How Hannah Otto Nearly Won Unbound Gravel! - Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast 478

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(0:00) Welcome!
(0:06) Hannah’s Unbound Experience
(08:32) How a Women’s Start changed the race
(10:53) How Hannah prepared for such a long race
(23:08) How to manage peer pressure in a group
(31:16) How does Hannah feel and recover after Unbound
(32:49) Hannah’s tip to recover fast after races
(39:46) Why this athlete got an upset stomach at Unbound
(48:37) Why this athlete cramped at Unbound
(01:06:16) Are gravel tires unnecessary?
(01:14:21) Hannah’s Gravel tire choice
(01:17:28) Silicone spray to get mud not to stick?
(01:19:01) Hannah’s advice on how to become a pro cyclist



Great Podcast today - Still listening. At right about 58 minutes, Jon and Nate start going into an analysis on a listeners unbound data. I’ve struggled to ‘analyze’ my own data in the past think it would be amazing if these two did a segment entirely on how to dissect a ride using the various metrics available in TR.

Congrats on the epic race Hannah, it was fun to watch and thanks for hopping on to share your brains with the rest of us.

Yes, very good episode. Congrats Hannah. I actually didn’t realize she got squeezed in the final sprint until hearing the episode and going back to look.

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Agree that it was a good episode. Great result for Hannah and also great perspective on how to balance feelings about a good performance even when the finish didn’t go her way.

I did like some of the analysis, I just wish Nate and Jon had a bit more experience in these types of events to draw on. Or pull in someone with experience racing gravel at the amateur level. It’s easy to point to a high IF at the start of the gravel race and call that a pacing mistake (and it probably was in the case they were discussing), but they seem to significantly underplay the benefits of being in a fast group whenever they talk about this stuff. These races aren’t time trials or MTB races, you can pretty much kiss the chance for a win goodbye if you let your competition go up the road in a faster group. Not always, but usually.

Hannah’s description of how the pro women race (when it’s a mixed field starting with the men) is actually the most insightful for age group racing. The recipe for success is almost always latching on to faster groups early and banking a bunch of time. You can’t completely blow up, but you can absolutely fade and still have enough time banked for the win/podium.


First, great work Hannah! Second great work, team, on the episode. It was really enjoyable. These are the episodes that keep me coming back for more.

Could someone expand on some nutrition specifics? I find that some episodes get very specific but yet not quite detailed enough. :slight_smile: Meaning, we learn so much about proper nutrition: what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and so on. However, not what is specifically eaten. :slight_smile: Namely, what do you actually eat/drink when aiming for 100g/hr and how much do you carry at a time. I find this a struggle for my 4 hr (non-stop) rides (i.e. think ST6 training). My pockets are loaded with (4) packets of chews, (2)gels, (2)bars, and my hydration pack is a slurry of sugar water. :slight_smile: Alas, I do keep a bottle of fresh water on my bike. Even with all this, it’s not 100g/hr.

Thanks and keep up the great work,

Not that hard, there are a ton of threads on this.

For liquid fuel: I can do 100g / maltodextrin & fructose mixture plus 1000mg of sodium in every liter of fluid I carry. Bulk malto, bulk fructose mixed 1:0.8. Add sodium citrate for however much sodium you need. I use crystal light packets for flavoring. I will often carry a pack (2L), plus 2 bottles (1L & .75L) in my frame. If I needed a ton, I’d use a 3L pack or a 3L Bladder and one of the Rule28 Gravel Suits with the Hydration Pocket plus bottles.

For gels, I can carry 4-5 hours of gels easily to get me to 100g / hour. I can do 6+ if I really want to pack pockets. I use the 40g SIS Beta Fuel or Maurten take 3 an hour to get me to 125g/hour. That’s 12-15 for 4-5 hours and will fit in 1-2 back pockets of my jersey. I did Leadville last year with two stops eating 4 gels an hour for 9 hours. (Note, I don’t carry that much if I don’t have to, I’d prefer to use an aid stop in the middle so I’m not carrying all the weight, but I can if needed and have for training rides)

I don’t do bars, solid food doesn’t absorb as quickly or easily. (And when I do at a gas station I almost always regret it). I also don’t do chews. I prefer to separate fuel and hydration and carry gels when it matters so I can drink when I need it as opposed to worrying about needing to drink for fuel, and potentially having to stop to pee too many times. Or, drink to thirst and end up not fueling enough… Generally that’s why I reserve liquid fuel for training.

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I hope I’m not violating and forum rules by linking another podcast here, but for anyone who appreciates Hannah, this is a really good listen (link below). She always comes across as having her stuff together, just a really smart approach/mindset on racing bikes and building her brand. While she has obviously had racing success, I’m just as impressed with what she is doing off the bike. If I had a kid wanting to race bikes professionally, she’s a role model I’d be pointing them to.

