Rob Pickels 27:23I am shockingly surprise.
Trevor Connor 27:25
We are looking at pictures of this right now.
Alex Howes 27:28
What is it supposed to do? It’s just the like don’t catch your head on fire. But you can like totally light your body on fire? Because it’s like insulating, right?
Kiel Reijnen 27:38
It’s insulating. Your your head is going to overheat before your body in a sauna. Part of that is because your heads more sensitive, but part of it’s also because it’s the thing that’s highest up in the sauna, because hat temperature is higher up there, it’s experiencing a different temperature than your your legs. So I think it’s mostly about making an effort to even the heat that your body is experiencing.
Alex Howes 28:00
So you put like a Ukrainian wool beer cooler on your head to get in the sauna?
Kiel Reijnen 28:05
Yeah, and it looks about as cool as you would expect.
Rob Pickels 28:09
You could keep a smoothie under that thing. You know, that’ll keep you cool. You could take it down, take a sip every once in a while, and then put it back up there.
Alex Howes 28:16
You could also just train that’s an option too.
Trevor Connor 28:19
You could do that.
Race day weather surprise: what do you do?
Rob Pickels 28:21
What about the other end of the spectrum here? We’re talking a lot about heat and how that’s playing into the strategy and how it’s maybe affecting the pack dynamics. But what, if you guys show up to a race that’s cold? Or what if you show up to a race that’s rainy? Are you going to go out and race differently? Are you going to kind of attack it the same way that you normally would?
Kiel Reijnen 28:39
It does turn out that shearing off your rear derailleur will change the dynamic of the race for you.
Rob Pickels 28:44
But then you get running, which apparently is a good thing.
Kiel Reijnen 28:47
It’s an option.
Rob Pickels 28:50
What race was that? Didn’t you run something absurd in a race like 20 miles or something? Or 100 miles? I don’t remember.
Kiel Reijnen 28:57
I believe it was it was roughly 18 miles at Unbound last year because it was the only option.
Rob Pickels 29:04
Literally stuck in the middle of Kansas.
Kiel Reijnen 29:07
There’s not a lot out there, and I think people underestimate how remote some of these races can be. If you’re out there at the right time, you might see segwaying and the generally cheaps, so like in Unbound it’s a local cheap club that volunteers to go out there and collect bodies. It’s cool, it’s an awesome volunteer effort from them. I obviously I’m very thankful that they do it because they saved my butt. If you’re not near one of those cheaps when you have a catastrophic failure, you can sit and wait and hope that one comes along. Or you can kind of keep moving and a lot of folks especially the weekend warriors are out there with with phones, but there’s not reception on a lot of that course. So phone may not be your saving grace either.
Rob Pickels 29:54
So we’re talking about wet terrain. and you might not go out and say attack differently, “Like I’m gonna go hard off this Start because such and such.” But obviously equipment preservation is hugely important as you’re demonstrating. Loooking back, was there a strategy or something that you could have employed? Maybe like ride through puddles to wash off my derailleur. What can the riders do to prevent that from happening to them? Or obviously you don’t know because-
Alex Howes 30:20
Yeah when Kiel ran his failed marathon, it was dry.Mostly his fault. But, when it’s when it’s colder, it’s nice, and in a lot of ways because water becomes less of an issue. So you can sort of fudge things a little bit, you can get away with a little less. I think when it’s hot, it’s generally better to just err on the side of caution when it comes to water. Just you just bring as much as you can, a lot of times. But when it’s colder, you can be conservative, do the math and “okay, I I need about this much”. Let’s realistically think about this, I probably drink about half of that. So let’s bring, three quarters of what what I might normally bring. You do need to factor in clothes, and clothes kind of come on and off, depending on obviously what’s going on out there if it’s raining on and off, or if it’s super cold over the top of a climb or something like that. So I think that bags kind of come into the fray a little bit more when it’s cold. When I’m training in the winter up here, I bring bags like all the time, but I end up using them a lot in colder gravel races. But as far as moisture management goes, and we’re talking about mud and stuff, it really depends on the type of mud. Some kids straight on and off, and all you really have to do is think about moving your chain more frequently. Chain usually tells you when it needs lube. But if it’s real sticky, there’s not a lot you can do to get that mud off other than pack a paint scraper.
