How to Get the Most out of Cycling Training Camps

Training camps can be as brutal as they are exhilarating. Here’s how to stay strong and keep improving when you’re putting in serious saddle time.


Whether you’re counting down to a bike vacation or a serious cycling training camp, riding at any level of intensity over a long period of time can be tough—no matter how much fun you’re having. Get through your heavy-riding program with flair by following these tips from a crew of elite junior racers who finished up a 500-mile training block in six days

Check the Weather

Pack for the weather you’re likely to encounter, suggests Centurion Next Wave team member Brody Sanderson. “Know and understand the climate of where you’re going—like whether you need booties or sun sleeves,” he says. “Trust me, it’s an issue, and if you aren’t prepared for any part of the temperature spectrum you’ll pay for it later.”

Check the forecast, but be prepared for temperatures a few degrees cooler or warmer than predicted. Prepping for a hot climate? Pack a thin windbreaker just in case. If you’re heading somewhere chilly, make sure you have shorts in case of a hot snap or an indoor ride day. And always, always have rain gear.

Take Care of Yourself

If you’re on a tour through a beautiful part of the world or digging into a high-intensity camp, it’s important to practice good hygiene. Your immune system will already be compromised from the long hours, so taking precautions to avoid health problems is key. This means washing your hands frequently, only drinking water you know is from a safe source, cleaning out your water bottles, and taking care of things like sunburn and road rash to avoid any chance of infection.

“Doing huge training blocks can make you sick, which can prevent you from continuing your block and it’s just not worth it when it’s so easy,” says 16-year-old Matt Staples of Centurion Next Wave. “The key is to manage the small things that are so simple but can really benefit you in the long run.”

Be Ready for Downtime

You’ll be riding long hours, but after your rides, you may find yourself with a lot of spare time to fill. It might be tempting, especially on the first couple days, to cram in extra activities and workouts, but solid rest is very important—and by rest, that doesn’t mean filling spare time with calls to the office.

“I would not make it through a big training block without Netflix,” says Graydon Staples, another Centurion Next Wave team member. “Once I finish a big ride, I like to go back to my room and take it easy while watching whatever there is on Netflix.” For some people that would sound ideal, but for others, chilling out is a chore. Just think of it as part two of your workout: recovery.

Use Chamois Cream Liberally

“The best advice I could give to a rider putting in a big block is the vast use of chamois cream, something to prevent chaffing,” says Matt Staples. All of the juniors at the camp echoed his sentiment. Chamois cream helps fight friction in the saddle and can help prevent saddle sores. If it’s applied too late, the cream can still alleviate some of the discomfort.

Embrace the Highs and Lows

“My best advice for someone who is going to put in a big training block is to really make sure you’re being honest with how you’re feeling,” says Team Progressive member Liam Mulcahy. Not only will some days feel harder on your body, there will be days that take a toll on your mind and emotions, as well. A few flats, a crash in your group, or being the slowest one up the hill can be disheartening, but it happens to everyone.”

“Expect ups and downs during the ride but remember, be excited that you’re able to go out and ride your bike in the first place,” says Erica Leonard of Norco & Garneau.


14 Crappy (but practical) Christmas Gifts for Hikers and Mountain Bikers

If money’s tighter than a hairpin bend, but for some inexplicable reason you feel a sense of obligation to give your hiker/mountain biker buddies something for Christmas, consider the following items:

1. A Box of Ziplocs – Pretty much everyone takes Ziplocs backpacking. But let’s be honest, nothing says, “I don’t give a damn about you” like plastic bags for Christmas.


2. Socks – For less than R 50 you will have to go synthetic or even cotton. No Merino Wool or any of those other fancy blends. If possible try to make your choice seasonally appropriate. You know the ones with littlChristmasas trees and snowmen on them……..maybe some reindeer as well.


3. Bandana – You can often find these multi-purpose gems at the bottom of outdoor store bargain bins. Potential uses include: towel, water filter, neck protection, pot cleaner, tent drier, hanky, useful to wear on your face during rain storms, handy if you are low on funds and decide to rob a convenience store.


4. A Six Pack of Ramen – A culinary staple for backpackers. If you really want to make an effort, select singles with a variety of flavours. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.


5. Toilet Paper – If they aren’t too picky in regards to softness/quality, R 5 worth of “white gold” can potentially last the giftee most of a multi-month thru hike…………at least when supplemented with the stuff they won’t pinch from hotels, restaurants,  and classier public restrooms.


6. Soap – Not only is it cheap, but it’s a none-too-subtle way of saying, “mate, you really need to work on your hygiene next year.”


