Planning for the Sportive, with Ben Wood from Wheelbase Yorkshire

Some of the common hurdles facing us all at the start of the new cycling season

As riders up and down the country start the process of beginning their training for the season ahead, we’ve been speaking with Ben Wood of Wheelbase Yorkshire in Ilkley about some of the common hurdles facing us all at the start of the new cycling season.

Ben is a triple endurance world record holder and has been a professional mechanic for over 20 years. His biggest record was riding Mt Ventoux 19.3 times in 4 days 16hrs and 24mins, the aim was for each rider in team Ultra6 to climb 100’000ft ascent in the quickest possible time. Since then he’s ridden the Haute route with Team Mavic, climbed Brunthwaite Lane’s ‘Murder Mile’ a total of 60 times in 19hrs and has run ultra-marathon distances.

Ben answered our questions as you’d expect, with the enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge only someone with his level of experience would have, so keep checking back in for more tips over the next few weeks.

Ben Wood cycling nutritionI’m planning on riding this year’s Hawes Long Route on the White Rose Classic. What is the best way for me to prepare?

Personally when preparing for a long hard ride like that of the White Rose Classic come summer, I find riding little and often through the winter months builds up a strong base of miles for when spring arrives. You are always better riding 20 miles every other day 4x a week than riding 2 days a week and doing bigger miles. This gets your body use to riding and builds a better level of strength and fitness.

Also if the weather is harsh, cold and wet it’s often better to do hard fast short rides than long endless miles getting cold and making your self ill. Also Hill reps can be a great way to build strength when you are short of time. We all have family commitments, days are shorter and so time to train can be an issue.

I find going to my local climb and setting my self a goal of 5 or 10 reps is a good way of cutting down training when the weathers particularly bad or I’m strapped for time. This is sometimes harder than riding for 3 – 4 hours and can take half the time. Also you can listen to your body and get home if the weather turns for the worst of the wind changes direction.

What “must-have” kit should I carry when riding out in the Dales?

I think the best part of kit you can have is a waterproof jacket. Something you can throw on if you get a puncture and you are waiting around in the wind. Also if the weather turns it will keep you warm and protected from the elements. In Yorkshire the weather can turn quickly and even in summer, it can still be pretty cold. I’ve been known to ride through most of June with leg and arm warmers on.

I would also say having a good spares kit with you is essential. Small mini pump, Tubes, puncture kit, tyre levers. The roads in the dales can be rough and harsh, so if you haven’t replaced your tyres in a while, get them changed before you ride the White Rose Classic. Last thing you want when training hard or riding the event itself is constant punctures.

I also always carry an emergency gel or energy bar, I often stick this in with my tools rather than in my back pocket. I will still carry fuel for the ride, but this is a back up if I’m out training and use up all my fuel. The amount of times I’ve gone further than expected and got caught out. This has sometimes been a life saver and helps you get home.

What energy-saving strategies do you recommend?

Biggest tip I can give for energy saving is ride at your own pace, I see so many riders trying to hold other cyclists wheels and riding way too hard. Start slow and build up and finish fast. If there’s a good group that is going similar speeds, ride together and share the work. If the winds strong try to stick together and help each other out.

How can I be sure to have the right food/nutrition with me?

Food and Nutrition on the ride can be tricky and the only way to prepare for this is to eat little and often. So over 6-7 hours I would expect to eat 1 bar an hour and try and drink 250ml-500ml of water per hour if it’s hot. It’s not always possible to drink this much when riding a long sportive as depending on where you can refuel this isn’t always easy.

I always try to drink lots the week before the ride. I often top up by drinking electrolytes a couple of days before and make sure I’m fully hydrated. I’m not a massive fan of eating loads of gels or drinking energy drinks, I would always take a gel or two with me but save these for the last 30mins to 40mins of the ride if needed and the same with energy drinks as you can be on a slippery slope if you drink these too early in the ride.

Also practice eating and drinking on the bike in training even on 3 hour ride. Fuel up like you would on a 6 hour ride. This stops you from raiding the fridge when you get home and eating excessively after training. Having a recovery drink mixed and ready to drink soon as you finish can also be a massive benefit.

I know I’m in good shape, but is my bike? What should I check before ride day?

The biggest issue I see on a daily basis is badly maintained bikes. Turning up to the White Rose with worn tyres, a dirty drive train or worn components is just asking for trouble. What’s the point of paying to ride, training for months to get there and then not finish due to a failure or endless punctures.

Last year I saw worn tyre’s right through to the tyre casing where you could see the innertube. Worn brake pads and wheels out of true or rubbing against the frame or rim. Bent mech-hangers, gears out of alignment, worn chains and cassettes, multiple shifting issues or gears slipping – all stopping the rider from climbing the hardest of climbs.

If the weathers going to be wet, clean your wheels and replace your brake pads. We also had riders with badly worn cleats that half way round the cleat broke and stopped them from clipping in. I would recommend getting your bike serviced 2-3 weeks before your sportive. Replace cables, chain and cassettes etc. Getting the bike ready many weeks before gives you chance to test the bike and make adjustments.

Never service the bike the day before and expect the bike to always run perfectly, if cables have been replaced you could have cables stretch even after the first few rides. If you are going to get your bike serviced last minute, make sure you trust your mechanic, explain to him what you are doing and when. As a professional mechanic for nearly 20 years, the more information a rider tells me the better. This gives not only me a clear understanding what the bike has been through but also what you are going to put the bike through in the coming days/ weeks.

Lets be honest – you can’t trick a good mechanic. If you haven’t changed the chain, cassette or chain rings for years get them changed, trust me it’s worth it.

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