Rob Pickels 31:50
Yeah, sure. In regard to that mud, we’re talking maybe the East Coast has a little bit more organic soil that is probably the mud that’s falling off, like you’re talking about Alex. I know here in Colorado, I’m sure in Kansas or whatever, we’re getting a little bit more clay in the soil, and that’s the stuff that’s literally like peanut butter. If you’ve never experienced it.
Kiel Reijnen 32:10
It’s shockingly difficult to get off the bike.
Alex Howes 32:13
It’s awful stuff. It really is. With that, it’s like it when it’s really sticky and nasty like that, I think it’s generally better to try and clean it off more often than you think you need to. So you avoid a situation where you’re shearing off a rear derailleur, or pedaling along and an extra 150 Watts just trying to move forward because your bike is so clogged up. It can be a little counterintuitive, because you think, oh mud, I need I need a bigger, chunkier tire. But sometimes you’re better off with a smaller tire with better mud clearance. That way, you’re just not as plugged up all the time.
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Rob Pickels 32:56
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Start strategy to gravel racing
Trevor Connor 33:25
So let’s shift gears here a little bit and kind of dive into the strategy of gravel racing. So we’ve already established that not all gravel races are made the same, they can be very different, so you’re gonna have different equipment choices. That’s certainly going to affect your strategy. But let’s talk about some of the elements that are a little more common. Also, we’re really talking to people who are actually trying to race the event versus this is just an experience to finish. Why don’t we start with the start? There’s a lot of people in the race, what is your approach? Is this like across race where you need to be off the gun super hard and get that position? Or since this could be a seven hour race, does it not really matter as much? How do you approach the start?
Alex Howes 34:09
It really depends on what’s coming directly after the start. You’re not going to have, well, you might have a situation where you’re racing into single track or something like that. But generally, when you look at the course you want to look at what the pinch points are. If there’s any sort of pinch point early than the start becomes important. For something like Belgian Waffle Ride, there’s a single track section early on, I want to say it’s probably like 20 minutes into the race. If you come into that section in 50th wheel, your day is effectively done. You’re not going to probably not gonna see the front group. But, if it’s a bit of a procession, then the start is certainly less important. The start you want to think of it as where’s the pinch point? Where’s the early pinch point? If that comes 50 miles into the race well then that’s going to be your new star.
Kiel Reijnen 35:02
Mid south, for example, it was, I think 20 something miles in, there was a section that was really muddy and didn’t have a lot of lines. So everyone knew that was kind of the first point to be at the front. I’m personally shocked at how motivated and aggressive the early stages of these races can be given that they’re seven plus hours long. But I’ll also admit, and maybe this isn’t true for you, Alex, despite the fact that that sort of battle for position early on is something that we should be well adapted for, given our backgrounds, it’s also something I’ve sort of lost the appetite for. Like, going to gravel for me from road, part of that was about getting away from that battle for every inch, and it was more about personal experience. Although you can get wrapped up in the moment for me, the gravel racing kind of the highlights generally don’t land around those those battles.
Rob Pickels 35:53
Before the start even starts are you on the trainer? Are you warming up? Or are you just sort of rolling up to the line and letting the early terrain kind of get your legs up to
Kiel Reijnen 36:03
I’ve got bad starts man, I’m out.
Rob Pickels 36:08
There’s our answer.
Alex Howes 36:10
My thought is if you’re looking like something like Unbound, you know, you have 10 hours to warm up for that whole thing. No, there’s no warm up going on there.
