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By Chris Carmichael
If there’s one thing you can count on when racing in Belgium, it’s that you’re likely to get rained on. While the roads were dry for a little while this afternoon, it wasn’t long until the peloton was soaked to the skin in cool July rain. Besides staying upright, keeping warm was the most important thing riders needed to remember during Stage 1.
Lance and his teammates didn’t pull out the rain jackets because they were afraid of getting a little wet; they wore them to prevent their core temperatures from falling. In a three-week stage race, you never want to burn any more energy than you have to. Riding in the rain doesn’t necessarily take more work than riding on dry pavement, but if your body is struggling to keep warm at the same time, you’re burning considerably more energy than you should be.
Even with a rain jacket, racing in the rain does tend to be more tiring. It’s not that riders have to work harder on rainy days, but rather that there’s additional stress from dealing with the weather. On top of the normal level of attention they have to maintain, riders have added challenges from low visibility, reduced braking performance, spray from tires in front of them, and slippery road paint. Though it is very hard to accurately quantify the amount of extra energy burned in rainy races, riders clearly report the perception of increased fatigue after racing in bad weather.
I’ve found riders perform best in bad weather when they increase their focus on eating and drinking. As conditions worsen, you tend to decrease the amount of food and water you consume, mainly because your attention is being drawn elsewhere. By focusing more on eating and drinking during bad weather, the hope is that you will consume as many calories and as much fluid as you normally do. Ideally, you would eat and drink a little extra, maybe 10% more than normal per hour, but even if you just maintain your normal intake, you’ll be better off than most athletes riding in the rain.
Hopefully, the rain will stop before tomorrow and the peloton will have a dry day of racing. So far, two of Lance’s teammates, Banjamin Noval and Manuel Beltran, have hit the deck, but fortunately they only suffered a few scratches. Lance, George, Eki, and Floyd all stayed right up front, and though he isn’t a great fan of racing in such nervous conditions, Lance said he felt good all day. A little soggy, but good nonetheless.
Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong’s coach and author of the new book, “Chris Carmichael’s Food For Fitness: Eat Right to Train Right”, available July 2004.
© 2004, Carmichael Training Systems, Inc.