7. Crazy/Super Glue – Useful for sleeping mat repairs, small holes in tents and at a pinch, even cuts and blisters.


8. Plastic Disposable Kitchen Gloves – You can purchase 100 count packs (or more) of these. They can be used as part of a layering system for your hands when hiking in extreme cold and wet conditions.


9. Baking Soda – Another excellent multi-purpose item that more hikers should know about. Potential uses include: toothpaste, deodorant substitute, cleaning pots & drink bottles, helps to remove foot odour from shoes, antacid for tummy rumblings, and; assists in relieving itching associated with insect bites, bee stings and poison ivy/oak.


10. 3M Micropore Tape – Breathable paper medical tape. Adheres well. I’ve used it for years instead of band-aids and other adhesive strips.


11. Hand Sanitizer – I haven’t had a case of the trots in the backcountry (so to speak) since 1999. I suspect that diligent use of hand sanitizer is part of the reason. I always keep a small bottle handy in one of the shoulder strap pockets on my backpack.


12. Groundsheet – This might actually cost you nothing if you can find a piece in a construction site dumpster. Customize the size for the giftee. It’s the little things that count.


13. Mini Dropper Bottles (2 Pack) – Another long time favourite. I repackage my hand sanitizer and Aquamira in these tiny bottles for all of my backcountry trips.


14. Ibuprofen – Vitamin “I”. A hurting hiker’s best friend. Can be found in many (if not most) hikers First-Aid kits. Forget about the name brands such as Advil and go generic. For R 50 you can usually pick up a 20 count bottle.


Sourced & Adapted from:


Three days of exceptional mountain biking concluded just outside of Hermanus on Sunday, 06 November 2016 with elated mountain bikers completing the final 69km stage (featuring a 1200 climb) of the 2016 FNB Wines2Whales (W2W) Mountain Bike (MTB) Adventure.

Team Freewheel Cycology’s Gavin Klerck and Lionel Murray claimed their second stage victory, completing Stage Three in a lightning fast time of 03 hours 06 minutes 33 seconds. “I didn’t think it was possible, but the trails have gotten even better,” says a very happy Klerck. “We had a good stage. We started with everyone and stayed in the mix. At the first climb we pulled away and opened a lead, but then my bike punctured. We had to fight really hard to catch the guys again. On the fast downhill Tyson here (referring to Murray) put the hammer down. The trails are really phenomenal. Finishing first at W2W is massive for me.”

Seen here (from left to right): John Knust and Mark Ludwig of Team Sputnik making their way to the finish line at Onrus Caravan Park after completing Stage Three of the 2016 FNB Wines2Whales (W2W) Mountain Bike (MTB) Adventure. Photo Credit: Tobias Ginsberg

Seen here (from left to right): John Knust and Mark Ludwig of Team Sputnik making their way to the finish line at Onrus Caravan Park after completing Stage Three of the 2016 FNB Wines2Whales (W2W) Mountain Bike (MTB) Adventure. Photo Credit: Tobias Ginsberg

“This is a world-class event,” says Murray. “The organisation is superb, the food, accommodation and trails are fantastic. The riders are treated like professionals. It just cannot get any better.”

Team Freewheel Cycology’s combined finishing time of 09 hours 40 minutes 31 seconds for all three stages secured them the overall champion’s title in the men’s race. Team SALiRE’s Robert Cragg and Charles Mcfall claimed the second spot on the podium, while Team GRW-LCC’s Dwain Butler and Rudi Pollard finished third.

Theresa Ralph and Hamish Knowles of Team Galileo Risk snatched a hat-trick stage victory with a deserving finishing time of 03 hours 16 minutes 59 seconds, taking their combined winning time for all three stages to 10 hours 16 minutes 08 seconds. According to Ralph, they had a marvellous day out on route. “Hamish and I just flowed together. We went out hard, kept it steady and fuelled well. It might be last night’s wine that carried us through today,” laughs Ralph.

“Riding with Theresa is a massive learning curve,” says Knowles. “I’m never part of the lead group. Today we were out in front up until the 30km mark. I’m really chuffed with that. Riding with Theresa has me in awe. I’ve definitely improved since 2015. Claiming the mixed team title motivates me to achieve more.” Team Recycles Racing’s Robert Kitching and Collette Bastard claimed the second spot on the podium after three days of racing, while Team Totally Stoked’s Tanja and Jon Oosthuyse finished third.

