The Transatlantic Way is a 2500km self-supported ultra-distance cycle race that takes place between Dublin and Cork, via the Wild Atlantic Way. June 7th 2018 marks the third year of this rapidly growing event, and our Social Media Executive - Laurence Fryer-Taylor - is on the start list. We asked him about his background, inspiration and training to understand what’s needed to enter an epic event like this.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Laurence. What’s your background in cycling?
I got into cycling at university about 8 years ago. At first, it was just a fun way of getting around the city, but I found myself adventuring ever further into the countryside; the sense of freedom and mindful state it created were pretty addictive. Since then it’s been a linear transition from commuter, to club rider, to amateur racer.
What inspired you to enter the Transatlantic Way?
I have always been fascinated by cycling’s reputation for self-sacrifice. When I heard about ultra-distance cycling a few years ago - initially through friends who had completed Audax events - I realised how far ordinary people could push their bodies. As someone who has tried his hand at a number of disciplines but never quite excelled, I liked the idea that just being able to complete these events meant you were in a very select group of athletes.
As my curiosity in the discipline grew, I found myself dot-watching during the Transcontinental Race for consecutive years and eventually had the opportunity to talk to some veterans of the event; Neil Phillips and Emily Chappell. From there, I took the idea of entering something like this more seriously, and the Transatlantic Way seemed the perfect place to start.
Has the scale of the event - 2500km of unsupported racing - sunk in yet?
Yes and no. I have put together a vague plan which is based around finishing within the top 25. Much of my current training is about developing my sustained power and 60% of my riding is interval based on the Wattbike. This means I still need to address things like long-distance fuelling and my kit list, but I intend to approach these as methodically as my fitness.
Completing the race means you’ll be riding for over 200km, day after day, with little to no recovery time. How do you plan to train for this whilst fitting in daily life?
I’m lucky to have access to a Wattbike at work and at home, and it would be unrealistic to do these kind of distances week-in-week-out. My focus is on quality, not quantity. I currently use a combination of TrainerRoad and the Wattbike Hub to plan, train and analyse my fitness.
Outside of the Transatlantic Way, much of 2018 will be spent racing at amateur level with the East Midlands-based ØVB, so during the week I concentrate on high intensity intervals to build specific aspects of performance. On the weekends, I try and get the big miles in or do back to back hard sessions.
What features of the Wattbike do you get the most out of when training?
I’m a perfectionist, so having access to this much data is great for me. If I have a hard interval session, I like to stay within 5 watts of any target, and the same obsession applies for my pedalling technique. Cycling for around 300km in one day means a 1% improvement in efficiency could really make the difference during the race. Being able to work on this aspect of my cycling with Pedalling Effectiveness Score is reassuring, as it should help prevent any niggles or potential risks of injury in my pedalling style.
What are the key challenges you anticipate during the Transatlantic Way?
I think the main challenge for me will be mental. I’m confident that with the right training and planning I can do well - even in circumstances where the weather or other issues will affect the race - but I’m a very self-critical cyclist. Put that self-criticism alongside long periods of head winds and isolation and I can see why riders experience such a breadth of emotions in these events.
In training - and for the race - how do you approach nutrition?
The Wild Atlantic Way is well populated, so unlike some ultra-distance events I can probably be more flexible when it comes to fuel stops. As my training volume progresses I’ll begin experimenting with intake so I know what I can cope with during the race.
I don’t really think about calories when I train, but I match my nutrition to the session that day, or the series of sessions that week. For example, if I do any hard intervals above my FTP I will make sure I get plenty of carbohydrates and protein in afterwards. Pizza always goes down well after a tough workout, too.