Kiel Reijnen 36:20
But you know, if you’d asked 10 years ago in the pro peloton, everyone laughed, too.
Alex Howes 36:24
I think this is a little different, though. I mean, whose is it worth it to wake up at two o’clock in the morning to pizza and eat some food and then digest and then get on the rollers at 5:15 in the morning for 6 AM start? It’s like come on.
Kiel Reijnen 36:40
I could see Pete doing that.
Alex Howes 36:41
Yeah, Pete’s probably done that.
Trevor Connor 36:43
I think that comes back though, to what you were talking about the pinch point. If there’s a pinch point right off the start, and you need to be in the right position, you might want to think about just having the legs a little bit ready. If the start isn’t that critical, then you’re right, you’re gonna get your warm up in the race.
Alex Howes 36:58
I think that, in general, you’re better off using your time just standing on the start line in a good position, lining up early, as they would say, versus spending that time warming up somewhere else. Then getting to the start five minutes before and standing in 197th place or something.
Kiel Reijnen 37:18
I mean, on a day when you’re going to expend 7,000 plus calories, is it worth an extra 300 calories to be warm at the start. It becomes a battle of just maintaining, and an extra 20 minutes before the race is an extra 20 minutes at the end you don’t have.
Does riding in a group in a gravel race effect your tactic?
Trevor Connor 37:34
So let’s shift to now you’re in the race, you’re in a pack. You said there is a peloton, that you’re often riding in a group, but it’s much slower than road racing. Does that impact the strategy? Are you still using a lot of the same tactics? Are you attacking? Or is it more like a breakaway? Where you’re working together?
Kiel Reijnen 37:52
There’s no rules, right?
Alex Howes 37:56
Depends on the rider.
Kiel Reijnen 37:58
It depends on the rider depends on the race.
Trevor Connor 38:00
How do you two approach it?
Alex Howes 38:01
Well, I think in general gravel seems to be more attrition than road, so it is sort of similar to a breakaway. Towards the end, yeah, there’s there’s going to be some some riders that hit out in search of the victory. But for the most part, it’s riders coming off the back slowly, whittles down. Writers have mechanicals, they run out of gas, they have bad moments, they don’t have water, whatever. They slowly just sort of filter off the back. Then towards the end, you have 5-10 to two riders that are attacking each other and Kiel’s holding on to the back of that for dear life and then out sprints everybody.
Kiel Reijnen 38:41
In an ideal world.
Trevor Connor 38:42
Or running with his bike trying to keep up.
Alex Howes 38:44
Yeah, it could go many directions for Kiel.
Kiel Reijnen 38:48
It has gotten many directions for Kiel. I think Alex is right though, the race almost happens sort of like backwards. It’s a filtering down to that front group that occurs rather than riders sort of taking off from it until that very, very end.
Alex Howes 39:03
I think a large part of the reason why that happens is because of the way the peloton is shaped. If you think of like racing and criterium, people who’ve done like a hard criteriums, you know what that’s like you’re in one line, and your just whipping around the course. The further you are back in that line, the harder it is at every sprint. In gravel racing, you’re sort of in one to two lines most of the day, just because of the way the roads are. There’s only a certain number of good lines on the course. It’s kind of strung out to say all day, and so you get this elastic effect, the further you are back in the group, and so it’s sort of like racing a slow motion criterium for most of the day. So the further you are back, the more accelerations and efforts you need to make. I think that’s why you see guys just sort of dropping off the back.
Kiel Reijnen 39:58
There’s also an expectation that once you’re inside that group, whatever size it may be, that you are contributing. The group itself only maintains the momentum if people are rolling through. Do the moment half the folks in that group start sitting on you lose momentum. It’s not like road racing, where you can say, “Well, I’m sitting on because my teammates up the road, the breakaway,” or “My sprinters off the back with a mechanical and I’m waiting for him to catch up.” It’s more primarily individuals, and so everyone has a responsibility once they’re in a group that’s rolling to contribute.
