Custom frame builder and TT specialist, Rob English is prepared to tackle what is arguably the toughest race in America—The TransAm Bike Race. At 4300 miles long, this unsupported nonstop coast-to-coast race across 10 states is absolutely brutal. In the article below Rob recounts his training efforts and preparations for the race that starts Saturday, June 3rd at 6am PDT in Astoria, Oregon. To learn more about the SRAM RED eTap-equipped bike he built for the event, click here.
So, you’ve decided to enter a race where you intend to ride 250 miles a day for 17 days. How exactly do you train for that? Unless you are a full time rider, I think the answer is that you can’t—you just have to do your best to prepare and see what happens…
I had hoped to essentially be a part-time frame builder for the last six months; the reality of the projects I had to complete and having a bike show in the UK to attend in April meant that things didn’t quite work out that way. But from December through March I was either riding, working, or sleeping, so I maximized the training time I had. Unfortunately the year I needed to do a lot of training volume coincided with one of the wettest Oregon winters in several years. Normally I never ride indoors, but the weather dictated multiple three hour roller sessions just to get the hours done. I plotted out a four-month build of gradually increasing volume with periods of recovery. I logged 67 hours in December, 74 in January, 69 in February, and 81 in March; a bit less than I hoped, but I was happy considering the constraints of work and weather. By the time I left for the UK in early April I was very much ready for two full weeks of rest and recovery.
Upon returning I finally had the TransAm bike put together, and the weather was improving—at the end of April I did a three-day block of 322 miles including three time trials. Then I used the state team time trial championships to kick off a very solid eight days of training. I rode out to the race, raced (we won!), then rode home (105 miles). By the following Sunday I had logged almost 700 miles in 37 hours, which gave me a lot of confidence about my ability to knock out big miles day after day. Hopefully the combination of speed work and distance will add up to being able to ride for longer at a decent pace.
With two weeks to go I had an intermediate goal at the Oregon Gran Fondo—this is 117 miles and starts 30 miles from home. So—ride out, race, ride home. To better simulate what I have coming, I also had a plan to attack from the start and see how far I could get riding solo—well I was warmed up already, so worth a try. I duly took off, and at 70 miles I was about four minutes ahead, having averaged close to 23mph to that point. I was a bit slow on the next climb, where my teammates attacked the group behind. They bridged up to me with 30 miles to go, and the three of us rode in to the finish to sprint it out—I was second (for the fourth time in this event….), but what was more noteworthy in the grand scheme was that I felt good on the ride home, even with a strong headwind all the way back.
A couple more long rides last week and now the start is a week away and no more training to be done! Just recovery and final bike and kit preparation. The bike has been running great, I now have all the custom bags for it—frame bag, toptube bag, a custom feedbag under the aerobars, and a carbon aero storage box (thanks Ruckus!) behind the saddle. Next week it will get new tires, a chain, and a complete checkover, otherwise all sorted.
Apart from the riding, one of the hardest things about this race will be eating. I will need to be eating consistently all day, and I know from experience that this becomes very tedious! Especially during the stretches where the services and options are very limited. I have been vegan for the last ten years, mainly for health and performance reasons—when faced with limited options I am likely to be eating a lot of trailmix and peanut butter; anything that is calorie dense will do it.
I feel I have prepared as well as I could, and that I have the best equipment. Now it is just down to a little luck and mental tenacity to see what is possible. Rob is using eTap Clics extension shift buttons wired to his eTap dropbar shift levers. No special equipment required.