“HOW THE OLDER RIDER CAN COPE BETTER THROUGH MORE INTELLIGENT TRAINING”
Cycling is a great sport and one can ride your bike from the tender age of four until the mighty age of eighty and still cope very well . The smooth fluid action of the pedal stroke and the fact that the bike carries your body weight ensures that the sport is relatively injury free and even allows heavy people to ride in a much more comfortable manner.
I have been racing at a top level in the sport for the past 30 years and at the age of 47 still manage to do very well, and in fact on a lot less training then people may want to believe. The fact that riders of ages 35 plus are still winning against much younger cyclists at the top echelons of the sport is evidence enough that cycling can be an old mans sport.
How do they do it you may ask? Are they freaks of nature? Are they special? No doubt in many ways they are just that, but the nature of cycling is such that increasing age is not always a negative aspect and should not be used as an excuse for lack lustre performances. A strong mind is what is needed, but no doubt certain changes in lifestyle/training also need to be adopted. Of course it is a fact that age creeps up and affects physical performance ( it is estimated that the body declines by 1% every year after the age of 30 in a fit person)
I have heard too often cyclists stating that at the tender age of 30 they are now a fully fledged veteran, and that they cannot wait to ride in the older category where they can now compete on more equal terms with their counterparts.
WOW! Who are they fooling ? just themselves, that is for sure. A rider at the age of 30 should be at the peak of his /her racing career and should not as yet be using this as an excuse to ride at a lower level. YES sure on the other hand the introduction of the various veteran categories has really boosted cycling and this one must not ignore, it is good for the sport in the sense that this category does allow people to compete in all ability groups.
Of course! we all get old and our bodies do degenerate and break down from the age of 30 . No doubt a good young rider will always beat a good old rider. It is estimated that for every year after age 30 one will lose 1-2 % of your physical strength and capability
(provided that remain very active ). Thus a rider at age 40 may have 10 % less physical capability then a rider at age 30. This 10 % does seem like a major difference, but the nature of cycling can allow you to cope better( slip-streaming, hiding in the bunch , experience of pacing yourself, tactics etc ) , one can thus reduce this gap somewhat through experience and technique..
OK what should the older rider do? Here are some training and racing tips to make you survive and maybe even win.
1. Allow more time to recover between training sessions.Yes train hard but then have two rest days in-between. Training is essential to good performance but let and allow the body build on the hard work through more rest and good diet.
2. Keep weight to the bare minimum ( no middle aged spread is allowed) .Keep body fat down to below 10 %.
3. Start to concentrate on more strength and power work in your training. Allow at least one day per week to focus on this area. We tend to neglect this area as we get older but lose it fast if it is neglected.
1. Take more time to warm up before the event starts .
2. Start at the front end of the group to allow one to cope more easily when riders jump off the starting blocks.
3. Do not try to change the pace in a fast manner . Yes racing cycling is about the “stop and start “ bursts, but adopt a riding technique in the group where you “soften” these leg hurting and damaging surges. The older one gets, the more “one paced “ one gets, thus ride to that weakness.
4. On a hill sit up front and follow the same scenario as point 3 above . Do not surge and stop and then surge and stop.
5. Let the young riders burn themselves out over the first section of the event and then take over when it really counts.
6. Yes you will suffer in the first section of the event and one has to mentally accept this BUT believe in the old adage “Good things come to those who wait” .
7. Do not race too often , it will break the older body down. Once every two weeks is enough.
BENEFITS OF INCREASING AGE
1. Experience of having seen it all before and knowing what to expect .
2. Knowing what you want, and why you want to ride.
3. Knowledge of your body and its weak and strong points.
4. Mental toughness and maturity
5. Increased knowledge of the opposition and their weak and strong points.
The problem no doubt that one is faced with as one gets older is to actually “stay hungry “ and motivated for the sport. If one feels old mentally in the sport then the body will also feel old. Keep the mind alert and disciplined and the battle is almost won.
Get out there enjoy it and go for it .