long distance race zefal

Advice and tutorials


Every good cyclist starts with short distances, around the garden, the street in front of your parents' house... Then little by little, you'll want more and more until you're riding the long roads of your region. But that's still not enough for some people and that's where long distance cycling, also known as Ultracycling, comes in!

The goal of long distance cycling? To offer a journey of several hundred (or even thousands) of kilometers across regions, countries and even continents! These races will require an endurance worked on over several months of training, coupled with an optimized equipment on the bike and especially an iron mind! Some of the races may even require you to train for several years for the most extreme of them. Zéfal helps you prepare for a long distance race.

To help us in this task, we give the word to Clément Clisson, ultra cyclist recognized winner of several Bikingman and other ultra cycling events!

What is long distance cycling?

Matter of fact it is actually really simple type of race, to go from point A to point B without a stopover and over long distances. We can start talking about long distance around 250 - 300km, although most of the famous ultra-cycling races start around 900 to 1000km.

These long distance races can be run in several forms. The first one is the most classic: the open road race. Here, the cyclists will have to share the roads of their journey with other users and therefore respect the traffic rules. These are races that can cross countries like the Race Across America that crosses the United States from East to West every year over 4800km (and 51 800m of D+).

These races often take place over a fixed period of time (24, 12 or 6 hours) where the cyclists will ride around the circuit like the 24H du Mans vélo race which takes place at the end of August on the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans. Finally, the third form are the long distance races on off-road courses like the Gravelman Series, a series of Gravel races with hilly courses like the Flanders, Beaujolais, Auvergne, Mont-Blanc, etc.

The particularity of these races is that it is forbidden to ride in a pack and maintain a distance of 100m between each rider in order not to benefit from the suction effect, that's why these races are physical but also a psychological challenge because you are alone, often without assistance, facing the long distances that await you.

road trip oman

Prepare yourself well for long distance running

You must see your training on the long term, you will not be able to do 1000 km in 1 month of preparation. As in any project, you will have to progress little by little, learn to know your body and your limits, make mistakes and learn from them. You can, for example, start by trying to ride your bike every day in order to stay motivated to connect a point A to a point B. After that, you will intensify your long rides: 30 then 50 then 70 and finally 100 km in one ride to get your body used to those kind of efforts.

 « The important thing is to vary the efforts. Long endurance outings, one per week between 5 and 10 hours. Short, intense rides, easier to fit into the week with family and work schedules. There are excellent sessions proposed by Zwift to be done on the home trainer with a duration of 45 minutes to 1 hour. » 

If you're an experienced cyclist or athlete, Clement advises a few 'shock' weekends, with two big days on the bike and a night in the middle, to test the gear in particular. 1 per month is enough because it causes fatigue and muscle breakdown quite significant. Protein intake should be monitored during and after these weekends.

Try to increase your mileage progressively, add a few kilometers, a small loop at the end of the session in order to also work on your mental capacity to ride kilometers and to push your maximum distance. When you are able to ride longer distances, it is advisable to enter your first races of several hundred kilometers in order to learn how to manage yourself during an event, which is very different from training. You will also meet other long distance cyclists, make new friends and, why not, find training teammates.

Training with others ! In order to keep your motivation intact and avoid training alone everytime, going on long distance trainings can be a solution for the less lonely! Riding with others allows you to feel less alone, to get motivated if needed and to progress faster. Everyone will be able to give advice and share their experience on this type of event.

As for the few days before the event, Clément recommends resting well and allowing yourself a week's recovery time before the start of the race!

clément clisson banner

The day of the race

 « Generally I like to exchange with the other participants, it is always very appreciable! On the other hand, the last 3 hours before departure, I like to be alone, listening to music, closing my eyes in order to be as calm as possible and to empty my mind. With the experience I have learned that the rest taken, the days and hours before the departure was of capital importance for the event. » 

This is it, here you are, the day of your first long distance race! The one for which you have sweated for months during training. First of all, it is important to check your equipment one last time, so that everything is in its place. For Clément, « The closer the departure time gets, the more stressful it gets. It is therefore interesting to prepare these things one or two weeks before in order to minimize last minute stress ». You will already have enough stress to add to it! At the beginning of the race, regulate yourself so that you don't go too fast in the excitement and burn all your energy in the first hundred kilometers. Always keep in mind that this is an endurance race. Remember to eat regularly, stay well hydrated and, above all, to be mentally strong.

 « Overall my strategy is to start with food to last about 10 hours. Then I try to do a supply run in the morning (in a bakery or a mini-market) to have enough to last all day and a second one in the evening to last all night. This gives rations for about 10 hours of cycling. » 

clément clisson

Your long and tedious training is not in vain. Believe us, you are ready for this race so don't hesitate, think about the happiness of crossing the finish line after your long journey and enjoy the landscapes because this is also what long distance race is about: beautiful and varied regions to discover!