Johann Wykerd of Absolute Motion gives us a run down of how to taper your training for a mountain bike stage race as well build up to the 2023 KAP sani2c.
Tapering is probably one of the more misunderstood aspects of training for a mountain biking event or stage race. How much time do you spend on the bike? Do you stop completely? What intensity should you be hitting? All good and relevant questions because that last couple of weeks prior to the event you are riding are some of the most important for finishing off your preparation and making sure you’re well tuned and well rested for the big day, or days!
To crack the code on tapering for a mountain bike stage race, we have reached out to Johann Wykerd of Absolute Motion coaching to ask him some questions on the topic. Absolute Motion is the official training partner for the upcoming sani2c stage race and he’s been in full swing getting the riders ready for the iconic 3 day ride. These are Johann Wykerd’s thoughts on Tapering for a mountain biking stage race event.
WA: Good to connect again Johann, how has the training been going for your sani2c riders who have signed up for training programs with Absolute Motion?
Johann: Hallo Jason. It’s always good to catch up with you guys. We offered KAP sani2c participants a couple of training options this year and those who started January / February are definitely more compliant than the people who started this month. And then the people who opted for the personalised training plans are the most compliant.
Training in essence is a process of changing your body and mind over time and the more consistent you are in doing this the better the outcomes. If you are not someone who exercise 7 to 10 hours per week on a regular basis it requires a lot of change in your life to make this happen and I must say I am very excited to see how many people has made the sacrifice to meet the training requirements and look forward to seeing all these sani2c participants at the finish line with big smiles on their faces.
Q. With sani2c 1 month away from us, how would you describe the ideal taper for a 3 day stage race such as sani2c? What time period would it run over and what would the training in that period look like?
Johann: The idea with tapering for a race is to get to the start line as fit as possible and just “fresh” enough for your body to go from the 1st pedal stroke. If we start reducing the training too early, we lose too much fitness.
For the purpose of the sani2c training plans we worked on a 1-week taper week and during this week we reduce the volume (time), but we keep the intensity (how hard the intervals are) still high. We have found this to work well in that you will get to the start line slightly rested, but your body will still be “awake” to race.
WA: Aside from adjusting the training load, what other aspects of physical prep need attention? (i.e sleep, eating, etc)
Johann: This is the one aspect that I battle with personally as well. We definitely need to sleep more, reduce our alcohol intake, don’t experiment with food (we don’t want to get an upset stomach), don’t go to social gatherings (we don’t want to get sick) and travel as little as possible.
Bad sleep, alcohol, illness and travelling are all big contributors to systemic stress and can derail all your hard work leading up to the race. And then I hope you had your bike serviced by now … messing around with your bike in the week before a race is not ideal.
WA: What are some of the biggest errors you’ve seen by riders in their tapering? What are the common misconceptions of the practice that you’ve noticed in people’s approach to tapering?
Johann: Jason, this is an easy answer … Many untrained riders believe taper = rest and as I explained before when you do this you are telling your body it can go into “slumber mode” and I can assure you it will probably only wake up on day 3 and then it’s too late. So, DON’T STOP RIDING during the taper week.
WA: Interesting! If someone has been slack with their training and is coming in without a lot of load or intensity, should they still taper? What do they want to do to maximise physical readiness in the 2 weeks leading up to the ride, if there is anything that can be done?
Johann: Again, this sounds like me, haha. It is better to get to the start as fit as possible, even if this means you are tired, rather than being fresh and not fit at all. If you are leaving your training for the last couple of weeks my advice will be don’t bother with a full taper week.
Maybe take a day off 2 days before your start and reduce the time a bit the weekend before the race starts. You need to get to the start as fit as possible and you only get fit by riding.
WA: Alright so fit is better than fresh. Noted! Lastly Johann, what are your 3 “top tips” for tapering that you would give an athlete approaching their event day?
- This is one of the most important weeks of the whole program. Do what you can not to miss any of the training.
- Stay at home and be “boring”. You don’t want to take any risks and get sick. If you are a family person with young kids … the kids need to be “boring” as well as they are the ones that bring the bugs home.
- Focus on at least 7-8 hours sleep every night.
Well there you have some insightful advice from Johann Wykerd of Absolute Motion on how to taper for a stage race. I certainly found that really helpful, particularly the importance of keeping the body moving during event week!
Be sure to keep an eye out for more articles here in the build up to sani2c and of course all the news and info around the event come 26 April!