Gravel Worlds 2019: KOM, 5th, and Tips For Your Big Gravel Event!
Done and dusted! Literally.
(At the bottom of this post there is a video with tips for YOUR NEXT GRAVEL EVENT!)
After 150 miles of gravel, 500 TSS, and a KOM jersey to bring home, Patrick and I are pretty stoked on our 2019 Gravel Worlds performance. That said, we’re hungrier than ever! We know what we need to do to get on that podium. I’m stoked for the challenge and Gravel Worlds 2020 will definitely be an “A Race” on my calendar.
This year’s race was so much different than last’s. We were UBER GRAVEL BABIES last year at Gravel Worlds 2018, with no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I got my bike 3 days before the race last year, so there were so many questions!
Will our computers last long enough? Do we wear hydration packs? What will the feed zones be like (self supported)? What tire pressure to run? The tactics? How hard will this be? How do I get this front wheel off? #DiscBrakeNewbie How do tubeless tires work? Damnit I need MTB shoes? Or do we wear road shoes? THE LIST GOES ON AND ON.
After a full year of training, racing, and experiencing gravel, I was stoked to be back with much more experience.
Training Volume & Intensity for Gravel Worlds
If you’ve read any of our previous blogs, you know I’m not just an FTP improvement kind of guy/coach. While it sells products (coaching subscriptions: “Look, your FTP increased 20W!”), it leaves athletes behind in the US Race Scene and even on their group rides.
This race magnifies why you need to be doing more than increasing the number talked about on the group ride (read: FTP).
Improvements that I need to make for 2020: more 500 TSS rides! That’s right, 500!!!! Or looked at differently, 7,000kj rides with an IF (Intensity Factor) of 0.80 or higher.
While balancing normal road race training, I didn’t add on more of these types rides when compared to 2018. It is a must for 2020.
When we get into the trees and look at my training for the past 90 days, it’s clear that I left myself exposed.
The green arrows point to some solid training sessions at or above 5,000kj, but only the most recent two have an intensity factor close to what will take place for Gravel Worlds.
I raced a lot in July and while I went out afterwards for 2-3 hours, it wasn’t enough.
Stepping back from the trees and looking at the forest, the red arrows show my training before Iowa Wind and Rock, and while the red arrow show more consistent 5,000kj rides, the green arrow points out that maybe the intensity was there for Gravel Worlds; I just needed more 5,000+kj rides.
Even easier to see is below: the red arrows shows a big TSS build before Iowa Wind and Rock, where I made it 200 miles and felt amazing! The blue arrow shows a gap, where I let July racing get in the way. I really wanted to do well at Master’s Nationals, so the rest was needed, and this highlights why you can’t do everything.
I had a good showing in Colorado, but the recency effect of Gravel Worlds being only 2 days ago makes me question what I did in June and July; I shouldn’t look back that way, but rather admit that I should have sacrificed some extra hours after road races and hit 6,500kj rides. Not just 5,000.
All this being said:
increasing the number of 5,000kj rides will help, 6,500kj even better
adding interval sessions at the end of these rides will help
making sure the IF is above 0.80 will help
hitting 7,000kj at least 3 times in the 45 days prior will help
Those are some achievable goals, I just need to make the time. I raced tired a bunch of times at local races, but clearly, it wasn’t enough. This blog post will stand as a reminder and motivation to get out in the heat and train.
Maybe I’ll start riding BEFORE the races so there is less time needed to ride AFTER. I actually never considered this until now. Check the ego at the door, literally be 2,000kj into a ride when the race starts, then just ride a bit more after.
Gravel Worlds Race Metrics
Duration: 7h 3m 28s
Distance: 150.4 miles
Average Power: 278W
Normalized Power: 332W
Average HR: 145bpm
Average Speed: 21.26mph
Work: 7,062kj…. OR 7 MEGAJOULES! ;-)
Those are pretty bonkers stats. Need to get closer to those on some other rides if I want to come home with a win at that race some day.
Wattages: durations spent in classic zones:
Level Description Power Duration
1 Active Recovery 227 W or less 2h27m12s
2 Endurance 227 to 308W 1h23m22s
3 Tempo 308 to 369 W 1h06m10s
4 Threshold 369 to 429 W 49m04s
5 VO2max 429 to 490 W 33m18s
6 Anaerobic Capacity 490 W or more 44m17s
Basically, I need to be able to ride 150 miles and spend OVER 2 HOURS ABOVE 370W; 77 minutes above FTP! If you are only building FTP, you will be left behind.
Starting With A CamelBak Flood
My race started with what felt like another Gravel disaster and bad luck.
I started near the back but knew I could quickly move up before the gravel started.
We hit the gravel and since there were about 100 guys in the group trying to stay up front, I decided I’d drink from my CamelBak first, and then switch to bottles the remainder of the day.
I didn’t use a CamelBak the previous year and paid a high cost when a bottle ejected at mile 5.
I go to take a sip from the straw and the yellow ON/OFF valve shoots into my mouth. Science in Sport Beta Fuel starts gushing out.
My initial reaction is to freak out because I’m surrounded by riders on gravel, in the dark, and we’re not going slow, but not hammering it either.
I plug the tubing with my finger and my mind wanders as to how I’ll finish this race with only 2 bottles. Dude: FOCUS ON THE PROBLEM AT HAND, don’t start thinking worst case scenario.
I blow the water in the hose back into the hydration pack and wonder if it’ll stay down. The Camelbak is so filled up that the liquid comes ripping back out.
I’m feeling around with my tongue to try and get a sense of how this thing will go back in. I’ve never seen one disconnected from the mouthpiece, but it’s not rocket science, right?
I wanted to take my hands off the bars but there were too many people around and with the dark skies looming, I needed to have full control. Well, one handed control.
