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Should starting long distance riding be always THAT hard?

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Should starting long distance riding be always THAT hard?

Old 04-27-22, 01:25 PM
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Morimorimori
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Should starting long distance riding be always THAT hard?

That's the question for those who still remember how they were suffering at their first 200km. Should starting long distance riding be always THAT hard? I'm starting to feel that something is wrong with me, and perhaps I'm just too old/not fit for this..

A bit of context, as it's important: I'm 38y.o. this year, hadn't done any sports at all my whole life before I start cycling 4 years ago. In a year after that I was able to do my first 100km and it took the complete day back then. After 1.5 year of more riding and additional training at home (HITs) and even gym sessions to enhance my leg and core muscles - now can ride the same 100km in 4 hours, sometimes less. averaging 25-30kph and 125-140 heartrate (depends on wind and how much hills are there); my fatigue level after such ride varies from slight to mild.

So, you can say that my fitness is rather unremarkable atm. I can't even reach a guaranteed 30kph on 100km distance on a not-so-hilly route, something that should be easily achievable on a roadbike by a fit person. And though there was an undeniable progress over these years, I'm starting to feel like I'm stagnating. I'm at about 250W of FTP with a body weight of 82kilos - and any further increase seem to require that much effort I'm just can't keep up with it. I'm starting to fear that reaching even 300W for me is close to impossible, at such rate.

I started brevetting last year, did a couple of 200km rides, barely finishing in time (though both were not very easy routes) - and that was painfully hard. I was fine the first 100kms, then fatigue gradually increased up to 150kms - and then I had to suffer through the remaining 50km. I thought that's ok, that are my first tries, it will get easier very soon - but this year when I rode my first 200km it was hard as hell. I again barely finished in time and was totally exhausted, I had to recover by doing nothing at all for the next few days. And I didn't even ride these at some stellar tempo - was something like 22-24kph of average moving speed, on a roadbike...

For example, here is how my last one 200kms ended up recenlty. An average of 23kph, hearrate at 130 beats, 2000m of total elevation. When I was at it, it felt more or less ok, but when I woke up next day my legs were so weak I almost fell a couple times when trying to sit. As I'm trying to prepare for 400k now, I thought I'll take a ride anyway, see how far I can go. I was able to ride for 100km (was hard at first, but got easier in 30 mins) at a laughable speed of 20kph - but then the day after that my legs got so sore I couldn't remember when I last even felt something like that. May be after my very first 100kms, or when I first hit the gym.

It took two more days of rest for soreness to go away - and I thought I'll try my usual training session, see how well I recovered. And I couldn't finish my 4x4 HIT session, even at reduced difficulty my legs just couldn't handle it. Apparently, I still need to rest a few more days - making it a week. A week of rest after the simplest long distance ride - then what will happen to me when I try 400k? Will I die? Shouldn't I get better at it already? How much 200ks do I need to run before it won't require a freaking week to recover after each of them? Honestly, I'm starting to lose hope here. It really seems like something beyond my abilities.

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Old 04-27-22, 01:59 PM
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Hey, it takes anyone years to reach peak cycling shape from zero. I certainly don't think you're too old; plenty of randonneurs get their start only after their kids leave the house or they retire, providing more free time.

I think your frustration comes from trying too hard to be fast out of the gate, common for newbie cyclists who fret about their "average speed." Relax! Do more slow, easy rides. Don't force every ride to include intervals or high speed, you'll burn yourself out.

But I do have a lot of the same feelings during my first brevet of the season. 200k is a lot after a season of snow and cold and darkness that limits my opportunities for long rides. I never get around to using the trainer, although I should...
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There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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Old 04-27-22, 07:03 PM
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if it was easy, everyone would do it
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Old 04-27-22, 09:49 PM
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Do you know your pedaling cadence? It sounds to me like you might be using too high a gear. But what do I know.
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Old 04-28-22, 05:44 AM
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Nutrition during longer rides?

Post-ride recovery nutrition?

I had one ride last year where I later decided it must have been lack of electrolytes that day. I had ridden that route many times, but that day I just ran out of energy part way through.

I rode my first 200k at age 65, I doubt you are too old.
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Old 04-28-22, 06:27 AM
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Your training and ride pacing is wrong. Not an age issue. I'm closing in on 64.

How often are you doing HIIT? What are the sessions like?

How often do you ride 2 hours or more in zone 2?

What is your longest ride in hours per week and at what intensity?

