If you are fortunate enough to be in Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under in January, a must-do event is the Bupa Challenge Tour presented by The Advertiser. The annual mass-participation event gives you the opportunity to ride the same route as the pros only hours before they do. Taking place on the morning of the Bupa Stage 4 (Friday, 20th of January), you can ride the full 157.5km WorldTour stage or choose the ride that’s right for you from one of three starting points along the route.
To help you prepare for the event and get you Bupa Challenge Tour ready, we've put together this comprehensive guide for everything you need to know and do in the lead-up.
Get to the start line
Before we get into the specifics of the Bupa Challenge Tour, the most important thing to know is what time and location your ride starts from. There are four separate distances, start times and locations to be aware of, so make sure you are ready to go at your designated start line. All rides finish at Campbelltown.
The 157.5km ride starts at Norwood at 6:30am.
The 111km ride starts at Birdwood at 7:15am.
The 58km ride starts at Mt. Pleasant at 8am.
The 25km ride starts at Norwood at 9:15am.
If you choose to take on one of the three shorter rides, be aware that, while the roads will be clear to start with, riders completing the full distance will likely pass you at some point along the route. It's best to give these riders a quick wave and let them be on their way, instead of trying to sit on their wheel for a free ride home. Although it's a recreational ride and not a race, some riders completing the full distance may want to ride hard and test themselves against the pros that will be riding the same course later in the day.
Know the course
For the purpose of this guide we are focusing on aspects of the full distance route. Aside from the opening 40 kilometres, all rides are conducted on the same course so the information in this guide still applies and should prove useful.
Be prepared to jump into the hurt locker early; the first ten kilometres of the Bupa Challenge Tour are uphill. The average gradient isn't overly steep but, at ten kilometres long, it's going to take a significant amount of time to climb. Make sure you pace these early few kilometres and you’ll have plenty left in the tank for the remaining 145 or so kilometres. Before you hit the road, make sure you do a proper warm-up so the initial stages of the climb aren't a huge shock to the system.
The next major milestone of the ride is the infamous Checker Hill, which comes at the 25 kilometre mark. The climb is listed as 3 kilometres at an average gradient of 5% which seems manageable - even 'easy' some might say - but the profile hides the truth. The climb is a UCI Category 2 rated climb - the steepness will hit you at the halfway mark. The climb averages approximately 14% for about 500m, even hitting above 20% at some points. Once you negotiate the middle 500 metres, it's mostly smooth sailing with the gradient shifting between 3 - 9% as you reach the top. The STRAVA leaderboard for Checker Hill shows very few riders averaging over 20 kilometres per hour, so be prepared for a grind. All three shorter ride options avoid Checker Hill.
Once you negotiate these two major climbs you can breathe a sigh of relief – there are no other categorised climbs on the route. But there are plenty of undulations along the way, as anyone who rides in Adelaide will testify. While the two big climbs are ticked off early, the highest point of the ride is reached at the 110-kilometre mark (approximately 500m higher than where you started) so be mindful there's still plenty of 'up' to come.
The final 25 kilometres are mostly downhill; we say ‘mostly’ because there are two short climbs with approximately 15 kilometres to go that will be testing after 140 kilometres in the saddle. Once these final two climbs have been completed, you can enjoy the flowing descent all the way into Campbelltown.
Nail your training
With big events such as this, it's easy to get carried away and think you have to emulate a professional training schedule, but remember; this is a ride, not a race. The best advice we can give is to be smart with the time you have and arrive on the start line fresh and injury free.
For many people, simply completing the distance will be the biggest challenge, so the most important part of your training is building your strength and endurance so that on the day your confidence is sky high and you can enjoy the ride. If possible, try to ride close to the distance of the event you have entered prior to the day, or at least ride for the same amount of time as you think the ride will take you. Make a day or a morning of it with some mates, making sure to ride as you intend to on the day. Schedule in plenty of stops for food and water, and practise your 'race-day' nutrition. On the day you'll most likely be riding with a group on the road which will make things easier, but if you're not used to riding in a group this can be a daunting experience. So again, this is something worth practising and getting used to prior to the event.
Training Tip: Get a group of friends together and organise a bunch ride that equals the same amount of time you estimate your selected Bupa Challenge Tour ride will take you.
As well as covering the distance, it's important to know that all four of the rides aren't completely flat. The full ride accumulates over 1,000 metres of elevation; ensuring you can manage that amount of climbing and preparing to spend extended periods of time with pressure on the pedals is important. What goes up must come down, so spend some time practising your descents. This is inevitable if you are doing hill repeats as part of your training, but instead of switching off on the descents, use them as an opportunity to improve your skills and confidence.
