Totally Overestimated my Ability - Heavier Rider Help - Dropped by Roberge

41/m, 245ftp, 204lbs/92kg, 2.66 w/kg, right around 5k miles riding this year after 4k last year, but only started cycling again seriously in 2021. Wanted to end my ‘season’ (in quotes because I don’t really compete) with a 136mi flat-ish ride (MS City to Shore charity ride plus extra miles) and then the 120mi Unpaved gravel event in PA. I’ve done 70+mi events twice this year (two gravel), but due to family commitments, can’t really get out for super long rides.

Mechanical’ed after 80 on the flat ride, but felt great and could’ve done the 136 pretty easy. Then went into Unpaved feeling good, but VASTLY overestimated my ability. I chose the longest route 120mi and blew up after like 60mi. We hit two climbs (Cat 3 1.7mi climb @ 8.8% avg grade and Cat 2 climb 3.2mi @ 7.1% avg grade) that took me over an hour to do those 5 miles and crushed me. Adam Roberge launched past me like I was standing still - and when you are going 5mph or so, it sure seemed that way. Started cramping pretty bad around mile 55-60 and had to call it - both physically and mentally - rode back to the start with riding 6hrs, 75mi and 7k of climbing.

I was SUPER discouraged after Unpaved, wanted to quit for a day but now more determined than ever.
First priority is dropping bodyweight. But had the following questions:

  1. I come from a fitness/powerlifting background and my legs/quads are pretty large. I find myself sore the following day after most rides / TR workouts. Anything I can do about this besides just focus on building endurance more? I do not have an endurance background.

  2. I was doing Build Your Own Plan - Gravel or Rolling Road Race - Mid Volume, so T-W-Th would be interval-easy endurance-interval and then I’d do sweetspot outside rides on weekend. Changing it to Polarized High Volume. I think I need more Z2. Any thoughts on this change?

Any other help would be appreciated. I was honestly super down following DNF Unpaved, but more determined than ever now that a week has passed.


As a fellow 90+ kg rider with a similar power number, my best friend is the serving platter of a rear cassette I installed. I’m not kidding.

Going uphill on extended climbs cannot be a VO2 or higher effort or it is impossible to avoid blowing up. To drop it to a threshold or better yet, tempo or sweet spot, for me required a 30 tooth front ring and 40+ tooth rear ring. People still pass me, but my ride isn’t over halfway through the climb.

Getting stronger (volume is king!) and losing weight both also help, but better gearing is truly the magic pill.


If it makes you feel any better I’ve had more people than I care to remember go past me like I’m standing still (including one guy with a basket on the front while going up Latigo) and I’m close to 4W/Kg.


Yeah, I was poorly geared. My gravel bike is 2x with a 48/35 and 10-36 Rival AXS. It’s probably perfect for my area, but these gravel events with 7+% grade climbs are awful. The 43/30 with 10-36 (if sticking 2x) or a 10-52 via 1x would be way better, but not sure if I can justify for a few events like this.


Do mid volume and extend rides when you feel like it, that way you have more time to recover


Rome wasn’t built in a day. The durability required put out power over these long distances isn’t measured by FTP or w/kg. It’s years of lots of hours in the saddle. You should see improvement every year in this regard even if the FTP number doesn’t move much. Seems like you may have come out too hot on that gravel ride. It’s very easy to blow yourself up in a long event if you don’t pace it well. You may also take a look at your fueling strategy as that 55-60 mile mark is about the time where your body might run out of fuel if you aren’t stuffing your face the whole event. Glad to see you stayed motivated.


This is largely the solution to all of the issues you encountered in your post…you still need to build your aerobic base. Keep riding as much as you can.

As for your issues at UnPAved, they were likely a pacing and / or nutrition…but based on what you said about the flat ride where you DNF’s at 80 miles, I’d say it was probably pacing primarily…you were going too hard on the climbs.

Most importantly, shake it off…we have all been there. Literally. I doubt there is a person on this board that didn’t have a similar experience in one of their first big events. It is a learning experience as much as a physical experience.


My view is for those very long events you need some proper long rides in your training. Doesn’t have to be every week, doesn’t have to be full length of your target event, but if you’re going to enter an event that might take 8 hours or more to complete I would say you want at least half a dozen long rides done in training. Maybe starting out at 2-3 hours and building up to a couple of 5+ hour rides. Not just for the fitness but to enable you to identify all the blockers that might stop you completing your target event and being able to address them. That could include some or all of nutrition, hydration, cramping, pacing, gearing, bike position, equipment and clothing choices.

