Coaching: Tapering and how to handle the days before your bike race

Posted on: May 8th, 2019
cyclists tapering
Stretching, nutrition and training; just three of the factors you need to consider when tapering and getting ready for a race you are targeting.

By Matteo Cigala

Coming into the final week before a race, the bulk of your preparation should be done, meaning you can keep your mind stress-free and relaxed.

Given the importance of the seven days leading up to a target event, you need to do everything you can to ensure your legs are at 100 per cent come race day.

The key components of a good final week are simple and effective as follows:


This is quite possibly the most crucial aspect of your preparation, particularly if the event you are training for is long-distance or likely to be intense for a long period of time.

As your training tapers down in duration, so too will the calories needed to sustain your body. However, if you are hungry then eat. The final week before the event is not the time to lose the last kilo or starve your body of nutrients.

Don’t go over-board and eat as if you are racing a Grand Tour. But you must fuel your body for your training the best way possible. This means eating until you’re content and follow your natural diet as closely as possible, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Stretching: Neglected by many cyclists but a great way to recover and relax

The two days before an event are usually where people can go wrong. The rule of thumb is to carbo load and give your body the largest stores of energy you can. This, for most people, will begin two dinners before the race; eating more processed foods – pasta, white rice or bread, which is easier for your body to digest – and in slightly greater quantities than usual.

The day before the race, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand and you can sip on an electrolyte drink during the day. The night before the race should be your biggest meal so you have time to digest it.

Eating a mountain of food on race morning with make you feel heavy and sluggish. IN general, a healthy breakfast can be porridge, rice, pasta, toast, eggs – nothing fried or heavy that can be slower to digest.

We need to bear in mind that if we eat something heavy to digest, the body will focus too much on the digestion process rather than the actual effort.


More is always better than less here. If you feel tired in the afternoons try a 30-minute power nap instead of a second cup of coffee.

Anything less than 40 minutes will generally not detract from your sleep that night.


After the months of training leading up to this event, it’s easy to get carried away with overdoing it in the final week.

The most up-to-date research shows that the best way to taper for an event is to decrease training duration by as much as 50 per cent while maintaining up to 90-95 per cent of the intensity.

This means your sessions will be much shorter but require absolute mental focus.

The purpose of maintaining your intensity is to keep your legs sharp and your mind on the task. Taper week is just as much a mental task as it is physical. 


Once your allocated training time is complete it is important to ‘Switch off’ and relax to enjoy other aspects of your life.

It is all too easy to focus entirely on the event and mentally exhaust yourself come race day. Do some stretching but not over do-it as over stretching will take away too much muscle tension which is important to feel the same on the bike. After this forget about the event.

Try to maintain a schedule as normal as possible and never change anything that you don’t need to. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

You’ll be grand

Once race day has arrived, eat a healthy breakfast, stay hydrated and then set your mind on the task ahead.

If all the preparation is done correctly, you should feel 100 per cent ready to go.

A message from Cigala Cycling

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If you’re trying to improve in a bid to win races or you simply want to lose weight and generally get stronger on the bike, why not check out our coaching packages from €100 per month?

We specialise in quality training that cuts out time wasting and maximises the time you have available to you to train, however short that may be. Check us out today at