Why does it take an hour for my legs to come alive?

Last week, I did a gravel event for the fourth year in a row. For more than an hour, my legs felt like garbage. There was soreness and sustained decent efforts felt impossible. My quads were like rocks. Later, things really changed. I beat my previous times by ten minutes despite never drafting and had that ‘wow, I’m feeling strong’ sensation for the remainder of the event.

This week, I turned around on the way to the group ride due to this same feeling. Small climbs were hard and I felt weak and tired. Heading home, I started doing laps in a hilly area and ended up doing a hill workout with some great feeling strong efforts, including an all-time power peak and a number of other peaks for the year, followed by an hour of extra time on the trainer after getting home.

What could cause such a long ramp up to feeling normal? I don’t typically see people warming up for an hour before crits, gravel events, etc. I do stretch at night and foam roll occasionally, which I did last night.

Do you do openers the day before? Do you do a warmup? Most people do warm up before races, maybe not an hour, but 20 minutes or so. Especially if its a short and fast, or just a fast-start event.

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When are you eating before your rides?

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Didn’t necessarily do openers, but I rode my commuter bike about ten miles at low intensity, plus stretching. You’re right about the warmup though. I didn’t, as I figured the beginning of the ride would sort of be my warmup as a non-racer. And for group rides my trip to the start is the warmup.

I guess maybe need to throw some harder efforts into warming up to say ‘hey legs, you’re going to need to be able to do this repeatedly in a little while’.

I guess I eat a normal breakfast one to two hours before. Lots of carbs, usually oatmeal or Ezekiel bread with peanut butter and maybe a bit of honey. Possibly another snack right before riding.

Sorry but putting “Lots of carbs” and “Oatmeal” in the same sentence is like saying you had “a healthy meal” and then mention “McDonalds” :sweat_smile:

What are you eating for an event like this? How long is it? What is fuelling strategy starting from the day before, etc?

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Wait, what’s wrong with oatmeal?

I mean, I know what it feels like to not have enough calories/sugar. It wasn’t that. For the gravel event, I had two bottles with Skratch and a bunch of gels, plus a hydration pack with just water. I had eaten before the event, plus a snack immediately before, and take 90 - 100 calories per hour.

Oatmeal is like the biggest misconception of all times when it comes to how much (little) carbs you get from a portion that gets you full. Thats the issue. There is plenty of carbs in oatmeal, but you get full too fast = you don’t get enough carbs in.

For long days on the bike you need to be more focussed on simple carbs that is low in fibre. Like 6 pieces of toast with honey, pancakes etc, and then for protein some scrambled eggs (1-2 eggs tops).

Keep fibre low, keep fat low, high sugar, high carb (easy digestible ones, like white bread, white rice, pasta).

100 calories per hour in carbs is like… 25g? Thats way way way too little. You need to aim for at least 90g/h which is around 360kcal.

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Ok. It isn’t a long day on the bike though. It’s four hours, with lots of energy already stored in my liver and muscles, plus a bunch of pure glucose to consume along the way. And even if oatmeal isn’t optimal, it’s still a 600 cal breakfast with carbs and sugar. It’s not like I was fasted.

I didn’t have an energy issue on the ride.

Warmups a very individual. Maybe experiment a little, see what happens with hard efforts the day before, or a harder warmup before the event. As you’ve had the same experience on a group ride, that gives you a good opportunity to try different rthings, with little consequences - you might have to ride home alone, but you aren’t going to waste an actual event.

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Being an older cyclist, not old but older, it takes me 30 to 45 min to come up to speed.


If you have soreness I dont see how this relates to what you are doing on the day. What are you doing for the week leading up to your event?

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Tapering is so individual.

Personally, I have the experience that after a week with recovery I need one session with high-intensity before I am firing on all cylinders. The key is making the intervals so brief that they are not fatiguing. Just enough to wake up the leg.


Oh, how easily we cyclist think something isn’t hard or long. Four hours is a long day. No matter the intensity.


I can easily eat 150g of oats + a banana + whey + maple syrup and not feel overly full. Sure, you don’t want that if you are jumping on the bike directly after. But 2-3 hours between eating and riding? No problem.

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I took it easy during the week in preparation. Could be that. But didn’t take it easy this week with a similar issue. The one hour until “normal” is common for me.

Idk…this is probably a junk thread. Need to explore or more.

Sounds like a warm-up issue….gravel races are becoming increasingly competitive from the gun, especially for one that is “only about 4 hours (short by marquee-gravel standards).

Same fro group rides…lots of guys throw down leaving the parking lot

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Would tend to side to, as long as the warm is sufficiently standard in its structure, is that fatigue has set in. I always need longer warm ups when I’m getting to the end of a block.


I have had this same issue for years and could not figure it out. I tried everything from waking up early to have breakfast3 hour prior , changed pre race diet , warmup routines ect . noting really helped. Until I tried the 350ml sugar mix drink , 60grams , just a few minutes (seconds) before the start of the race. You will thank me later. Try it out in a hard indoor workout first.
ps cola works great too!

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Interesting. I’ll look into that. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have a pretty strong insulin response. My fasting glucose on waking will be kind of high, like 95-105. After eating, it rises briefly and then can sometimes be below 80 not too long after eating. Also, I have the feeling of being able to ride forever as long as there’s a lot of sugar coming in.