Team SALiRE Women’s Lolita Van Aardt and Simone Rhoda Van Aardt also celebrated their hat-trick stage victory on the day after completing the 69km stage in a time of 03 hours 41 minutes 20 seconds. Team SALiRE Women’s combined winning time for all three stages was 11 hours 22 minutes 30 seconds. The second spot on the podium went to Team Pharmachoice Ladies’ Michelle Van Aswegen and Emma Pienaar, while Sarah Davies and Beverley Wingfield finished third.

“Congratulations to all the riders and winners for completing this really tough event. You have set the tone for the rest of the FNB Wines2Whales MTB event series. It was encouraging to see so many cyclists coming out to enjoy the Adventure. We could not have wished for a better start to the 2016 edition of this event,” said Mike Vacy-Lyle, CEO of FNB Business.

The final destination stage, Stage Three of the FNB W2W MTB Adventure started at the picturesque Oak Valley Wine Estate (Elgin-Grabouw) and finished at the Onrus Caravan Park. Iconic sections on route included: passing the Houw Hoek Inn, the oldest hotel in South Africa, meandering through the quaint town of Botriver past the Botriver School, experiencing the magnificent Wildekrans and Hermanus Trails, Gaf-se-Bos, the Fruitways Beach Crossing, the PERI river crossing and then finally crossing the finish line by the sea.


Merrell Adventure Addicts – Adventure Racing World Championships in Shoalhaven, Australia (8-18 November)

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia.”

Adventure Racing is always touted as the toughest endurance sport, where teams pit themselves against everything that is uncomfortable and raw. So when booking pre-race accommodation for next month’s World Championship expedition race in Aussieland, it is amusing to read that Mollymook is a ‘beachside paradise’ in Shoalhaven, where one can “go for a swim at our new leisure centre, visit one of the licensed clubs or catch a movie at the modern twin cinema.” The more adventurous are invited to Funland for a “memorable indoor fun park experience.”

No doubt the event organisers and ARWC owners, Geocentric Outdoors, have the real deal in mind for the unprecedented 99 teams making up the largest field ever for this epic non-stop multi-disciplined navigational challenge covering 600km of the wild interior.

South Africa’s well known Merrell team, #5 in the world rankings and stalwarts of the worldwide adventure racing scene, are super charged for this race after a relatively quiet year. For the first time since 2011 there will be two teams representing our country, with the Sanlam Painted Wolf quartet also aiming high. There’s a small community of sportspeople capable of excelling at this sport and amongst these eight impressive athletes almost all have raced together in the same team at some stage.

Adventure racing athletes take part in the Expedition Africa 2011 adventure race in the southern Cape region, near Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa, RSA

Adventure racing athletes take part in the Expedition Africa 2011 adventure race in the southern Cape region, near Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa, RSA

Merrell are going with their original A team, bringing Graham ‘Tweet’ Bird, Donovan ‘Tiny’ Sims, Hanno ‘Smelly’ Smit and the irrepressible Tatum ‘Hobbit’ Prins back together again for an all out assault on the Australian terrain.  Grant ‘Freddo’ Ross, who helped the team climb on to three podiums in the last year, is on the bench for this one but no less a part of the team. It’s clear this team are 100% at ease with each other and their intimacy is obvious and enviable.

“We’ve had, by necessary circumstances, so many combinations in the team over the years. It’s not what you do – every team has the same objective – but how and why you do it. The four of us simply get what it’s all about for each other and so operate together not just as four strong individuals aiming at the same target, but as one organism. This is rare and very special to be a part of.”

Preparing for this World Champs, Tweet reflects on the experience he has gained from (what he can remember as) 22 expedition races in 13 years. “It’s just our normal lifestyle revved up a bit. As much as the international competition is great and gives us the opportunity to travel to new places, the real reward is experienced in training, when we get out and explore so much of our own country, without all the hype. We’ve all matured within this sport.”


Don, back to full strength after winning the ultimate fight of his life agrees. “This race is certainly going to be different I think because we are all pretty much content with where we are in the AR scene – we have nothing to prove to anyone. We can go out there and have some fun doing something we love so much. I always try squeeze the juice out of everything I do – life is quick!

Make no doubt, the focus is still on a podium position – “Hobbit was fierce before. Now she’s a mom there’s no chance of disobeying her!” – the team just plan to be smiling inside all the way there.

The team arrive in Shoalhaven next Sunday, perhaps giving them some time to visit that leisure centre before starting the race of their lives on 10th November.

As usual, Merrell is behind them all the way, with Black Diamond, PVM Nutrition, Ocean Eyewear, Squirt Lube, Island Tribe, ButtaNutt and Llama Bar giving their continued support for this awesome team.

