Five things you need to pack for the Coronation Double Century
Five things you never knew you needed to pack for the Coronation Double Century
(26 October, Cape Town) A long, one-day stage race, such as the Coronation Double Century, has a slightly different packing list than for your regular road event. Along with plenty of tubes, chain links and even derailleur hangers, your team will want to have the following:
1. Duct Tape
If there is an item more useful than this, we’re yet to find it! A standard in any mountain biker’s kit, duct tape has solved many a disaster – from wounds to broken shoes and slashed tyres. Rest easy, it adds no weight. The best way to take it with you is to wrap your CO2 canisters in it (bonus: you won’t freeze your hands if you need to inflate a tyre).
2. Cable Ties
Everything duct tape can’t sort out, you’ll most probably be able to fix with cable ties. The medium-sized ones are the most useful. Pack two or three in your saddle bag, taped (yes, with duct tape) to the bottom of your saddling, or even inside your seat tube.
3. Baby Formula Dispensers
These plastic containers have separate sections allowing mums on the move to take along pre-measured single servings of baby formula. You guessed it: these are ideal for nutrition mixes (and a step up from zip-lock bags. Measure out the individual servings, label with a permanent marker and keep with your Support Vehicle Driver at the Team Support Zone.
4. Menthol Sweets or Peppermints
Keep one in your jersey pocket. As the day wears on and your bottles have warmed, suck on the peppermint and then drink. Weirdly, it tastes colder. Peppermint is also a proven mood stimulator.
5. A Small, Thin Rag
Need to fix your chain or a tube? You’ll be pleased you packed a piece of old cycling sock or the like to wipe your hands with.
Perhaps the most important thing to take along is your sense of humour.
The four fundamentals of endurance nutrition
How to fuel for a long one-day stage race like the Coronation Double Century
The Coronation Double Century is a unique event for various reasons – not only is it a team race, but it’s also a time trial.
For many recreational cyclists it represents the single biggest one-day effort faced all year, and the 202-kilometre loop from Swellendam, which includes the mammoth climbs of the Tradouw Pass and Op de Tradouw, will for many be their longest day on the bike.
So, proper nutrition is absolutely vital. Here’s how to ensure you have the energy you need on race day:
- Don’t change your nutrition strategy on race day
“Practice what gives you energy,” says race doctor, Dr Jann Killops from Mediclinic. “That would be in terms of food and hydration”. As a part of this strategy, Dr Killops recommends that all riders measure their sweat rate. “Weigh yourself naked before your ride and then again when you get back,” she explains. “Every half a kilogram deficit is equal to 500ml, so you can determine how much you sweat that way.”
To radically paraphrase the science: you weigh 60kgs before a two-hour ride and 59kgs when you get back, you’re a litre behind. This means you have to take whatever you drank and add a litre. “If you drink to thirst on a long ride like the CDC you should be fine though,” says Dr Killops.
“In terms of food the trick is – especially with commercial ‘high-load’ products – make sure that it is something you’ve eaten before and it doesn’t give you any gastric distress,” she says. “A surprising amount of riders don’t train with gels and the like and then come race day have pockets full of them.”
In terms of a low-carb, high protein strategy, Dr Killops is quick to point out that there is more and more research available now for a low-carbohydrate strategy for race day. “Again it’s not something you should do for the first time on race day,” she warns. “You have to train your body to function on a low-carb diet, so again, if that is how you usually exercise and train, then that is what is going to work for you.”
- Fill the tank before you start
Glycogen stores are depleted during periods of fasting. This may occur over night or even during the day if you don’t stick to a regular meal structure, so experts all agree it’s important you start a long ride with your storage tanks well stocked.
The best options for a pre-ride meal or snack are foods that are low in fat and fibre. Carbohydrates that are high in fibre and gas-forming (bran products, legumes, and certain vegetables, such as onion, cabbage and cauliflower) are not recommended as they can cause intestinal discomfort.
It’s also important to remember that food you eat is available to your muscles only once it has been digested – a general guide is to allow about three to four hours for a big meal or one to two hours for a small meal or snack before the start.
