Racing for training

“There comes a critical moment in every race. You must be mentally and physically prepared. Train for that moment.” Joe Friel


Over the past two weekends I have raced the Reeds Chevrolet Ninety Niner in Cape Town and the Berge en Dale race in Johannesburg with the Vet 40+ and 30+ men respectively.

These are great races in South Africa, as the tough terrain and windy racing conditions simulate European racing very well. Racing with the Veteran men also creates great racing opportunities to train mentally and physically for the high racing standard in Europe.

The benefits of racing with Veteran men in South Africa:

  • The Vets are very competitive and therefore race hard.
  • They often race harder than the elite categories. They don’t have big teams and complicated team tactics, this means that no-one wants to miss out. Small break away groups don’t easily get away and stay away, making for constant acceleration and high intensity racing. This also means that the races aren’t very predictable.
  • Racing in a bigger bunch, means that if you want to be at the business end of the race, you need to hold good bunch position.
  • High average speeds.
  • The strength of the Veteran men’s categories match the strength of the European women very well.

These are just a few of the many benefits of racing with the Vet men in South Africa, especially as preparation for Europe. The standard of the Vet men’s racing is very similar to that of the European women’s peloton. But in order to reap the benefits of racing with the Vet men, it is important that we as women actually race the men! It is pointless just to sit in and take a free ride in the peloton to the finish line.

Actually racing the men often results in even harder racing, as the men’s ego’s often mean they don’t want to see a woman beating them. Moves they might have let go, they don’t, if they see a woman in it or chasing it down.

I must admit I love racing with the Veteran men, even though racing with them often nullifies the tactics of the women’s teams. The level of South African women’s cycling is improving, but in order to ensure this continues, I feel it is important to race with the men regularly. It is important we learn to dig deep in our preparations, so that when the racing in Europe gets tough, we have the mental and physical strength to keep going. It is too easy to get into a comfort zone if we race in women only categories in South Africa.

Of course tactics and clever riding plays an important part in racing, however, often the difference between winning and loosing boils down to who managed to suffer the longest!

After one of the races I took part in, in Europe this year I chatted to Marianne Vos. She had been on a long solo break away that day. I commented to her that she must have had a hard day on the bike, her response was: “In cycling if you are not willing to suffer, you shouldn’t be riding a bike.”

Success in cycling is all about learning to love the pain and suffering.


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