What is a good strategy with conversing and using your energy?
Trevor Connor 40:35
But knowing that it’s mostly raced off the back, are you considering that when you’re in the group? Are you sizing up your competition and trying to figure out how to get them to waste more energy, to wear themselves down so that they they do pop off the back? Are you just focusing on race in your best race, conserving your energy, so you can make it to the end?
Kiel Reijnen 40:56
They seem eager to do it on their own.
Alex Howes 41:00
I mean, for myself, personally, and I think I probably speak for Kiel as well-
Kiel Reijnen 41:04
-and all the rest of the washed up.
Alex Howes 41:06
Well, with where we’re at fitness wise and skills wise, we don’t want to be on the front any more than we have to. But that said, we don’t want to be behind the guys who don’t know how to ride bikes very well, when it gets technical. So it’s this sort of balancing act throughout the race where you’re trying to hang back and conserve energy as much as you can. Then, making small moves to get in front of, less technically inclined riders at certain pinch points. Then, hoping that conserves enough energy throughout the day to where you can start making big moves towards the end.
Kiel Reijnen 41:43
Right, because there’s such a range of skill levels and ability levels, even within that, that “fast front group.” There might be a triathlete in there who’s just able to sustain 350 Watts all day long, which is not my thing. There may be a rider who’s incredibly savvy, picking the right line, maybe they have a mountain bike background, and they’re just really nimble on the bike, they’re not going to hit those rocks and get flats. They’ll always be at the right place the right time, but they don’t have the same engine. Those different skill sets can all kind of come together in this one group, even though they’re different skill sets, everyone is in that race still when it gets down to the the pointy end. Knowing which riders have what skills becomes important, because you need to know which wheels you can trust to drag you back to the group, if you get dropped, or which wheels you can trust the technical sections. There is just this huge range of abilities.
Trevor Connor 42:41
So it sounds like this is not a chess game, like you see in road racing. This is much more of a long race, it’s going to take a lot of energy. You’re doing a mix of saving energy, but also keeping it safe and knowing which wheel to be on when. When to be in front of guys who can’t handle themselves as well. But you’re not thinking multiple moves ahead and how to drop somebody or when to attack. It’s much more, how do I get to the finish as safely and wasting as little energy as possible?
Alex Howes 43:12
Yeah, I mean, it sounds lame when you put it like that. But yeah, that’s pretty much it.
Kiel Reijnen 43:15
Less heroic. If we were less tired during the race, we have like the brain capacity to start thinking about strategy. Three steps ahead.
Alex Howes 43:23
I do think that if you look at something like Paris – Roubaix, which I think a lot of people compare, Roubaix to gravel racing. You have these big attacks and big moves through like the forest Arenberg and stuff, where you can really split the group up and make a big move. Cobbles are relatively uniform, relative to some of the stuff that we see in gravel. I know I’m gonna get like, totally chewed up on that by some of my fellow pros, but they are. I mean, I say that, like the cobbles in Roubaix are gnarly. I mean, there’s potholes all over the place, and they suck. But in gravels, certainly, for something like Unbound in general, like we have less bike than we need for a lot of the technical sections. So we’re sort of out there under biking. Equipment preservation is pretty key, actually. The idea of really putting people under pressure through a technical gravel section, a lot of times ends up biting the person trying to do that, biting them in the face. Because they end up you know, flatten themselves out, or, or tanking it because they’re on a bike that probably undergone for the course. So a lot of it just comes down to self preservation throughout the day. Keeping your bike in one piece, keeping yourself in one piece, staying hydrated, and just trying to conserve energy. Then the real race doesn’t really happen until the end, and that’s where the more sort of road tactics come into play. That’s where you’re really sizing people up, making a strategy. But before that you probably have 90 miles that way least maybe maybe 170 miles or so, of just trying to get through it, where the real sort of tactical stuff happens.