- Don’t bonk
“Bonking” is the term cyclists use to refer to complete glycogen depletion, otherwise known as hypoglycemia. The phrase “if you’re hungry, it’s too late” is very true here and the best way to avoid it is to eat little and often. Some cyclists set alarms regularly during long rides to remind them to eat. “Stick to food that is not going to be a heavy load but will still provide you with calories,” Dr Killops says. A good rule of thumb is to ingest about 100-250 calories and some form of high carbs every 30 minutes, even in the first hour.
Simple carbohydrates including energy gels (just remember to drink water with these), sugar cubes, sweets and jam sandwiches are a few things to nibble on. Avoid complex carb like energy bars, as they take much longer for the body to process into glucose.
- Hydrate properly
Correct fluid intake is perhaps the most important nutrition element during an ultra-endurance event. As mentioned previously, the key is to drink enough fluid to match your sweat losses. This is different for each cyclist and the environmental conditions. A general guide is that cyclists should drink to thirst and strategies developed from training sessions. A more specific guideline is to drink approximately 0.5-2L per hour in small volumes (150ml-200ml) every five to 20 minutes.
Rider’s favourite snacks
When asked, CDC riders rated their favourite energy booster race snacks as: banana bread and bananas, toast with honey, Coke, Nik naks, Steri Stumpi and Squishy baby foods. Each to their own!
Pre-race meal and snack options:
- Banana (or other fruit) + water
- Low fibre cereal (oats/ ProNutro (original)/ Future Life) + low fat milk + water
- Toast and avocado/ peanut butter/ mashed banana/ Bovril/ Marmite + water
- Sports bar / cereal bar + water
- Homemade fruit smoothie (low fat yoghurt, fruit, oats + crushed ice / water)
- Sandwich with cold meat filling + water
- Pasta salad with chicken/ beef / tuna + water
During the ride: Choose one to two of these each hour of the ride (approximately 20g-25g carbohydrates each)
- 1 sports bar
- 1 sports gel
- 1 dried fruit bar
- 30g nougat
- 4-5 jelly sweets
- 1 thick slice of banana bread / fruit loaf
- 1 banana
- 45g dried fruit
- ½ honey / jam sandwich (1 slice bread)
- 1 marmite sandwich (2 slices bread)
- 4 Provita’s with marmite
- 6 Saltycrax
- 3 boiled baby potatoes
- ±375ml ‘sports’ drink (6-9% carbohydrate)
- ±375ml diluted apple juice (50:50) + pinch of salt
The recovery meal or drink:
Carbohydrate: ±1-1.5g/kg (athlete’s weight) for replenishing glycogen stores.
Protein: ±0.2-0.5g protein/kg (athlete’s weight) or ±20-25g protein for muscle repair and building.
Fluids: 1.5x fluid losses (calculated by weighing athlete immediately before and after exercise) for rehydration.
Electrolytes: for rehydration. These are naturally present in foods and drink, however cyclists with large salt losses and those participating in prolonged rides may require additional electrolytes.
Coronation Double Century – it’s a team sport
The Coronation Double Century is no Saturday morning coffee ride. You have to be fit and you have to be prepared. We speak to Johann le Roux, the only CDC participant to have completed all the events, about what it takes to get his team over the finish line.
Johann’s training for Coronation Double Century starts in July. Family and work considerations dictate his approach, but he aims for “two high quality, high intensity sessions a week”.
These two critical sessions involve hill climb and lactic threshold intervals. He tries to fit in a longer “almost tempo” outing on Fridays and then on Saturdays a longer ride between three and six hours. For the first month his weekend rides would be shorter “but at a slightly higher intensity”, but after that he pushes the duration up to five to six hours with climbs thrown in to the mix.
“The long rides are very important as they build endurance and the 1-tonner is an excellent pre-CDC training ride to do with the team, as a test run for the race.”
Train as a team
Ultimately, this is a team event and while it’s not in the rule book, a lot of teams pride themselves on getting the whole team across the finish line together.
With this in mind, experienced CDC riders offer the same sound counsel: wherever possible and whenever possible, train as a team. It is ultra-marathon riding and, like a good marriage, participants are well served getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of their team.
When it comes to hydration, Johann finds it vital to train with the same drinks available during the race to ensure his body and digestive system is prepared for what he’ll get on the day.
