Gearing up for The Big One


STORY AND PHOTOS BY Marvin Winston of RunBikeSwimPhotos, The BDB 100 

On September 29, cyclists wanting to take on the challenge of riding a bicycle 100 miles will have their chance at Arkansas’s largest cycling tour, the Big Dam Bridge 100 (BDB100). Of the 3000-plus entrants, more than 1000 of them will register for the 100-mile route. As these cyclists roll their bikes to the starting line, they bring with them a variety of goals and expectations for their ride.

Fred Phillips, BDB director, prepares to send off another group of cyclists.

Fred Phillips, BDB director, prepares to send off another group of cyclists.


Having been an avid runner for over 30 years, Loyd Hanning, of Fort Smith’s River Valley Cycling Club, believed he was already in shape to bicycle 100 miles. He soon learned there was more to cycling than general physical fitness alone. 

When first starting to ride with other cyclists, he discovered his legs tired long before those of the more experienced cyclists. He then headed to the gym to begin sets of squats, lunges and core workouts, targeting those muscles employed by his new sport. Although this helped strengthen his legs, he quickly learned that increasing mileage on the bike was the best method to condition his legs for cycling.

As with other first-time century riders, this was a learning experience for Hanning. Along with increasing his mileage, he began experimenting with diet, adding more protein, vegetables, fruits and cereals to his existing carbohydrate-rich meals. He also found that by maintaining a cadence of 90 to 100 rpm his legs tired less and his breathing was more controlled. 

He believes this experimentation has allowed him to achieve a level of intensity he can maintain to help him reach his goal of completing the entire 100-mile ride.


After watching the Tour de France in 2007, Dean LaGrone of Fayetteville’s Ozark Roadies, bought a bike to take up cycling. Two months later he completed his first century at the BDB100. 

A team of cyclists setting the pace.

A team of cyclists setting the pace.

On the road to complete 11 additional centuries, LaGrone has established a consistent schedule to cycle a 100-mile ride that meets his goal, finishing around the time of his other centuries. 

For his training, he keeps a year-round weekly mileage minimum of 100 miles. As the cycling season progresses he gradually gets in weekly long rides of over 50 miles. Then, in the weeks prior to a century, he tries to work in a ride or two of around 70 miles. The week of the ride he backs off on the mileage, allowing his legs to fully recover.

As for other training tips he has picked up over the years, he eats familiar food the night before the event, usually pasta. He does not make changes to the bike or clothing the day of the century. LaGrone also points out the importance of pacing yourself for at least the first 50 miles. Save your strength for the second half. And, above all, celebrate the finish! 

Like LaGrone, for James Britt and John Linck of Arkansas Bicycle Club, bicycling 100-miles has become pretty much the norm. They also stress the need to stay consistent in training, diet and equipment leading up to the ride. 

Linck says to finish a century is a gigantic reward, whether it takes 5 hours or 8; however, to abandon a century because you tried to finish too fast offers no reward.

Britt adds that the majority of cyclists who attempt a century see it is as a challenge of endurance, rather than a race for time.

Left to right: Tim McKenzie cranking out the miles on his way to complete the BDB 100.

Left to right: Tim McKenzie cranking out the miles on his way to complete the BDB 100.

With raised fists, Matthew Morton celebrates completing the Big Dam Bridge 100.

With raised fists, Matthew Morton celebrates completing the Big Dam Bridge 100.


Each cyclist approaches the start line with their own goals. Scott Penrod, former President of Central Arkansas Velo (CARVE), described the club’s goal as, “to get as many people to finish together as fast as possible.” With the “A Group” planning for a sub four to five hour century, I realized for them the challenge was time, rather than endurance.

Although most cyclists imagine completing a century in four to five hours would entail a lot of suffering, for the CARVE group, riding a century at that pace is a rewarding and enjoyable experience. The enjoyment comes from the comradery of working together to attain a common goal, and the reward is when they have successfully pushed themselves to complete the ride within their targeted time.

These riders already possess the endurance to complete 100 miles. Penrod explained their focus is training their bodies to ride at the speed required to finish within their target time, then maintaining it for ever-increasing distances. Their club rides are designed to simulate the actual event itself, riding in tight proximity, drafting one another at high speeds, working together as a team. 

In preparation for the century, these CARVE cyclists will already be properly fueled, and their body will have enough calories to complete the four to five hour ride. They will keep nutrition during the ride as simple as possible, with non-complex sugars and nothing too high in calories. 

Penrod concluded with a word of warning;  “Don’t get caught up in the emotion of the start and go out too fast. Once a cyclist has ridden in the red zone for extended periods, they will never make it up during the remaining ride.”

Cyclists of all levels can go to the BDB100 website at to learn more.