Race Report and Questions - Gran Fondo after Traditional Base, Sustained Power Build and Century Specialty

Dear TrainerRoad Forum,

I have been an avid listener of the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast, reader of the forum and TrainerRoad user since September 2018. Since I have been mostly following the training I wanted to share some results and a few questions that came to mind following my first B/C-race this season.

On Sunday, I participated at the Alpenchallenge, Lenzerheide in Switzerland, a granfondo style event, and came in 14th. Unfortunately, the long course was cancelled due to road damages so I “only” road the 114km with approx. 3000m elevation. Since the event was shorter than expected and only a B/C-race I did not perform a regular taper, but simply followed the specialty plan as prescribed. Since then I feel I have developed quite well and now have an FTP of approx 300 on the trainer and 320 outside on the climbs at a weight of 65kg. You can see the ride file under the following link: https://www.trainerroad.com/career/elvis/rides/57591893-alpenchallenge-2019-14th-overall

Here a few things I noted and am a bit unsure of how to approach the upcoming race / adapt my training:

  • Race started quite hard despite the neutral zone, had to put out over 300 watts for over 15 mins on first climb only to stay in second group. Pace then settled and I was able to ride at sweet spot (as planned) of about 280 watts for remaining climb. 1. Is it normal for the first / second group of a gran fondo to start so hard and is there any way I can better prepare for this? I believe that probably the climbing road race plan might be better suited due to the increased FTP and VO2 Max efforts in the plan. 2. Do you stick with the front group or let off in such a situation? I decided to ride with the second group - what would you do?

  • The temperatures were quite low at approx 5-10 degrees celsius on the climbing and after descending (legs obviously got cold, despite accelerating out of the hairpins) I tried to catch a group in front of me on the flat - almost immediately my legs, especially quads, cramped. I was lucky that someone else took over the pacing to catch the group where I could relax and take in some mustard (yes, I believe this helps me). I have had this problems in the past. It appears to often occur when I have to accelarate, mostly in the flats to catch a group, or when my muscles cool down too much. The problem kept coming up during the race each time my muscles got to cold. However, the legs were still quite fresh as you can see from the final effort where I was able to put out 310 watts over 25 mins. Generally, I am definitely not the sprinter type and also feel I suffer most in VO2 Max sessions. 1. Do you also have this problem? 2. What can I do in the race and is there any way to adapt training?

  • As I was able to put out 310 watts on the last climb (second overall on that segment in the race) I was wondering whether I should have tried to stick with first at the beginning. What would you do?

I hope my result motivates you to follow the TrainerRoad plans and you can possibly help me answer my questions. Just an FYI, my A-race is in three weeks at the Engadiner Radmarathon a 214km gran fondo with approx 5000 meters elevation. I will then be bikepacking for three weeks and after coming back will race the Ötztaler Radmarathon, where I hope to place top 100 / finish in approx 07:45. Hence, if you have any advice for the upcoming events, please let me know :slight_smile:

Ride on and stay safe,

elvis

In my, albeit limited, Fondo experience, yes. For the most part the front pack guys and gals are going to go hard at the start and then settle in. This was true for me his past weekend, as well. About 12 miles in, the pace and workload leveled off except when one guy was out front (in his aerobars).

I was determined to stay with the front group for as long as I could (100km ride, only about 650m elevation change), as I hadn’t been in the saddle longer than 90 minutes since January. I figured I’d hit a bit of a wall at some point, and I did on the last “big” hill of the day about 2:15 in, where I just didn’t want to chase down the leaders up hill and into the wind anymore. So two guys got off on their own, three of us made up the second group finishing a couple of minutes after the first two, and a third group ended up finishing about 10 minutes behind us.

These things can be tougher to pace because you’re always going to be faster riding with a group, but you’re not guaranteed to have a group at exactly the pace and effort you’re going for. I don’t think I’d change anything from the way I handled the ride this weekend, but if the group had been significantly stronger, I probably would’ve let them go and settled in with a second group to keep the ride manageable. Tough to say what’s going to shake out any given day.

I’d have to think at nearly 5.0W/kg FTP, you should be trying to stick with the front group.

Climbing Road Race at the highest volume you can handle is the way I’d go too. Sustained power build if you haven’t already.

I did a granfondo last summer in Portugal, I had always approached it as an endurance event rather than try to race any part of it, I was happy keeping it endurance/tempo as much as I could because the route had 2 climbs classified as HC.

My problem was that I live at sea level and even though I had been at a higher elevation for a few days previously, the place where the fondo was at an even higher elevation. So I was averaging 200w (at the time FTP was 275) and my HR was very much in the threshold zone and mashing 60-70rpm up the steep parts. All of this to say, I didn’t cramp up during the climb but after a long descent and once the road was kicking back up again. I had never experienced such prolong muscle exertion and I think that’s why there was cramping (my nutrition and hydration was great and I wasn’t feeling taxed until the steep part of the climb). In hindsight I would have practiced Alpe du zwift on 100% prior to my trip to get acclimated to the hour long climbing effort.

I had to be off the bike for the cramps to resolve, they were pretty severe and I could not ride at all, but eventually I did another Cat 2 climb. By the time I was hitting the final 19km HC climb it was in the high 30’s C (90F) and I was mentally checked out after the cramping.

So I don’t really have any advice, just sharing my similar experience with the cramping, you did much better than I did getting through them! Needless to say, I’d like to go back and do that fondo again properly!