• A Look Into the Life of a Collegiate Cyclist

    My thoughts on cycling and life, racing experiences, training, training tips, and various cycling product reviews!
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Upstate Winter Bike League Ride (1/22)

I’ve done plenty of group rides since I’ve been up at school, but the ride I attended this past weekend deserved a post. With all the key qualities of an epic ride (nice mileage, poor weather, big group, flat tires, etc.), I’ll be sure to be heading back for more! This ride that some of the team went to attend last weekend in Greenville, SC was the Upstate Winter Bike League (UWBL) ride. Advertised as being a hilly and fast 4.5 hour ride with two attack zones, I was definitely up for it!

With upwards of 100 riders at the start, many of whom appeared to be in the higher tier categories (Pro,1,2), it was going to be an awesome ride. Rolling out, it was around 25°F and cloudy, so there was a good bit of complaining coming from the pack for the first hour or so! Once the sun finally came out and it warmed up a bit, we were able to take off some of the thicker layers and really be able to enjoy the ride. By the time the first sprint zone came I was ready for a pick up in the pace and was getting jittery. As the ride leader blew his whistle to announce the start, the attacks began almost instantly. With no idea where the end was, I was happy with being able to keep up with the main leading group and put in a few hard efforts.

After the mid-ride store stop, the pace either picked up or I was beginning to feel the effects of the ride! Regardless, a lot of people were beginning to struggle, especially with the hills, but with a van following behind for support nobody was left behind. As the second sprint zone was fast approaching, I moved up as quick as possible to the front of the now-shrunken pack. Again, as the starting whistle blew, the first attack went. With all of us from the team up towards the front we made several good attempts at getting off the front, but with no telling how far away the sprint was, it was difficult to make any headway. I made several attacks when I thought we were nearing the end, but little did I know it was only around the halfway point! After discovering this I stayed in the main pack and enjoyed the fast-paced ride back into town.

With about 95 miles in that kind of hilly terrain, I was very happy with my ride. After the easy drive back to Mars Hill, I put the legs up for a little while to rest up for another hard effort the next day. The UWBL ride next week is supposed to be a 107 mile ride from Greenville, SC to Waterloo, SC and back with a fair amount of climbing. I’m not too sure if I’ll be attending with the first race the following weekend, but we’ll see what happens!

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Race Tactics and Threshold Tests…

The past few weeks leading up to the first race of the season have continued to be grueling, but have nonetheless been great. I am happy to say that I’ll be enjoying somewhat of a recovery week as of yesterday, with today being a glorious day off the the bike! Thankfully, the weather has actually been cooperating with the training lately, and I’ve been able to go on some nice group and team rides. With workouts ranging from steady tempo intervals, to high-cadence intervals, and plenty of hard efforts, I’m feeling very ready for the first race. Though its only just over a week away now, it doesn’t seem to be coming fast enough! As I’ve previously mentioned and am happy to say again, the team as a whole is looking fit and ready to take on the collegiate competition. Every meal in the cafeteria usually has some kind of race-related conversation as everyone on the team is getting their nerves worked up!

Recently, the team was lucky enough to have a presentation done on race tactics and general “rules of thumb” from Andy Applegate of Carmichael Training Systems here in Asheville. With levels ranging from a Cat. 1 to Cat. 5 in the room, everyone was able to benefit from the advice that Andy gave. Personally, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the importance of the nutritional aspect of racing. One thing I’m glad that he had to say that some tend to lose sight of though is to “have FUN!”

Another event that the team was lucky enough to be able to have done was threshold tests at Spin-Tech Training nearby in Weaverville, NC. Everyone was made to perform a “blind” 20-minute threshold test. Basically we were unable to see any of our data (power, heart rate, cadence, etc.), which put everyone on a level playing field. I’m happy to say that the entire team did great and even though there was obviously some inter-team competition, we all supported one another! I felt happy with my early season fitness, and am looking forward to the next time we test. With this being the first thing closest to a “race” in the new year, I was super jittery while getting ready to jump on the trainer. All that was going through my mind was lining up on the line of the first real race!

Keep an eye out for the next post on a ride from this past weekend!

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First Ride With Some of the Team

Even though only a few of us went out for an easy Monday ride, I was pretty excited to get out and start learning some of the routes around school. This area definitely has a lot more climbing than the area back around Pfeiffer. Admittedly, it was kind of hard to have a recovery/easy ride with all of the climbing we had to do. Even worse, the person leading us on the route told us this was an easy route with “no hard climbs!” I know I’ll get used to the terrain, but coming from the flatlands of Naples, FL its the complete opposite.

At one point we found ourselves heading down an road with a number of cattle fields lining it. One thing I noticed was that one of the fields had no fences blocking the cattle from going onto and crossing the road. As I noticed this, we all saw what we thought was one of the cows standing in the middle of the road. Getting closer to it, all of us realized it wasn’t just a cow, but a bull that was pretty big! We came to a stop, unsure of what it might do, but the moment it turned in our direction and came towards us we all clipped back in and bolted away. In our getaway we were now being chased by three German Shepards which by the look of them, really hate cyclists. After one minor wreck amid all the chaos, we got away, but I definitely won’t be going back down that road anytime soon!

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Staying Motivated and Setting Goals

I’ll be the first person to say that it can be very difficult to stay motivated, especially with training, 100% of the time. During any training/racing season, cyclists may sometimes find themselves getting into “slumps.” By slumps, I mean that feeling where you’re mentally blocked from wanting to get on the bike. This is completely different from being physically exhausted from training, where a rest is usually beneficial.

In my experience, when I find myself losing motivation I just have to force myself to get on the bike. The first time I let myself take an unnecessary day off, more than half the time I end up taking several more days off. The other problem is that when I do get on the bike, it’s difficult to want to get in a nice long ride. In a sport that requires serious training, whether it’s base miles or intensity, getting in the proper training is so important.

In my opinion, the best way to combat this problem and to keep the motivation coming is to set goals for yourself. In working with Michael Cooper, one thing that I’ve learned is the immense importance of setting goals for myself. Without having a goal in mind, what are you working towards? By setting goals, and following the steps it takes to achieve them, this allows you not only to improve and have some structure in your training, but it keeps you MOTIVATED. Having something you’re working towards and seeing yourself getting better gives you that willpower to want to keep going.

If there’s one message I want to get out, its that if you don’t have any goals, MAKE THEM! In cycling, anyone can make a list of goals for themselves. Whether you race or not, having goals is so important and easy to do! Your goals don’t just have to be along the lines of winning your next few races, or all of them for that matter. Instead, also have short term goals such as with your training. For the month of July, one of my goals may be to do (x) number of 100+ milers. For this next week, one of my goals may simply be to beat my dad in all the sprints (just kidding). Overall, no matter what level you’re riding at, set a goal. Even if you’re just starting out, maybe your goal for the next week is to finish a particular ride, it can be anything!

See you out there.

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