When the mercury rises, the pavement can melt—and so can cyclists. Here’s a little personal story: During the second stage of the 2013 Tour of California, the race was heading into Palm Springs and it was about 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Several riders collapsed on the final climb due to heat exhaustion. One rider even went into a delirium, and could only speak full sentences again after spending several hours in the hospital. He unfortunately was also severely burned from laying on the hot tarmac until the ambulance crew was able to stabilize his condition.
Wanna know what I did that day? I finished my job at the bottom of that last climb, as I’d delivered my team’s leaders in a good position. I was exhausted, tired, and crazy hot—so I let the peloton go. I checked my heart rate halfway up that last climb, and saw that it was way too high for the speed we were carrying. I turned to one of my young teammates and said “Bob, laugh at me if you want, but do you see that rock up there? I am going stop and sit on it until my heart rate is under 170 beats per minute.”
Needless to say Bob looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I stopped anyway, and immediately drank my two water bottles, and waited for my heart rate to drop. I then finished the stage far back, and later heard about the other riders collapsing. It’s fair to say I was probably heading in that direction before I decided to stop and recover.
Here’s the best part, though: I was able to finish the stage without hurting myself, and I ended up winning the fifth stage into Avila Beach a few days later. Bob came back to me at that point and said, “Respect my friend, you seem to know your body pretty well.”
Moral of the story? Pay attention to your body’s signs and signals. Heat exhaustion can shut your whole body down, so it’s important to find ways to keep cool.
Here’s how to stay ahead of hot temps:
» Ride early in the mornings or later in the evenings to beat the heat.
» Always have enough water or drinks with you, and refill your bottles during your ride.
» Try to ride under the shade of trees.
» Wear an ultra-thin summer jersey.
» Always wear sunscreen. Fighting sunburn depletes your body of even more energy.
» Stop at a gas station or restaurant, and pour tap water over your head and body, to cool yourself down.
» Perhaps most important: Check your heart rate. You can use your heart-rate enabled Fitbit tracker, or check your pulse. If you’re riding at a moderate level, yet your heart rate is crazy high, do what I did—immediately stop and rest. It’s like when the engine goes into the red and your car breaks down. You want to keep your engine running smoothly.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.