In this Bespoke blog, originally published in 2017, our head bike fitter, Dan Pells, takes a look at strategies for maximising your performance in (and enjoyment of) the annual Prudential RideLondon 100 sportive.
Rolling out of Stratford is fairly straightforward, and in fact the first half the course is relatively flat. It's in this first 40 miles where you will set your precedence for your overall time for the day. If you're aiming to go under 5 hours, here you should be looking to average 38 kph. This sounds quick - but if you're smart with where you ride in the peloton and ensure you're as efficient as possible when you do hit the wind, this will be achievable.
One key thing I teach cyclists of all levels here during our fit sessions at Bespoke is try to get your head down - we call it "riding turtle". This describes the position of lowering your head beneath your shoulders and looking up through your eyebrows. This might seem like a tiny change to technique, but using our in-house Bioracer virtual wind tunnel we've shown getting your head down and 'out of the way' (our heads are actually quite an un-aero shape, especially with a helmet on) can save up to 15 watts at 40 km/h. Over 160km, that's a 6 minute saving.
After the first third of the course, the middle section of the RideLondon is best described as 'lumpy'... you'll be mostly descending or climbing for the next 35 miles.
The first climb, Newlands Corner is not too difficult but hard enough to make the legs burn as you approach the half way point. Keep it steady up here, it's short at 1.9 km and an average of 5%. You'll be aiming for around 5 minutes, so settle in at just over threshold, safe in the knowledge you have the downhill to recover.
There's a draggy section just before the next climb as you approach Holmbury St Mary which is just shy of 5 km at average of 2% (see below). This is prime time to sit in and recover. There's no reason to be in the wind here, the pace of a good group will be in excess of 32 kph, so sit in the wheels have something to eat and a drink and be ready for the next climb.
Leith Hill is next climb and I believe the toughest climb on the ride. It comes after 55 miles and has multiple sections over 12 %. The difficultly of this climb comes in the 'staircase' nature of the ascent (see four ramps of >10% below). Climbs like this are hard to pace, but settle in just over your threshold and try to keep under 150% of your threshold when it gets steep.
Efficiency here is key - there is a technique to how you push the pedals to ensure maximum power delivery to the pedals. This is where a bike fit can go a long way. The first step of optimum fit on the bike is ensuring the 'contact points' are dialled in ie. Saddle height/setback, saddle choice, cockpit setup, etc. However, I personally feel this is only 70% of your overall 'optimum bike fit'. The remaining 30% is technique, how you hold your posture, which muscles fire throughout the pedal stroke, the movement of your ankle. This is something we lean towards during a fit at Bespoke Cycling, using 3D motion capture we can identify any technical irregularities and work with you to correct them and create a more powerful pedal stroke - very important for a climb like Leith.
The descent off Leith hill is fun, with some fast sweeping corners. Box hill is the next climb, made famous in the last few years in no small part to this exact ride. I'd go 'all in' here - the climb is only 5% and doesn't feature any kicks in gradient like Leith. You should settle in at or little over your threshold. Maintain a good position and focus on your legs working efficiency beneath you. You'll be on the climb for around 8-9 minutes, but keep in mind it's nearly downhill all the way from this point onwards so you have plenty of time to recover.
Now that all the climbs are done, it's time to finish strong and hammer it home. If you've paced well, you should have enough left in the tank to really up the pace for the final hour.
This is where your fatigue resistance will be tested, but you have to ensure you retain your 'aero position' on the bike as you could be average up to 40 km-h for some sections, so the benefits of even a small change will be massive. This ties in with your bike as well - I've long said the Trek Madone is the perfect bike for the Ride London - the rear Isospeed helps dull the bumps and vibration from the London roads, yet it's one of (if not the) fastest road bikes available on the market. Aero bikes or even just aero wheels can go a long way to helping you maintain higher top-end speeds, meaning you can get away with pushing less Watts to maintain the same speed, or pushing the same Watts and going faster!
Hopefully some of these tips can help you set a blistering time on the RideLondon in a few weeks time. There's still time to get a bike fit before the big event, so whether you want to ensure you're comfortable to ride 100 miles, or smash the 4 hour barrier, contact myself directly on the email below, or the team at Bespoke Cycling via our 'Contact Us' page.
Head Bike Fitter
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