Keep that Bottle Close

By Coach Morgan Murri

Gravel riding is unique, requiring plenty of adaptation if you are a rider transition from the road. Gravel racing, in winter, is even more so. We all know the importance of hydration and, in a 50k or 100k race, fluid replacement is critical.

The potentially cold to extremely cold conditions at Old Man Winter can exacerbate this problem to be sure. Consider these points if its cold on race day. Colder air holds less moisture making breathing at race pace feel sharp and uncomfortable. In cold conditions, your body burns fuel to drive your pace & warm your body consuming more calories than you would on a normal temperature day. (More on eating in the next Tips and Insight article).

In both cases the solution includes hydration. Sipping your bottle will feel better on your dry mouth and throat, helping you breathe more comfortably. Eating without hydrating leads to digestion issues and restricts your calorie intake. So far, I’d guess I’m not telling you something most of you don’t know… Not really a tip or insight, yet.

So here it is, my number 1 tip if it’s another cold day this year. Protect your water bottles!
I would go so far as to say that more than half the riders I rode along with last year had frozen water bottles! Early on it may have just been frozen bottle tips? I saw many riders stopped or riding conservatively as they unscrewed the lid and “chugged it.” Further in though, racers could be seen banging bottles on their frames or pulled in at aid stations working to figure it out.

It’s pretty simple. No water = subpar to low performance!

So, what can you do?
1. Carry your bottles in your jersey pockets inside your jacket. This requires stopping to hydrate or advance bike handling skills to dig beneath your jacket on the fly (a move I do not recommend for your safety and the safety of those around you). I can promise you this. The time lost in a quick stop will be minor compared to the time lost in riding 2-3 hours without water.
2. Go MTB style and wear a bladder pack – again, under your jacket and a hose with a neoprene cover (or your bladder will be ok, but your hose will freeze) and the tip tucked inside your neck warmer or jacket.
3. Stop at the aid stations (although this may not give you all the hydration locations you need.)

There you have it. A worthless tip if it’s a 35-degree day out. But, a day saving tip if it’s anything like last year!

Go big, stay warm, and protect those bottles!

Coach Morgan