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SBT GRVL: Training On The Flats

SBT GRVL: Training On The Flats

"It dawned on me that I hadn't been doing any training on the flats."

by Alison Powers, ALP Cycles Coaching

In February ALP Coach, Alison Powers, announced that she had signed up for SBT GRVL, a 141-mile race with 100 miles on dirt/gravel roads in Steamboat, Colorado. With race day approaching, she’s been blogging every day leading up to the race. She blogs about the specifics of her training, her preparation, headspace, etc. All the things that lead up to race day that not everyone gets to see or understand.

On Saturday, while riding the flats around Avon with ALP Cycles Racing, it dawned on me that I hadn't been doing any training on the flats. Most of my bigger rides have involved big climbs and big descents. While SBTGRVL will be my longest race (and one day ride), in terms of elevation gain, it will be one of the easiest. With "only" 9000ft of climbing it is less than; Leadville 100, CB 100, Golden Gran Fondo, and 24hrs of Steamboat, all events I have done that are shorter, but involved big climbs with big descent (i.e. coasting). I figured I'd better get used to doing a little more pedaling and harder efforts on the flats. 

First, I picked up my bike from Tim Shed Sports with my new race tires on. I was excited to ride it and test out my new tires. As for tires for race day, if you ask 5 different people what tires they suggest, you'll get 5 different answers. So, I went with tires suggested by a trusted source who knows my goals, knows Colorado dirt/gravel roads, and knows how I ride. He suggested the Specialized Sawtooth tires, size 38. 

ALP Cycles Coaching - Alison Powers Bike

Above is my race bike, it's actually my CX bike turned temporary Gravel bike. It's been a little bit annoying to invest money into this bike to make it more gravel race friendly, but I am enjoying it. The modifications I have made include - 

  • Putting on 10/42 cassette and a 42ft chainring. I am enjoying the easier gears on the climbs. I get spun out at 39mph, which is a little worrisome, but oh well.
  • New bottle cage with swat multi-tool.
  • New tires.
  • Road pedals and road bike fit.
  • The frame bag may or may not be part of the race. I'm still figuring out my hydration needs with the aid stations and temperature on race day. 

Day 28 - Monday, July 22nd 

I filled my bottles (2 with NBS Hydration, 1 water), did my dynamic stretching/mobility/activation, prepared my food (PB), choco chip cookies, and took 4 grams of BCAA's. Side tangent; I'm a big fan of Stay Sims. I like her research, I like her book "Roar," I like her presentations, and I like her suggestions. I feel better when I do what she suggests. My biggest pet peeve with coaching - both with ski racing and bike racing - is when athletes don't apply new knowledge. When you learn something from your coach, a book, or a lesson learned while training or racing, take that new knowledge and apply it. If you just go through the motions of learning new things but never actually apply the new knowledge then you'll never get better. You must be willing to try new things and let go of old habits in order to get better. Tangent over.

Today's ride goal was 2 intervals to the Portal (the flattest road around here). The goal was steady/hardish riding. I wanted the second interval to be just as fast as or faster than the first interval. Each interval was ~28min and the second was far more uncomfortable than the first (a sign that this was good training for my body). My bike and tires felt amazing! It felt very much like I was riding my road bike (which has been the goal) and I felt fast (yay tailwind). Unfortunately, my chain came off during the second interval, something that has never happened on this bike before, so that will need to be dealt with. My low back and left hip were also starting to be annoying (that went away the last 45 min of the ride).

I finished with one more harder effort on a climb (~5min) and then just rode steady home. 

3 hours with steady/hard riding on a pedal-y route and my legs and body were tired on the climb home. I drank all 3 bottles (could have used more) and ate both cookies (which melted in my pocket so they won't work on race day), and my PBJ. I drank an NBS protein Recovery shake once I was home. 

It was a good day.


Alison Powers

Now retired from racing, Alison Powers is the only person, in history, to win all three road discipline National Championships in one year (Road, Criterium and Time Trial - 2014). These go along with two previous national championships (Time Trial 2008, Team Pursuit 2008), two National Racing Calendar titles, and a 2nd place at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race (2013, 7:26hrs). Today she is the owner of ALP Cycles Coaching where she teaches road, cyclocross, and mountain bike clinics, and high performance race preparation and tactics. Alison is also team director for ALP Cycles Racing, a professional women's road and cyclocross team based in Boulder, Colorado.

ALP Cycles Coaching

Colorado-based ALP Cycles Coaching has over 25 years of professional sports experience. Each coach brings specific strengths and personal experiences to coaching sessions while collaborating to create a training plan that works for each and every person. Learn more at

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