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The Night Before a Big Event

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Article posted: 10/04/2013

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The nights before a big event are when the nerves really start to jangle, you’re a bundle of energy from your taper and you just want to get on with your ride. Keeping relaxed and getting the most from that final night’s sleep isn’t easy. Olympic Development Programme Endurance Coach Matt Winston has to ensure that the riders under his charge at the iconic Paris-Roubaix race stay relaxed and Roger Hammond has performed at the very highest levels of the sport.

Riders relaxing after their reconnaissance ride and ready for their lunch

Insight Zone Expert Roger Hammond has firsthand experience of how not to relax before a big race. When he started as a rider, bad hotels meant bad nights and, without modern distractions, chilling out was a big ask.

“It’s amazing how much technology has changed things and hotel lifestyle over the years has definitely moved on, it had to. When I first started off, we would be in hotels in the middle of nowhere in France, you could only get some very strange French television programmes so it was really hard to relax.  You ended up wasting so much energy going visiting friends in other rooms or going down to the bar to see if there was somebody to chat or spend the time with.”

Over Rogers career technology progressed and with it came more opportunities to not go looking for entertainment from others, a chance to catch up with family or relax with a favourite film;

“Over the years things progressed. As I was leaving the sport as a racer we had tablet computers and portable entertainment. So, if I was going to an event now, I think the most important thing is to take something that will keep you entertained.  Maybe a book or a film on a tablet computer or something, social media to catch up with friends and family, just so that you stay in bed and keep your legs up.”

Chris Lawless taking some time to catch up on domestic cycling news

For current ODP riders the night before the event is more structured as they’re learning routines that’ll see them progress through their career and always put in the best possible performance. Insight Zone Expert and Olympic Development Programme Endurance Coach Matt Winston explains:

“As youth riders they’re being taught about the lifestyle of being a pro rider. It’s no different there, here, or when they turn pro, they have to make sure they relax before a big event. At this point it’s more about getting the processes refined for each race.

Matt Winston leading the team brief for the next day

This week for example, we have a pre race plan consisting of a team meal the night before where we relax together, followed by a race strategy briefing and then it’s their own time to do as they wish. Each person has a preference for structuring their night, some use their notebooks or tablets to talk with friends, some listen to music, some read books, but they all have an early night’s sleep to ensure a good performance the next day.”

What you can learn

Find a good hotel: If you need to stay overnight before your event, make finding a good hotel a key part of your logistical preparation. Book early and either get recommendations from fellow cyclists or use independent review websites. Check that it’s convenient for the race start, offers suitable food for dinner, will do an early breakfast and either allow bikes in rooms or has secure storage.

Great Britain Cycling and Team Sky hotel in Orchies

Use technology: Make sure you have plenty of entertainment to keep you amused. Don’t rely on hotel Wi-Fi so download a number of films, books or TV programmes at home before you travel.

Keep off your feet: Spend as much time on your bed as possible and ideally only stand up to go for a meal. If you’re with your family explain how important this and how much time you’ve devoted to training. Leave sight seeing until the day after your event.

Eat and drink well: Eat a dinner similar to what you’ve had the night before big training sessions but don’t think that you have to load up with a massive meal. Drink plenty of water. You probably will have a slightly nervy nights sleep anyway so getting up to go to the loo a couple of times is no big deal. It’s better to wake up well hydrated in the morning than having to try to play catch-up.

Riders making sure they take on lots of water throughout their stay at Le Manoir

Don’t panic if you can’t sleep: Although a solid night’s sleep is the ideal, time off your feet and just relaxing is more important. If you can’t sleep, don’t fret too much as studies have shown little effect on performance from one nights lost sleep. Rather than lying there stressing, read some more, have a hot bath and just try to relax.

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