Phil Peters has written us a guest blog about Liege Bastogne Liege sportive and the secrets of going long. Before you read it here’s a little about the man – As a strong climber with a fast kick, Phil’s success over the years in hilly road races has opened doors into strong teams including CSE Racing, DHC-Colnago and Cannondale Racing UK. Phil brings has wealth of experience from 10 years on the UK race circuit, impressive considering his young age. Comfortable leading a team, attacking a town centre crit or riding off the front of a 100 mile road race, Phil has it all.
So last year I did the Liege Bastogne Liege sportive (details for 2016 event here), sportives are not something I regularly do. I think they are great for a range of keen cyclists to participate in; however I am usually booked up with training and racing. Although, after going to watch the Pro’s race the Tour of Flanders last year and coinciding that with the associated sportive, I was keen to book another trip to, what many consider, the capital of cycling; Belgium.
So having completed Liege Bastogne Liege, a monster 273KM sportive what lessons can I pass on about long distance cycling?
I always love watching the classics. The month of April each year is filled with non-stop excitement from the cobbled classics to the Ardennes. Liege Bastogne Liege is one of my absolute favourites, with its line-up featuring some of the top riders in cycling and the steep gradients that feature throughout.
In the days leading up to Liege Bastogne Liege and the day before the pro’s tackled the same course, the weather was a constant source of discussion. It was agreed rain would feature at some point in our day and this turned out to be the case. We didn’t have to wait long as the ride from our hotel to the start line got us soaked through. With an estimated ten hours in the saddle and riding on the hope that my race calendar would be sufficient training for 273km, we set off.
The Liege Bastogne Liege Sportive Course
Riding this distance, in these conditions, you have to consider many things. You have to be appropriately dressed, have enough food to get you between feed stations, and ride fast enough that you get to the finish by sunset, however don’t blow up half way.
By the 50 mile mark, I was soaked, freezing cold, and already feeling the usual fatigue associated with a three hour training ride. What had I let myself in for? Liege Bastogne Liege has several categorised climbs with gradients in excess of 20% however it seems like the connecting roads are never flat. This saps energy and eats into your average speed.
I pushed on to the hundred mile mark, further than I’d usually ride in training and very well aware that I still had another 70 miles to go, with all of the previously mentioned climbs yet to come. However, at this point I recognised the key differences between racing and endurance events. In a race, your primary goal is often to win, thus beating everyone else. With an endurance event, you only need to focus on yourself. So long as you stay warm, healthy, fuelled, motivated, and ride within your own limits, you should make the finish. Most of the time, you have control over all of these factors.
I believe this applies to any long-distance event. I was riding with my dad and two of his team-mates and we all made sure we followed these principles. Subsequently, around 10 hours later, we reached the finish line. We had encountered tough conditions and a challenging route, over a distance outside each of our comfort zones, however had ultimately succeeded.
In future, I am confident that, so long as I am prepared and stick to my own advice, I can make the finish of similar long distance challenges. Although, in the words of Greg LeMond, “It never gets easier, you just go faster”