Training Tip: For your next weekly 'long' ride, aim to accumulate over 1,000 metres of elevation. This can be in the form of hill repeats. Find a long hill and ride up and down it multiple times, or head out on an undulating ride that steadily accumulates elevation over time.
If you are short on time the best bang-for-buck will be some high-intensity efforts. Riding harder, in the form of interval training, will not only result in massive improvements but make steady riding seem easier. You can tailor your efforts depending on the time and resources you have. The key is to make the 'hard' part worthwhile and really test your limits. These sessions take little time and can be done either on the road or inside on a stationary trainer.
Training Tip: Following a good warm-up, complete an interval session where the hard effort is twice as long as the rest period. Time will dictate exactly how long and how many of these efforts you do but the principle remains the same. Aim for your hard efforts to be an 8/10 exertion if you had to score them. To mix things up, simply manipulate the hard effort / rest periods to make the sessions easier or harder.
Example #1 - 30 minutes available: Five-minute warm-up followed by six, hard, two-minute efforts with a one-minute recovery and a five-minute cool down to finish.
Example #2 - One hour available: Ten-minute warm-up followed by seven, hard, four-minute efforts with a two-minute recovery and a five-minute cool down to finish.
Make sure your bike is in perfect working order
You've studied the course route and completed the hard yards in training, the last thing you want is a mechanical issue ruining your day. Don’t just get yourself to the start line fit and healthy; make sure your bike also in top shape.
To start with, give your bike a thorough clean making sure to degrease, clean and lubricate your drivetrain. Giving your bike a good clean also provides a great opportunity to closely inspect your components to make sure they are in good working order. During your clean, check your tyres for excessive wear, small pieces of glass or any cracks. If you spot any pieces of glass remove them and check they haven't broken through the tyre; that's a puncture waiting to happen. Many tyres have wear marks showing how much life is left in the tyre. Make yourself familiar with these - they are normally small holes in the tread and once they can no longer be seen, a replacement tyre is on the cards. If in doubt, swap them over; you don't want a pair of $60 tyres to ruin your day. If in doubt, swap your tubes over at the same time.
On top of ticking those boxes, you may need to replace your cables if your shifting and braking feels delayed or laboured, or if you are experiencing shifts without intervention. If you are not confident doing this, head over to your local bike shop and book in for a service. If you are planning on booking a service, make sure you book a few weeks in advance; a lot of other people will have the same idea and the local bike shop will quickly book out. They can also check that your wheels are true, replace worn components and suggest any improvements that could give you some extra speed and make your day easier. In case you've never travelled with your bike before, be sure to ask the shop about correctly packaging it up for the flight.
And finally, if you have electronic gears, be sure to charge them up the night before. There's nothing worse than having your battery run out mid-ride and being stuck in one gear for the rest of the ride.
On the day
The final piece of the puzzle is getting it right on event day. All your hard work can be undone by a few small things so make sure you tick the following boxes before you take off.
The Bupa Challenge Tour organisers have kindly provided a ride 'pack list' with everything you'll need on the day consisting of; enough food and sports nutrition to get you through the ride, sunscreen, spare warm clothing, rain jacket, sunglasses, a puncture repair kit, spare inner tubes, pump, rear tail light, fully charged and working mobile phone, water bottles/carriers and some money. Depending on the weather forecast on the day, things like a rain jacket and spare warm clothing can be left at home but if you are travelling from interstate remember to pack these essential items because they may be required on the day.
Sunscreen is one item that is often overlooked. Adelaide's average temperature for January is close to 30 degrees, so even a short period of time in the sun could leave you burnt and dehydrated, let alone when on a ride in excess of a few hours. You may even feel the need for extra protection in the form of zinc on delicate areas like your nose, tops of your ears and lips.
Once the ride does get underway, don't get carried away with a fast start or riding in a larger group than you are used to or prepared for. At the time of registration, you would have nominated a speed group of either 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 40 kilometres per hour, so theoretically all the people in your start wave should be riding at a similar pace. Don’t get caught up in the moment and take on too much at a time; take it easy to begin with and enjoy the ride. It's a ride, not a race, so make the most of the opportunity to ride the same course as the pros only hours before they do and soak up the atmosphere.
Registrations for the Bupa Challenge Tour close Wednesday 11 January 5pm ACST. Book now to be a part of this exciting challenge!
The 2017 Santos Tour Down Under will be held from Saturday 14 January until Sunday 22 January and the Santos Women’s Tour will be held from 14 – 17 January 2017. For more information visit tourdownunder.com.au