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5 Tips to Successfully Ride in the Wind

 One thing is for certain with regard to the race this November - there will be wind….and plenty of it.  Simply put, GFNY Cozumel = Wind.  Even light wind offers a special challenge for all racers.  Learning how to understand the effect of wind on riding and navigate through it will give you a distinct advantage over others.  Below we will discuss key strategies to prepare you for whatever race day brings.

Have you watched any spring-time bike racing in Belgium?  Besides riding over bone-rattling cobblestones, elite professionals MUST be able to handle racing in strong winds.  Here are five things to equip you for your ultimate success on race day:

Know before you go - Two essential pieces of information can make a difference in how well you perform on race day.  First - understand the weather forecast.  Multiple meteorological sites can predict wind direction, wind speed, and timing.  Second - learn the course.  The GFNY Cozumel site has a route map with detailed directions and Google Earth can give street level views, allowing you to see what the turns look like and how technical they are.  Knowing these two things together will help you make decisions on how to position yourself with respect to others.  You will be able to identify when you will have headwind, cross-wind, and tailwind.  

Read the signs - A good fisherman is able to catch fish when others cannot because he can discern the current conditions and make better decisions better than others.  He evaluates current speed, water depth, air and water temperatures, topography, natural baits, etc. to determine where and how the fish will bite.  Reading the wind is very similar.  Riders can look at grass or trees on the side of the road to see which way the wind is blowing.  Notice how other riders are fanning out and seeking shelter from the persons in front of them.  When you can see how the wind is moving, you can ensure that as little of you is exposed as possible.  Also, it is vitally important to be aware of your immediate surroundings.  Wind, road direction, and riders are regularly shifting in strong winds.  Pay close attention because even a small change can have a significant effect.  As the wind swirls and shifts direction you will want to adjust your position in relationship to others you are drafting.  Prepare for the road to turn and know where the wind will be coming from after that turn.  Very quickly you can go from protected and saving energy to exposed and fighting to stay on the wheel in front of you.  Know where to be and get there quickly!  Have caution though as other riders will be making adjustments (either voluntarily or involuntarily) as the wind intensifies and shifts, and as the road turns. 

Find the sweet spot - Group riding dynamics offer the riders the opportunity to draft behind others and save energy.  Air provides resistance as you move through it, increasing the resistance as you go faster.  When conditions are windy the aerodynamic principles are exaggerated.  Wind is generally categorized as head, cross, or tail.  Headwind comes directly at you when riding.  Crosswind comes from the left or right.  And tailwind is the push from directly behind.  Head and cross winds are  difficult to manage as they force you to exert more energy to keep momentum.  Tailwinds might be the most fun thing to experience on a bike, as you pedal effortlessly at speeds you never knew you could achieve.  Rarely do we ever have direct wind direction, rather it is quartering.  That is to say it combines the cross wind with head or tail wind.  The net effect is that you are riding with a cross-headwind or cross-tailwind.
Positioning yourself correctly is dependent on wind direction.  In a headwind the best place to be is directly behind the person in front of you.  When riding in cross winds you need to seek shelter on the leeward side of the person in front of you.   Cross headwind requires that you be offset behind the rider.  Cross headwind from the left will put you to the right and slightly behind the rider in front of you.  No matter where the wind, continue to monitor its direction, as it will be a key component to your success.

Know when to say when - With different wind directions happening throughout the race, it’s important to understand where to put out energy and when to back off.  If your goal is finish as fast as you can and utilize other riders to do this, it’s obviously very important to do what it takes to stay with that group.  This may give you opportunities to work at the front or there may be times you are alone and need to gauge your energy expenditures. As a general rule of thumb, don’t put out maximal energy when you have a tailwind and save it for more difficult head and head-cross winds.  This is because when going slower during these times, you can lose a lot more time and will need the energy saved during the “easier” sections.

The razor’s edge - With any extreme weather conditions, all riders must have a true focus and concentration on what is going on around them.  Whether it’s rain or wind, focusing and thinking about where you are and what you are doing is 100% necessary.   A lot of times, just letting your mind slip for a few seconds can be the difference between  having a successful outcome and not.  So make sure you practice “focusing” in your training.  Go on rides where you are preparing for the amount of time you will need to focus in November.  Greg Lemond, the great Tour de France and World Champion used to always say that five hour races would go by in the blink of an eye, because he was so focused on what was going on during the race.

Although it will be windy and warm on GF day, it is possible to prepare prior to the event.  One theme we will be preaching in our articles is control the things that are controllable and try not to worry too much about the things you cannot control.  Know what they are but focus on the controllable one.  

You cannot control the wind on race day, but you can do your homework and understand how to deal with it best during the event!

Get out and practice!  Nothing will prepare you better than practicing.  

Ride safe, ride comfortable and ride strong!


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