How does your strategy change after being hours into the race?
Trevor Connor 45:07
So let’s go to that point in the race, you’re six hours in, you’re in that group of five to 10 riders who have survived in the front. Now, what’s your tactics? What’s the strategy?
Alex Howes 45:18
I mean, that depends on the rider, depends on the race. For Kiel and myself, we both want to get to the finish line with as few people as possible, and we want to get to the finish line with them. I think both of us are relatively confident in our sprints, things obviously change at the end of a long race. If I were to go out and like off the couch, sprint, Ian Boswell and Peter Stetina, like, I’d probably beat him. If it was a 200 meter sprint, I’d probably beat him by like 170 meters. But then at the end of a long race, like steamboat gravel, I had to work for that.
Kiel Reijnen 46:01
We’re there riding zone two the entire time, and Alex has been at threshold for four hours.
Alex Howes 46:06
Yeah, exactly. I mean, in that race in particular, I had to attack just end up getting to the finish line with them. Like I went away on the flat to get a gap before the big climb, because I knew they would just smoke me on the climb. That was definitely getting towards road tactic territory.
Trevor Connor 46:24
I gotta say the this is completely off topic, but the worst race in my life ever was Canadian Nationals 2010. I ended up in a breakaway with Piner and Dominic Rolla so the two of Canada’s best sprinters this was not a steady breakaway. This was just attack after attack where they would just keep dropping me and then I would have to time trial back up to them, tried to hold their wheel for five seconds before they attacked again, and we did that for like 20 miles.
Alex Howes 46:54
Sounds about right.
Trevor Connor 46:57
For those of us with no sprint who just like to go steady pace, it’s yeah.
Alex Howes 47:02
I don’t know why they were attacking you.
Trevor Connor 47:04
They weren’t attacking me, they were attacking each other. Apparently, they had some sort of beef. They were completely after one another, and ended up beating both of them because they were so intensly watching one another they didn’t notice when I just rode away from them.
Kiel Reijnen 47:16
Yeah, knowing everyone’s weakness. It can make a big difference in the end.
Trevor Connor 47:24
Let’s continue with that group. So it’s like a road race, you’re getting into the finish you’re just attacking or
Kiel Reijnen 47:32
Or hanging on for dear life?
Trevor Connor 47:33
Either or. Does a more sophisticated strategy come in here? Or is it really just who’s got the most left in the tank?
Alex Howes 47:41
I mean, there’s, of course there’s strategy there. Who has the most in the tank is definitely a huge part of that. Riders that are fitter and have more on the tank, they’re gonna have more room for error when it comes to making move, they have more moves to make and such. I think it’s strange with gravel at the moment because right now, most of the best riders were not great tactical riders. I don’t know if that a nice way to put it, or a mean way to put it.
Kiel Reijnen 48:11
They were all just stronger than us, put it that way.
Alex Howes 48:13
Well, they’re they’re just strong riders. Ian Boswell was super strong racer. He’s a hell of a climber, huge engine. Stetina, the same. Tom Strickland’s a bit of an outlier there in that he was really good Red Hook racer, but I think his knowledge base when it comes to just that sort of those final moments, and of race tactics still relatively limited. You look at the way he won most of his Red Hooks, he was solo, went away early, and he just stayed away. There’s not a ton of riders that have that “cagey” background, had to win by basically just being crafty or lucky. With that, it definitely changes the tactics of how things play out towards the end. I think this is all going to change in the relatively near future. I mean, we see a lot of riders currently coming in from Holland, and then for talking professional level racers, of course. Then we’re gonna see more and more Europeans. With that you’re gonna see riders with stronger racing background. When I say racing, I mean, not just telling it, lining up the bike races, I mean the actual art and craft of racing. So it’s all in flux at the moment. It’s going to it’s going to change quite a bit, I think.
