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I have a 120 km bicycle race coming up this weekend, which is just outside of my comfort zone and I need a plan.

When cycling with a team, I can keep 30 km/h for about 2:20 or so and do my fair share of leading and taking the wind before I start to hit the wall, so the average 70 km tours are fine and I can manage 80 km myself in just under three hours but after about 2:20-2:30, it's no longer possible to raise my heart rate to catch up in any uphill anymore.

I tried 100 km myself once but the last 20 km took over one hour.

Looking at my results, I can squeeze in:

  • 151 bpm for 2:14, or 337 bpm-hours of work
  • 138 bpm for 2:56, or 407 bpm-hours of work

My problem is to squeeze in 120 km under that area somehow.

Being overweight, any uphill is a struggle when riding in a group.

Should I:

  • a) Conserve energy by riding in a group at all costs from the start, with the downside of peak pulse many many times from start to finish?
  • b) Take it easy at the start and loose the group in up-hill and hope for a new, slightly slower team to ride with, with the downside of having to ride myself for long distances?
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Option d) Get lucky and find a bunch of slightly overweight but otherwise well trained and motivated guys who took it really easy uphill for the majority of the course and some huge teams near the end to draft. Was struck by the competition devil and did lead for quite some distance but tried to keep my peak pulse below 160 bpm. No issues up to 3:00 and felt strong, around the 4:00 hour mark it was noticeable that the peak pulse was lower. After 4:30 it was a real struggle in every uphill. Finished in just under five hours total time, or about 4:35 effective time.

Managed to qualify in the top 1/3 in the end, but with less luck in terms of teams, it could just as well have been the last 1/3.

@G_H. No disappointment and the weather could not have been much better. :-)

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I think you should

c) not do something you aren't ready for.

Sorry to be a bummer, but unless you've worked up to a level where a 120 km bicycle race seems like a fair challenge that might be difficult but not too far outside of your comfort zone, trying to force it seems like setting yourself up for either disappointment, injury or a very long recovery afterwards (or combination thereof). If you can do option a, you should. But you'd probably know. If you can't you're just burning yourself out to the point where you'll hit a physical limit. Option b seems more realistic, but again only if you an. Even if it takes you ages or you'd finish last, if your goal is to get that 120 km, that's what matters.

But if you did 100 km and the last 20 km were disproportionally hard, 120 km just doesn't seem like a good idea. No short-term plan is going to to fix that. Set it as a goal for the future and train until some next race. I don't wanna discourage you if there is a chance you'll make it, but excessive overreaching only ever seems to result in injuries or otherwise bad stuff. It's a fine line between pushing yourself for consistent progress while showing tenacity, and going overboard.

  • Finishing last will be almost impossible. It's a wide range of cyclists from the very best down to occational cyclists. And dissapointment is impossible, the weather is going to be good and if I make it 110 / 120 km before having to forfit the race, it's still an improvement of myself. :-) I'm more after some expereice how to optimize this to increase my chances, not a quick fix-it-all solution. EDIT: Oh, and 100 km was myself, 120 km will hopefully be mostley in a team. – winny Jun 2 '16 at 11:11
  • @winny Sounds fair enough then. I'm no cyclist or endurance athlete so I might be vastly underestimating the effect of being out of the wind in a team. If it's mostly to see how far you can take yourself, I think your approach b sounds like a better fit. But hopefully someone with much cycling experience can shed light on the trade-off between riding alone to falling back to another group vs keeping the pace up. I'd expect quite a lot of research must have been done on it what with cycling being a major thing (at least in Europe from what I know). – G_H Jun 2 '16 at 11:40
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    The wind resistance alone versus in group is about -30-50% depending on wind direction and where you are in the group. But if the group are all light-weight guys, they will go faster than me uphill. Hence the trade-off. – winny Jun 2 '16 at 11:49
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    Wow, didn't know it was that much of a difference. Trying to calculate the trade-off between pushing harder to stay in the group vs efficiency lost by riding alone to drop back to another seems almost unfeasible, unless some specialists have published studies about this. Sounds like something better answered by experience. I hope other cyclists read this question, then. – G_H Jun 2 '16 at 12:22
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    I can still hear Liggett in the TdF commenting "It's 30% less when you're tucked in behind your mates." – JohnP Jun 2 '16 at 15:56

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