Prepare to make the most of it

By Rebecca Charlton

The big day is fast approaching and I’m a firm believer that you can have a really positive impact on how the day goes by getting your final preparations right.

Unlike cramming for an exam, which I must admit I benefited from far too often at school, last minute panic training rarely has the desired result. I actually think the hardest thing is to relax and rest assured that you’ve made all the impact you can with the existing training you have banked. We’re all tempted to do that little bit more, you’ve seen that Baz78 on Instagram is training harder than you and maybe you should be too.

Back to the GCSE analogy – Sarah from M11 asked me, as we were going into the English exam, had I revised Animal Farm? I hadn’t. I panicked. Animal Farm wasn’t on our curriculum and of course didn’t come up in the exam. I’ve often revisited this moment before bike races, training sessions and events because this is your ride, your form and listening to too much unsolicited advice can easily derail you.

So what should we be doing in those final days? Let’s break it down into seven areas.


If you’ve done a lot of endurance events in the past, know what suits you individually and it’s worked before, then stick to the taper you know. Each body is different.

I personally discovered after often doing a short, sharp track race on a Saturday and a long road race on the Sunday my legs generally woke up with a few efforts the day before. When you’re taking on the UK’s most challenging sportive, you don’t want to be doing anything that accumulates fatigue in your legs. That said, if you’ve had complete rest in the run up, you might benefit from a gentle spin, with a couple of very short ramp ups, on the turbo for example, the day before to wake up the legs.

Don’t panic train

You can’t get fitter a couple of days before the event but you can ride yourself into fatigue and illness. Preserving your health where possible, avoiding exhausting social nights out or being on your feet excessively, will allow you to be as strong as possible on the day. Less is more at this point. Keep that hand sanitiser in your pocket too!

Eat well and hydrate

When you’re jugging cycling with work and home life, which most of us are, it’s very easy to forget to keep sipping fluids and eating regularly and well. To avoid starting Dragon ride in a deficit try to keep an eye on your nutrition during your taper week. On the flip side of that, it is possible to drink too many electrolyte supplements when you’re hydrating off the bike, which can lead to stomach issues, nausea, dizziness and lethargy. If you’re using them before the event just ensure you’re not only drinking them, or to excess. On the day, plan your nutrition so that you have enough to keep you fuelled between a good breakfast and the first time you’ll plan to stop.

Write a check list

I’m a huge fan of a list. It might sound like I’m telling you the most mundane and obvious trick in the book here, but I have heard too many anecdotes of experienced riders turning up with one shoe and not making the event. Get your list written up early and tick off as you go, in order to go to sleep with a clear mind the night before rather than stressing unnecessarily on the morning.

Dealing with event anxiety

If you’re anxious and can’t sleep, just remind yourself you won’t be the only one feeling like this. I’ve gone into so many events having been so worried about not sleeping that of course you don’t sleep. However, I’ve always found the adrenaline has carried me through and I’ve not even thought of that missed opportunity for a perfect eight hours. When the hard work is done a little broken sleep isn’t the end of the world and laying, relaxing in bed with some calming music will help the legs.

Find your strategy for the day

Some riders focus on the finish line, some focus on each pedal stroke and I like to break it down into manageable chunks. Getting to each feed station is a nice way of looking at it, rather than looking at the whole distance and elevation as a whole. Give yourself a morale boost, whether that’s warm potatoes and Jaffa Cakes or taking a selfie to send to friends or family. Refresh yourself for the next segment. Again, this is entirely individual and I know some people would rather bag the largest portion of kms before stopping. However you approach it will be right for you and your motivation.

Find a friend

Riding with others can make or break a good event. If you find a group that is going at a good pace for you, politely check they’re happy with you joining and if so, enjoy all the benefits of that group in support and the wheels to follow and recover on. The one thing I would warn against is heading off up the first ascent and burning all your matches trying to keep contact with a group going that little bit too fast for your ideal pacing. There’s a sweet spot where you can tip from huge energy saving benefits and increased average speed, to completely snapping and riding the rest of the event much slower than you would like. Be realistic and ride to your strengths.

Enjoy every moment of the experience. This will be a next level achievement to complete Dragon Ride 2024 and, not that you’ll need it – Good luck!