MotoGP: Building the rider
15 October 2008
This weekend's Malaysian Grand prix is one of the most physical demanding events on the world championship calendar, so how do riders prepare themselves for such challenges - and the racing season as a whole?
Repsol has provided the following information about the training and diet of its grand prix riders, including premier-class stars Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden.
The physical preparation throughout the year is divided into four periods.
The pre-season: this starts in December and continues until the beginning of March. During this period work is basically cardio-respiratory, to increase stamina and all-round strength.
The rider works six days a week, with training sessions that last six hours every day with one rest day. These sessions are divided into approximately three hours on a bicycle and in the swimming-pool (two days on a bike alternating with one in the pool); 'Strength 1' exercises (with the rider's own weight), 'Strength 2' exercises (with machines), isokinetic work (with elastic straps), plus other tasks to improve balance and stretching exercises.
Period of competition: depending on the proximity of a GP, training during this part of the year is one of two types: if there is a week without a race the physical work is aimed at increasing muscle volume. During a week leading up to a race the volume work is lower and the intensity is raised.
After two or three months the amount of work to increase physical volume is reduced and the intensity is increased. This is accompanied by the introduction of more specific work depending on the needs of the rider himself.
Summer break: a reinforcement of the pre-season work is carried out, between 10-15 days, similar to the work in winter. Once again the exercises are conditioned by the demands of the rider; it is they who notice whether they need to work on one aspect or another, whether they need to work on a specific muscle.
End of the season: the body is usually given a month's rest, although not a total rest. Riders takes advantage of this time to practice other sports to break the monotony, sports like basketball or badminton; activities that increase the speed of reaction.
Then comes the pre-season again: from December to the start of March.
Type of training
Cardio-respiratory: to improve stamina, work is on a road-racing bicycle. Riders like Pedrosa do a lot of kilometres every year, climbing mountains similar to those in the Tour de France. This is combined with some time on a mountain bike, and in winter they also do cross-country skiing.
These exercises alternate and are complemented with a lot of time in the swimming-pool where they also do aerobic work, this can be reinforced with work for specific muscles with the use of dumb-bells, etc.
Anaerobic: this is training dedicated to increasing strength, basically the upper body: sternocleidomastoid muscle, trapezium, deltopectorals, biceps, triceps, and forearms. The objective is to work the maximum strength but without gaining too much volume, since the aim is to improve stamina and strength so that the muscles respond rapidly.
The special aspects of riding a top class motorbike means that it is not necessary to have a bulky set of muscles, but to have very powerful ones, owing to the sudden movements that a bike makes in a race.
It is important to have muscles that respond quickly and with good strength so that the rider is physically prepared to control the unforeseen whiplash movements made by the bike.
Another set of muscles that are very important are those in the region of the abdomen. Pedrosa does 1000 sit-ups a day in the pre-season, and 700 during the rest of the season!
Other training: Flexibility is very important for riders as they have to be able to respond with strength with the muscle elongated and powerful. It is also important to strengthen the balance of the body and to control the centre of gravity.
Specific work: During the competition period, depending on where the race is, the physical work can be modified a little so that the rider adapts better to the conditions they will face. This is the case of races in Qatar and Malaysia, where the objective is to adapt the rider's biorhythms and stamina to the extreme conditions.
The aim is to give a taste of the different conditions that may be found, and that is why in spite of the unknowns when tackling a race like the one in Qatar, where the race is at night, the work can be changed or modified a week beforehand to try and adapt the rider's body.
Extreme conditions: Before races like the one in Malaysia work is done with more clothes on, to raise the temperature or the work is moved to the hottest time of the day.
This is something that Emilio Alzamora did when he rode in the world championship and has been used by his 'pupil' Marc Márquez, who carried out some sessions in the sauna to get used to the humidity and extreme heat found on a bike at the circuit of Sepang.
Food, drink and rest
Importance of a correct diet: riders have a normal diet, although they are subject to a general control of their food.
It is essential for them to have a good breakfast: large and complete, as they consume a lot of calories, especially during the sessions on a bike.
At lunchtime proteins are taken (meat or fish) and at night the aim is to consume carbohydrates. It is important to eat a balanced diet and to maintain a stable weight.
The importance of drinks: in a race a rider can lose 1.5kg - 2kg of liquid. This is something that is easily recovered, but it is obvious that hydration is something fundamental.
This is also an important aspect in training, since cycling consumes a lot of energy. During the sessions on a bike each rider will carry two bottles of liquid: one with an isotonic mix, and the other with water since dehydration means a loss of electrolytes and mineral salts, this produces a higher level of tiredness and cramps. In total a rider usually drinks between 2- 3 litres of liquids daily.
The importance of rest: rest is fundamental, and that is why the riders have to sleep for the right amount of time. The minimum is 8 hours, but if it is necessary to have a nap in the afternoon the body makes it clear.
During the long trips to places like Japan, Australia, Malaysia and the USA jet lag is always a real threat and can adversely affect the body's performance. That is why riders often try to get used to the new time zone beforehand so as to speed up the acclimatisation process.