Do you log your rides into a training application? If so, what is your chronic training load? What was your TSB after the 200K?

The amount of recovery time depends on how fit one is. Normally, a 200k would not do much to me but I did one 6 weeks ago that sent my TSB to -65 and I gave it 11 days of easy riding in zone 2 before even thinking of doing any intervals. It takes a long time to build and one must be consistent in training riding almost every day for many, many months or perhaps a year or two.

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Old 04-28-22, 06:44 AM
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I cannot quite remember my first 200K or double century but I do have a relevant memory. Us youngsters thought we were hot **** riding really hard charging hills and we would be sitting eating and resting while this seemingly slow turtle of a rider on a Spectrum titanium would mosey by. We'd do fast 200k but would be destroyed to do 400k. After 300K, we would never see this fellow again. He was a steady Eddie. Funny because his name was Ed and was one of the head guys at a famous bike magazine. Not saying he was slow, more like very smart.

Learning the correct pace can be hard to do. There is always that old saw....don't burn matches. When I learned to ride within myself and let faster climbers go, it got easier but randonneuring is not for the meek or weak.
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Old 04-28-22, 07:32 AM
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John Hughes is an endurance cycling coach who provides a lot of free and/or very inexpensive training guidance that is overall good for randonneuring. My only quibble is a 3 week taper for like PBP, 10 days is enough for me but some like a lot more. NB: pay close attention to what John says is the objective in the 4 month base period and to the relatively low intensity that he prescribes.

Coach Hughes: Training for Cycling Brevets, pt.1

Greg Grandgeorge is an extremely successful endurance coach. I tried to get him to coach me but his dance card was filled. Nonetheless, he very generously answered my questions that I could not find answers to and seems like a phenomenal guy. He has canned training plans on TP that I cannot vouch for but all of his athletes stay with him for many years, so, he must be good. I raced with a lady who spoke the world of him..

[size=13px]https://www.tri2max.com/blog[/size]

https://www.trainingpeaks.com/coach/tri2max#trainingplans
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Old 04-28-22, 09:23 AM
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Sorry Iím too lazy to do all the metric conversions but I understand the message. No youíre not too old as Iím turning 62 (diabetic) and have completed several centuries with my fastest being 7:04.( not far from a 200k) I donít even consider myself an accomplished cyclist, I just enjoy riding.
Iíd be more inclined to look at your nutrition intake while riding if it was me feeling like that.
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Old 04-28-22, 09:40 AM
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Here's a great post by @tsl from a longer thread about setting expectations when starting out as an older rider. Even though 50+ is the context for that discussion, there is a lot of wisdom for anyone past their teens/twenties, now that we can't bounce back from everything overnight:

Originally Posted by tsl View Post
Originally Posted by Rich Gibson View Post
For you guys in the over 50 range what sort of improvements have you noticed as you continued biking? I have a feeling I'm expecting them to come too quickly.
You're probably expecting improvements to come too quickly. It's a real shock to the system, cycling is, and it takes a while for the body to ramp up just the plumbing and infrastructure to carry it out. We generally think of "cardio" as only the heart. Enlightened folks will include the lungs, as in "cardio-pulmonary". What we really are taxing when we start out cycling, and have to completely remodel, is "cardiovascular".

It takes time to build all the new capillaries and blood vessels your legs need to support this new activity. Only after the new infrastructure is in place can you really begin building strength, power, and endurance. And, sadly, the older we get, the longer it takes to remodel the infrastructure.

When I started out, someone in this forum said that without a formal training regimen, just riding around, you can reasonably expect to improve for five years or more.

In my first year, I found that to be the best bit of information I got. It gave me long-term perspective, and eliminated the unrealistic expectations I had of flying across the planet, wind in my face, etc. It removed most of the pressure and nearly all of the disappointment.

This is my eighth season, and I'm still improving. A couple of times a year, for specific goals, I work a slightly more formalized training regimen. (I'm training now for a very hilly century, 11,000 feet of climbing, coming up the first weekend of September.) Otherwise, I just keep riding, pushing a little here and there and improving every year.

Nothing made me feel older than my first few months of cycling. Now, nothing makes me feel younger than cycling.
Expectations on starting at an advanced age; what were/are yours?
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Old 04-28-22, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Morimorimori View Post
That's the question for those who still remember how they were suffering at their first 200km. Should starting long distance riding be always THAT hard? I'm starting to feel that something is wrong with me, and perhaps I'm just too old/not fit for this..

