Fitz’s Challenge 2016 Race Report (Sort of)

By November 2, 2016Cycling, Race Reports
Performance Coach

Technically not a race report, as the event organizers are keen to point out… it’s not a race it’s a ‘challenge’. But, c’mon… when you have a bunch of people on a start line, and there is a finish line… it’s kind of a race 🙂

I did this event 2 years ago, (the 210km “Epic”) and it was one of the toughest days I’ve had on the bike – over 4000m of climbing in brutally hot conditions. But it was also so much fun I thought I’d go back for another swing, this time going hard at the 165km “Classic”.

fitzs-challenge-start

Me and Kat – all smiles before the pain

Make no mistake – this is one tough race, and the course profile doesn’t really do it justice. As you can see below, there is only one really notable climb – ‘Fitz’s Hill’, and honestly, that’s not what you need to worry about, at ~2.5km long at a pretty consistent gradient, ~10%, you can grind out Fitz’s without too many matches burned. The real challenge comes from powering over the constant onslaught of rollers that total over 3200m of ascent, (the official elevation says 2900 – but everyone I spoke to had notably over 3000). These sharp climbs tax both your muscular endurance and test your ability to recover quickly, especially when trying to stick with a pack.

165km-fitzs-classic-profile

My Nutrition

This wasn’t and ‘A’ race so I didn’t try anything too crazy – the good old standard of:

Pre:
Beetroot Juice, (BeetIt shot)
Cordyceps Mushroom Powder
Perfect Aminos
Soaked Birtcher
Coffee

During:
2 x Skratch Labs
1 x Tailwind
1 x Cliff Blocks
2 x Hammer Bars
1 x Blue Dinosaur Paleo Bar

Post:
Perfect Aminos
Why Protein Isolate
Oats
Beer 🙂

How Did it Go?

Pretty happy with my ride overall. My plan to go out hard and hang on with the front group until ‘Fitz’s Hill’ worked well, I’m strong enough to stay in a pack like that over the rollers but assumed I’d get dropped by the lighter/stronger riders once we reached the climb… which I did. But by that point, I’d made good time and was quite prepared for a lonely 2nd half TT.

I settled into a nice endurance pace I knew I could sustain over the distance, and due to my northern stubbornness, I don’t tend to slow much in events like this. This meant most folk were either already behind me and not going to catch, and the ones who got up Fitz’s ahead of me who I managed to catch had already blown up. So beyond a few of the stronger ‘210km’ and ‘255km’ riders who’d started earlier in the day, there wasn’t much chance to work with anyone for the remainder of the ride.

If it’s your first time doing the event I’d budget a little extra, energy-wise, for the latter stages of the race. From my experience, and from talking to other participants, you’ll be more tired than you think and it’ll take longer than you expect. I ended up passing a few folk in the last 20-30km.

Training Suggestions

Besides the obvious, that is to say, you’re comfortable with the time you’ll be spending in the saddle, and your chosen distance; plus of course being prepared for the longer climbs; I’d suggest the following, (note – total duration and number of intervals in the suggested workouts will depend on your current fitness level and training age):

VO2 Max Sets: 3-8m @ 106-120% FTP – do these efforts to simulate the short climbs, but return to an endurance pace, 56-75% FTP, for your rest intervals, (I’d suggest 5-10m) to replicate staying with a group once over the ascent.

Muscular Endurance/Anaerobic Capacity: 30s-3m @ 121-150% FTP performed at low cadence 60-70 rpm, use an ~3:1 rest to effort ratio and make sure you’re fresh before starting the next effort. Increasing your capacity here will help in the later stages of the event when fatigue sets in, and cadence drops. It will also help in those situations where you have to surge to get back on a wheel.

Tricky Descending: The road surfaces are not amazing and some of the downhills are quite steep. Practice makes perfect here and the more comfortable you are on the downhills, the less time you’ll forfeit to the ‘balls of steel daredevil types’.

Gear Suggestions

Don’t be a hero with your gear ratios – a compact and an 11-28 will serve you well on this course.

It’s likely to be warm, (the first year I rode it was stifling!) but the weather is the region is fickle – this year the wind was up and threatening rain. A good quality, lightweight stowaway jacket is a good idea – particularly for the longer distances.

Also, it’s worth noting that the aid stations don’t carry any sports nutrition, (just fruit, cake, etc) so if you are particular about what you eat I’d suggest carrying all your nutrition with you.

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