Team Facebook: Merrell Adventure Addicts

Team Website: Merrell Adventure Addicts

Race website:

Graham Bird

Mountain Runner Events

A scientific guide to race day nutrition by Dr Jeroen Swart and Ben Capostagno.

Dr. Jeroen Swart and Ben Capostagno from Science to Sport look at the science behind race day nutrition.

Pre-race meal:

Our bodies store carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in two main areas; our liver and our muscles. The liver stores approximately 100 grams of glycogen, while our muscles can store ~ 500 grams of glycogen. The rationale for eating before a race is to replenish our liver glycogen stores (which we later use during exercise). During the night before our race, the body’s blood glucose concentration is kept within normal range by releasing glucose from the liver.

When we eat, we produce insulin in response to the carbohydrates in our diet. Insulin moves glucose into all of our tissues. However, when we exercise, GLUT 4, a transporter protein is incorporated into the surface of muscle cells and allows our muscle tissue to take up glucose without requiring the normal insulin concentrations. Exercise with high concentrations of insulin will move glucose into cells just when we actually need to fuel working muscles which can then result in a drop in blood glucose concentration leading you to feel light headed or sluggish.

You should, therefore, eat enough to replace the liver glycogen and early enough for the insulin levels to return to normal.

An easily digestible food source is ideal so that there is nothing sitting around in the stomach and small intestine when we start racing. Muesli and uncooked oats, nuts, seeds etc. can take 8-12 hours to digest and are therefore not the right meal UNLESS you are doing a stage race (in which case you are eating for the stages to come as well).

Toast with honey

Toast with honey


Eat about 2 slices of white bread (toasted or not) with jam or honey (not peanut butter or oily stuff) and add a banana and 500ml of energy drink or recovery drink. You can also eat a bowl of pasta, but without too much meat (which will slow down digestion). You should ideally finish eating approximately 1.5 – 2 hours before the race. Anxiety about the race may cause prolonged gastric emptying. If this is the case, reduce the amount you are eating and start to eat earlier.

One Hour before the race:

You should not eat again until you have started your warm-up. This should be about 45 minutes before the race. Once you are on the bike, then it is safe to start eating and drinking again as your insulin levels will stay low in response to the exercise. That said, one study could not demonstrate any detrimental effect to eating shortly before commencing exercise.

Consuming some carbohydrate shortly before the start will result in the absorption and delivery of maximal rates of exogenous carbohydrate (external sources of energy) from the start of the race, otherwise you are having to use your liver and muscle glycogen stores (endogenous sources) to fuel exercise and this will only last for approximately 90 minutes of strenuous exercise before you deplete liver glycogen stores, resulting in premature fatigue.

The practical:

Drink about 300-400mls of energy drink and eat 1 energy gel in the 30 minutes before the start.

During the race


Carbohydrates are substances composed of the basic building blocks of sugars – glucose (dextrose), fructose and lactose. These are called monosaccharides.

By combining these three monosaccharides you can build the first three disaccharides (two sugars):

glucose + glucose = maltose
glucose + fructose = sucrose (table sugar)
glucose + lactose = galactose (found in milk products)

By adding any more monosaccharides you get complex carbohydrates like maltodextrin. The longer the chain, the lower the glycaemic index (longer digestion and absorption time).

Short chains of glucose molecules are known as maltodextrins. They can be as short as three glucose molecules or much more.

How does this all have any relevance?

Monosaccharides and disaccharides are very easy to absorb (monosaccharides do not need to be digested and get absorbed by the stomach and first part of the gut (duodenum). Disaccharides are digested by saliva and secretions from the stomach and are therefore also digested rapidly.

The problem with monosaccharides and disaccharides are that they are very sweet. Monosaccharides such as fructose and glucose being the sweetest. This can make solutions with high concentrations unpalatable, especially during hot conditions. They also have very high osmolality (high molecule to water ratio). This delays the emptying of the stomach contents and absorption. High osmolality can also cause nausea and stomach upsets.

Maltodextrins are short chains of glucose molecules that are easy to digest and therefore available almost as rapidly as mono or disaccharides. Despite being composed of sugars, they are not sweet. They are also less osmotically active (each chain acts as a single molecule despite being composed of a long chain of sugars). This results in a more rapid emptying of the stomach contents and also makes them less likely to cause stomach upsets. The rapid stomach emptying means that they often deliver glucose more rapidly than solutions containing monosaccharides alone, despite the fact that they need to be digested into monosaccharides before being absorbed.

