eating, hydrating, eating some more. Everyone has favorite foods to eat during a race to ensure glycogen stores are topped off and muscles have adequate protein to rebuild – that is what cyclists should base their favorite foods on at least. Muesli was in abundance, as was chocolate milk. But also venison burgers, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Magic Hat ales… its only right to support the local economy for putting on such a fantastic race, recovery be damned!!
Personally, dedicated cyclist that I am, I swear by two things when I’m at GMSR – post race snack of poptarts and protein shake to provide an optimal mix of simple carbs to protein followed by dipping the legs in the ice cold stream that runs straight down from the green mountains. The hot tub looks so welcoming though.. fine you’ve coerced me, a few minutes can’t possible lead to dehydration. Then my parents insisted on taking me to American Flatbread, and who was I to not raise a pint with my dad and toast him on a successful completion of the Gran Fondo ride? Mom are you going to eat seconds of that flatbread made with local lamb and feta? No? Don’t mind if I do.
Recovery techniques run a fine line between the physical and the mental. One can argue the merits of both, but recovery is one aspect of racing that Team Sixcycle always manages to get right.