I think if you’ve done that sort of training and events previously (and somewhat recently) and have therefore got that knowledge and experience already, then it is possible (though still not optimal) to build the fitness required to get through a long event purely on “shorter” (by cycling standards, not powerlifting standards!) rides of 2 hours or less. Nate did this for Leadville a few years ago, I’ve done similar.



Gran Fondo plan is going to be the best suited for that type of event IMO.

Work on adding as much endurance volume as you can on top of your workouts, keeping intensity low enough that you’re not impacting the workout itself (55-60% FTP)

Starting to prioritize long Sweet Spot and Tempo rides outdoors as you get closer will help.

Sounds like you may have had fueling and hydration issues too. Need to practice this, I’d suggest doing some sweat testing, and training your gut to push fueling up to 100g (or more) of carbs.

I had Alexey Vermuelen go by me at the Leadville camp like I was standing still while I was putting out 260W up St. Kevin’s. And he was wearing long pants, softshell, backpack, and had a camera around his neck… I thought it was an e-Bike at first because there were other camera guys out on course (From The Ground Up) rocking those.


Edit: BCM beat to me some of the same points. I agree with what he said.

I’m a similar build as you, 190-ish lbs. For us bigger guys, it’s real important that you don’t overcook yourself on climbs and have a pacing plan and stick to it. I also got really back into training and racing in 2020/2021.

I have two questions for you:

  1. What was your nutrition plan during the races? grams/hour carbs? What products and did you train with them?
  2. Since you mentioned cramping, have you done a sweat rate test and sweat salt composition test?

I had been cramping at the end of gravel races, so earlier this year I found a local outfit for Precision Hydration’s sweat salt test, and I found that my sweat salt concentration was 1,500 mg / L (!!). I had only been using around 600-700 g/L electrolytes in my bottles, so that was a big adjustment for me to make. I highly recommend having that test done to make sure you’re getting the proper amount of electrolytes, especially for longer events.

1 Like

I’m sorry that your experience at UnPAved was so discouraging. It sounds like you’ve made strong progress since 2021. I wonder if pacing wasn’t part of the issue, given what you said about Adam Roberge dropping you on a climb. Assuming UnPAved was a mass start race and not a fondo, that implies to me that you somehow stayed ahead of pro gravel racer Adam Roberge until partway through that climb. If that’s the case, it could be that you burned a lot of matches until you hit that climb, trying to stay with a group of 5+ w/kg racers.

A 120 mile race with 10k feet of climbing sounds much more demanding than the other rides you’ve done, particularly if you live in a flat area. I would encourage you to give yourself some grace and remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished in the past couple of years. And then to spend some time next spring and summer working on long climbs in the tempo zone and at pacing for long and hilly rides. If your 70+ mile events are mainly flat, your 245 watt FTP and good drafting could allow you to keep up with a group that is moving pretty quickly. That is tempting in mountainous environments as well but doesn’t always translate: if you are putting out 350+ watts for extended periods to move a 92 kg body up the mountain as fast as a 5 w/kg rider, finishing that race will be very difficult. Pacing is key, and spending very little time above threshold (proper gearing is key for this, as another poster said) is very helpful for a 6-7 hour race.


Thanks for the reply. Honestly, this was the first time I’ve cramped this year so it could just be down to gross overuse / going too hard on the climbs, etc. i.e. effort that the body just isn’t used to.

But I usually try to do 50g/carbs in the bottles per hour and then gels in flasks to get around 80g/hr. Honestly, being that it was relatively cold that day, I probably didn’t get enough carbs via the bottles (I find myself drinking more as its warm, as do most people). I do use the Garmin reminder to eat, but I am not always adherent.

I do a homemade mix with gatorade powder, fructose and maltodextrin with sodium citrate (~1200mg sodium /hr via the mix). I am pretty salty sweater, so that’s why I do over 1g/hr…but haven’t been measured except with Precision Hydration calculator.

Stating the obvious here, but Adam Roberge is a 5+ w/kg rider, you state that you are 2.66 w/kg. So he’s going to be at least twice as fast as you. And he’s a pro and has a different level of skill and mental toughness us average Joe’s just don’t have. So any level of comparison to a pro (in any sport) will be demoralizing.

But agree with the other posts about nutrition, sodium intake, pacing (probably the most important). On rides over 3 or 4 hours, pacing is probably the #1 killer and nutrition #2.


I’m sorry that your experience at UnPAved was so discouraging. It sounds like you’ve made strong progress since 2021. I wonder if pacing wasn’t part of the issue, given what you said about Adam Roberge dropping you on a climb. Assuming UnPAved was a mass start race and not a fondo, that implies to me that you somehow stayed ahead of pro gravel racer Adam Roberge until partway through that climb. If that’s the case, it could be that you burned a lot of matches until you hit that climb, trying to stay with a group of 5+ w/kg racers.