In the immediate build-up to the event, Johann’s approach has universal value — be well hydrated on the day. He begins to increase his fluid intake three days before; simultaneously he ups his pasta consumption and, “on the Wednesday I will have a huge piece of steak – it works for me!”
He emphasises the importance of “a good night’s sleep” on the eve of the event and then “a full, low GI breakfast two to three hours before the start” to be followed by a 750ml sports drink in the last hour.
Last minute prep
In that final week Johann tapers his training, reducing intensity. “I do three rides of about an hour each with a few 15 to 20 second sprints at 70 to 80 percent intensity – to keep the body awake and the blood circulation going.” Like most riders he does a day-before ride “just to ensure my bike is ready.”
It’s a widely held opinion that weekend team training rides, starting at say 100kms and building up to the actual CDC distance, are the most sensible way to go and it is not a terrible idea to use both heart-rate monitors and bicycle computers in the preparation. These enable team members to do their other training rides at the same level. Mid-week rides of at least 50kms are recommended in the “amateur” ranks, with a few shorter, more intense rides on either side.
Expert tips for race day
Johann’s advice for the race itself is sage: for the first 150kms keep the team together with the slowest/weakest riders in front and on the flats ride single or double line formations with the stronger riders doing the longer stints. He tries to eat and drink every 15 minutes (jelly babies, banana bread and biltong) to maintain glucose levels.”
The water points call for discipline: “it is important not to over-indulge – two to three cups of Coke and then fill your bottles half Coke and half water.” He recommends a steady pace to Ashton for refueling and then “when the team is ready, go – don’t hang around too long, you are just getting cold and stiff.”
He says “the real race” starts into the headwind at the Breede River Bridge after which it might be incumbent on the stronger riders to drop their pace to accommodate the weaker members of their team. The three infamous climbs after the Bonnievale Cellar can be seen as a moment of truth. “With their concentration gone, some riders will be thinking of dropping out and someone needs to take charge and keep the group together and to remind them to keep eating and drinking.” Legs need to be “saved” for the three climbs left after the right turn towards Swellendam. “Maintain your pace and concentration, climb in easy gears at high cadence and low power. If possible stand every few minutes to stretch the legs and back. Drink on the downhills…and then you’re home!”
It used to be about a top ten finish even if it meant dropping weaker team members. Now the main focus is to start and finish with the same group. “To see a novice in the team change from being afraid and unsure and then to see their confidence and self-belief crossing the line – that is very fulfilling.”
But what really keeps him going?
“It is the one event in the year in which the team is more important than the individual, everyone suffers together and everyone enjoys the satisfaction of completing yet another Coronation Double Century.”
Top tips on how to prepare for the Coronation Double Century
The Coronation Double Century is a true test of endurance and skill. Pedalling in excess of 200km in the space of 10 hours is a demanding task, even for pro cyclists.
Most individuals who exercise regularly can finish a 100km ride quite easily, but a 202km ride is a different story, both physically and mentally.
Here are some tips to follow in the lead up to this challenging event:
For both physical conditioning and mental preparation, you need to have put in the distances ahead of time, but don’t train excessively before the event as over-training can be counter-productive.
Not all training has to happen on the bike and some cross training is good – particularly as this builds stamina and general cardiovascular fitness. So head to the gym for some weight training, or hit the road for a run.
Stick to a routine
Familiarise yourself with a routine of exercise, rest and feeding – and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to try out new training methods or new foodstuffs just before race day – you won’t know how your body will react to it and you could end up in trouble. Stick to what you know and what’s worked for you in the past.
Keep yourself healthy and virus-free. If you are unwell before the race, check with your doctor if you can safely ride and trust that decision. If you are unable to control your heart rate rise, it is unlikely that you will be able to finish the race and trying to do so could result in a metabolic or heat-related injury.
Keep an eye on the website for more training and essential race day tips in the lead up to the race.
Follow our social media platforms via Facebook (www.facebook.com/CoronationDC), Twitter (@TheCoronationDC) and Instagram (@coronationdc) for updates.
The Coronation Double Century is a Pedal Power Association event organised by the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust on their behalf. For event-related queries, please contact the Events Office on 087 820 7223 during office hours.