The Rapha Women’s 100 is entering its fourth consecutive year, and it’s fast becoming an institution in women’s riding.
The event is simple: women all over the world ride 100km on the same day, ideally sharing pictures with the now iconic #WOMENS100 tag. Last year’s ride attracted over 8,000 women and this year the brand want to see 12,000 women pledge to take on the distance.
The red letter day to put in your diary this year is Sunday July 17 – giving you around three months to prepare for the distance if its new and unchartered territory. That is the goal of the 100: for new riders to cluster together and overcome a challenge, for seasoned riders to coach and encourage their less experienced friends along the way, and above all – for everyone to have fun!
To help you prepare for the event, we asked Rapha ambassador and experienced ride leader Beth Hodge to give us her advice for those taking on the distance for the first time. Beth leads rides for the women’s section of Dulwich Paragon, the ever present Dulwich Paragonette, as well as putting a great deal of work into the incredibly successful London Women’s Racing league that has got more women down South racing than ever before. This year, she’ll be hosting a ride in France…
Training to Ride 100km
Beth’s first piece of advice is simple: don’t go it alone. She tells me: “Recruit a friend to train and do the ride with, or find a group of like minded people, because ultimately riding together in a supportive bunch is way more fun – and the challenge is then far less intimidating."
And how do you go about finding them if you’re not already part of a group? Beth has a few suggestions: “You could connect with people on Facebook, look for a ride that’s been set up and join that [such as the Rapha shop rides, or a Breeze ride] or head down to ride with your local cycling club. Cycling clubs can look intimidating from the outside – I’ve been there once – but it doesn’t need to be scary. If you’re really nervous, go with a friend."
At first, the 100km milestone might seem far off – but with planning it doesn’t need to be. Beth says: “It’s about breaking down the distance in your training. That could be planning together with your ride buddies – mapping out your gradual progression in a formal way, or just saying ‘over the next 3 months, I’ll increase my distance by 10km each ride.’"
She added: “It’s also a good idea, to make training more fun, to see if there is a local sportive or a ride that’s about 2/3rds of the distance, probably about a months or so before the big day."
"You don’t need to stress too much about your training, you just need to be doing something."
Your weekend rides will probably be your key training events – but if you can get some short session in during the week that’s great. Beth says: “We’re all doing different things in our lives – you might have a demanding job that means you can only make it to one spin class a week, or you can just go for a run. But it all helps. As long as you’re feeling active, and concentrating on getting in one or two sessions a week, you’ll be fine. That could be half an hour of hill reps before work on a local hill, which is what I do on a Tuesday morning."
Great One Hour Sessions for Sportive Riders
She adds: “The main message I’d want to send to people is that you don’t need to stress too much about your training, you just need to be doing something. A lady on a recent ride said to me: ‘I need to do more training’ – as we were training! I just said: ‘don’t stress, we’re doing it now!’"
So - to recap:
- Recruit a friend to ride with
- Build up slowly and plan to ride a sportive of about 50 miles a month before the event
- Build one or two shorter rides into your week if you can - don't stress too much about exactly what you do but just enjoy getting active
Practical points: kit, bikes, food
As well as training considerations, there are some practical aspects to consider: kit, bike prep, and food.
The good news is you’ve got plenty of time to test your fueling strategy – Beth says: “The next few months are a great opportunity to have some fun with your food – just make sure you’ve got enough of it! It’s always good when you get back from a ride and you still have a bit of food left in your back pocket. That’s not to say you should try to eat less – it’s about taking enough with you. I like to take a mix of sweet and savory snacks on the bike, and its always good to have an ‘emergency gel’ that you can use as a last resort. I’ve heard people say “only eat when you’re hungry" – that’s not right! Eat before you’re hungry."
"Nominate a ‘feeding captain’. That person takes responsibility for reminding everyone to eat and drink every thirty minutes."
She adds: “One tip I’ve used in the past is to nominate a ‘feeding captain’. That person takes responsibility for reminding everyone to eat and drink every thirty minutes. Don’t get depleted, you’ll enjoy your day much more."
You also want your bike to be working with you during training and on the day. Beth says: “Look at the brakes, the gears – the happier your bike is, the better your ride will be. Get it serviced if you’re not sure what to do yourself. Also, you need to feel comfortable on your bike. If you’re getting discomfort 30 to 40km in, you’ll be very unhappy after 100km, so look at making changes – a new saddle, narrower bars are common changes women need to make – before the big day, and give yourself time to test them."
"When I started riding I made do with a pair of cheap gloves, and good shorts. You don’t need all the gear – but there are extras that can make you more comfortable."
Cycling kit is a tricky one. There’s A LOT out there, and it can be expensive – but not essential. Beth says: “When I started riding I made do with a pair of cheap gloves, and good shorts. You don’t need all the gear – but there are extras that can make you more comfortable. Arm warmers, leg warmers, a waterproof packable jacket, oversocks and a buff are all great additions that can make all the difference. It’s better to carry an extra layer, than not." We’ve got a round up of ideal kit for a sportive or long ride here.
There’s one items that Beth says is an absolute must: “A good pair of padded shorts is essential – you need a pair that work for you." We’ve got some suggestions here.
Key points on the practical elements:
- Eat and drink before you're hungry or thirsty. Nominate a feeding caption to make sure that everyone fuels every thirty minutes on longer rides
- Practice nutrition strategies, work out what works for you before the event
- Get your bike serviced, and look at bike fit if you're uncomfortable
- You don't need all the gear - good shorts and a pair of gloves are a start, but extras such as a packable rain jacket, arm and leg warmers, oversocks and a buff all help
Before the day and at the event
It’s always nice to know what’s around the corner, and Beth advises that you apply that to your ride too – she says: “The good thing about the Rapha 100 is that all the routes are published before the event, so even though there will be a ride leader, take some time to have a look so you know where to expect the challenging sections, and where to fuel up before them. It’s also a good idea to know where the stops will be, as that might help you mentally if you’re struggling."
On the day, it’s best to hold back initially – don’t use all your reserves in the first 20km – she says: “Save your energy – there are no prizes for being in the big ring all day! Keep your legs spinning a lower gear, especially on the hills. That’s something I only really learnt last year – keep the pedalling light!"
The Rapha100, at the end of the ride, is all about women coming together to share in the love of cycling – so its important that everyone has a good time. Beth says: “If you’re strong on the hills, help those struggling at the back. Listen to others, look out for hazards – communication is key. Some people don’t feel confident enough to speak up if they’re struggling, whilst strong riders sometimes aren’t good at team work. Try to ride as a group, don’t get strung out, and speak up if you're losing the back of the ride! It can be demoralizing if you’re always the last rider up the hill… but someone has to be last, that’s the way it goes. Everyone should work together to share their strengths and weaknesses – so you all finish with big smiles."
And of course, remember to savor the moment! It’s easy to let the ride simply ebb away at 101km, but Beth implores: “Plan an end to make sure everyone gets a chance to celebrate the achievement – a coffee stop or a pub with a big beer garden. Embrace the spirit of the 100 , take pictures and share your experience of the day."
Key points to remember:
- Check the route beforehand - look at the profile and find out when there will be planned stops
- Spin a lighter gear to save your legs
- Communicate, tell someone if you're struggling and support others
- Enjoy it, and celebrate at the end!
Tempted? You can pledge to ride the Rapha 100, and check out the rides available here.
You might also like: