Pacing is one critical part in a triathlon. This blog will focus on pacing during the bike section. The approach varies based on the race distance, terrain, time of the year, weather/race conditions, experience level, and mental toughness/readiness/approach. As mentioned in the first sentence, we are referring to a triathlon, indicating that this is not a standalone event. When pacing the bike, you must keep the entire race in mind and not the bike by itself. Read More...
“I had a strong bike performance and a good split, but fall apart on the run.”
The comment above is experienced by many athletes and most likely impacted all of us at some point in our athletic career. If you catch yourself in the statement please recognize that one discipline of a triathlon impacts the other. In other words, pacing the bike is critical in setting yourself up for a successful run off the bike.
When training for triathlon you must train your body to conserve muscle glycogen for the run. The most important thing on the bike will be pacing correctly. Many athlete underestimate how easy it is to ride too fast on the bike portion; it’s arguably the number one cause of DNFs in triathlon. The difference between a well-paced bike and a poorly paced one can be as little as 15 watts (normalized) for an average in the event. It’s not just about average watts, it’s about how you produce those watts, how many surges you make during the triathlon and whether you go harder in the beginning or save some for the finish. All these factors can impact your run time.
How many times have you been out on a long ride with friends and felt great at the beginning...? Consequently, you hammered out the first 40 miles and falling into pieces the last 20 ones. Meanwhile, another rider in the group comes on stronger and stronger (although you thought you are the faster athlete). You are struggling while the other rider is driving the pace and you are desperately hanging on. Is the rider fitter or did the rider just pace better? The point being is that if you overdo your effort on the bike then you will be walking the run and that will hurt your overall time.
Break it into segments
Focusing on different segments throughout the race makes it easier to stay on track without getting overwhelmed. See below our recommendations:
First section of the bike targets the transition from the swim onto the bike where your legs find your cycling rhythm (about ¼ of the bike leg). During this initial stage, your emphasis on producing a smooth and good pedal stroke and forming a relaxed posture. Aim for a lighter gear which you might continue through the bike stage or lower during the main segment of the ride. After accomplishing this part, you move on the next section.
Part two concentrates on the middle part of bike ride at an even effort and sustainable pace based on your athletic capabilities (about half of the bike leg). Many athletes make the mistake to go too hard/fast in the initial stage of the bike. Unless you are well experienced and try to qualify use caution. The energy you exert at the beginning you won’t get back after the fact. Sustainable pace will be different according to the distance you complete. Regardless if it is an Olympic event or a full ironman distance, this portion requires you to apply patience and control. Most likely during the last quarter of the ride you may need to intensify your efforts and focus to maintain your speed before you begin the run.
Section three means to get ready for the run. Shift your mindset from bike to run about 5 to 10 miles at the end of your bike race distance (about 2-3 miles for an Olympic race). Since you will change body position and work different muscles begin to stretch your lower back and hips to prepare your body to change “gears” from the downward bike position to an upward running position. By getting out of the saddle, pushing your hips forward and stretching you lower back will be rewarded response as you start your run. Don’t try this the first time during a race, practice beforehand.
Tips for faster riding
While pacing is critical and safety and rules should be the primary concern, let’s be honest: We want to get faster, too. Implement some of the following strategies for a given effort to make you long-term a more efficient and faster cyclist:
Ride the evenest part of the road available to you; oftentimes the right-hand wheel mark of the road.
Find protection from the headwind by riding closer to the tree line to reduce the effect.
Avoid riding in the shoulder of the road where possible, as you find puncture from road debris
Ride a straight line, following the inside radius or making a straight line from the inside corner of one corner to the next don’t know how to re-verbiage
Assess the camber of the road, e.g. if an uphill corner has steep banking on the inside line, consider riding a wider line to avoid increasing the load on your legs don’t know how to re-verbiage.
Remember: Race smart to become faster.