The West Africa Cycle Challenge doesn’t require ultra high levels of fitness, however participants should be comfortable cycling up to 60 miles a day for 4 days in a row. Riders won’t be forced into a fast pace, the point of the ride is to enjoy the amazing landscapes and experiences that Sierra Leone and Liberia have to offer! The key considerations when training for the event are more focused on the heat (West Africa is still v. hot in January!), the amount of time spent on the bike each day, and the all-important recovery period in the evening. Check out some top tips to prepare for WACC below!
Preparing for the heat.
Taking on the West Africa Cycle Challenge in January is definitely an effective way of escaping the normal winter chills, as average temperatures in Sierra Leone and Liberia are around 28 degrees! Obviously between now and January, you may not get many chances to experience training in this type of heat, so it is even more important that you are aware of the effect that the heat will have, so you’re able to plan ahead for it.
It goes without saying that hydration is really important on endurance rides, and even more so when riding in the heat. As well as making sure you’re taking in enough fluids, also remember the importance replenishing salt and sugar levels - rehydration salts are an essential to bring with you on the trip!
Going the distance.
Cycling 300km in four days is no small feat. Sure it’s broken down to between 60 and 90km a day (40 to 60 miles), but that kind of mileage still takes a toll. That’s why the most important part of your training should be simply getting the miles on the saddle under your belt. Let your body get used to the effects of cycling for several hours and being able to get back on the bike the next day.
This isn’t like training for a century where you just have to burn through 100 miles knowing you can recover for a week afterwards if you’d like to. To make getting back on the bike as easy as possible, below are some tips on minimising pain and soreness during long stints on the bike, and some recovery essentials for the end of each day.
Staying comfortable on the bike.
The first step on planning your recovery is to minimise the aches and pains you get in the first place. Focus on ensuring comfort on all points of contact with the bike; your butt, hands and feet.
Stand on your pegs every 10-15 minutes to relieve pressure on the soft tissue.
Avoid exerting too much pressure through your hands on the bars - grip should be light. Remember to vary your hand position on the bars.
Loosen your ankle at the bottom of the stroke to relieve pressure on your feet. During rest stops, remove your shoes and flex your toes to improve circulation.
Recovery is key.
No matter how well you prepare for the heat and how to stay comfortable on the bike, riding every day is going to take a toll. To minimise this, here are some steps you can take at the end of every day.
Warm down - take the last stretch of each day’s ride nice and slow to slowly lower your body temp and help flush lactic acid out of your muscles.
Spend some time stretching out, particularly focusing on your hamstrings, glutes, quads, hips and lower back.
Refuel - Load up on carbohydrates to replenish the lost energy stores after a long day’s ride.
Rest - Where possible, get a good night’s sleep, avoid stimulants such as coffee or alcohol that will mess with your sleep.