I did the Trois Ballons last Saturday, for the first time in my life trying to finish a Gran Fondo as quickly as possible instead of waiting on friends or taking my time in rest stations.
Ideal weather, sunny and 15-20 degrees celcius and little wind. Pacing a bit aggressive in the first hour to keep the wheel of some bigger guys on the flat roads, but that’s the risk I was willing to take to get full advantage. Did all climbs at my own pace, letting groups go or passing groups reasonably based on the wattages prescribed by the Best Bike Split app on my Garmin. Quick peeing stop at 2 hours and made only stop at a rest station to fill my three bottles at 110km, only ate my own food (gels, Maurten, cliff bar cookie, etc.) that I had in my pockets. I think I ate and drank enough.
NP at 175W at 5 hours in the race which is an IF of .76, which did make me a bit nervous although I still felt strong at that time considering the time already spent on the bike. Halfway on the fourth (out of five) climbs I suddenly started to fatigue much more, also cramps in hamstrings and the inner side of my thigh but able to keep on pushing with reasonable wattages.
NP at 172W at 7 hours in the race, with one last climb to go: La Planche des Belles Filles, a steep climb with 12% average grade in the first kilometers and a nice 20% 200m stretch just before the finish. Stopped 5km before the climb for one last peeing stop, in total 10 minutes off the bike in the whole race.
The final climb was a total struggle, already cramping again on the 3%ish slope to the start of the Planche where you can already the way steeper pitch of the next kilometer or so. Alternating sitting and standing on the pedals I managed to avoid most of the cramps while crawling up the mountain at 2.7W/kg or 8.5 km/h a literally counting down every 100m to the finish line keeping repeating “don’t you stop” in my head. A 40min sufferfest but I got to the finish line without stopping after 210km at 8h58 with a NP of 169W (0.73IF, 2.9W/kg, 500 TSS) and then I needed to lie down for 20 min to come out of the mental and physical hole I dug during the climb.
So my gut feeling that I went a bit too fast became true, but that was the gamble. With more proper pacing, maybe I would have finished 10min quicker, definitely not more than 15min. Absolutely it was an experience I would not have wanted to miss. Well inside the range to earn the “gold medal” for my age group. I finished 214th of the 444 participants in my age group, I thought I was reasonable fit but still literally middle of the pack. Good reason to train a bit harder when I’m recovered from all this.