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Benefits of cycling

How To Train And Prepare For A Gravel Cycling Event


– Riding a gravel event
could well be a little bit different to what you’re used to. Whether that’s road racing or sportives, or just the local club run. Endurance, self-sufficiency, and comfort could well become more important, and so your training is
gonna need to reflect that. As Katherine here knows all about. She’s currently preparing for
her first major gravel event, The Dirty Kanza. – Yeah, and as I try and
figure out my training, set-up, and equipment for the race, we thought we’d go about making
a guide for you guys too. So here’s how to get the best out of your first gravel event. (dramatic rock music) – As with preparing for any event, the first thing you should
do is actually choose, and then enter, your event. – [Katherine] Well, thanks
for pointing out the obvious with that one there, Si. – [Simon] That’s all right,
that’s what I’m here for. – [Katherine] In my case, the Dirty Kanza, is a 200 mile gravel endurance race, across the Flint Hills
of Kansas, in the States. – I am so jealous about that. Now, how ambitious you’re feeling is gonna depend a little bit, I guess, on how experienced you are at bike-riding. So, whether you’re new to the sport, or whether you’ve been
doing it for a few years, but the usual advice
is to choose something that is manageable, okay? So something that you
do think that you are actually going to be able to complete. If it’s too hard, you might
not enjoy it quite so much. Now to put it in a
different kind of context, you’re probably not gonna choose a five day stage-race
as your first road race. And so the same principle,
of course, applies to gravel. – Yeah, that’s not really a bit of advice I followed there Si, is it? – You will be absolutely fine. Right now, once you
have chosen your event, the next thing you need to do
is actually start to work out what training you need, to get you there in the best possible shape. (dramatic rock music) – So having a structured training plan can really help you get
the most out of your event. I’m really lucky to have
Oli, who’s my coach, and talk me through what I should be doing in preparation for Dirty Kanza. So, Oli, what’s the main
difference between a gravel event and a typical road event like
a sportive or a club run? And how can you prepare for that? – So, your gravel events,
sportives, or audaxes, are just taking the difficulty
of a long ride up a notch. So, on a normal long distance ride, what we’re trying to do is ride
as efficiently as possible. So, an easier ride, dead
flat and you can ride at a standard power, and
heart rate and effort. As soon as you start adding any climbs, what that’s doing is throwing
you away from the average. So you’re getting peaks
and troughs in your ride. That’s gonna make it harder work. Once you start throwing in gravel, and climbs, it’s double hard. So what that’s doing is it’s trying to throw you away from the average power. Making you work less efficiently and therefore making
the ride a lot harder. – So how are we going to work over the, well from the past few months, right the way up to Dirty Kanza, to make sure that we’re training
as efficiently as possible, especially given limited time. – So if you look at
the event you’re doing, obviously 200 miles off-road: the two things we need
to focus on is endurance and then your aerobic fitness as well. So most people think of it as the same, but actually we want to
try and split the two. Your aerobic fitness
is the amount of power you can produce, without
becoming inefficient and going into an anaerobic state. And then your endurance is your ability to be able to keep that power going through a really long period of time. All right, so what we can do, your shorter sessions,
so your commutes to work, your rides up to maybe an hour or two, which are probably two or three a week. We can focus on that aerobic fitness. So that’s not necessarily
loads of base miles, but it’s working below your threshold, so you can still have
control of your breathing. But then we’re gonna be working at blocks 20 minutes, 30 minutes. Some people have seen it kind of sweet spot efforts work quite well. They’re kind of 15, 20 minutes. And they’re gonna try
and push up your fitness, and then on your longer weekend ride, then we’re really gonna
focus on your endurance. So that’s the thing with
endurance, muscle endurance, it’s being able to do thousands and thousands of revolutions. Some of them climbing, so slightly slower. So you’re gonna get stronger muscles. And then the other thing
is that fat efficiency, so you’re not just using
carbs as a fuel source. You’re using fats, which of course, we’ve all got plenty of. – And in terms of building up to an event, like Dirty Kanza, many people at home, might tend to do shorter events. Some people’ll already
be accustomed to riding really long distances, but
for someone, for example, who’s been riding cyclocross races, which are only 40 minutes,
throughout the winter, how do you build up from going
from 40 minutes to 200 miles? – Yeah, I mean it’s a big, you’ve always got your exercise
history that you’ve got. You’ve done some audaxes
in the past, so that helps. You’ll revert back to
that in your new training. The key is just building up slowly. Normally suggest that people build up the duration of the rides first, and then add the ascent next. It’s the ascent and the climbing that will cause the problems. If you start throwing in loads
of climbing from day one. So maybe your rides are a thousand meters, and you suddenly go to three thousand, that’s when quite a lot of the niggles and injuries can kick in. So we want to build up the duration first. So flatter rides, bit boring, I know, but you can build at
the flatter rides first. Once you’ve got that up to
maybe 80% of your distance, then you can start adding in maybe more gravel sections,
more climbing sections. But what you don’t want
to do is start jumping in from 100K to 100 miles gravel
with loads of climbing. Too big a jump, so just
think of small increments, maybe 10% per ride think as a maximum. – And in terms of if
you’re living in an area that isn’t particularly hilly. Or if you’re training
for a hilly gravel race, and you don’t have that available to you, what sort of other changes
can you do to simulate that? – So what you wanna do is look at the amount of climbing you’re gonna do, and roughly try and work out
how much of that climbing’s gonna take in terms of minutes. So say you might think that in your ride, you’re gonna spend maybe
two hours of climbing. Now you’re not gonna do that round the Mendip Hills local to us. So what we’re gonna do is add in maybe 60 minutes of climbing. But then include maybe a building up to 60 minutes of other riding, where we’re gonna kinda simulate climbing. So you might be in a slightly harder gear, so a climbing power, and then
just drop the cadence a bit. So we might not be actually
climbing up a hill, but what you’re gonna do is be doing the same cadence and the same power. So maybe 70 or 80 revolutions
in a slightly higher power for blocks on the flat,
plus your climbing. So in the overall ride,
you’ve then got your two hours of real world climbing. (techno music) – Training for an event isn’t just about getting
your body in shape, but also your head, giving
you enough confidence, to get through the event
as enjoyably as possible. It’s also a great opportunity
to test out things that are gonna be really
important for your event, such as your kit and your nutrition. – That’s right, those long training rides in particular, are the perfect opportunity to have a little play around
and try different things. It is okay to make your
mistakes in training. In fact that’s the best place to do it, because then that should leave everything running nice and smoothly
for the event itself. And it is always worth bearing
in mind that gravel events tend to leave you a
little bit more isolated perhaps than road events,
so you’re gonna need to be prepared to be a
bit more self-sufficient. So it’s also worth
thinking about what tools you’re gonna need to take with you. And in fact where you’re
actually gonna take them on the bike, so your luggage that you’re gonna have with you. – Yeah, you also should
think about your clothing, your bike choice, even your
tires, and even your gearing. – That’s right, and then of course, the big ones as well, hydration. So are you gonna be able
to take enough fluid with you on the bike to get you through between feed zones or for
the whole event itself. And, of course, what are
you gonna eat as well. These are big topics and
we are gonna cover them in their own separate
videos in the future. – We hope that you
found these tips helpful in planning and riding
your first gravel event. – Yeah, if you’ve got any others to add into the mix,
then why not get involved in the comments sections down below. We’d be very interested to read those. – Yeah, and if it’s
some more gravel action that you’re looking for here on GCN, then check out this one, when Si and Dan, road 650b wheels off-road.

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