22 Nov 2016


A practised pacing strategy will overcome any obstacle; get it wrong and you’ll hit the wall. Follow our pacing tips for a new PB. Many of us line up for a sportive or race in the shape of our lives. The training and preparation is done, you and your mechanic have checked over your pride and joy, and you’re ready for action. But then it all unravels on race day. You get carried away, think you’re Vision-using Andy Talansky and sprint to the front of the race. Sadly, before you can utter the words ‘first feedzone’, you’re gasping for air and heading backwards. But it needn’t be so with our pacing pointers…

Bonk! Pushing for maximum performance, it’s all too easy to hit the wall. But with the right combination of preparation, nutrition and pacing, you’ll keep going strong (foto Juan Mari Tolin/ BettiniPhoto©2015)

Use the start as a warm-up

Sportives attract hundreds, if not thousands, of goal-oriented individuals. Inevitably, you’ll head off with riders in front, beside and behind you. Throw in the excitement of the crowd and, before you know it, you’ve spent the first 20 minutes in the red and made your day a whole lot harder. So focus on keeping intensity low for the opening miles and avoid out-of-the-saddle efforts. Yes, it’ll mean your erratic-pacing comrades will pass you but don’t worry – you’ll soon see them again!

Pedal to the beat

While a power meter is the gold standard when it comes to measuring wattage in search of perfect pacing, a much more affordable heart rate monitor is a proven substitute. One simple pacing method is to determine your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR). This is the intensity (heart rate) that the muscle can no longer recycle lactic acid for energy production and it spills over into the bloodstream. Acidity of blood rises, resulting in a loss of power. To avoid this burning deceleration, aim to stay below your LTHR for the majority of the race. Do this by finding your LTHR in training. Simply complete a 30-minute maximal effort on a turbo trainer before taking your average HR for the last 20 minutes. This will give you a pretty accurate gauge of your LTHR.

Vary power output

Research suggests that riders must vary power output when the course has changeable hill gradients and wind conditions. Specifically, that means increasing your wattage when faced with a headwind or uphill section and decreasing power output when riding with a tailwind or when descending. Just remember that you only have what legendary coach Joe Friel calls ‘matches’ to burn, so if it’s a hilly sportive, hold off that power output to conserve energy.

Find your cadence

Further research shows that your pacing strategy should be dictated by your physiology. If you’re aerobically fit and have lungs that resemble Ironman legend and Vision triathlete Cameron Brown, it’s recommended you keep cadence high so you’re stressing your heart and lungs instead of your muscles. If you’re a muscular rider but have limited aerobic capacity, a slightly lower cadence in a higher gear might be the best option.

Hydration and nutrition are factors taken incredibly seriously by Vision triathletes such as Cameron Brown. In multisport events, pacing is more important than ever

Fuelling plan

One of the biggest obstacles to an efficient pacing strategy is running out of energy. That’s where a tried-and-tested nutrition plan comes in. Studies show that the average sportive rider can tolerate round 60g of simple carbohydrates per hour, whether that’s through energy drink, bars, gels or ‘real food’. Those who’ve trained their guts as much as their legs can potentially increase this figure to 90g of carbohydrates per hour, with a mix of glucose and fructose scientifically proven to load the cells with energy. Always consider your fueling plan alongside hydration – whatever the time of year and the weather, as the two work hand in hand.

Plan your tri hydration and keep the best possible aero performance with Vision’s DS1 Drink System

Enjoy your ride and good luck! Tell us about your race and your preparation techniques using the social media channels below.