Getting Ready for the Race: Part 2

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  • By Gabby Traxler
Getting Ready for the Race: Part 2

Getting Ready for the Race: Part 2

Part 2 of getting ready for my first race is looking closely at each stage and studying the course as well as coming up with a plan of how I am setting up my bike and my race nutrition. The race is the opening race in the Earth Gravel Series in Girona Spain. This race will have 3 stages, the first stage is a 6.3km uphill prologue with 363m of elevation the second stage is 72.6km with two timed segments and has 830m of elevation and the third stage is what looks to be the hardest and longest is 116km with 1542m of elevation. When going into any race I feel most confident when I have studied the course and I know what to expect. I will use Strava to look at segments as well as use VeloViewer to have a more in-depth look of what the course looks like and if there are specific technical sections or if the road narrows in a certain part of the course. With that said, the rest of this blog will be a “race preview” of each stage of Santa Vall.

Prologue: Stage 1:

            Friday is the opening day of Santa Vall and it is a fairly straight forward 6.3km hill climb. I have done a hand full of timed hill climbs in the past but not quite like this one. This hill climb is different as it is a mass start. I have never done a mass start hill climb let alone a gravel hill climb! The thing that makes this more interesting is that it starts on a paved road then goes into a narrow gravel section where the climb starts. The rest of the way up there are not too many places where you can pass so it is VERY important to have a good start to stay with the front riders as that will makes things a lot easier once you get into the gravel section. The best time on Strava is just over 25 minutes, my coach and I have discussed pacing and power that would put me at 25 minutes and in a normal time trial I would pace exactly at that power and speed but also adjust depending on wind, technical sections, corners, and elevation. However, with this hill climb I have a bit of a different approach. Due to the mass start, I am expecting that the start will be quite fast to get in a good spot before entering the gravel section. My plan is simple, go full gas to be within the top few riders going into the climb, then pace with the best riders. After doing the recon I also noted that the last 450m is very difficult and technical. There are bigger rocks in this section so it will be important to pick a good line when riding this part. I made sure I rode this section a few times so I felt confident I could ride it well. In terms of pacing and power I don’t think there is much point of sticking to a certain power as in the end it is only a 25-minute effort and I want to challenge myself to stick with the fastest riders. If I race smart and position well, I believe I can keep up with the first half of riders. Confidence is key for the first stage!


Stage 2:

            Stage 2 of Santa Vall is also quite interesting and a completely new race format for me. The course is 72.6km, 830m of elevation with two timed segments. I have never done a race with timed segments before so in terms of strategy I am not 100% sure what is the best approach. The first-time segment starts at 13.1km and ends at 34.3km and the second segment starts at 51.9km and ends at the finish at 72.6km. The first segment will be 21km long so it will be important to be with a good group as you will get more of a draft, you will go faster, and it will be much easier than being on your own. That will be the same with the second segment as the length is 20.7km, so again it is important to be with a strong as well as a cohesive group of riders. With that said, my strategy is simple I want to be placed in a group with the top female riders to be in the top group at the end of each segment. However, I am not strictly staying to a specific plan as I have never done a race like this, and I am not sure how other people will race this. For example, will people race like a team trial? Or will specific people be working together to get the fastest time? In that case I need to be aware of all the different scenarios that could play out, and again keep things simple and follow the fastest riders for as long as I can. And if I am feeling quite strong, I will test my legs and go on the attack! All in all, I am quite excited for this stage as this type of race format is completely new to me and I am excited to see how the race will unfold.


Stage 3:

            Stage three is the final stage of Santa Vall, the longest but also the most straight forward out of the three stages. The course is one big loop spanning 116km with 1542m of elevation. Stage 3 will be raced normally and the fastest will fight to the finish. With more climbing in this stage will play a bit more to my advantage as climbing is normally my strength. I do want to test myself, my legs, and technical skills to see where I can attack and if I can take advantage of the climbs to either stay with the front group or make the race harder and pull away. With that, my plan again is simple, test myself to stay with the best riders. I have an idea of the riders who I want to see if I can ride with and if I can it will be a good measure of where I am at as well as what I need to improve on for the rest of the season. Although I am going into this race with plans of what I want to do I am open minded that this is my first gravel race and there could be other factors that could go wrong such as mechanicals and crashes. I am trying not to put too much pressure on myself and really using this race to test myself and see where I need to make improvements moving forward. Saying that, I am competitive, I have trained hard, and I do want to make the most of this race to really try to show myself as a competitive rider in gravel. Above all, I am extremely excited for this race and put my training to the test! Stay tuned for my race recap coming next week. Thank you for reading!