An Excellent CCC Survival Guide from Dave Allen (Triple CCC’er)

CENT COLS CHALLENGE: a Survival Guide.
The following notes are a personal view of the way I approach a CCC and I hope some of the tips will be helpful in making your CCC a little easier.

Training
I can only give advice regarding Veterans/Masters training which for me tended towards more quality than quantity. I used Joe Friels “”The Cyclists Training Bible” as a basis for my training and aimed for 5 days/week which would include a day of Gym work. I rode for about 10-12 hours/week. I ended up with a monthly program which saw me spend half as much time at Tempo as in Endurance ,half as much time in Threshold as Tempo, and half as much time in VO2 max as in Threshold. In other words, for example, a weeks total training might be broken down into, 6 hours Endurance, 3 hours Tempo, 1.5 hours Threshold and 0.75 hours VO2 max. From previous experience I knew I needed to be able to ride comfortably at Tempo for long periods as if on a climb rather than spending lots of time at Endurance level. On the CCC you are either working hard uphill or resting on the descent, never much time at endurance pace.
The most important factor in my own training was the use of weights. As a veteran rider the first thing to go is strength and through weight training this can be prevented. Training the upper body for gripping the bars on the steeper sections, or hands/wrists for braking on the descents.
Core stability will also improve your climbing giving a solid foundation to pedal against. Lots of exercises on YouTube for this.
The single most important exercise is the simple Squat. Read the section in Cyclists Training Bible for some good advice on how much weight, how many reps/sets etc. This exercise really does help with your climbing.

Riding.
When out riding on a longer ride, practice riding out of the saddle uphill, it will relieve the tension in your legs and back that builds up on the long climbs. When you get out of the saddle change up 1 gear, changing down on sitting.
All these things can improve your climbing but an often neglected skill is that of descending. Long descents off the mountains can be great fun and safe if done properly.
Always note condition of road surface whilst riding up, is there gravel or other hazards on the road left over from free roaming sheep/cows/horses? Bumpy roads or surfaces with large cracks in will affect your downhill speed and unsettle the bike in the braking area, make allowances to your braking distances.
Always ride on the drops, not the brake hoods. Use 1 or 2 fingers on levers. I like to have my brake pads set a little more off the rims so I can squeeze the levers a little without the pads touching the rims.
Always relax on the straight sections, brake firmly ,as in an emergency stop, in a straight line, with time you will get to know the best braking points for you. Shorter , harder braking will reduce the chances of rims over heating and inner tubes blowing compared to long periods of comfort braking. As you turn in you should be releasing the brakes, look through the corner at where you want to go and try to hit the apex . Try to only turn once, do not turn in too soon or too late! On hairpins make sure the outside leg is straight and that you put weight onto and push forward with the inside hand. This is called counter steering and will turn the bike into the corner. If this sounds daft, try holding a spinning wheel by the axle and push forward with your left hand, the wheel will naturally turn over to the left. Something to do with gyroscopic forces I think.
Do not get lazy and ride over the white line in the middle of the road on exiting corners, always imagine there will be a car coming the other way. Be safe.

The Bike
It really doesn’t matter what its made of, carbon fibre ,titanium, steel or alloy, the single most important part is whats sitting on it!
The simpler the better. You will be riding almost 1200 miles, with lots of high speed descending, bumpy roads, rain, mud, often in remote areas with no chance of a specialist bike shop for 100miles.
Replace any bearings which might remotely need changing. New cables are a good idea. New brake pads, can recommend Kool Stop Salmon pads as very hard wearing, excellent braking in dry but take a time to work in the rain .Always bring 2 spare sets as wet weather riding eats brake pads.
Saddles, try ones with either a central depression/cut out, had to bin my Fizik Aliante as it caused recurring sores on CCC Alps/Pyrenees. Now use SMP Glider.
Wheels. I use DT Swiss hubs, Mavic Open Pro rims, Sapin spokes 28 2x without any problem and I weigh 73kg. Alloy rims better for braking, standard spokes easier to replace, don’t worry about about weight, how much food/water will you be carrying? Tyres , have always used Continental Gp4000S, great grip and good wearing tyre. Keep things simple. I use 100psi in the mountains.
If you think the weather may turn or that darkness may be falling when you get in, put your lights on the bike beforehand. Note small LEDs do not give enough light to safely descend in the dark.
If you don’t want to ride with a wet backside from roadspray, checkout Mucky Nutz Butt Fender, I cut mine down to fit on my SMP saddle ,does a good job too and weighs a few grams only.
Gearing. If you can fit a compact 50/34 with a 32 cassette do it. You will always be grateful of at least 1 more gear than you think. Remember that the CCC is 10 long hard days of riding and your legs get sore/tired and knees feel the strain. When I rode CCC Pyrenees I wished for a 32, so for the CCC Dolomites I fitted a Sram xx MTB rear mech and 11-36 cassette which was faultless with Sram Red shifters. A 36 may have been overkill but I was so happy I had it on the Zoncolan. Trust me , no one was laughing after that climb.
Tools. On the bike I carry a small multitool, puncture repair kit, with some instant stick patches as well, spoke key, emergency rear mech hanger, spare chain link connector,CO2 canister+inflator.This fits in a small saddle bag. On the bike there is a small hand pump, and I carry 2 inner tubes+tyre repair patch in my jersey pocket. You can rely on what others carry or the service van but that can take some time getting to you ,depending on where you are.