Now for the most complex part:

Fructose is a monosaccharide that cannot be used by muscle (glucose is the only sugar that can be absorbed by muscle cells). To be of any use it first has to be delivered to the liver where it is converted to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. The glucose is then transported to the muscle where it is used. However, fructose is transported across the gut wall through its own transporter (GLUT-5) while the other monosaccharides compete for limited transporters (S-GLUT-1). Ingestion of a mix of glucose and fructose can increase the rate of carbohydrate absorption by 50% in comparison to drinking sugars containing only glucose or galactose or a mix of these two.

Getting the right mix is quite a complex exercise. The first factor is the rate at which the stomach delivers any ingested substance to the small intestine for absorption. At low carbohydrate concentrations (3g/100ml or 3%) gastric emptying and fluid absorption are the greatest but as the carbohydrate content increases, the gastric emptying rate gets progressively lower. Although the emptying rate is slower with higher carbohydrate concentrations, the increased carbohydrate concentration will deliver more carbohydrate to the small intestine. This reaches a peak at about 8-10% solutions (8-10g of carbohydrate per 100ml), which is the concentration of most commercial energy drinks. Fluid absorption and gastric emptying also peak at about 500ml of fluid per hour. Any more than that and the remainder will just pool in the gut, weighing you down and making you nauseous.

Interestingly, Coca-Cola is approximately 8% carbohydrate. However, most of the carbohydrates in Coke are in the form of glucose and sucrose (a mixture of glucose and fructose) which makes it sticky and sweet compared to commercial drinks. However, if there is nothing else available, Coke is a good substitute.

How much carbohydrate you need depends on the exercise duration. During shorter races such as time trials, there is still a benefit to ingesting carbohydrate as there are receptors in the mouth that sense carbohydrate, reducing perceived exertion and improving performance. The longer the duration of the race, the greater the rate of carbohydrate ingestion should be. For races longer than 2 hours you should aim to ingest 60-90g per hour. Only exceed 60g per hour if the mix contains approximately 1/3 fructose as you will otherwise be unable to absorb all the carbohydrate, leading to gastrointestinal distress.


Finally, the addition of approximately 10-15% protein to beverages improves performance in subsequent exercise (so only useful in stage races or during hard training weeks) and also reduces post-exercise muscle damage.

Refreshing Delicious Chocolate Milk with Real Cocoa

Refreshing Delicious Chocolate Milk with Real Cocoa

The practical:

Shorter races:

Drink 250-500mls per hour of a commercial energy drink. If it is hot and you feel like drinking more, then take up to 600mls per hour or otherwise drink a little water. Do not drink too much as it cannot be absorbed and will just weigh you down. Rather throw water over your head, back and legs to cool you down.

Longer races:

Drink 500mls of commercial energy drink. Preferably a mix containing 2/3 maltodextrin and 1/3 fructose. This will deliver up to 50g of carbohydrate per hour. To increase this to the maximum of 90g per hour, consume energy gels or energy bars to make up the difference. If you start to feel hungry, eat an energy bar or some other easily digestible but more solid form of food.

After racing and training

After exercise, the enzyme responsible for restoring carbohydrate stores, glycogen synthase, is very active in the first hour. Ingesting carbohydrates (1g/kg body weight) soon after exercise is therefore far more important to the recovery process than ingesting protein.

NB! If you wait too long before you take your recovery drink, then glycogen synthase will not be as active. As a result, some of the carbohydrates that you eat will be absorbed by fatty tissue and converted to fats. Your muscle glycogen stores will also not be restored optimally. You will then start the next training session or stage with lower glycogen stores than optimal. ALWAYS take your recovery drink immediately after finishing a session. If you want to lose weight, then avoid eating later on, but not in the immediate post ride period.

Some studies have shown that caffeine accelerates glycogen synthesis after exercise. In one study, the subjects who were given a LOT of caffeine with the energy drink after exercise had 50% higher glycogen stores the following day. However, caffeine can prevent you from sleeping and recovering so experiment with lower doses first.

Ingesting protein immediately after exercise (0.3g / kg body weight) can turn off or reduce the catabolic process, sparing muscle mass and connective tissue. This has led to manufacturing companies promoting the use of protein recovery drinks, sometimes containing only protein and no other macronutrients.

The practical:

Drink 400-600mls of chocolate milk or a commercial recovery drink mixed as indicated in the first 45min after a training session.

Consume 200mg of caffeine with the recovery drink if it is a stage race or if you have done a hard session.