George Hincapie's 5 Tips to Unlock Your Inner Hardman

Each spring, the pro peloton rolls onto the cobbled classics, which were some of my favorite races of the year. Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix, the Ronde van Vlaanderen—these are epic events where cycling legends are made.

They're won by pros who are the toughest of the tough, not only able to tackle the most unforgiving terrain but also seemingly impervious to the cold, wind and rain (or sometimes all three) that can make a hard day that much harder.  

Even though few of us will encounter those types of circumstances on a bike this year, we very much could face tough rides, races or events that require gritted teeth and digging deep. Steel those nerves and get ready to endure with my five tips.

Consistency is key.

Nobody really likes to ride in cold or rainy weather, but it's a fact of winter for most of us. Getting out for a shorter ride or hopping on the trainer for an hour is better than nothing—and will keep fitness from going backwards.

Embrace the burn.

With spring's arrival, it's officially time to take it up a couple notches. Put heat on your legs by doing 10 to 20 minute intervals at a seven or eight out of 10 effort. It should be uncomfortable, so grit your teeth when your legs start to hurt and gut out more time at that effort. Remember, it never really gets easier, you just get faster.

It's not all hard work.

"More is more" is a popular training phrase, but neglecting proper rest can lead down a dark road. You know the shots of pros parked at a coffee shop? That's often their "recovery ride" done super easy, allowing their body to rest from the harder days. Do one or two of these per week, or take the day off entirely. During these days, a good stretching routine or yoga is great for the body and helps recovery.

Dress for success.

It's not just about what your legs do but also what you put on them. We only have so many mental matches to burn before we're toast on winter rides, and being cold will quickly get you there.

Leave the house prepared for the conditions and you'll stay out longer. As a rule of thumb, if you cover your arms, then do the same for legs. Arm and leg warmers are very easy to pull off, so it's better to have them on at the start then pull them off as you get warmed up. Below 60, put on a vest and light gloves. Below 50, a light jacket, Merino wool socks and warmer gloves. Below 40 means a warm jacket, riding hat, shoe covers and good gloves.

When it's on, remember this.

If you're hurting, everyone else probably is too. Sometimes you're going to feel like the nail and somebody else the hammer—there's no way around it. But this is your chance to reach back and knuckle down for a little something more and make your best effort. Often it's hanging on for the difficult—but brief—onslaught. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll know you gave it your all, and that in itself is winning.

About George:

George Hincapie began his professional racing career in 1994 and retired from the BMC Racing Team in 2012. Regarded as one of cycling's most revered super domestiques, he helped teammates to victories in the sport's most noted races, from the Tour de France to Milan-San Remo. Today he rides for fun and enjoyment while ushering cycling's next professional generation into the fold with the Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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