Randonneur season is in full flight and this year I’m totally commited on doing the “Super-Randonneur”. This means, from March to June I will ride a 200Km, 300Km, 400Km and 600Km Brevet. 200 and 300 are already done and I learned a lot of new stuff about long distance cycling.
The Audax Pacing Strategy
What I was most curious about, was the pacing strategy. Do I go full gas for a few hours and then slow down? Should I go slow and hope, to get the full distance in? Or should I constantly ride in upper zone 2? (Using the 6 Power Zones of Andy Coggan here)
When I’m on an Audax, I love group riding. And with a group, there are certain advantages and responsibilities. So, you can draft, but you also have to pull. Here was the question in my mind: How hard do I have to pull? Full gas on the hills? Full gas on the flats?
So I decided, to do the following:
Pick a few riders in the first half hour, which are on roughly the same capabilities as you are. This means, breaking away and gathering riders in the first two hours. I like to have a group of 3 to 7 around me. For the hills this means: stay with the group! If you’re pulling, don’t go over zone 3 here. Same goes for the flats: Don’t go over zone 3, even if you’re up front. Even if another guy in the group is pulling 50W more than you, it sure doesnt’ help the group, if you empty your tank in Zone 5 just to pull the same Watts as he did.
Small steep climbs, regrouping and corner sprinting will then empty your zone 5 and 6 tank. Drafting in the last position of your paceline will help to recover.
Nutrition On The Bike
This is somehow the hardest part on audaxing. What to eat on the bike? A gel every 40 Minutes? A big break every three hours with a big meal? Can I totally rely on Bananas here?
This is a very personal thing, but for me, the following works:
- 1 bottle with tap water
- 1 bottle with juice and 50 gramms of instant oats (should be around 300cal)
- Mentos, Nuts, Potatoe sticks, pretzels, Manner waffles, Chocolate Bars, Chocolate Mints … basically everything small which you can buy on a gas station or grocery store. Just fill ocassionally on the control points.
- 2 emergency gels
Let’s be honest, you will forget to eat in the first hour. So I put my juice-bottle in the first cage and drink on that for the first hour. Then I begin to constantly eat over the whole ride. Small snacks, like that one’s listet above are working good for me, since I just grab one piece and it’s done. For a full gel you have to fiddle for a minute, same with a sandwich, snickers, bifi or whatever. If it’s not a hassle to eat, I will constantly eat. What I found paricularly cool on my last ride, was Mentos in my jersy pocket. Grab the stick, push one out … done. No hassle. Especially good small energy kick before a climb 🙂
Comfort Is King
On the 200K Audax this year, I’ve ridden naked. Which doen’t mean “naked” as “no clothes”. This means, with no bags on the bike, just my toolkit in the jersey pocket and that’s it.
I finished, but I didn’t had a lot of fun. The battery of my Garmin died, due to the cold weather, I was not eating enough plus my vision got blurry again. At the halfway point I was relying on the navigation of my fellow riders and I hoped to recover on the control points … didn’t happen. I finished, but not as planned in 7,5 hours, instead it took me 9 hours and I was constantly blaming myself, for not bringin a powerbank or eye-drops since I knew of this “personal” problem.
Audaxing is not racing. And the more time you need to sort out problems on the control points like food, battery or needed rest, the less time you will be pedalling and therefore you will need longer to cover the distance. Remember: It’s not the “riding time” that counts, it’s the “total” time that get homologated in your brevet card. So I decided for me, that it’s better to carry the weight of all necessary stuff and ride than to stand on the control point and ask myself, if I want to quit. 🙂