Kiel Reijnen 49:31
As we’re seeing more and more talent showing up at these races, for example, last weekend, I think less than half the front group was American at Gravel Locos, sort of shocking. Hico, Texas is a long way from where I live, imagine if you’re coming across the pond to get there. But that’s the appeal of these races. It’s drawing folks in and as the of pointy end of the race is made up of more and more people who are fractions of a percent, away from one another in terms of their engine size. That front group will be bigger and stay together longer and longer into the race. It will start to be we’ll see more road racing like tactics in the finals of these races. Which, as Alex pointed out, probably plays into our strengths. But the downside of that, too, is that it will be a bigger and bigger fight to be in that that front group in the middle parts of the race.
Where does bike handling skills come into play?
Rob Pickels 50:24
To take this in a slightly different direction, it sounds like obviously, the engine is hugely important in determining the finish. Do bike handling skills ever really come into play, or do you just need to have a minimum amount that you’re able to stay with the group? Does the best bike handler in the world have an advantage? Or is that really not factoring in the gravel?
Kiel Reijnen 50:44
I had hoped it would play a bigger role, honestly. I don’t think it’s irrelevant at all, but I do think that it’s not generally determining the outcome of these races. There are key moments where it maybe matters, you might save yourself a flat, if you don’t make that mistake, but bike handling is not the determining factor.
Rob Pickels 51:02
You got to think at least at the front of the field, everybody, there’s pretty experienced. Even the worst bike handlers are probably pretty good bike handlers. Maybe further back in the field, maybe at some point, it starts to make a difference. But I can see at the front, the pointy end, that it doesn’t factor into much.
Alex Howes 51:18
I think the bigger factor over just like pure bike handling ability is knowing what your ability is. You have riders that you know don’t. They think they’re a better bike handler than they actually are? Maybe I’m looking at Kiel right now, I don’t know. They go in too hot to certain sections, or they want to put pressure on other riders, and then they end up flattening out. I can’t laugh a Kiel too much, because I that’s exactly what I did to myself, last year at Belgian Waffle.
Trevor Connor 51:47
Well, it’s all good. Kiel’s got a really good looking hat.
Kiel Reijnen 51:49
Well, it’s also us trying to play to our strengths, right? I think Alex is absolutely right, that we’re under biked. But if you know that handling is maybe some something you might have an advantage on in the people around you in the race at that particular moment, your inclination is to push it to get an advantage because I’m not going to get it on the climb. So you push it into that sector and it generally ends up costing you more than it gains Also, when you have a turn every, what 10 miles, you can rip into a turn on a gravel turn, I might get three bike lengths. So what? Where you gonna go? Like, there’s still 20-30, 40-50 miles left to race, and the next corner is not for another 10 miles. It’s not the same as when a road race enters a downtown circuit, and there’s seven turns within one mile. Each time you sort of accelerate through those turns and get a little bit of a gap, it starts to take energy other riders behind you, it’s definitely not as much of an advantage to push the limits in those moments than I thought it would be.
Rob Pickels 52:50
Yeah when I was Belgian Waffle Ride, which is one of the last big events so that’s why the one I keep bringing up. I use my bike handling skills actually to under bike compared to people around me. I was on tubeless 28-C tires, I had some pretty deep aero wheels, because I knew that my weakness was going to be like on the climbs on the roads, just keeping up with people that had more power than me. Then I could easily hang in the group on the off road sections, even though I was running road tires, I wasn’t trying to push it. I was just trying to be comfortable and stay with people so that when we got back on the, road back to my weakness, that I was then able to keep up pretty well there.
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What suggestions do you have for people trying to get into gravel racing?
Trevor Connor 54:02
There is one final question I want to ask you guys, which is, let’s talk to the person who’s listening right now who wants to get into gravel racing, and they actually want to go and race the event. But they’re pretty new to this, what suggestions do you have for them?
Kiel Reijnen 54:18
Invest in tires.