A bit of context, as it's important: I'm 38y.o. this year, hadn't done any sports at all my whole life before I start cycling 4 years ago. In a year after that I was able to do my first 100km and it took the complete day back then. After 1.5 year of more riding and additional training at home (HITs) and even gym sessions to enhance my leg and core muscles - now can ride the same 100km in 4 hours, sometimes less. averaging 25-30kph and 125-140 heartrate (depends on wind and how much hills are there); my fatigue level after such ride varies from slight to mild.

So, you can say that my fitness is rather unremarkable atm. I can't even reach a guaranteed 30kph on 100km distance on a not-so-hilly route, something that should be easily achievable on a roadbike by a fit person. And though there was an undeniable progress over these years, I'm starting to feel like I'm stagnating. I'm at about 250W of FTP with a body weight of 82kilos - and any further increase seem to require that much effort I'm just can't keep up with it. I'm starting to fear that reaching even 300W for me is close to impossible, at such rate.
So, I have never even gotten CLOSE to 30kph for more than one flat, fast, 1hr group ride in a paceline. Best I've done at distance on flat, fast terrain with minimal wind in good mid-season shape is around 24kph, and my fastest 100k that I actually measured at the 100k point was like 4:45. My FTP is 200W at 100kg. (I suffer greatly on hills, but I've never met a hill on a brevet I can't walk up, hah.) I'm 43 and started randonneuring at 35, so similar in age.

I think you need to learn to pace yourself, and feed yourself. And not worry about what "any fit person" can do. Find what YOU can do. Find the pace at which you can turn food into pedaling without fatiguing anything -- sure, eventually you'll need to sleep and some positional/fit things may act up (chafed rear, tense shoulders, hotfoot, etc). If that speed isn't fast enough to finish an event, then you can worry about speed. (For 600k and longer, "fast enough" includes "fast enough to build up sleep time/time for something to go wrong because something will". I haven't succeeded at anything longer than a 600k, but have had a blast at multiple flat-to-rolling 600ks.)

You also might need to check if there's anything else going on -- I loved cycling as a kid and college student. Somewhere after college I stopped enjoying riding so much -- I had thought at the time that it was mainly my ill-fitting road bike that I'd "upgraded" to, and/or some burnout after attempting to get into triathlon, but I really wasn't riding my old hybrid either. Two months after a change in primary care doctors where they did a routine blood test that the other practice didn't and put me on thyroid medication, I was shopping for a road bike that actually fit, and a year later I did my first century and first 200k in quick succession. So if age seems to be smacking you in the face in your mid-thirties harder than it should, get a workup done.
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Old 04-28-22, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Morimorimori View Post

So, you can say that my fitness is rather unremarkable atm. I can't even reach a guaranteed 30kph on 100km distance on a not-so-hilly route, something that should be easily achievable on a roadbike by a fit person. And though there was an undeniable progress over these years, I'm starting to feel like I'm stagnating. I'm at about 250W of FTP with a body weight of 82kilos - and any further increase seem to require that much effort I'm just can't keep up with it. I'm starting to fear that reaching even 300W for me is close to impossible, at such rate.
.
30 kph average moving speed in Rando terrain is damned fast. There have been a couple randonneurs on uprights in RUSA who have averaged that on 400k brevets and nobody has done it on 600k on an upright (under 20 hours on a 600K has been done in a velomobile for sure). 30kph is rare even on 200k and usually that is with riders working together. I searched the data and asked those who would know. 8-9 hours for a hilly 200K is pretty fast. I usually do 9-10 hours because I am not racing, I am training and in hilly terrain that is what works for me and does not kill me.

In 2015 at PBP, I weighed 83 kg and FTP was 271 or 272 watts. I did all 4 SR brevets in under 60% of the allowed time and did PBP in 54 hours. I share that to demonstrate, our W/Kg are not very different. But, here is the difference. I never considered FTP at all in my training. It was not what I was trying to improve. My key metric was constantly increasing wattage output at 1.5 mmol lactate. In other words, increasing my all day power. And, my qualifying brevets, my weight was 86 kg. So, you and I have not so dissimilar W/Kg. I am 26 years older than you. I do not want to go find the data but here is the point. You want to be able to ride for a really long time like a 13-16 hour 400K at the upper end of zone 2, say 70-75% of FTP, and you want to have a stable heart response at that effort (not a lot of "decoupling"). HIIT is not the right focus to achieve that. If you have trained properly, you will finish that 400K and feel totally fine. Sort of like you did a long hike and not a bunch of HIIT work.