After some tongue research, I was pretty sure I had it stuck between my teeth, oriented in the right direction to punch it back into the mouthpiece. It was going to have to be swift and with force since I couldn’t get the water to stop.
I release my finger, and WHAM, slam it into the valve.
I look down, crisis averted. I couldn’t believe it.
When you take a quick look, hour 1, 3, 4 and 6 look to be the toughest, but let’s take a granular look at them in a minute.
After avoiding the crisis, my goal was to be chill for as long as possible. For the first three hours, it was pretty tame, averaging watts in zone 2, but because of the gravel, rollers, and some surges here and there to get over them, we were normalizing a solid tempo pace. For three hours, that will slowly make you tired.
Some riders fell off, but we’re still a solid group of about 50.
Checkpoint 1 Error
With the first MANDATORY checkpoint at mile 60, I assumed we’d roll in, get the pipe cleaner that indicates you made the stop, fill water, and we’d all leave. But, there’s 50 of us.
Unfortunately there was a massive bottleneck at the water, people started taking off down the road, and Patrick and I were left to chase.
There was a group of maybe 10 of us, and we could see 8 or so up the road.
Carl Decker, from Giant Factory, Patrick, and myself were doing all of the work in a group of 10. This wasn’t going to fly.
We hit a roller and I jammed it, with Carl quick on my wheel. We started rotating and moving away from the group.
“I’ll hit it again when my teammate gets up here”, I shouted.
“Should we wait?”
“Nah, he’ll be here after the next climb.”
This is where knowing your teammate pays off. Patrick waited until the next roller, ripped it to pieces, and bridged up.
The three of us were off, and over what looks to be the next 30-40 minutes, we normalized 382W (in a paceline!!!) to catch the lead group.
Lesson learned: BE FASTER AT THE CHECKPOINTS!
With the race broken out by hour, you can see that made hour 4 hands down the hardest.
Gravel Worlds KOM
There’s a KOM honoring Randy Gibson, a dear friend to the Gravel World’s community in Lincoln, NE. There is a commemorative jersey that they give out to the first rider up a particular climb at mile 82, and I had my eye on that.
John Borstleman led the group up the climb and I just hit it, as hard as I could without blowing up, gapping the field. A few riders jumped, but with Walle on their tail, they soon gave up. I was able to easily grab the jersey which felt like a small win for us EVOQ.BIKE boys as the race plodded on.
The image below is the 5 minutes before the KOM, with the effort starting and ending at the blue arrows.
1 minute with 664W NP. Not bad for having 80 miles of gravel in the legs!
Eventually some attacks are thrown and a selection is made. Sadly Patrick didn’t have a big enough gear on his bike and was spinning out the fast false flat descent.
We lose him. I’m now alone. ;-/
2 CCB riders (including TT beast Tim Mitchell and U23 Brazilian National Champion Vitor Zucco), 2 Panaracer (John Borstleman and Mat Stephens), Eric Marcotte (former Pro National Road Race AND Criterium Champion), and Tristan Uhl (Giant Factory Pro MTB).
I’m clearly outmanned and around mile 100 or so I’m really feeling the time trial effort and accumulated fatigue.
I start skipping pulls but people aren’t having that.
I rotate through but the pace is a bit high for me; I’m struggling to pull through fast enough.
For about 30-40 minutes, CCB is telling me to pull more, Panaracer is pissed when I can’t pull through, and if I’m stuck behind Marcotte, I just can’t keep up.
The whole time, Uhl is sitting on. No one says a word to him from what I could see.
Borstleman tells me, “Just keep pulling through like that” and I tell him “That’s what I’m trying to do”.
Next rotation, I ask him, “Why aren’t you yelling at Tristan, the pro MTB?!?!?!”
Borslteman: “Cause he’s not up here fucking up the rotation!”
W T F. I sit in the back, I get yelled at, I try to pull through, I get bitched at. I’m trying to be friends here so they don’t attack me out of the break, but being on the edge, I tell them, “Well, you guys go fucking ride. That’s what I’ve got.”
I think they were surprised at how pissed I was, but it’s like, shit man, I’m on the edge, I’m cracking, I’m outmanned, I’m just trying to get to the finish line and have SOMETHING left in the legs.
Splinter In The Group
At mile 120, We hit a small town of Denton, and Borstleman attacks through the four left hand turns. This was smart, as most of us are looking at the GPS trying to figure out where to turn, and he’s taking off down the road.
Marcotte chases and the two are surging down the road.
I messed up here. While I was in position to jump, I figured chasing them down, if possible, might light the LAST match. Plus, I was sure CCB wouldn’t let this go up the road.
Uhl and CCB chase for a minute, and then it’s over. The guys are up the road.
I wasn’t sure if Stephens would be okay with Borstleman alone with Marcotte, but he said it was a 50/50 shot that he’d take.
We’re now fighting for third.
Mile 130, people are unraveling. Stephens flies in a out, Uhl chases on, and I got two bottles filled and chased for 5 minutes. Having that diesel engine helped big time.
I latch on and the three of us (Uhl, Stephen, myself) are gone.
I’m planning on a late roller attack, and maybe I can use my big gear to get away on a downhill section.
I’m feeling pretty zonked, and as I’m planning, UHL DROPS THE HAMMER.
Nothing. I was at my limit.
I got within 10 seconds of catching Stephens through a headwind section, but he turned off onto pavement before I could latch on, and that was the race.
5th! And the KOM jersey. I normally wouldn’t be excited about 5th, but at a race with athletes of this caliber, and knowing that I can make improvements for next year, where it will be even tougher, I am happy but leaving feeling dissatisfied; I’m okay with that. Leave some hunger in the belly to come back stronger and smarter.
Email Brendan at Brendan@EVOQ.BIKE