Preparation is key
Last weekend saw us taking a trip up to Melton Mowbray with TAAP Racing for their first full team entry to the Metlon-Rutlans CICLE Classic. A UCI 1.2 ranked event that features on the European calendar. We took some time to reflect on the weekend and share our experience. The highs, the lows and how pre event preparation helped reduce stress, both for the support staff and the riders.
Firstly, we found in a recent study using heart rate variability that travel has a large impact on the stress/recovery balance. Data revealed an over activation of the ‘fight or flight’ response which inhibits many of our bodies normal processes and also hampers recovery. With this in mind, we left for the race two days before the event. This left ample time for the whole team to get used to their surroundings and recover, before pushing themselves to perform over a 195 km bike race.
For the support staff, this also meant they could relax and ensure there was no rushing when getting the team car and kit ready for the event. One thing missed could put the team out of the race so it is imperative that things are checked, then double checked.
After a quick brief of the weekends itinerary over dinner, the team got a good nights sleep ready for the course recce. The weather forecast was pretty unpleasant for the whole day so we opted to get the riders out nice and early to allow more time for recovery and preparation. The team car followed the riders for 2 hours, making sure the start and first gravel section were covered. Visiting these two crucial points meant the riders knew which part of the road they needed to be on to minimise puncture risk early on as it is pretty difficult to see ahead when surrounded by 180 other cyclists traveling at 45kph.
Once each rider had finished their pre race efforts, it was straight back to the hotel to warm up, eat and wash bikes.
A clear afternoon allowed the riders to relax, have a laugh together and get their kit ready. Support staff had meetings to attend, such as the team manager and drivers briefing, where they are given all the crucial information about the event and told their position in the race convoy. Everyone wants to be near the front and the bigger UCI teams get picked first. TAAP were car 17 out of 27 so not a bad place to be. It was then back to the hotel for a final race briefing and dinner, then an early night before the big day out. Bottles, numbers and race nutrition are all sorted the night before, taking stress away from the to-do list. This then ensures riders can wake up and purely focus on riding the race.
Sunday was race day. A pretty early start for the team, allowing riders to eat far enough in advance of the race. Porridge, pastries, coffee and juice were all on todays menu. Some riders like to eat in their room and be in their own bubble before leaving to race, whereas others like to be surrounded by the team to keep them occupied and help with pre race nerves. Recent studies using heart rate variability found that each rider has a differing level of stress the morning of a race, so they are encouraged to do what works best for them. Support staff ensure bikes and kit are packed then its off to the race.
The race, as expected was pretty chaotic but started with Matt Downie taking a leap of faith, attacking from the gun. He was joined by another but caught by the peloton after a few kilometres. A great show of confidence to attack so early on. Shortly after, he was taken down in a crash but got back up and back to bunch quickly. The pain set in and Matt came back to the team car for Paracetamol, taking the chance to also swap a bottle before getting back to the head of the race. Ryan then had an unfortunate rear puncture, which meant a wheel change and a big dig to get back. He was paced back by the team car for around 15 minutes before rejoining the others. Ben did a great job of staying sheltered in the bunch for the first 100 km before the race started to split. He ended up in a chase group behind the bunch before calling it a day. A great ride for the U23 rider and another notch in his belt. Matt Webster didn’t leave the head of the race, sitting in the top 20-30 riders for the majority of the day. He was caught out by a mechanical failure which ended his race and chances of a top result, but his efforts show he has great form and we look forward to seeing him come back with vengeance. In the last 25 km, it was only Matt D left in the race for the team and was looking good until a rear puncture with less than 10 km to go. He got a wheel change and paced back to the chase group in the closing stages, finishing the race with his head held high…..although looking like he had just finished a tough mudder event.
Overall the team put in a fantastic performance and we are proud to be supporting such a talented, professional group of riders and support staff.
Although the team had some frustrating issues, nearly all were out of their control. The age old saying, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ is a great fit and our takeaway from this weekend. Doing all the preparation in the lead up to the event, not just on the admin and training side but with the heart rate variability studies to learn how the riders react played a key part in what was mostly a seamlessly smooth running weekend. Minimising risks by preparing ahead of time allows you to focus on the task at hand, with confidence that you have done everything you can to succeed.
Keep up to date with the team by following them on Instagram, @taap_racing. We will of course be posting more to elaborate on key elements of the weekend, from minimising rider stress to ensuring quality sleep when away from home and how stress effects everyone in the team.