11 days of racing: how to endure, recover and stay safe

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I’ve just finished up racing Tulsa Tough and now I’m in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to race Tour of America’s Dairylands (TOAD). TOAD is famous for its hard and fast racing and claims to be the “Largest Competitive Road Cycling Event in the US” with 11 days of back-to-back crits!

I’m again guest riding for CRCA/ Stans No Tubes p/b Velo Classic Cycling. The big teams present include a mix of UCI teams and domestic teams – Pepper Palace, UnitedHealthcare, Fearless Femme and IS Corp to name a few. The racing has certainly lived up to the hype.

We store stuff in our jerseys. #packhorse #domestique

A photo posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

I’ve never raced anything like this before. The longest tour that I had previously done was about one-quarter the length of this one; four days of racing that was a mix of time trial, road races and criteriums. So 11 days of straight crits is going to be a challenge for me! Eleven days of 60 minutes at 40km/hr with a heart rate of 180 bmp+. OUCH! Not many riders can be on form for that many days straight.

Different courses suit different riders, so your performance can vary each day. The team goes into each race with a different game plan, playing to our strengths on that day. Yesterday, we managed to get on the podium with a second place after a mega team effort. We’ve established a predictable route to ensure that we are in the best form possible for the duration of the event. Here’s how:

Fit and fresh

When I do this much racing, there isn’t really anything specific I need to in terms of training.  I generally do a morning light coffee ride for an hour to flush out the legs. We arrive at the race with heaps of time to spin on the road near the course for 20-30 minutes to warm up before the race. Post race we roll around for about 10 minutes, have a recovery drink, then eat dinner.

Spinners are winners! #prohours #raceday @stans_veloclassic A photo posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

Staying safe

I’m still getting used to the racing here in the US. As I explained in my last column, it is a little different to racing back home. Your position within the bunch is hard fought, primes bring a different dynamic to racing and there seems to be more crashes. I try to stay out of trouble as much as I can, I don’t ride dangerously and always keep in mind what my DS from back home always says, “nothing good happens at the back of a bike race” – which is so true.

Recovery is as important as racing

Within 30 minutes of finishing the race, I always make sure that I have a recovery drink. Because we race so late, we generally have dinner as soon as we can, too. After I’ve eaten, I put on my compression tights or socks and spend the rest of the evening with my feet up.


Why didn’t I bring my foam roller? #mylegs #ouch #smashedcrab

A photo posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

 Eating, because we’re always hungry!

Breakfast is consumed as normal, with coffee and more coffee. Then depending on the time of the race, I’ll make sure that I eat lunch around three hours before start time. An hour before the race, I’ll eat an energy bar or a banana, and fill any gaps with snacks as needed. My favourite snacks are rice cakes with peanut butter and honey or fruit and yoghurt. Post race is a recovery drink, then dinner, then an after- dinner snack may be consumed, too! #werideforsnacks

Texas tacos. #chipsandsalsa #taco #texas A photo posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

Sleep like a pro

Sleep is important for recovery. We all know this. Sometimes though, I find it hard to sleep when we finish a race at 7 p.m., and don’t get home until late. I try to get to bed at a reasonable hour (before midnight), sleep with an eye mask and ear plugs in to block out any disturbances. This generally works for me and I get eight hours sleep per night. (I also try not to drink heaps of water before bed so that I don’t have to wake up to pee).

Having fun

Although we are here to race our bikes and be serious for that time, we’re always smiling and having fun. This is something not to forget. Ladies that laugh together, race well together!

Let me know how you would tackle 11 days of straight racing? Any pro tips for me to consider?

About the author

The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.

She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.

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