I will try to find some material that might be helpful.

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Old 04-29-22, 12:37 PM
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Lots of excellent comments. It is said that it takes 7 years to go from ordinary to aerobically fit, 7 years of consistent year-round training. 10 hours/week works for me. You don't need to be fast to rando. You do need to keep your stopped time to a minimum and ride at a steady pace. One of the hardest lessons to learn is learning how to eat and drink. For many folks, learning to train is easier.

The training I found best was to ride ~100k one day/week, going moderate on the flats and hard on every hill, all the way to the last one. say 3500' of gain distributed along the course. Mid week rides mostly 1-2 hour rides on mostly flat terrain, steady pace below the onset of increased breathing rate. No HIIT. Once one is really fit and is recovering well from the 100k rides, one ride/week with speed work (1' full throttle, 5' easy, 12 reps) is good, 1 ride/week hill repeats, other rides easy or moderate. After a couple years of that, I could throw in a 400k, but always better to do the SR progression.

But answering your question, yes it's hard. One has to learn how to suffer. It's a learned skill. That's the reason rando is called "the dark side of cycling." It's not for everyone, so don't worry about it. Here, we have a general cycling club with 13,000 members and a rando club with a couple hundred. Not that it's exclusive or better, just that those folks are certifiable. Is your favorite thing riding through the night in pouring rain on unknown roads with your legs hurting, very possibly lost? Join up, might be just your thing. A friend of mine once flatted 8 times on a long pass climb, all from different causes, all at night. It wasn't raining though. How about 30 miles of steady 25mph headwinds? Fun?
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Old 04-29-22, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
But answering your question, yes it's hard. One has to learn how to suffer. It's a learned skill. That's the reason rando is called "the dark side of cycling." It's not for everyone, so don't worry about it. Here, we have a general cycling club with 13,000 members and a rando club with a couple hundred. Not that it's exclusive or better, just that those folks are certifiable. Is your favorite thing riding through the night in pouring rain on unknown roads with your legs hurting, very possibly lost? Join up, might be just your thing. A friend of mine once flatted 8 times on a long pass climb, all from different causes, all at night. It wasn't raining though. How about 30 miles of steady 25mph headwinds? Fun?
This summarizes perfectly why I would never try to talk someone into riding rando. I have enough enemies. Encourage, help and provide routes for people that have already decided they want to do it, yes. I used to say I have never ridden a brevet without hating myself at some point. Turns out I have had a couple of rides where that wasn't true after I decided I really needed to improve my eating. Eating is everything in randonneuring.
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Old 04-29-22, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
This summarizes perfectly why I would never try to talk someone into riding rando. I have enough enemies. Encourage, help and provide routes for people that have already decided they want to do it, yes. I used to say I have never ridden a brevet without hating myself at some point. Turns out I have had a couple of rides where that wasn't true after I decided I really needed to improve my eating. Eating is everything in randonneuring.
If you find yourself off the bike, sitting down and bawling, that's a known symptom of needing to eat.
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Old 04-29-22, 05:53 PM
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I wonder if the OP is continuing to read any of this?
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Old 04-30-22, 11:37 AM
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well, this topic is relevant to me right now. Albeit not the 5W/kg part. I like some affirmation that others find it difficult.
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Old 05-08-22, 08:30 AM
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All those numbers are irrelevant if you are just getting in to the endurance thing. Survival is the name of the game.

The important things are proper bike fit, good seat and shorts and pacing. Don't go out too fast. Stop often, but for a very short time. Drink and nibble all day long. Eat "nutrition" and real food too. Dress properly. Do it with friends. Suffering loves company.
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Old 06-04-22, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I like some affirmation that others find it difficult.
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Old 06-05-22, 07:12 AM
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Was it Greg Lemond or Eddy Merckx who said, "it doesn't get easier, you just go faster"

Re-reading some of OP's post, his/her expectations are a little unrealistic WRT times and speed.

I can't even reach a guaranteed 30kph on 100km distance on a not-so-hilly route, something that should be easily achievable on a roadbike by a fit person.
My training ride standard for 100km with 50 feet of climbing per mile (1% average for the distance)? 4 hours. It took me 4:23 yesterday with 66 feet per mile and 182 watts NP, a solid zone 2 ride. Of course, everyone's roads are different but doing 100km in 3 hours on randonneuring roads around where I live? I bet fewer than one out of a hundred randonneurs could do it and I am not one of them. OP's best bet is to adjust expectations.

