Team Colavita

Tips from the Pros

Ready to ride like the pros?  Check out these tips from the pros of the Colavita/Baci Women's Cycling Team:

How to Watch a Cycling Race
Nutrition Tips
Outfitting Your Bike
Rules of the Road



In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cycling was the most popular spectator sport in the U.S. Thousands of people lined streets across the country to watch the greatest stars or joined standing-room-only crowds at cycling tracks known as velodromes.
Today, cycling is enjoying a resurgence as one of the few sporting events where elite athletes compete in local neighborhoods and downtowns and no admission fee is charged. Essentially high-speed chess games on wheels, cycling competitions on paved, public roads are typically organized as one of three formats:
·         Criterium
·         Road race
·         Time trial
In all cases, competitive cyclists rely on teamwork, strategy, and preparation to claim a place on the winner’s podium.
Directeur Sportif Tina Pic (French is the language of cycling; directeur sportif refers to the team manager or director) knows more about criterium racing than just about anyone on the planet, capturing a record six US National Criterium Championship titles in her distinguished career. Tina explains that criteriums aremulti-lap races held on a closed course of about a mile or less in length. These races, which usually last one to two hours, are extremely fast as the cyclists jockey for position and sprint for “race-within-the race” contests. The short closed courses, generally with both right- and left-hand corners, make criteriums (or crits) easy and exciting to watch as the cyclists’ quick acceleration and exceptional bike-handling skills can be followed throughout the entire race.
In criteriums, strong riders attack from the moment the starting gun is fired. Tinasays to watch how cyclists in the front of the pack take the corners with little or no braking. Those in the rear compete for the best “line” through the turn, brake, then sprint to catch up with the pack as it accelerates.
In an hour-long race with hundreds of corners, teamwork and tactics are critical as attacks and chases follow in rapid succession. Directeur Sportif Rachel Heal who represented the UK in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, recommends watching for situations in which one team greatly outnumbers the others. One rider from the team may attack, forcing the other teams to chase, then another rider will break away as soon as the first is reeled back in, repeating the process until the competition folds under the pressure. If the pack stays together, the race may end in a field sprint, with each team maneuvering its fastest rider toward the front in the final laps.
As the pack approaches the finish line, teams will maneuver to position their sprinters behind powerful riders who will provide a lead out.  Sprinter Kelly Benjamin says to look for teammates riding close together. The rider in front will begin a sprint as a head start for a rider on their rear wheel who will come forward at even faster speed to take the lead.
Road Races
Road races are mass-start contests that often feature hills (which favor climbers) and flat sections (where sprinters excel). Cycling teams work together to gain an advantage over other riders, usually designating one person as the leader for the day based on terrain, fitness and the competition.
New Zealand National Road Race Champion Rushlee Buchanan explains that what makes road races thrilling to watch are the high speeds and breakaways where riders aggressively pull ahead of the field (the main group of riders, also known as the peloton). Timing is key as riders in a group ride faster with less effort and more protection from the wind by taking turns pulling at the front and drafting in the pack’s slipstream in a long, wheel-to-wheel formation called a pace line
Rushlee suggests watching for riders wearing the same jersey as they take turns setting the pace and resting in the draft. Riders from other teams may sit in, refusing to take their turn at the lead to either slow the breakaway so their teammates can catch up or to conserve energy for the final sprint to the finish line.
Cath Cheatley who represented her native New Zealand at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in the road race,recommends watching the front of the main pack. If the leaders wear the same jersey as the breakaway riders, they are blocking to slow the main field and discourage new breakaways. If the leaders are wearing another team’s colors, then an exciting chase may be developing. 
As the pack approaches the finish line, teams will maneuver to position their sprinters behind powerful riders who will provide a lead out. Former Australian Road Racing Champion Kate Bates says to look for teammates riding close together. The rider in front will begin a sprint as a head start for a rider on their rear wheel who will come forward at even faster speed to take the lead.
In longer races, there may appear to be a lull in the action. Don’t be fooled says Heather Logan-Sprenger, who represented Team Canada at the 2009 Women’s World Cycling Championship. More likely, competitors have established an unspoken truce to conserve energy for the next attack or the next chase, efforts that in a strong group can push the pace from idle to full throttle speeds in a flash.
Time Trials
Known as the “race of truth,” time trials pit individual riders and in some formats, teams, against the clock. Riders start individually at equal intervals, usually one to two minutes apart. The rider with the fastest time over the set distance is declared the winner. 
US National Time Trial Champion Jessica Phillips explains that riders who start later have an advantage as they know what time they need to beat. Since drafting (riding in the slipstream or flow of air created by teammates or competitors riding ahead) is not permitted, riders must rely on their own strength and endurance to win.
For time trials, pro cyclists generally race on bikes that are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. Team mechanic Adrian Hedderman says time trial bikes are usually fitted with tribars, which allow the riders to assume a position that’s as low and flat as possible (known as the “tuck” position). In addition, time trial helmets are distinguished by a long tail to help minimize aerodynamic drag.




It takes more than hours of training to achieve or maintain peak performance.  It takes the right fuel for your body to perform at its best.  Eating right and drinking smart will go a long way toward helping you reach your fitness goals and maximizing performance on the road.

