First race and pacing: how fast is race pace?

I have my first road race coming up this weekend, and I was wondering how hard is race pace, how hard should the effort feel? Is it a hard group ride+ or should I be as close to the limit as possible? Should I play it by ear or should I strategize before? (I am traveling with team mates if that helps.) I have watched plenty of TR race videos, which are great, but probably I’ll spend more time trying not to die rather than analyze the situation around me and plan that decisive attack.

The race is quite short, about 3 laps of a 11 km course, and last year the winner in the lowest race category here in Japan (E3) averaged over 38 km/h. The top field was even quicker than the next category up, E2, although the E2s did one extra lap to be fair. While I have no delusions of grandeur, but I would like to take the race seriously.

Background: I am a long-time mountain biker who turned roadie last year. I have been training since then, and only started TrainerRoad about a month ago. I am at 73 kg and TR pegs my FTP at 280 W (so about 3.8 W/kg).

You’ll need to analyze in order to avoid crashes, and that is where I would start

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To me that is part of not dying :wink:

You can definitely take the race seriously while not getting ahead of yourself. If it truly is your first race, I’d just go out there, do your best to read the pack and get a sense for how things work.

If it gets to the end and you have an opportunity to do something, give it a try!

Race pace is whatever the guys on the front want it to be. You have plenty of power to hang in there. Since you were a mountain biker before, you probably have the handling skills to not waste a lot of energy in the corners. Stay in the front third of the race for as long as you can. If it feels manageable and someone attacks try to go with them. It won’t feel easy but you are likely strong enough to finish with the pack. You will learn how to animate a race with more fitness and more experience.


I go by heart rate when I’m racing. I’m usually pretty safe hanging around 90-95% of my max for 2ish hour races. That gives me a little head room for bigger bursts if needed. My W/Kg isn’t nearly what yours is though, so I have a feeling my approach may not be so valuable to you.

Just keep your front wheel out of trouble and have fun! You’ll learn a ton just by getting out and doing it!

There’s your problem right there…

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I know, I know. :slight_smile:
Where I live in Japan, there are no ridable trails and the community is pretty much non-existent in a city of a million. And people do not add trails to the usual publicly available databases out of fear that the local government puts a hard stop to the trail riding that does happen here.

I find pacing isn’t really a “thing” during road races. The speed of the race is dictated by the group.

Basically, go as hard as you need to, to stay with the group. At times this will be really easy, at others you will be WAY above threshold. But do everything you can to stay with the group. If you are hurting, so are they and chances are it will slow down shortly.

When I started racing, I found I was dropping off the back because the pace was too high (in the hope that I could pace myself back on), only to watch them slow down as soon as I was too far away to get back on.

The only time you really need to worry about moderating your effort is if you are racing a handicap, working in the break or on the front doing work for the team


The way things work out where I live is that I get to race with Continental Teams as well as “regular” amateur teams. Depending on the day and my own plan the race pace varies from a fast paced group ride to ripping my face off and wanting to die.
It comes down to the composition of teams, weather and terrain. Sometimes I just want to stay in the pack and other times it is all about attacking/pulling.

Make it as hard as it needs to be to hang in there for your first race and just collect experience/have fun.
If you do want to strategise it, maybe think of 2 points during the lap beforehand where you might want to attack if you are in the right spot in the pack. After some races you will start to develop a feel for the right tactics

I’m teasing, of course. But that’s a bummer. Good luck with your training!

short races should start really hard, and lots of surges and vo2max as the break tries to form. Surf the crowd and try to go with the move that feels like “the one”.

Don’t strategize too much before; all plans in a cat 5 race go out the window ASAP.

Race smart, have fun, and let us know how it goes!


I find most races to be paced somewhere between :grimacing: and :skull:

I couldn’t be happier: I didn’t expect the people to be so great and friendly, my team mates and others I ended up working together with during the race. No “go faster” but “just a few meters to the crest” or “I’ll bridge, let’s go!” Even when I sprinted down the line, screaming like a mad man (much to the amusement of the spectators), the first thing the guy I lost to by less than 2 meters and I did after crossing the finish line was fist bump. How great is that?

The conditions weren’t ideal, it had rained quite a bit and the road was wet. But the race organizers covered the metal grates that were at two crucial corners by rubber, and it was fine. I guess I could have gone harder, but Goal 1, don’t die, was more important. I had a pedal strike in a chicane, but as a recovering MTBer that didn’t faze me.

So I fulfilled both of my goals: I didn’t die and I sprinted down the finish line. My IF was 1.13, and I am happy with that. I was in 107th place out of 150 (37.16 km/h), one of the last who did not DNF. 41 participants finished within 10 seconds of one another, so about 1/3 of the field.

Can’t wait for the race next month! Thanks for the advice everyone!


Hey crh005,

I relate to what you say here but then I have also burned many matches trying to hold on, just to pay for that suffering the rest of the race.

Last week for example, I managed to hold on with the front pack (about 10 guys) for 16 minutes and I ended up catching my breath for the next 15, and then went on suffering while I watched many riders pass by…

This was a 2.5 hour MTB race with a pretty flatish start before hitting the climbs, just about a minute after I let them go, the climbing started and by that time I was cooked…

I am fairly new to racing and I’m having a hard time, the front pack goes too hard, the other packs seem too slow, so I am not sure if I should continue to try holding on or just go with a slower group and then go hard on the climbs… What do you think?

I don’t have much mtb racing experience sorry. On the road, drafting allows you to pretty easily hang on to a group of riders who are faster than you. I have been in the same situation plenty of times though.

I guess it just depends on what your goals are.

If you want to try and win there isnt really another option, you have to be in the front group. If they are too strong then so be it. You can learn a lot by watching and following riders who are better than you, so even if you don’t win, or hang on the whole way, it’s definitely still worthwhile.

If you know you are not going to be able to hang on, but want to get the best result possible, then it’s just a judgement call on whether that means sticking with a slower group and getting away at the end (racing for a place) or just riding your own race (for a PB, power or time).

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I’m an Expert XC racer starting my 4th year of racing. If you can’t hang with the front pack then you will only burn yourself out trying to keep up with them in the beginning. It appears that currently you belong in the mid pack/chase group. So either lead the mid pack if you’re a bit faster, or just slot in. Midway through the race you should be able to determine if you can pick up the pace. You may never reattach with the front pack, but that’s likely because you’re just not fit enough yet. However, by pacing the race you’re less likely to blow up.



Thank you! I will go with the second option!
Just a final question please, what does PB mean here?

Personal Best. I’m used to PR, meaning Personal Record

Awesome advise @MI-XC
Thank You!!! :+1: