What kind of medical support is available on Race Day?
Mediclinic fields a large team of doctors, nurses and other medically trained staff at 15 medical points on the route. These are well-branded and highly visible. Don’t hesitate to stop and ask for medical advice or help for any ailment – from headaches to cramps to falls, our highly experienced staff is there to assist you. This is backed up by an ambulance service on standby to transport seriously injured riders to hospitals, as well as comprehensive field hospital at the finish. Medical staff is easy to identify by their bright orange tops.
What do I do when I get cramps?
It is a good idea to increase your cadence by switching to an easier gear and keep cycling gently unless the cramp becomes unbearable. If so, get off your bike and gently stretch the affected muscles. Try to establish a balanced stretch of all muscles in the affected limb. It’s usually the hard-working legs that are affected, while cramps in other parts of the body could signal more serious problems. The best advice is to report to a medical point, where the staff will evaluate and assist you. Stopping at a water point is another option as most of them have physiotherapists on duty, who could give the affected muscle a good rub.
How can I avoid cramping?
Train properly for the event. By putting in the hours and intensity, you’ll go a long way to preventing the problem. On the day, you can avoid cramping by not going out too hard and fast. Rather start off slowly by stretching and warming up your muscles. Pace yourself at the beginning, especially on the hills, and increase the cadence so that the workload on your legs is less. When you stop for hydration or nutrition, do some stretches and keep the legs active. If you feel a cramp start, immediately slow down the activity, switch to an easier gear and keep to an easy, rhythmic pace.
Most importantly, ensure that you take in enough water and electrolytes based on the amount of time spent in the saddle. Also listen to your body, don’t fall into the trap of overhydrating because you can.
What do I do when I am feeling overheated?
Make sure you are taking in enough water. When you get to the next water point, stop and pour some water over your head and body. Wet clothes will keep you cool as you start cycling again. There is ice at most of the points, and by applying some ice to your neck and under your arms, you could cool down your core temperature. If you also feel dizzy or shaky or excessively tired, then stop and do your best to get out of the sun for a while. If you do not recover quickly, you might need to report to a medical point for evaluation.
If you are found to be in good enough shape you will be allowed to ride on. Better safe than sorry though, and the teams are well equipped to advise you. Remember, that this is your race and your experience, and no one will spoil it for you except you.
Balanced hydration is the key
The trick is to remain well hydrated. Drink when you are thirsty. On a hot day the average rider should be drinking between 400 and 600ml per hour to ensure a balance between being under-hydrated and overhydrated. Up your intake if it is very hot and you stay thirsty. Overhydration is as dangerous as under-hydrated. By definition, this means that you are drinking in excess of what your body needs. The result of overhydration is that the natural salts in your body gets diluted and you may develop issues around muscle function (cramps) and later issues around the cellular functioning of your body which may lead to disorientation and in severe cases a person might lose consciousness. The key to good, balanced hydration is to listen to your body, drink between 400 and 600ml or as your thirst dictate. In addition: remember to snack on real food such as baby potatoes laced with salt or salted nuts. This will counter the loss of salts in your body.
What are the top three pieces of health advice for cyclists?
ONE: Always get a health clearance from your GP before doing any extreme event – even if it is only extreme because it’s out of your normal routine or behaviour. Don’t attempt to exercise if you are unwell in any way. Flu is a serious illness and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can be fatal. If you’ve been sick in the weeks leading up to the race, make sure you have recovered before you go riding again. Come to be screened at the Expo if you’re not sure if you re well enough to “do the Argus”. You might be disappointed, if after all your effort you can’t compete, but remember there’s always next year.
TWO: Ensure that you remain hydrated throughout the race. Drink when you are thirsty, and drink more than you normally would if it is a very hot day. If you develop a headache, you could well be dehydrated, and should take in more fluids and food. Don’t try new supplements in your drinks on the day, as they may cause diarrhoea and vomiting. There is no substitute for food. Some examples of snacks that are easy to carry and will sustain you are bananas, baby potatoes, nuts and raisins, cucumber pieces (yes, really). Be careful of food or drink containing stimulants that spike your sugar, mood and energy, which could cause you to feel worse later on. Basics are best.
THREE: Ensure that your bike set-up is correct. Correct saddle height and adjustments to the pedals and handle bars can save you from discomfort and serious injuries. Make sure you are very familiar with your bike and other equipment, and don’t try out anything new on race day – not even your outfit.
Follow the rules of the road. Keep left, pass right, and indicate your intentions to fellow cyclists. Be especially careful at water points, which are notorious for accidents.