Gravel Racing Tips: Pacing

In case you missed our gravel tips podcast, I’m creating a series of videos breaking down the main 4 factors for success. First up is pacing:

Pacing is critical for these gravel events because of the nature of the length and difficulty, and just how different the race plays out than a typical road race. What are your tips or experience with pacing for gravel races?


I’m pretty sure I made every mistake in the book for my first big gravel ride. Since I did not have a power meter on my gravel bike, my plan for the Croatan Buck Fifty was to average around 15mph pace which at the time seemed achievable. The reality however worked out to 14.4mph and I was I was pretty consistently dropping a half mile per hour per lap (40 miles per lap). I went from 15.4mph, 14.5mph and 13.4mph each lap.

My biggest issue besides fueling was obsessing over my HR. I was scared to of going over 150 bpm (into Zone 4 Threshold) for extended periods of time. As I got more fatigued, my HR climbed to maintain the same speed and I became concerned I might blow up if I kept a 150-155 for 3 more hours. So on the final lap, I probably slowed down way too much thinking I had to keep HR in zone 2-3 in order to finish. I also spent too much time at rest stops (over an hour total!) and it made it harder to get back into the groove and increased the overall time of the ride.

My total time was 10:30ish, and actual time on bike was 9:42. I feel like had I paced better, I could have cut that down by at least 40 minutes. That and fueling properly, having an actual training plan would have also helped! :rofl::joy::rofl:

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Yes get yourself a gravel training plan! Listen to the FasCat podcast and you’ll be miles ahead for next time!

Gravel plan

What to eat racing and training podcast

Bring a lot of good with you in your pockets. Just fill up bottles on stops and keep moving. Ideally can find some riders of similar abilities and work together. Still important not to go full gas from start in that long of event but have to keep moving. Do simulation rides in training so you’re familiar with that pace and limits.

Gravel simulation video

Good luck!


Thanks Jake, I actually do have the Gravel plan that I will be using for a race in September (building up via SweetSpot now). I will check out the podcast as I really need to do better food wise, as that probably caused a lot of my issues. I’m a terrible eater both on and off the bike.

My training was totally unstructured and just involved putting in miles, I did a tougher 100 mile partial gravel route as prep, but it was not at “race pace”, nor was the gravel as bombed out as the Croatan course. Hitting the million little potholes even at 15mph really did a number to my core and added to the fatigue. Where I was able to bunny hop rail road crossings and some potholes early, but by lap 3 I couldn’t as I was to worn out. I’m hoping by addressing with your plan, and some additional gym work, that won’t happen again.

I was lucky to have a friend around my level to ride with the entire race, but as the field strung out and the 50/100 mile people finished we were alone the majority of the time. Though, we did pick up a straggler at the aid station and pulled him to the finish with us. My friend is unlikely to do the 150 again, but I want redemption, so I will definitely follow the fill up with water and keep going advice.

  1. For a first gravel race, ride something local & with a smaller number of participants if possible. Less chance of too much excitement & riding way over your head with the big dogs. Gravel Worlds (real GW) & DK are big events with big dogs.

  2. Draft the first 1-2 hours if you can ride within the upper half of your limits. This may help you make your personal finish time goal. Once you start feeling the effort, let go of the draft. There will be others to ride with.

  3. Steady, steady, steady. If you ride with power, keep an endurance pace. Especially up hills. It you climb at threshold, you likely will flame out. :grimacing: This is experience talking. Sadly.

  4. Eat/drink often. Bite at a time. Browse the entire event. Helps to avoid sugar hi/lows. A coach from way back always said chew, chew, chew each bite to aid digestion.

  5. When it’s super hot, keep a bottle of plain water to dribble through your helmet slots & down your neck. Castelli makes a light mesh cycling cap perfect for hot weather. Evapotranspiration is a thing.

My 2 cents. Curious to read yours. #gravelon

We have all been there. You most likely still will feel beat up during this race but the best thing you can do is properly prepare. Do your strength work, core, foundation and etc. Try to train on rougher routes. Play around with your tire choices and tire pressure. Continue to practice hydration, nutrition and etc. Also staying within yourself in the race. It’s really hard to recover on a 150 mile ride when you already go pass the red line. Having experience with doing it once already is going to help a lot though as well as the proper training.

I did a mountain bike race in August and I hit a point towards the end where it wasn’t so much I didn’t have the legs but my whole body was wore out I wasn’t able to handle the single track as well. It’s absolutely a thing.

Good luck to you and lets us know if there is anything else we can do to help!

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