GRAVEL SEASON PREP

GRAVEL SEASON PREP

It has been fun riding Transcordilleras in Colombia and chasing each other on the tarmac of the Canary Islands, but let’s be honest. There is only one date in my agenda that has a red circle around it.
Unbound | June 3rd
It all leads up to this event. All the training hours, all the sacrifices, all the expectations. Okay, okay, cool down, live slow, you know. But seriously, for me personally, gravel season has now officially started and this is what will be on my mind the upcoming months.

TRAVEL AGENCY TEN DAM

It all starts with some serious laptop time and a close look at my agenda. Not only will I have to train every day, but I will also need some race days to get better. I simply need a few gravel events to get into the focus and shape. The Belgian Waffle Ride, Sea Otter Classic and Gravel Locos are the US races I definitely don’t want to miss. All the fast riders will be there and it’s always fun to hang out with them afterwards. But these travels can be a logistic pain in the ass. Booking flights for me and my team members, making sure baggage and bikes are counted for, hotels, rental cars and campervans that do one way trips; I am like a small travel agency for some days. Sometimes you arrive at city A, you have a big travel day of 500 km by car, you race somewhere else, you travel to the next event and you fly out from city B. I am very happy that my head is fully operational again after I had that brain contusion a year and a half ago, because otherwise this part of the ‘going to race gravel events’ would be a complete disaster.

BIKE SET-UP

Now that the flights are booked, I can worry about the set-up. I have to make sure I get all the desired material in time, to build up the desired frame for race day. I have to choose between tires and gears, depending on the specific course. Two different race courses on the same trip, demanding a completely different set-up? Ooff. New material from the sponsor that completely changes everything on your bike? Okay, let’s work on that. What will be the weather and will the course be muddy? Change of tires? And that’s ‘just’ the bike.

NUTRITION PLAN

In the last weeks before I leave for the US, I have to think about my nutrition plan for race day and training days leading up to the event. How many chews do I need, how many hydro tabs for my bottles and how many gels an hour? It may not sound like rocket science, but it actually is. My average intake on a 10 hour race like Unbound is much more than you would guess. I take 90 grams of carbohydrates every hour, which is a bit more than the average stomach can handle. So if you are new to racing, don’t take more than 75-80 grams an hour. During a race like Unbound, I take the carbohydrates in the form of powder in my bottle for the first two hours and the rest of the race, I change to chews. Halfway, I always have a back-up maple waffle, to calm the stomach and to remind me of home. In the last two hours, I add a bit of caffeine to the menu in the form of gels. And I must not forget to hydrate: at least every hour a bottle of water with a hydro tab, or I take it directly from my Camelbak.

PACKING DAY

Last but not least: pack my suitcase. How many times in my life have I stepped out of the house, asking myself: shoes? helmet? It must have been a million times. Next to the LSRF race jersey and a pair of photochromic sunnies, I have two essential items to take with me on the bike and therefore in my bag; my gps and power meter (AND THEIR CHARGERS). There is just no going without them. They tell me what I have done, where I am going, where I need to go and they provide me with all the necessary data to train hard and efficient. Together, they are like that best friend that tells you the honest truth. Maybe not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. Accurate and trustworthy during rainstorms and other inconvenient weather and solid enough to cope with rough terrain, these computers are indispensable on rides and races. And did you know I use my gps as a timer to make sure I take the right nutrition on time?

Oh and a little but important note to myself: don’t forget to charge the DI2 in time. Those bastards never tell you they are almost empty. It happened to me several times in training already. Just in case, plug it. You don’t want to get stuck in one gear mid race..


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On June 3rd 2023, Laurens rode UNBOUND GRAVEL, resulting in a 4th place