Fueling Success: Nutrition and Race Strategy Essentials for Long Distance Gravel Events and Grand Fondos

Are you ready to tackle the challenge of long-distance gravel events and grand fondos? As you prepare to push your limits on the rugged terrain of courses like the Belgium Waffle Ride, Levi Grand Fondo or the unforgiving gravel of Kansas, you’ll need more than just determination—you’ll need a strategic approach to training and nutrition.

Here, I give you a little inside on some of the guidelines (for free of charge) what my athletes use to conquer these epic rides. Beyond only physical preparation, success in these endurance tests hinges on meticulous planning and execution, from setting time goals to perfecting your aid station strategy.

So, let’s explore the essentials of training and nutrition to ensure you’re fully equipped for the challenge ahead.

1. Set Time Goals: Begin your journey by setting realistic time goals for the event. Factor in not just the distance but also the time you anticipate spending at aid stations. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of your pace and estimated stopping time to pace yourself effectively throughout the race, and for someone this could mean finishing within the time limit. 

2. Fluid Needs During the Race: Hydration is paramount in long-distance endurance events. Your fluid intake should be tailored to the ambient temperature and your personal requirements (for example: body size, sweat rate, race intensity). In cooler conditions (up to 50°F), aim for approximately 20 ounces per hour. As temperatures rise (50 to 70°F), increase your intake to 25-30 ounces per hour, and 40-60 ounces per hour when it’s really heating up (70-120°F). Practice & test this in advance!

Dehydration can lead to muscle fatigue, cognitive decline, and compromised performance. Ensure you consume electrolytes (see blog on salt) alongside fluids to maintain optimal hydration levels.

3. Fuel During the Event: Carb-loading isn’t just for marathoners; it’s a strategy that can significantly impact your performance in gravel events. Aim to consume about 1.0g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight early in the race, ensuring a steady supply of energy. As you approach the final 2-3 hours, consider upping your intake to 1.1-1.2g/kg BW for that extra push. Once again, be reminded to test all of this well in advance in your longest training rides. And, remember, timing is key, so spread out your carb intake at regular intervals to sustain energy levels throughout the ride.

4. Decide What to Bring on the Bike: Your bike setup can make or break your race experience. Start with two adequately sized water bottles, each containing 20-24 ounces of fluid. Consider carrying two bottles to mitigate the risk of losing one on rough terrain and (depending on the event) in addition a hydration system (bag) on your back. Plan your nutrition strategically, aiming to cover the first 3 hours with on-bike food to minimize aid station stops. Choose lightweight, high-carb options like energy bars, gels, fruits, or trail mix to fuel your ride effectively.

5. Aid Station Strategy: Aid stations are oases of replenishment during long-distance rides. Develop a strategy for what you’ll consume at each stop, considering both fluids and solid foods. Finish any remaining fluids in your bottles before refilling to maximize hydration. Be mindful of your surroundings, time spend at the aid station and the upcoming terrain—having the right fuel at the right time can make all the difference, especially during challenging sections.

In the realm of long-distance gravel events and grand fondos, success isn’t just about crossing the finish line—it’s about optimizing every aspect of your preparation and execution.

By carefully planning your training regimen and fine-tuning your nutrition strategy, you’ll be equipped to conquer even the most grueling courses with confidence.

Remember, the longer the event, the more critical these details become. So, “lace up” your shoes, saddle up your bike, and embark on your journey to gravel glory with determination and preparation as your trusted companions.

Thanks for reading! If you found this guide helpful and informative, don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether you have questions about your training regimen or need personalized coaching to elevate your performance, I’m here to help.

Your success is my priority, so feel free to send me a message if you’re ready to take your gravel riding to the next level. Keep pedaling, stay fueled, and conquer those long-distance adventures with confidence!