This excerpt is from Distance Cycling by John Hughes and Dan Kehlenbach.
It’s show time! All your hard work in training and preparation is done. Now relax, take it all in, and have fun. For a successful ride pay attention to these key things:
Pace yourself. When the gun goes off, some riders go out fast. Unless you’re going for a personal best, avoid getting caught up with them. Choose your groups wisely and pace yourself. In the excitement of the start, you may go faster than you should, so take it easy for the first 30 minutes. Remember that the group riding your pace is often behind you! If you are using a heart rate monitor, keep in mind that your heart rate may be elevated compared with what you experience on training rides, so you may be better off using perceived exertion as a guide. With a power meter current wattage fluctuates a lot. Try to keep it in the same range as you do during your long training rides.
Check your cue sheet. Put one copy of the cue sheet in a map holder on your handlebar, carry it in your jersey pocket, or tuck it up one leg of your shorts for quick reference. Stow the other copy in another location. Some organizers paint arrows on the pavement to show the turns, but if other rides have been routed through the same area, determining which arrows to follow can be difficult. Don’t assume that other riders are following the course correctly; double-check each turn yourself.
Ride with a group. Riding with a group increases the fun; however, pay attention to your ride even during a fun conversation. Even if you aren’t the first rider, look down the road for potential problems and point them out to your group. Ride smoothly in a straight line and signal or call out before you move or change speed. Don’t overlap front and rear wheels.
Ride in a pace line. If it’s windy or the pace is above 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), you can save a lot of energy by riding in an organized pace line. Remember the protocol: Ride at a pace everyone can sustain, take short pulls, look carefully for traffic before you drop to the back, drop to the traffic side of the line if a crosswind isn’t blowing, and drop to the windward side if it is. Be cautious when riding in a pace line with unfamiliar riders who may not know the protocol.
Eat and drink. The first hour goes by quickly. Start eating in the first hour. Depending on your body size we recommend consuming a mix of carbohydrate totaling 60 to 90 grams, or 240 to 360 calories, plus a little protein and fat, during each hour of riding and drinking to satisfy your thirst. Nibbling on a variety of carbohydrate during each hour will work better than eating one thing on the hour. Use your experience from the weekly long rides to guide you;what worked on them will work on the century. If you might forget to eat or drink, set your watch to remind you.
Take advantage of rest stops. Rolling into an aid station during your ride feels great. Take advantage of what they offer but use them wisely. View them not as places to rest but as resupply stations. If you have tight muscles, stretches using your bike will loosen you up (see figures 7.2 through 7.4).
When you arrive at a rest stop, park your bike carefully to avoid thorns and other potentially hazardous debris. Before leaving do a quick bike check: Are your tires hard? Are they clean? Are your brakes working?
Enjoy the company of others but avoid lingering so long that you get stiff. Use the restroom, fill your bottles and pockets, and get back on the road. Before you leave, thank the volunteers because without them rides like this could not exist. When reentering the road watch for cars and other bikes and ease back into your pace as you did at the start.
Mentally manage the ride. During your century, problems may occur. Don’t panic—almost anything can be solved. Take a deep breath, relax, and diagnose the problem. Is the problem with the bike? Riding with a soft tire or a rubbing brake can be a drag—literally. Are you getting repeated flats? Make sure that nothing is embedded in the tire or protruding from the rim strip. If you are down mentally, have you forgotten to eat or drink? If your legs are tired, did you go out too hard? Mentally review your three basic scenarios. If you have forgotten to eat, don’t try to make up the calories immediately because doing so may give you digestive problems. Instead, just get back on schedule. If you have gone out too fast and your legs are trashed, slow down for a while, regroup, and adjust your expectations. Your energy level and emotions will fluctuate during the ride. You may find that after slowing down for a while your energy will return. Above all, whatever happens, remember that this is your ride. You still can have fun and finish.
Enjoy the experience. Whether this is your first or hundredth century, enjoy it. Get your head away from your electronics and look around you. Discover the beautiful scenery right in front of you. Chat with other riders who come and go. You may find new riding partners who become lifelong friends. Carry a small camera in your seat pack or jersey pocket, take lots of photos, and offer to share them with others. By relaxing and putting the fun factor ahead of your performance, you’ll have fond memories for years to come.
Read more about Distance Cycling by John Hughes and Dan Kehlenbach.