It seems so clear what cyclists in the Tour de France should do when watching from the comfort of your home. But it’s a different story when it’s you that has to pedal and deal with exhaustion and fatigue. Here is how you can avoid the four most common mistakes that cyclists make while exhausted.
Food intake gets out of control
When people get exhausted from cycling, they tend to do one of two things when it comes to food. Either they become irrationally picky, nothing tastes good to them, and they stop eating. Or they think that more food is the solution to their fatigue and start overeating to the point of digestive issues when it’s already late anyway. Neither of these outcomes is good.
The first thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to have a good hydration and nutrition strategy in place before you go into a potentially exhausting race. You have to train with the foods and supplements you are going to use in a race and eat them in the same quantity as you would in a race. This allows you to test what works and helps you learn how your body reacts.
Practising in training also makes your nutrition more automatic. You tend to get worse at making a lot of decisions when exhausted. Doing your eating and drinking on autopilot helps reduce the number of decisions and increases chances that you will do the right thing.
You stop paying attention
When they get exhausted from cycling, people tune out the world. They zone in on pedalling, getting to the finish line, and nothing else matters. This survival instinct can occasionally help if you’re close enough to the finish. More often this could be dangerous. When you shut down like that, you stop paying attention to the road and you stop eating and drinking. This could end up in serious injuries.
Dealing with this takes practice. You have to pay attention and recognize early warning signs that you are shutting down. It’s easier to spot these signs in other cyclists. So, if you see that your friend is becoming less responsive, let them know. Keep checking on them and make sure they keep eating and drinking normally. And make them stop if their shut down gets dangerously bad.
You refuse all help
The next common mistake happens when you try to help your buddy exhausted from cycling and they refuse you. Exhausted cyclists make bad decisions and refusing any help like drafting, aid stations or food is among the common ones. When it comes to food, you can be persistent and when your friend finally eats that energy bar and feels much better a few minutes later, they will thank you.
The tricky thing is to get your friend to draft or pace themselves. Drafting takes focus and they might not have much of that left and they probably don’t really want to drag you down to their tempo. Helping them quickly get to the next aid station could make all the difference. If they accept your offer to draft make sure to keep a steady tempo but don’t push it.
You lose morale
Exhaustion can amplify every single negative thought and make it seem like all hope is lost. If you don’t fight these thoughts right away, you will end up giving in and eventually giving up. Whenever you spot a negative thought, try turning it into a positive one. Draw on your experience and remind yourself of all the bad spots you’ve been in and successfully got out of. Practice this in training and when exhaustion comes along in competition, you will be ready to resist.