The Netherlands small and as flat as a pancake? Participants in the Race Around the Netherlands will disagree. This ultra-distance race covers nineteen hundred kilometers and almost seven thousand vertical meters. Martijn Verhaeg from Den Bosch (the Netherlands) is aiming to finish on the podium.
“I registered during the Christmas holidays. Normally I focus on 24-hour mountain bike races, but during the coronavirus pandemic, there are none of those. This race can and will be held, because everybody is cycling solo. It’s nice to be able to try an endurance event on the road for once, ”says Verhaeg, who became Dutch champion in the 24-hour mountain bike race of 2018 and 2019.
“You push your limits, and I’m sure I’ll have to break through some mental barriers a few times. The weather might work against us and give us a south wind along the coast. Then that performance dip will come lurking. It probably won’t be my legs, they can handle the endurance. But you cannot train on the pain in your back and arms. You will start feeling it as the hours pass.”
Extensive dining is not an option”
Verhaeg is aiming to win the ultra-race. “I’m not participating thinking: I’m just going to finish the race. I start with the ambition to finish in the top three, I want to push my boundaries. Last year’s winner took three days and eight hours to finish, so my goal is to match that time. I think the best chance of winning is sleeping as little as possible; you don’t have to cycle 32 kilometers per hour all the time. That’s why I focus on long slow distance training; cycling long distances at relatively low intensity. Like a diesel. Then you will last longer.”
Verhaeg is supposed to cycle for twenty hours, followed by four hours of rest. Attached to his handle bars, he will have a bag filled with Eurosport nutrition bars and gels, for on the road. His drinking bottles will be filled with Isotonic Sports Drink. “Extensive dining is not een option. I will have to eat small and quick meals during the stops.” When he’s ready for some rest, he’ll take the bivy sack from his bike and take a nap on the roadside or on a bench. “Of course this is not particularly luxurious, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s part of the challenge, you’re on your own.”
Are you ready for an ultra-distance race?
Six nutrition tips
- An ultra-race requires an enormous amount of effort from your body. During the challenge, it is important that you cycle with sports nutrition that your body is already used to. So train with it sufficiently.
- Try to keep eating solid foods as much as possible and bring things with you that you enjoy eating. For example dried fruit or salty snacks. They will give you energy.
- While for some endurance athletes the advice is to take in 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour, this doesn’t apply to ultra-racers. This relatively high level of carbs can lead to stomach and intestinal complaints. When cycling an ultra-race, rather eat and drink all kinds of carbohydrates. Take fat and salt. Salt reduces dehydration and fat contributes to your recovery after the challenge.
- When it comes to hydrating yourself on the road, the same applies as with any other race: try to drink 400 to 800 milliliters of fluid per hour. Drinking should feel comfortable. This can be trained.
- Besides carbs, it’s important to take in protein during an ultra-distance race. It reduces muscle damage. Ideally you take about 20 to 30 grams of protein every three hours. The Recovery Shake can provide that.
- After finishing, it is essential to take in proteins for muscle recovery. The advice is: between 1.6 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. This particularly applies to the first two days after the challenge. For someone who weighs 80 kilograms, this means 128 to 160 grams of protein per day. Ideally you would divide this into portions of 20 grams of protein per meal.