Clothing
My kit list would be, 2 jerseys,2 shorts,1 base layer, 2 prs socks, 1 gilet, 1 arm warmers, 1 leg warmers, waterproof ¾ shorts, waterproof jacket ,cap, thermal base layer, mitts, defeet gloves, thick waterproof warm gloves, waterproof overshoes, shoes, helmet, sunglasses(photochromic lenses).
Usually kit I wasn’t wearing ,apart from spare jersey/shorts was put in a day bag which is available at the feed stops. This year on CCC Dolomites we needed 2 day bags due to logistics and so I had to pack 2 arm warmers, 2 leg warmers, 2 waterproof jackets,2 caps, just to ensure they were available at every feed stop.
Tips. Reproof your waterproof jacket before the trip, I used NikWash then Spray on Nikwax. Make sure your gloves are warm and waterproof. Take a cap for the rain, helps visibility when you cant wear your sunglasses and keeps head warm. Warm, waterproof overshoes are vital. Invest in pair of waterproof shorts or ¾ tights, from reasonably priced MTB kit or mega expensive Assos( which actually worked very well, one of my favourite pieces of kit now). Take a Newspaper to stuff into wet shoes, speeds drying time++.
The biggest enemy of the rider on the CCC is not the heat but the cold, especially in the rain. Please take proper waterproof kit, thick gloves, overshoes, cap, you will be surprised how cold you can get on a 10 mile descent in the rain or first thing in the morning . The more layers the better. Plan ahead, if weather is changeable, take appropriate kit with you, even if you carry a small back pack with it in. Shivering down a descent unable to feel your fingers to brake/change gear, with numb feet is not fun nor is it safe. There is no such thing as bad weather, you just need to be wearing the right kit.
Some riders bring 5 days worth of kit and wash it on the rest day. I don’t have 5 days kit so every night as soon as I get in I wash the kit in the sink, wash the soap out whilst in the shower , hand wring it then use a dry towel to roll kit in and wring that to get kit even drier. I take 3 coat hangers and a travel washing line +pegs which can usually be set up in most rooms with a little imagination. The only kit which tends not to dry overnight are shorts and socks. That’s where the 2nd pair of shorts come in as I alternate them and so they have 2 nights to dry fully. As for the socks, they are usually dried in the morning with a hairdrier, also great to put on warm socks first thing. Don’t wash waterproofs, just hang to dry.

Its all in the Mind.
Tip. Leave the ego at home. Do not have any preconceived ideas how well you are going to ride. There will always be someone stronger and faster than you. Though not necessarily more stylish!
It doesn’t really matter how fit you are there will always come a time when the battle becomes more mental than physical. I never look at the whole CCC but take 1 day at a time and break that down into what I have to ride between each feed stop. The thought of riding 2 climbs before a feed is manageable, to think of having to ride 7 climbs in the day when you are hurting on climb 2 just causes undue pressure and stress. I find that that the 3rd session after lunch is always a nadir for me. But the last session tends to be better. If I can reach the last feed stop I know I can make it back to the hotel.
When you do enter a dark cave of pain and suffering, try to remember the positives, that you are doing something extraordinary and that will take its toll. Keep pedaling, every km ridden is one nearer the finish. Get angry, channel it into pedaling, you can do it. Often the day after a bad day will be surprisingly good.

A Day in the Life of a CCC Rider.
Alarm goes off at 6.00am. Room mate hits the bathroom while you take shelter in a warm bed for a few minutes more. Then quick shave with electric razor=simple and fast, brush teeth, wash and into dry shorts/base layer before applying sunscreen, if only as a waterproofing. Finish dressing in days kit, pack main bag, leaving out enough food/energy drink powder for the day, fill water bottle( tend to only need 1 before first feed so no point climbing with 2 full bidons),take lights/Garmin/bidons and wear trainers to take main kit bag to van, collect bike from storage and attach lights/bidons/Garmin, pump up tyres. Then breakfast, don’t take too long, plenty of coffee, then back to room for ablutions, pack rest of kit into day bag/s , apply chamois cream which goes in day bag. Down to reception, hand in room key, put on cycling shoes, trainers into day bag, bag/s into feed van/s. Climb on bike, start riding. Its 7.00am, hopefully back at next hotel in 12 hours. Always takes me 1 hour to warm up so struggle on start of first climb. Try to conserve as much energy as possible on the climbs, its going to be a long day. Usually soon riding alone, following arrow signs, then legs warm up, start to see riders ahead, slowly bring myself back to the field. Then fast descent, pass several riders, spirits rise and onto next climb. Feeling stronger now, reel in a couple of other riders and onwards to first feed stop. No wasted time at stop, fill bidons, grab some food and off again. If like me you are in the slower half of the field then don’t spend time at feeds/lunch stop, it can make the difference between finishing a stage or being left on a climb in the dark. By the way, try not to over eat at lunch, the body doesn’t like digesting food and exercising hard at the same time. On arriving at hotel, store bike, up to room, wash kit/self, wash out bidons + sterilize with Milton tablets, down to bike, check tyres for cuts, clean brakes/rims/chain+re lube if day was wet .I always take some pvc gloves to use when working on bike, spare j cloths for cleaning, chain lube, small brush for getting worst of mud off frame. Then time for dinner, review of next stage from Phil, always take note of what he says, then bed. Repeat x10.