I’m doing a gravel event next month on the 28th in Palestine, Texas called the El Camino. It has three 35, 65, and 105. It is my first time taking on century let alone in gravel territory. I’ve been training for it since April, but still a little doubtful on whether I can complete or not. In the past, I’ve done a 65-miler on the road, which wasn’t a problem, but never anything to this magnitude.
Any advice you can give to a novice such as myself?
Echo that. Start out slowly and then go even slower. If you are passing people in the first 25 miles you are probably going to fast. You want to be passing people in the last 25 miles.
And yes figure out a nutrition and hydration stategy.
In terms of time, I would ballpark add 25-50% to the time you think it would take on the road. For me a normal century (not pan flat or super is hilly) is about 5 hours. For gravel it would be closer to 6-7 hours depending on how “gravely.”
I’m riding my first 100 next weekend at Steamboat, SBT Gravel Blue course. After a good summer of gravel races under 70 miles and mountain biking I still plan on watching my HR, no power meter on my Cutthroat yet, eating a lot and staying hydrated. For the first 50 I’m in steady roll mode, then I’ll access and see if I want to get racey then next 50. I’m pretty competitive in the over 60 age group on gravel so my race monster may just kick in. This is a test if I like longer gravel them maybe Dirt Kanza next year to go with Brec Epic stage race.
Sounds like a fun ride! I have done a few gravel races and the biggest difference for me was how steep some of the climbs were, going up sustained 14% grades with steeper pitches thrown in the mix. Depending on the road surface, it can be pretty tough to hold traction while standing so having some low gears on board to spin up the hills helps if your course has some steep sections.
I also feel like tire pressure is pretty important. The comfort and handling gains add up to a big difference over a long day and avoiding pinch flats/tire burps help with momentum and moral. It might help to get your hands on a good gauge and try some different pressures on terrain similar to the race course if you haven’t already.
Gravel events are a blast. Be prepared that your body will take a beating from the tougher road surface. Study the course map and have a plan to cut it short if your body revolts at mile 40. To forestall such an ignominious outcome, I echo taking a minute or two at aid stations to fuel up, stretch … etc. And if you have a few weeks before the event, do a little strength work to toughen the muscles if that’s not already part of your regimen. Have a great time!
If you can ride 60 you can ride 100. Just don’t burn the matches too early. Nutrition is huge. Eat every 45 minutes. I did my first century this summer and like you it was a gravel century. Had a blast. Above else. Go have fun.
Gravel is harder. For me (at 65), 60mi on gravel is equal to at least 80 on the road. With gravel, at least down here in the south, there’s basically no coasting and some of the gravel is spread on the road surface for maintenance and is thick and sticky - to me it is very much like a trainer ride in that you’re pushing/working the whole time. OTOH, gravel is also a lot more fun!
I was thinking of doing the El Camino gravel ride too but I think it clashes with my CX schedule, so I’m probably not going to make it. I’ll have to look, but I think it’s the same weekend as Best Cross in San Antonio.
However, I did my first gravel race earlier this year and my advice would be:
Make sure you stay hydrated and, more importantly, don’t run out of water (use the rest stops!)
As others stated, don’t go out too hard. Pace yourself.
Don’t underestimate the toll gravel will take on your upper body. It can really beat you up, so hopefully you haven’t neglected your strength and core workouts.
If you have the option, download the route to your head unit so you don’t get lost. Even if the course is well marked, I like having the reassurance that I haven’t somehow gone off course. I did get lost once, so from that point on I always make sure I have the route loaded up.