Sticking to a more extended and focused plan
My preparation for the Tour de France Femmes started just after the classics, which means I have been training for this one race for the last 2.5 months. Having my mind so focused on just one race for such a long time is unusual for me. My preparations for the Olympics were similar but something about the way I’m devoting myself to the training this time feels different.
This time around, it is a pretty all-consuming process. Developing adequate course knowledge is essential, and together with my team, we did race 5 out of the 8 stages. It is also necessary to spend enough time at altitude. This tends to mean you have to isolate yourself from your friends and family and just focus on proper training and nutrition. Preparation has also included race-simulation training and mindfulness regarding what I consume daily to achieve my optimal race weight.
Limiting distractions and trying not to let the pressure get the best of me
Of course, I’m used to an intense training schedule but aspects of it are still challenging—especially when it’s over such a long time. Being away from people I enjoy hanging out with and isolating myself can be difficult. At the same time, it is necessary, so I don’t get too distracted from my daily routine. Finding a balance between training hard and recovering properly can also be tricky. You need to be mentally strong, so you can ignore the voices telling you that you haven’t done enough work and should add more hours, etc. The temptation is always there but I need to remind myself that overdoing it will lead to fatigue and ultimately do more harm than good.
Listening to my body and trusting my instincts
At the same time, as an almost 28-year-old cyclist, I think I have gained enough experience to know what works for me and what doesn’t. To get into the best shape to race, I need to disconnect from the cycling world and focus on what I know internally to be the weaknesses I’ve observed in myself at races. For example, heat preparation is a big part of my training right now. I’m aware that I don’t do well in high temperatures. Therefore, I’m still teaching my body how to be okay in these more extreme conditions.
I’ve also found that speaking lots to other riders about how they are feeling and what they are doing isn’t helpful for me. I’ve taken different approaches to this in the past but it ends up making me feel more stressed. So now, I’m learning how to trust the process I decided on with my team and coach and just take it one task at a time.
Giving myself the space to be a little selfish
Sticking to such an intense regime requires sacrifices, too. Unfortunately, when preparing for a race of this magnitude, you must force yourself to be selfish. I find this is getting more difficult as I get older because I feel like you need others and want to give as much as you are receiving. The truth is that to be in your best shape, you sometimes have to think only about yourself. That can be really difficult!
Nevertheless, I know that these changes I’m making to my life and schedule are temporary and that I will be grateful for the sacrifices I made come race day. For now, I’m sticking to my plan and trying to get my body in the best state possible and getting adequate nutrition. The most important lesson I learned while racing long stage races is how crucial fuelling is from the very beginning. The last thing you want to face is a situation where your body cannot perform because there is no energy inside you—so carbs will be my best friend leading up to the race.
Planning time to recover after it is all said and done
As professional athletes, we all appreciate that there can still be surprises regardless of how much training and preparation you put in. After the race, my partner Taylor and I are planning to have a little road trip across France. He will pick me up after the last stage, and we plan on spending around ten days on the road, camping out of our old van and just living life without a schedule and without thinking about tomorrow.
I am looking forward to that because right now, things are pretty crazy. Everything I do revolves around this one goal, whether that is riding my bike, eating, sleeping, interacting with my friends or getting treatment. It can get so overwhelming and even a bit lonely. But in the end, fortunately, it’s short enough that you can be very serious and devoted to it. I know I’m giving it my all, and I have to trust that it will shine through when the race begins!