The Colavita/Baci Women’s Pro Cycling Team relies on straightforward Italian dishes incorporating pasta, protein, vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil to maintain a balanced intake of nutrients.  Through experience, these world-class athletes know that healthy fats like Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil not only add flavor and taste to satisfy their appetites but also provide the perfect fuel for training and racing.

Here are some more tips to keep you going:

  • Always stay hydrated.  It goes without saying but drinking is ultra-important when exercising but remember to drink before, during, and after your ride. Water will quench your thirst and is absorbed quickly by the body. If you feel like going big and your ride will exceed 60 minutes, riding with a sports drink that contains electrolytes and other nutrients like the products available from GU is key. Sipping on that will keep you hydrated, which will help reduce fatigue, muscle cramps, and lactic acid build-up.
  • Don’t forsake fats.  Cyclists often focus on carbohydrates at the expense of fat, which can actually diminish performance. When you fuel up on starch, your body learns to burn mostly sugar, so you burn through glycogen stores faster, setting yourself up for low energy during long hours on the bike.  When you consume more healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, you fire up your fat burning metabolism, so you can ride longer with plenty of energy to burn. Fat is also slower to digest than carbs, so it helps stave off hunger. The end result:  you’ll be faster—and leaner.

And the perfect finish for a pre-race meal or a satisfying ride?  Baci, Perugina’s classic Italian treat that’s loaded with heart-healthy hazelnuts enveloped in antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. 

Visit the Colavita Recipe Archive for winning recipe ideas to rev up your rides.




If you’re just starting out and think you can just hop on your old bike with the banana seat, think again. Here are some tips from team mechanic Adrian Hedderman for getting a bike that’s right for you.

Type of Bike:  There are lots of options so think about what type of cycling you’re likely to do most often.  If you plan on racing, a lightweight road bike is your best bet.  For off-road or uneven terrain, consider a mountain bike.  And for getting around town or biking back and forth to work, you might want to look into a commuter bike.  Team bike sponsor Jamis Bicycles makes lots of different models in each category.

Bike Fit:  Finding a local bike shop with knowledgeable staff who can size you up is the key.   Inseam measurements are a must because that’s what determines frame size.  Nothing can ruin a good ride faster than the pain of an uncomfortable bike.  Use the Dealer Finder on the National Bike Dealer Association website to find a bike shop in your area.

Helmet:  Helmets are an absolute must-have.  No exceptions.  As you’re evaluating helmets, it’s definitely worth a few extra dollars for a model that’s light in weight. Team helmet supplier Rudy Project makes extremely lightweight helmets. Also, the more air vents the better to keep your head cool and dry. Spend some time adjusting your helmet so that it’s snug, especially the chin strap. When you tap the sides of helmet, it should hardly move. And contrary to what you may see on the road, helmets are meant to be worn low over the forehead to protect the thinking part of your brain.

Saddle:  Width is the most important factor when selecting a saddle (cycling’s term for seat).  Choose a saddle that allows you legs to move without causing your hips to rock.  Be sure to consider the type of bottoms that you’ll be wearing when you cycle.  If you’re not planning to wear padded shorts, then you might want a bit more padding. Selle San Marco, which provides the saddles used by the team, offers models specifically designed for different types of riding.

Pedals: Pedals act like the gas pedal of your car.  The more contact you have with the pedal, the more power you can get out of a rotation.  There are lots of options available ranging from basic platform pedals to pedals with toe clips to clipless pedals (which require special cleated shoes).




Whether you’re riding for fitness, fun, or getting around, you must adhere to the rules of the road.  Here’s a list of some of the basics.  For further guidance and tips on navigating roadways, visit the League of American Bicyclists

Ride with traffic:  In other words, keep right – just like cars.  Your parents may have told you to ride against traffic but it’s actually not a good idea. Leave yourself enough room to maneuver around parked cars and roadway hazards. Avoid sidewalks and always yield to faster moving traffic.

Obey traffic signals:  This means all signs. It may be tempting to enter an intersection against a red light if no cars are coming, but that red light is meant to keep you safe and it’s not a suggestion.  Plan to come to a stop at yellow lights since it takes longer to get through an intersection on a bike.

Be seen:  Wear brightly colored clothing during the day to make you more visible to motorists.  In early morning and nighttime hours, a light is a must as is clothing with reflective detailing.

Leave the headphones at home:  While it’s tempting to listen to music while you ride, it’s simply not safe.  We often hear things before we see them and you need that time to react and adjust your position as necessary.  Some states have even outlawed the use of headphones while cycling.

Stick to low traffic areas:   If you’re nervous about riding with cars, then don’t. Stick to bike paths and low traffic areas if you’re apprehensive or new to cycling. Work your way up to areas with more traffic as your bike-handling skills improve and your confidence increases.

Beware of blind spots:   If you can’t see the mirrors on a car, bus, or truck, then assume the driver can’t see you.  Don’t ride next to another vehicle unless you’re in a different lane or passing.  Assume drivers aren’t expecting to see cyclists on the road and ride with caution.

Signal before turning:  Make sure you’re in the proper lane position and signal well before you reach the intersection.  Remember the hand signals:  left arm out and down at right angle with palm to the rear to indicate stopping; left or right arm straight out to indicate direction of turn.

Know the laws in your state:  Check out your local and state laws.  Many places consider bicycles equal to a car and bicyclists may be subject to the same laws as automobile drivers.