There’s no better way to overcome the unknown and prepare than by taking the time to do a recce in advance. Not only will this give you a greater understanding of what you may face, but also how it will feel after a certain amount of time in the saddle
Understanding the route from the profile and information available online is an equally valuable first step in digesting what you are about to undertake. Whilst studying the route on paper, and reading the organiser’s notes, will give you an idea of what to expect, nothing can beat an actual recce of the course wherever possible and practical to do so.
Knowing where the roads narrow, particular caution is needed, what comes before and after the main climb and an overall familiarity of the route will allow you to perform in a better manner.
When undertaking a recce try to work at the same level of exertion that you will on the day of the event. If you’re using a power meter or heart rate monitor, stick to the levels that you know you can sustain, even if you feel you could go faster. The objective is to really simulate how you want to ride on the day so it’s important to have a plan and stick to it. Try timing yourself over set parts of the course, for example how long it takes to get to the foot of the main climb, how long it takes for you to ascend it and your overall duration.
Make a note of these times and commit them to memory. Knowing this will allow you to focus all of your attention on the day of the event and give you a realistic guideline to work to based on your own personal ability.
Learning unknown descents in advance will be a huge benefit come the big day as you’ll know exactly what’s around the next corner, how sharp a bend is or if there are any particular nasty patches of tarmac to look out for.
Remember to consider that there may be several riders around you come the day of the event so you may need to adjust your line on a descent accordingly. Practice moderating your speed in advance of the bend so that you can roll through the apex and carry more speed on exit.
Take the time during your recce to simulate as closely as possible what you plan to do on the day. This not only means what you are eating and drinking but also how often you’re putting the fuel in throughout the ride.
Time your nutrition intake to coincide with the course. For example, if you have a big climb on the horizon then take on some fuel in the 30 minutes prior instead of waiting until you’re on the climb and breathing more heavily.
It may seem silly but another point to consider is how easy your ride food is to open whilst on the move. Pre-opening some bars in advance can help tremendously, and gels with easy to open tops are a nice touch especially as fatigue starts to kick in.
Use your recce time wisely to experiment and hone your nutrition plan ready for the big day.