Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Much of the world following the Tour de France Femmes was either completely amazed by the massive back-to-back race days these riders endured, or they are completely unaware of the physicality required to conquer such a feat.
For the latter, simply racing two days in a row can give a person the perspective needed in order to understand just how challenging it is to put your body through that type of an endurance effort.
As a professional athlete myself, I’ll be racing in more than 20 weekends of events this year, most of which are comprised of more than one race day, ranging from 20-minute events to eight hours of being in the saddle turning the pedals.
There’s a lot that goes into getting the most out of your body each and every time you line up to compete and there is delicate formula for finding consistency over and over again.
Here are my tips on how to handle different types of back-to-back events:
Events in the same day
Sometimes you may find yourself facing two races in the same day.
This is especially common for crit racers or cyclocross racers. If you find yourself trying to balance multiple races in one day it’s important to keep your expectations in check. You will not be fully recovered for the second race, however, don’t count yourself out because there are other elements that may make you a faster racer in your second event.
Lean into things like your established knowledge of the course, tactics, or even that you may be feeling slightly less nervous after the first race of the day is under your belt.
Between the races it’s important that you bring your body temperature back to a comfortable level. In other words, sit in the shade or an air-conditioned car or building if it is hot outside, or find some heat if you’re roughing it at a cold cyclocross event.
It’s also very important that you eat something in between your races. Whenever possible this should be planned ahead of time and brought with you to the event. Often times rice and eggs or something similar will be the perfect snack and store nicely in a Tupperware.
Having to leave the venue to find food can make even a long break between races seem to fly back. Finally, make sure that you warm up well for your second race. Even though you already raced earlier in the day, you will still need to complete a warm up and get the body primed again before racing.
Events in the same weekend
Even more common than racing twice in one day is racing twice in one weekend. It’s not uncommon for events to offer weekend long activities featuring racing opportunities on Saturday and Sunday.
There’s an art to this type of back-to-back racing and when done properly you may find yourself feeling almost entirely recovered on the second day. When you prepare for the weekend of racing, prepare for both events separately.
If possible, have one bag full of your equipment for Saturday and one bag full of your equipment for Sunday. This will make it so that after the first race, all you have to do is start recovering for the next rather than to start packing. I have found that the most important thing for these types of events is to streamline things as much as possible.
If you can, have dinner already made and don’t leave your bike work until the last minute if possible. Especially for these types of back-to-back race days it’s very important that you begin your recovery protocol immediately after crossing the finish line.
A protein recovery drink is usually a great place to start.
One great way to prepare for this type of event is to practice in training. Plan two hard workouts back-to-back and see how well you can recover in between.
Events in back-to-back weeks
When you race back-to-back weekends, things can seem both a little bit more complicated and a little bit easier.
Things can appear easier because you have more time to recover and organize your equipment before you line up again, but they can also become more complicated because more time means more decisions and more places you can go wrong.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, generally speaking, the first goal when racing back-to-back weekends is to recover. The first couple of days after your initial event should be spent making sure that your body has healed from whatever effort you forced it through.
If the race was long then it may take most of the week, if the race was short then it may only take a
day or two.
After your body has recovered, you’ll want to put in some efforts. It’s important to remember that you won’t get any faster in the week between two races, but you could fatigue yourself more. The workouts you do in between the races is primarily to stay sharp, limit fitness loss, and to gain confidence for the event ahead.
Events spaced significantly apart
Since we don’t all have Tour de France aspiration or even the ability to take time to race week after week, most of us will race with several weeks or even months in between.
In order to have your absolute peak performance, the ideal time in between races is 8-12 weeks so that you can recover, rebuild fitness, and taper again. Regardless of how much time you have though, the same principles hold true.
Remember that you won’t make every change you want from one race to the next so try to prioritize and celebrate even the smallest improvements.