Thanks… this is kind of what I suspected. Pockets packed with gels. I just need to embrace the gels… ,:+1: BTW I’m trying to use the carbs in my drink as “bonus” carbs.

Hey, anyone knows what’s the silicon product Jonathan likes to use?
I know there are tons of silicon-based products but using one product to clean and protect the bike and lube the stanchions sounds convenient.

For my long training rides before Unbound, I did the following:

  • 2L bladder w/ 9 scoops of Flow Formulas (270g total). That was good for 4 hours for me.
  • 1 collapsible flask filled w/ 6 oz. of maple syrup (25g / ounce; 150g total). Also ~4hours worth of “gel”

Total of ~420g for 4 hours….just a bit over 100g / hour.

For longer rides, I had a second flask and then 2 large bottles of the same Flow mix that I would empty into my USWE. Same amount of carbs available, but inevitably my stomach would get a bit wonky at some point so my consumption rate would drop a bit. But the more I trained with it, the farther out that “wonky point” got. It used to hit me ~5 hours, but at Unboumd, it was 7-8 hours in (and may have been caused by drinking mix that never mixed properly and was very concentrated).


Thanks… Very informative!

Late follow up on this one, but I think I’ve done over 20 gravel races, so I’d say I’m experienced in this regard. Nate has also done quite a few as well.

There are plenty of ways to execute a good result in these races, so I’m not saying one approach is wrong and one is right.

Speaking from experience of being somebody with the front group and more often than not being somebody that went all out to stay with that front group when I didn’t have the fitness to make it stick, I think a significant portion of amateur athletes place too much emphasis on needing to go all out in the beginning to stay with a group.

What typically happens after this initial all-out effort is the field ends up blowing up into pieces because there are a relative few that can hold that pace, but a relative many that can’t yet need to in order to stay with the group.

Eventually the riders that went too hard spend the rest of the day limping along and drifting backward, resulting in a slower time than they would have otherwise gotten had they just knocked 10-15% off the first 30 minutes.

Taking the more conservative approach and starting within your means (still hard, but not irresponsibly so) doesn’t put you in no-mans land. If anything, it puts you in a spot to constantly move up through the backwards moving riders that wen too hard, giving you plenty of opportunities to draft and a lot of motivation.

So yeah, different ways to get the job done, but just want to make sure you know we aren’t talking from a place of inexperience. Otherwise we wouldn’t be advising people on what to do.


I’ve done this so many times that I feel like you’re personally calling me out :laughing:


Thanks for response. I honestly had no idea you guys race gravel. Would love to see race reports on the podcast to talk through how your races are going and tactics you are using (like you used to for road). Maybe I’m just missing it, but I tend to catch most of the podcasts. Anyway, maybe race dynamics are a regional thing or you guys are just doing different types of races. If it wasn’t a topic I absolutely obsess over, I wouldn’t have brought it up. I also don’t think we are too far off in the approach, but it’s a matter of degree and dependent on race goals.

I also think it’s an evolving dynamic. The gravel races I’ve been doing have become more like road races in the past couple years. There are exceptions, but I’ve found that if you let the fast guys/gals up the road early in faster groups, you’ll never see them again. Even if their pace falls off, they are falling off with others up the road, have banked a bunch of time, and still have groups to work with to finish the job. I don’t particularly like it since I’m more of a diesel, but it’s the only way I’ve had success (at least recently).

Even at unbound where groups do splinter and people blow up, the road dynamic is very clear. I really questioned my pacing strategy after unbound since I went out really hard for too long and kind of imploded about half way through (but still ended up with a good result). After the race, I went into athlinks and reviewed the pacing of ~30 male podium finishers this year and with almost zero exceptions, everyone went out hard, averaged ~21mph for the first 50+ miles, and the podiums were determined by mile 70 (almost without exception, which is amazing to me). Some shuffling of position within the podiums after mile 70, but nobody came from behind with fresher legs to grab any of those spots. Only minor exception was Jeremiah bishop who had issues very early and fell back, but he was still back with the front group by mile 70. Everybody in podium position slowed as the race progressed, but not enough to get caught.

All races are different, especially gravel. Goals also come into play. The classic “compete” vs. “complete” debate is always in play at the longer events. If someone is primarily concerned with completing an event, I’d definitely recommend a steady pacing strategy. If someone is competing for a podium, my recommendation is to go really deep early if needed to keep the other contenders in sight. If you totally blow up, you might lose your podium, but at least you took a shot at it. Even if you aren’t in podium contention, I’d still say getting in a fast group early should be a priority. Not to the point of blowing yourself up, but I’d still argue it’s worth burning some matches to get on a fast train. This is where it makes sense to carefully measure effort and watch numbers and know when to let up a bit (hopefully when others are dropping off as well).