Cycling in the sun beats the rain any day. However experiencing high temperatures and humidity during full days in the saddle or racing can be exhausting and at worst be very dangerous. Having recently completed the Schleck Gran Fondo in Luxembourg the heat played a key factor racing over the 155km hilly course.
Sunburn contributes to fatigue and increases your metabolism which increases fluid needs, which will make hydration more difficult. When your body is devoting energy to keeping you cool, heavy exertion will limit your power output and performance. This can lead to mistakes, reduced concentration and in extreme circumstances collapse.
The Aussie mantra of slip slop slap is built in to their sun exposed culture to protect from the worst of prolonged exposure. Cyclists can follow a similar approach to keep safe and hydrated.
Look for cycle clothing which assists and has built in protection against sun burn. Remember the photos of Chris Froome who burnt badly through his Sky team kit. Don’t forget the head and eyes; a cycle cap can help shield your head from burns and sunglasses with UV protection protect your eyes.
Use a high factor suncream. I’ve been using P20 suncream for the last 6 years which offers up to 10 hours sun resistant as well as being great with resisting water and sweat. Remember to cover thighs and calves and the backs of your hands liberally with suncream as they’re constantly exposed to UV rays.
Drink plenty of fluids the day and morning before. Especially important if you have been travelling on an aeroplane to the event. If you are travelling try to get out their early to acclimatise to the heat.
On the day sip from water bottles preloaded with electrolytes during your ride and swill the water around your mouth. Set a reminder on your Garmin for every 10-15mins to take a sip from your water bottle.
You could even freeze your second water bottle so its cold when you come to drink it. Cold water in your stomach will draw heat from the core of your body and potentially boost your energy.
Pace yourself for the heat and moderate to the lower or middle of your training zone. Listen to the signals and if ever in doubt just ease up a bit. Remember on the climbs there’ll be no cooling benefit of the headwind so moderate carefully.
Post ride keep in the shade and take a protein-based recovery drink which will rehydrate you faster. Eat some watery fruit such as watermelon and grapes and remember to keep hydrated throughout the day.