The Roberge part in the title was clickbait-y. It was not a mass start - more enduro format with timed sections. So he started later than me (and won the whole thing) - I would have no business keeping up with him even on the flats. But the speed in which he passed me on a climb was incredible.

Luckily, my area is relatively hilly - but more rolling hills. It’s hard to go under 1k climbing within 15-20miles. Can find couple minute climbs of all gradients all over the place, but not many sustained climbs (1+ or 3+ miles of straight climbing) like the ones in Unpaved.

And yes, the gearing hurt me. But only have one capable bike for that course (48/35 x 10-36) and don’t really want to invest in a 1x just for that event. Considering all the climbing, the lack of paved roads and one rowdy descent, I think it could be done on a hardtail - did see a few of those. I would be more willing to buy a hardtail than another gravel bike.

In April, I’m signed up for another 100mi gravel event ((2023 LLWH 100 Route - A bike ride in Pittston, PA) - but this is 2/3 paved and the climbs are long, but in the more palatable 3-6% range rather than the 7+ of Unpaved. I did the 65 of that course last year and it wasn’t that bad. Goal for this offseason is to be ready for that, complete the full 100 and not blow up. It’s not the loftiest of goals, but baby steps :slight_smile:


Coming from a fellow larger rider…gearing is going to be huge! If you can buy a cheap hardtail or upgrade your current bike, that will help immensely. I appreciate the cost sucks, especially if you don’t do these kind of rides often.

I dropped 35 lbs and gained 45W (give or take) this year and that got me to 3.3 w/kg. I don’t think I could do that route with your gearing :upside_down_face:

Edit: I wanted to say though that I’m sure you could crush this ride with more low gears. You could probably find a cheap, used hardtail and you’d get right up those climbs!!

1 Like

The only problem I see here is that you are attempting 8+ hour rides but haven’t done even close to that in training. You’ve got to do the long rides if you want to “race” the long rides.

The other thing about these rides is pacing. You really have to ride them at zone 2 which may mean some zone 1 if you are going to be doing zone 3 on the long climbs. It’s really hard to resist riding threshold for the first 30 minutes of an event because you are all excited and in a big group and it doesn’t feel that hard. The problem is that you can’t sustain it for 8 hours and you end up blowing up halfway through.

I think your muscle mass will wane over time if you have stopped lifting and only do cycling. (Maybe not the best thing for health.)

1 Like

Is Adam Roberge a masters 35+ clydesdale cyclist below 3W/kg?

If you are interested, I can tell you what worked for me, going from zero to hero in 7 months to prep for a 120 mile / 15,000’ climbing event (5 long mountain passes). By the event I was likely 2.9 to 3.0 W/kg and climbed for 8 hours with average cadence in 59-65rpm range. At the event was about 205lbs / 93kg and mid fifties. Mostly trained on pancake flat ground, over those 7 months it averaged out to 6.2 hours/week with biggest week at 15 hours. Group rides were mostly with guys in late 30s and 40s, and I saw one guy my size start consistently doing 15 hours/week by doing “bonus” miles (think 13-15mph on flat terrain) and he became a climbing goat.


I do a homemade mix with gatorade powder, fructose and maltodextrin with sodium citrate (~1200mg sodium /hr via the mix). I am pretty salty sweater, so that’s why I do over 1g/hr…but haven’t been measured except with Precision Hydration calculator.

Sounds like you have this part covered pretty well, I agree with the going out too hard theory then. However, I don’t think you have to do long rides in training to be able to do a long ride/race. You just have to be able to pace effectively. I did a 65mi / 7k mountain bike race last year (6.5 hours to finish) and I only did low volume training, with only one training ride that year longer than 2-3 hours.

For gearing, you can always add a goatlink or roadlink with a large cassette and potentially a different derailleur (Mullet drivetrain setup). This is simple on 10-speed, relatively easy on 11-speed (with a tanpan), and I have no idea about 12-speed. My only point is you don’t necessarily need an all-new drive train to get lower gearing.

1 Like

That is a bit odd. Could be that you are not eating enough carbs, or that you are riding too hard?

To be honest, I’m going to go against the majority here and say that that should be enough in terms of gearing. But if you do want lower, I’d swap the cassette for a 10-42 (or 10-50), not change to 1x. I love my 1x bikes, but for a gravel event you want to run a decent sized chainring, or you’ll be very slow on the flat bits. And you already have a 35t, so going to a smaller chainring will start to sacrifice quite a bit of flat speed.

The other thing about gearing is…did you use all the available gears? How much did you ride in the 35/36? I used to “save” my lowest gear, but that is just stupid, lol.