Top Tips

Rich Rothwell

Rich (Exposure/Enigma) has a distinguished career in endurance racing with a Masters 24 Hour World Championship title in 2009, 4th at the UK 24 hour Champs in 2010 and more recently 2nd place veteran in the 24hr European Champs and the veteran category win at the Montane Kielder 100 in 2011. Rich has also just returned from the Andaluca bike race where he placed 5th in the masters category along with long time racing and training partner, Ant White. Here are a few of his very insightful and very useful tips for getting through your day in the saddle.

  1. Things I couldn't live without: Exposure lights; a good selection of tyres; plenty of clothing choice and chamois cream!
  2. Aside from energy drinks and gels I eat jelly babies, rice pudding, Ready Brek and chicken and noodle soup. But have realistic expectations... come 4 o'clock in the morning, nothing will taste good.... Get into a routine and stick with it. If you stop eating it's a downward spiral...
  3. Wash energy gels down with plenty of liquid. Use energy drinks which are not too sweet.
  4. Essential clothing: arm warmers / knee warmers / gillets are very useful; they allow you to go from 'daytime warm' to 'chilly night' quickly and easily.... and then you can whip them off quickly again when it warms up again in the morning.
  5. When it comes to clothing changes, be spontaneous. But you may not notice the temperature drop as the night wears on or the weather changes so it's a good idea to err on the side of caution! You can waste a lot of energy just keeping warm and not realise it. To save time, I try to only change clothes if I need to; that includes shorts! Changing bib shorts when you are trashed gets mighty complicated!
  6. I once raced three 24 hours in 3 months.... One and two went OK but number 3 was a disaster! I started off badly and it just got worse from there! Stomach closed down. Couldn't eat. Extreme nausea set in. And that was at about 8hrs! Foolishly I carried on and it was a horrendous experience. I'm not very good at quitting, even when I should! Took me a long time to get over it mentally and physically...
  7. You've got accept that some things are going to hurt no matter what! But this is part of your training - conditioning your body for the long hours. Bike set up is crucial. Beside the geometry / bike set up, it's really important to get the contact points right; I am very particular about my saddle / shoes / grips / gloves. I would recommend spending lots of time experimenting with and bedding in these crucial components; if you have ill fitting gloves for example you'll really feel it after 16hrs with 8 to go!
  8. The week before the race is all about resting from all the training, eating well, remaining hydrated, and making sure you are fresh and rested for the big day. The day before will be a last minute tune up ride and a final run through of equipment... then plenty of eating and resting! It's very important to be prepared so you remain unflustered and ready on the morning of the race. The morning of the race is the bit I hate! I just want to get started but the nerves start jangling! I'm always well prepared the day before so it's just a matter of sitting and waiting...
  9. Ride your bike as much as you can to build your endurance but if you get fatigued then back off until you are fresh again. Get comfortable with long days in the saddle but you don't need to do too many. Enjoy yourself! I spent years spending all day bashing around the Lake District and mountains in Europe. I wasn't thinking about racing, just enjoying exploring and the hours flew by! Some long road rides help as well because you have to pedal continuously - you (rarely!) fall off or have to stop so it gets you used to pedalling for long periods of time uninterrupted. Whatever the riding, put in some hard and fast rides as well.... it will make the slower endurance paced rides feel easier. Mix it up to keep things interesting! Cyclo cross, MTB, Road, BMX... it's all useful! Work on your weaknesses - if you are super fit but have poor bike handling skills, then spend time on skills. If you can steam along the flat but struggle with climbs, then hit some hills!

And Rich's final top tip: "It's tough for everyone at some point no matter how fit they are. Accept that and you will not be in for a nasty surprise! You WILL go through good and bad patches; push through the bad bits; that's the difference between the finishers and the quitters! Most of all enjoy it in all its weirdness! And I GUARANTEE, no matter how hard it gets, come the middle of the week you'll be wishing you were back there, snaking through the singletrack in the middle of the night...

Visit Rich's blog www.richyroth.com for more endurance racing insight and inspiration.

Rob Dean

Big Rob Dean (Santa Cruz/North Face) is an experienced endurance racer with a number of notable endurance race wins and endurance records to his name including:

  • 6th UK & European Champs 24hr Solo (2011)
  • 1st Set2Rise 12hr Solo (2010)
  • 2nd MaXx Exposure 80mile Solo (2010)
  • 2nd BrightonBigDog 6hr Pairs (2010)
  • 1st Sleepless In The Saddle 24hr Solo (2009)
  • 2nd TwentyFour12 24hr Team (2009)
  • 2nd Fastest South Downs Double (2009)
  • 8th Long Good Saturday 8hr Solo (2008)
  • Record South Downs Double SingleSpeed 18:41:59 (2010)

Here's a few of his top tips for successful endurance racing:

  1. Have a cheery pit who are willing to kick me back out there at 3am and/or hug me and tell me it's going to be ok as necessary.
  2. My favourite food during a race is chicken sandwiches, they're nice and bland for when the sugar gets too much.
  3. Change your gloves for a fresh pair at dawn, you'll understand why when you do it.
  4. I get very nautious at times, curiously particularly in the dark, it happens to me a lot. When it has happened I've carried on thanks to extreme bullying from my pit and, yes, it is always okay in the end. It's just hard to remember that in the moment.
  5. Stretch something or other every time you get off the bike for toilet stops or whatever, it will help prevent stiffness, aches and pains.
  6. You'll fee absolutely terrible for one lap during the night, just don't quit. Keep moving and eat through it, it'll be fine, but of course it's going to be a bit hard at times.

Find out more about Rob and his racing exploits on his blog

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Keep moving forward at all times no matter how slowly you are going...

Rich Rothwell (Enigma/Exposure)
Masters 24hr Solo World Champion 2009

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