What a new athlete needs to do to prepare physiologically for a gravel race
Alex Howes 54:21
I will go back to the equipment thing here I guess first. The first thing is, as pros we get asked a lot okay, “What are you running?” Okay, I’ll buy I’ll buy two of those, and I’ll just try that. My advice is always if the pros are running 38s, you should be on the 42s. If pros are on 32s, you should probably be on like 35s. Gearing wise you always want a couple extra teeth in there relative to what the pros are running.
Alex Howes 54:45
Tactically, again, it’s knowing what your limits are.
Kiel Reijnen 54:49
Alex Howes 54:51
Yeah, knowing what your limits are early on, and sort of trying to find the balance between going hard and staying with the group, so you get that Eearly advantage, you can finish an hour and a half ahead of your buddy. Also just knowing when it’s time to kind of pull the parachute and ride your own race. You know, I think one of the best ways to sort of pace yourself early on in training, you get a get an idea of what your threshold is. And he’s sort of pace yourself off of that a little bit, you know, if you’re, if you’re doing 15 Watts above threshold for the first 20 minutes. First of all, that’s a great effort. And you should probably, you know, change your threshold. But if you’re overshooting that, significantly, you’re doing something wrong, and you’re setting yourself up for a long, hard day of riding by yourself out the back. But if you’re 20 Watts below threshold, you’re probably in a good spot, and you keep hanging on to that group, as long as you can, I mean, really, the longer you can be with a group, any group, the better.
Kiel Reijnen 55:49
My advice is going to come with a little bit more of a view through a macro lens, which is that for the people who are maybe intimidated to try their first event or want to get into it, but they’re not quite sure how the bar of entry is so much lower at these events than it is for road race, where you’re sort of required to show up and decide what you know, what category are you and you know, do I know how to ride in a, quote unquote, peloton and to understand pack dynamics Am I gonna be able to handle my bike at those speeds, this is so much more of a an arena where you can choose your your own experience. And so, you know, if your goal is just to finish the event and have a good time, you can make equipment choices, and do the training that will get that outcome. If you’re looking to have a quote unquote, fast day and, you know, be competitive, you know, there’s different criteria for that, what you’ll find at these events is it’s a very inclusive community, we want new people to show up we want people to share these experiences with and so even if you don’t have the experience, they’re going to be people there at the event during the event, we’re going to offer assistance to help you along to see you through to make sure that you have a great first experience. And you know, of course, if you’re going to do a 10 hour 100 mile ride, you want to practice riding four or five, six hours before you go. But I don’t think that you need to be training, you know, 20 hours a week to just be able to do these events, there are a lot of people that are coming to these events with limited experience. And you’re going to have that camaraderie.
What a new athlete needs to do to prepare physiologically for a gravel race
Trevor Connor 57:24
So that’s a great way to sum it up, we’re gonna finish up by offering suggestions to athletes new to gravel racing. But before we do, let’s hear, again, from Jared and his thoughts and what a new athlete needs to do to prepare physiologically for an event like this.
Jared Berg 57:38
You want to be thinking about a gravel race, I mean, there’s typically longer I mean, I feel like gravel races are gonna wear it anywhere between two hours plus all the way into, you know, these 200 mile gravel races. So you’d really need to be thinking about how you handle your bike as as you fatigue, how you feel, how your musculature in your physiology feels, as you’re taking on this, you know, bumpy or terrain with these more rigid bikes, you know, and then even thinking about what you should be doing with tire pressure and such in order to, you know, not adversely affect your physiology, those are things to think about, every cyclist needs to be doing strength training, right. And then when you become into a gravel ride, I mean that that low back needs to be really, really developed, that neck needs to be strengthened and comfortable. And it needs to be loose and have good flexibility and always be healthy. Right, we need to have good comfort in our shoulders and strength there. So just in general strength training, stability, training, functional strength, you have to be incorporating these things and be, you know, be thinking about that I feel like a strength training that can be done after a long ride can be highly beneficial and helping you tune into, you know, keeping your body healthy. While you’re out there even riding longer and harder in these races. I really try to work hard with my athletes on the idea of, you know, we get out for these long rides, right. And I want them to always feel like they have the ability to sort of hit that sweet spot hit that race intensity that they might be using in that race towards the end, you know, go they do a four hour ride, they’re gonna do the last 3040 minutes strong, right? We’re gonna do that they need to actually really be thinking about good nutrition, good pacing and that long ride so they can hit that last 30 or even 60 minute piece that I’m asking him to at that race pace. That’s definitely you know, one of the strategies that I use.