It takes a lot of time, patience, and consistent training to improve one's aerobic system; otherwise, one becomes a patient. Avoiding sickness, injury, and burnout is very important. It is better to be the turtle than the hare. I am not sure how many times per year one can ride really hard one a brevet but for me, it is a couple per year.
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Old 06-05-22, 02:18 PM
  #21  
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My quickest 200 was in 8 hours, with an hour of stop time and 7 hours at ~28km/h. I was only ~85kg that year and had an ftp of ~280W, I averaged 209W, 208W WP for that 8 hour according to rwgps's math. It was ~1400m so not PBP hilly but we have pretty good wind around here to make up for it. Sitting at 92kg right now and ~270W ftp, so the same route this year was a 10h30 ride, with 8h30 moving time... 175W average... HR was lower than the quick ride I did, 141bpm vs. 133bpm, so I was probably sandbagging myself a bit, but the winds were quite unfavourable this year.

4x4 intervals sound like something crit racers do. About the only kind of formal interval training I do anymore is ~60 minutes at or close to FTP. I don't train my sprints or short power at all but it's still the best part of my power curve. I'm built like a track sprinter I guess... should be on the velodrome doing kilos. I also try and do negative splits on brevets, it usually ends up getting my pacing pretty close to being steady the whole ride. All my quickest brevets had minimal stop times.
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Old 06-05-22, 04:45 PM
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I was thinking about rando pacing during today's ride. Maybe my view is wrong? Maybe my memory is wrong. I know OP wants to do a fast PBP.

So, I looked at the average speeds of the PBP top riders over the years. They do maybe 32-35 kmh to Villaine and then the speed drops considerably after the honeymoon is over.

Myself, the three times to PBP, I did 5:53, 6:43, and 7:20 to villaines-la-juhel, which is the first control at around 220km although I think it was 231 km one year. The year I did 5:53 (actually less time because they made us wait, we got there too early), my typical 100km ride would indeed be just over 3 hours but that was decades and decades ago. I also think the French riders had pacers up there, it was a ***** trying to keep up. Two young guys with cat 1 legs with scars galore riding tempo forever. At 64 yo in 2023, I suppose I should be happy to break 8 hours to the first control or better yet, happy to still be riding pretty decent.

If I was OP, I would try to be able to complete a 400K on similar terrain as PBP and do it in around 17-18 hours. If so, you can almost get your sleep on PBP.
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Old 06-05-22, 09:07 PM
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One of our club members made it to Brest in less than 21 hours, I think he was among the first out there... he was knocking out a 600 in 24 hours, but he was also a RAAM finisher so that probably has something to do with it... not sure how the rest of his ride went actually, should go and have a gander at the finishing times. None of his brevets were under 30km/h moving pace, and his control stops were all planned ahead of time, so he knew what he was getting, in and out in a few minutes kind of deal.
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Old 06-07-22, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by clasher View Post
One of our club members made it to Brest in less than 21 hours, I think he was among the first out there... he was knocking out a 600 in 24 hours, but he was also a RAAM finisher so that probably has something to do with it... not sure how the rest of his ride went actually, should go and have a gander at the finishing times. None of his brevets were under 30km/h moving pace, and his control stops were all planned ahead of time, so he knew what he was getting, in and out in a few minutes kind of deal.
If you want to see a rider's PBP pace, search their name and year of PBP. If you know their frame number, you can do that too.

In 2019, Marko Baloh had speeds averaging from a high of 32.06 km/h down to a low of 22.56 km/h. Marko was tied for second at PBP (excepting the special), he was former 24 hour world record holder, has won his national road championship, silver medal world masters road champ, and top RAAM finisher in many years. He has won RAW and Borrego Springs 24H Worlds TT more than once. So, a very fast dude. He bridged solo up to the lead groups into the wind. The lead riders do not spend much time at all stopped, so, it is not easy to know moving time unless you been there.



https://www.pbpresults.com/results
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Old 06-12-22, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Morimorimori View Post
That's the question for those who still remember how they were suffering at their first 200km. Should starting long distance riding be always THAT hard? I'm starting to feel that something is wrong with me, and perhaps I'm just too old/not fit for this..
My first 200K brevet wasn't that difficult, although it was a bit challenging because I'd seriously damaged my left rotator cuff and had to ride my knobby tired mountain bike because I could sit more upright and not put much weight on my left arm.

I actually found the 300K easier because the shoulder had healed and I could ride a road bicycle.
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