For months you stared at the calendar and counted down the hours until race day. You logged huge miles, watched your diet, and agonized over the correct tire choice.
And then — poof! — your race was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hey, it’s not the end of the world, and losing your race is a minor inconvenience when compared to the stark reality that millions of people now face. Still, what do you now do with this fitness, motivation, and desire to push your body that remains? Guess what: You’re not alone. The recent news that the DK, Grinduro, and U.S. National Road Championships — among other events — are all called off has placed thousand of cyclists in this position.
What should you do? We asked the experts:
Plan an epic solo challenge
It’s no secret why solo challenges like Everesting, Fastest Known Time, and DIY Gravel are booming right now. Tackling an epic solo challenge ticks two important boxes in the age of COVID-19: You do it by yourself, and you can use all of that spare time to prepare.
Having a solo challenge like Everesting or a monster ride on the calendar can give you the focus to continue with your training.
“My advice? You need to have a big thing on your calendar to recreate that countdown mentality,” says Pete Stetina. “Maybe it’s an epic ride or a bucket-list adventure. Whether or not it’s even competitive is secondary. It can be distance-oriented, time-oriented, or scenery-oriented. Just having that thing you’re looking forward to is a powerful thing.”
That thing for Stetina was DK, the race formerly known as Dirty Kanza. The event’s cancelation was not a surprise to Stetina, however, it has forced him and other gravel pros to seek out new personal challenges — and new media projects— to replace the 200-mile effort. Stetina plans to drive a sprinter van across the Western U.S. pursuing Fastest Known Time challenges, and Funnest Known Time rides, in cities across the west.
If you plan to tackle Everesting, make sure you study the rules.
Crush your local Strava leaderboard
You completed those interval workouts, so it’s time to put that work toward going fast. Yes, it’s time to become the hero of your local Strava leaderboard. Here are some helpful tips to help you win that Strava KOM or QOM that has eluded you thus far.
“Strava is great for individual motivation,” says Magnus Sheffield of Hot Tubes. “It’s aspirational. You can definitely overdo it, but hey, go for that KOM you’ve always been chasing.”
Sheffield was the favorite to win the junior men’s road race and individual time trial at USA Cycling’s national championships, until that event was canceled. Sheffield now has his eyes on the UCI junior road championships, and a few Strava KOMs along the way.
Gravel pro Amanda Nauman anticipated the DK’s cancelation, and she had already made alternative plans for the fall. Nauman was originally slated to race the 350-mile DKXL, so she had been completing long and steady rides near her home in Orange County, California. And that event’s focus on exploration and adventure fueled Nauman’s plans once the race was called off.
Nauman said she is now undertaking a bikepacking trek in Northern California in September. The riding will be steady and long, just like her training rides. And the ride will give her the spirit of adventure and exploration that the DKXL was set to deliver.
“The biggest takeaway from this time has been following my spirit of adventure, and I’ve explored places close to my house that I’ve never explored because I’m always off traveling,” Nauman said. “There is still an awesome adventure you can put together this year, whether it’s a 100-mile ride with a bunch of climbing or a multi-day thing. Don’t just sit on the couch and complain about it.”
Embrace the process
WorldTour road racers are accustomed to dramatic changes in the competition calendar, caused by injury or even being passed over for a race. Retired WorldTour pro Ted King said the cancelation of this summer’s races reminded him of the times in his career when he battled through broken bones and tendinitis. He had completed huge volumes of training only to miss the events due to injury.
In those instances, King said, he had to remind himself that the process of training, rest, and recovery, was simply part of the life of a cyclist. He said that rationalizing the seemingly wasted fitness helped him understand why it was he loved cycling.
“It’s a mind-bender for sure, and what it will do to you as you try to reassess and reevaluate why you ride is important,” King said. “You get to the start line and there are people who are already ready for the season to be over. Presumably, they’ve been training with the carrot in sight for a long time. My hope is they use the period to appreciate the process, and to remember to go ride for the right reasons. It’s a time to assess what cycling means to you.”
It’s a sentiment that was echoed by the other three riders who spoke to us for this story. Setbacks in racing — caused by everything from an injury to a worldwide pandemic — are a moment to forget the structured training and to pursue cycling for the simple joy of riding a bike.
“Some days I’ve been just putting my bike computer in my pocket and going out to ride for fun,” Sheffield says. “I feel for everyone. They’ve been sacrificing and doing intervals and threshold stuff, and this type of riding might not be as fun as just going for bike rides. You can’t really do anything about your fitness, and you might not be able to race, but you can still go out and have fun on a ride.”