Trevor Connor 59:30
Okay, well, Robert, are we ready for take homes?
Rob Pickels 59:33
I think we’re ready for take homes.
Gravel Racing Take Homes
Trevor Connor 59:34
So the way this works is we each get one minute to basically sum up. What do you think is the most salient point of this episode or the one thing that you really want our listeners to take away from the show? So who would like to go first?
Kiel Reijnen 59:49
All right, I’m up. The takeaways bias on a hat. Listen to Alex’s coaching advice, hydrated in the heat, try an event if you haven’t, and we look forward to seeing you out there.
Trevor Connor 1:00:00
I will go next Alex, we’re gonna give you the last word on this one. So my suggestion as somebody who is probably built for gravel racing and never done this is, it does seem like racing is changing. We aren’t seeing as much road racing as much stage racing, as we used to see you’re seeing more gravel races, more grand fondos. This is a really from everyone. I’ve spoken to a really fun, exciting way to race. And if you haven’t given it a try, you should. And with that I’m planning on giving it a try this summer. Rob, what’s your take home?
Rob Pickels 1:00:34
Yeah, every gravel race or gravel event, depending on how you want to look at it is different. So I think that anyone getting into this at the beginner level, you know, do so conservatively, be a little conservative with your equipment, be a little conservative with your pacing, be a little conservative with your food and your water, go out there and learn and experience things. And as you do that, then you can start to make the decisions, you know that maybe you’re going to increase your performance. But if you’re jumping into an event for the first time, and you’re really trying to absolutely maximize arrow and rolling resistance and everything else, you’re probably going to be on the edge of failure. And that is a common occurrence in gravel. So get out there, try it, do it experience and have fun while you’re doing it. And worry about the pointy end. Once you have a little bit more, a little more time under your belt.
Trevor Connor 1:01:22
Alex, last word is yours.
Alex Howes 1:01:24
I think that gravel is everywhere in the US right now. So there’s kind of no reason not to try not to get out there and you know, participate in the local event. The barrier to entry is relatively low. It’s a ton of fun speaking personally here. But before you go, like couple small points, like know the course at least get an idea of what you’re in for, you know, big chunky, gravels smooth, fast gravel lots of climbs pan flat like like, what is it? Where are the aid stations? How are you going to take care of yourself out there, make sure you have enough water enough food if you do bring enough water enough food, try and remember to drink it like don’t drink and eat it don’t get so wrapped up in the race that you completely space to eat and drink everything you’ve brought. I have seen that happen before and just have fun with it. Like we said that it’s the pointy end is the pointy end. That’s where the serious stuff happens. Sometimes it’s fun to be up there. But a lot of times it’s it’s fun to just sort of get through these things. Have your own adventure. And I can promise you that if you get through some of these bigger events, it is going to be an adventure worth talking about.
Trevor Connor 1:02:28
Thank you guys really appreciate having you on the show.
Kiel Reijnen 1:02:30
Had a good time!
Alex Howes 1:02:31
Thanks for having us.
Rob Pickels 1:02:32
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk laboratories at fasttalklabs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community. For the always alternative Alex Howes, Kiel, bike racing should contain running Reijnen, and Trevor, maybe this gravel thing isn’t a fad after all, Connor, I’m Rob Pickels. Thanks for listening