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To Win, You Need to Train in the Rain

in 2019, Mads Pedersen made headlines after winning the UCI Road World Championships as the underdog. Betting odds placed Sam Bennett as the race favorite.


Flashback to the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.

Flashback to the 2019 UCI Road World Championships. Everyone looks very gloomy in the wet conditions.


The UCI Road World Championship was held in Yorkshire, England, and the second favorite to win was Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands. Van der Poel didn't even ride on the World Tour yet, but he had already made a big impact in the elite class. He won the Amstel Gold Race in April and then dominated the Tour of Britain in September, winning three of the eight stages. The only concern about Van der Poel was that he may not be able to handle the 280km distance of Sunday's race. Analysts speculated that if he could stay with the leaders during the first half of the course, he would have been a force to be reckoned with in the final sprint.


Alejandro Valverde of Spain won the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, after 16 years of trying. The veteran racer was another favorite rider to win the 2019 race in Yorkshire, England, after his dominant performance in the Tour of Britain. Valverde single-handedly hauled himself back to the finish with a full-on effort for 6km before outsprinting the field at Amstel Gold Race in April. His win was the highlight of the Spring Classics. At the Tour of Britain, he won three of eight stages. Valverde's form has made him a favorite to win again at Yorkshire 2019.


Some more honorable mentions within the top betting odds were: Peter Sagan--who had won the title several times previously. Olympic gold medalist Greg van Avermaet. And Julian Alaphilippe.


Except, nobody anticipated how heavy it would rain that day.


It rained so heavily that race organizers debated canceling the event. Riders sometimes had their entire wheels submerged at times. Too many riders to name slipped and fell off their bikes, unable to maintain traction in the unruly conditions. Many riders ended up giving up before reaching the finish line.


Just take a moment to watch highlights of how heavy the rain was at the World Championships, courtesy of Voice of America on YouTube.

Johan Price-Pejtersen, the men's under-23 European champion, stated, "I think it was a bit extreme ... In my opinion, I think they should have canceled [it] for a bit until at least the pools [of water] had gone and the rain had stopped being so extreme. .. Everywhere you tried to go there was, you know, you had to take the pools of water into account. You weren't able [to] ride the apex that you trained for, so yes, very extreme."


It was a brutal day, but that’s the type of weather I like to race in,” Pedersen said.


Pedersen immediately after winning the championship.

Pedersen immediately after winning the championship.


When it rains, the toughest spirit of the rider will come out. Many will decide to drop out completely. And the best way to prepare for inclement weather is to race and train in those conditions. Riders that race in the Alps will have to face harsh cold temperatures, so racers must prepare for the cold. Riders racing in areas known for frequent downpours must prepare for rain. The Danish Meteorological institute states that the average rain in Denmark was 707 mm in 2016 and 849 mm in 2017, which is an absurd amount. Many locals jokingly state that it rains 365 days a year in Denmark, meaning that Pedersen should have been well acquainted with similar weather.


Training in the Rain


Bad weather can complicate bike racing, but the same basic principles still apply. Tires have limited traction, so it's important to be careful with how much pressure is put on them. Keeping your center of gravity over your bike is key, as is staying on the inside of corners whenever possible. It's also important to remember that not all road surfaces are created equal; rain usually helps breakaway riders because they can move through technical corners more quickly than larger groups who become cautious in wet conditions. Ultimately, bike racing often comes down to willpower and choosing whether or not to ride aggressively in poor weather conditions.


Tire Pressure


When it comes to road cycling, tire pressure is an important factor to consider in order to optimize performance, especially in wet conditions. Rolling resistance is increased with higher tire pressure, meaning more effort is required to achieve the same results. However, lower tire pressure can decrease traction, making it more difficult to ride on wet roads.


As a general rule of thumb, decreasing tire pressure by 10 psi (from the maximum suggested pressure) may actually reduce rolling resistance and allow you to go faster with the same effort. Additionally, proper air pressure is directly related to rider and bike weight; without knowing yours, taking out 10psi as a rule of thumb when racing in the wet is suggested.


Center of Gravity


When riding in wet conditions, it is important to keep your center of gravity low. This means keeping your hands on the drops, lowering your shoulders, and pushing down on the outer pedal with your inside knee low. Your body, head, and the bike should be in line as you lean into the corner -you won't be able to lean much as you can in dry conditions so concentrate on maximizing the degree of curvature by approaching wide and exiting wide. Brake before entering the corner- not in it since there's less tolerance for error. It's also important when accelerating out of the saddle to avoid wheel spin by weighting back- particularly on steep hills. When acceleration out a corner, apply power smoothly while maintaining even distribution between front/back wheels which reduces the chances of the back wheel sliding out.


Descending and Braking


When descending in wet conditions, it is important to brake early and use good anticipation. This is because your brakes may be less effective due to the water on the road, and pumping the brakes can cause skidding. Instead of focusing on speed, focus on looking ahead and using mainly the front brake. Do not use too much back brake. Doing this allows you to maintain control of your bike.


Pre-brake gently to clear your rims of excess water before applying more pressure at a turn. Entering and exiting a corner in a controlled manner is key; it is better to go in slower and accelerate out of the corner than try to cut speed with aggressive actions while leaning over. Keep your bike as upright as possible throughout the descent for best results.


If you need to stop while descending, get off your bike and keep your center of gravity towards the uphill slope holding your bike away from you in an upright position as possible. There isn’t much grip available when braking by relying solely on rims, so it is important to tread for better stopping power instead.


Final Thoughts


Training in wet conditions is important for road cyclists because it can help them become better riders. Biking in the rain is more dangerous than riding in dry conditions, so cyclists need to be able to handle their bikes well and know how to brake properly. Training in wet weather can also help cyclists learn how to layer their clothing so that they stay warm and dry. Additionally, training in wet conditions can give cyclists the confidence they need to ride in all kinds of weather.

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