6 Things You Need To Do To Ride Strong This Fall


As often happens in business, the best part about running CTS has turned out to be different than I originally anticipated. In the beginning I was focused on bringing world-class coaching to athletes of all abilities. It was all about performance. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would meet and build relationships with such a diverse and wonderful community of people, and that those athletes would build a strong community among themselves. Last year I decided I wanted to create a way for the CTS Athlete Community – coached athletes, camp athletes, subscribers, and social media fans – to engage on a deeper level. The big question was: How?

My team and I thought about creating an online community, but realized most people are already involved in online communities. You have Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. You’re on Strava or Zwift. Or you’re on none of those and you’re not really looking to interact with people that way. We asked around and realized the strongest friendships that have developed within the CTS Athlete Community came from shared experiences at camps and events. At that point the decision was clear: we needed to create a great event that’s accessible to many people as possible in our community! And with that, the CTS Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo was born.

On November 11, 2017 we’re anticipating nearly 1000 athletes to come together for the inaugural Fig Gran Fondo in Santa Ynez, California. Early registrations have been strong, and I want to see you there, too! If you haven’t signed up already, I encourage you to sign up before September 15 to take advantage of the current – lower – registration price. It’s going to be a phenomenal weekend with a great ride up Figueroa Mountain, live music at the finish, beer from Figueroa Mountain Brewing, and incredibly fresh local food. Oh, and all registered riders are also entered to win a Pinarello Gan RS frame worth $4,000! We are also working to make sure as many CTS Coaches as possible are at the event so athletes can ride and spend time with their coaches.

Getting Ready for a Fall Gran Fondo

Whether you’re getting ready for the Fig Gran Fondo or another event this fall, this is a good time to provide some tips for having a great day at your event.

Take a Short Break

It’s September. If you have been training and participating in events since the spring you may be ready for a break from structured training. Putting the bike away for two weeks can be a good move: it’s long enough to have you yearning to ride again and short enough that you won’t lose much discernable fitness. If you’re worried two weeks off the bike will disrupt your routine and perhaps you won’t restart, then at least remove the structure from your rides for two weeks. Put your cycling computer in your jersey pocket so you can record your rides but not look at the numbers while you’re pedaling.

Focus on climbing

At this point in the year many athletes have a lot of aerobic fitness. The distance of a fall gran fondo or century ride isn’t going to be an issue, but your ability to handle the climbing could be. The 96-mile ‘Fig Epic’ route at the Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo has 8800 feet of climbing, and big elevation numbers are a key feature for many gran fondos and century events. To have a great day you need to be ready to climb, not just the first climb of the day, but the fourth, fifth, and sixth as well. Incorporate ClimbingRepeats into your training schedule twice a week. A good starting point for this workout is three 10-minute intervals at your current max sustainable climbing power or pace, separated by 5 minutes of easy spinning recovery.

Focus on IMproving sleep

With several months of strong training under your belt already, it is important to focus on the recovery side of the work/recovery ratio. You have fitness, but you have also accumulated a lot of fatigue over the course of the spring and summer. As you continue to train through the fall, focus on improving your sleep quality and potentially increasing your nightly sleep hours. Sleep deprivation and poor quality sleep are two of the greatest threats to your current and future performance. To improve sleep quality, reduce the temperature of your bedroom, get off backlit screens 1-2 hours before bedtime, and darken your bedroom as much as possible.

Having a Great Day on the Bike

Once you arrive at your event fit and rested you still have to ride intelligently so you finish feeling great and have energy to enjoy the post-even festivities.

Start fast, but not too fast

In general you want to ride conservatively in the beginning of a long event so you don’t burn through your energy stores too quickly or ‘burn matches’ too soon. However, if you start too conservatively you lose the opportunity to benefit from the speed of faster groups. I recommend a best-of-both-worlds approach: Ride hard enough to stay with the front group – or a group riding at a pace faster than you can sustain for the whole event – for the first 30-60 minutes.

It’s a balancing act. You don’t want to kill yourself to stay with a group that’s way over your fitness level, but you want to work to stay with a group that can put a significant chunk of miles behind you. You’ll benefit later on in the day because you’ll be riding with groups of riders with fitness similar to yours, or you’ll be caught by groups coming up behind you and you can jump in with them. If you start too slowly, those riders will be up the road.

Keep your head up

Everyone starts together at gran fondos, centuries, and charity rides. From a community standpoint that’s great, but it also means riding with athletes who have a wide range of skills, fitness, and savvy. Have patience with the riders around you. Be helpful and respectful to athletes who might be less experienced than you are, and similarly, be accepting of help if you’re one of those less experienced riders. Both sides of that coin should remember that advice is not criticism, but it can come across that way if you’re not careful.

Talk more, suffer less

The lore of cycling glamorizes suffering, and there are certainly times and places for it, but not all day every day. One of the great things about gran fondos, including the Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo, is that there are timed segments as well as an overall finishing time. Timed segments give riders the opportunity to go full gas and test themselves, as well as the opportunity to ride at a more moderate and conversational pace during other portions of the event. This is perhaps the biggest difference between traditional racing and semi-competitive events like gran fondos. There is a group that has the will and ability to race for 96 miles, and they have that opportunity. For the rest of us, there are other opportunities to satisfy our competitive drive while also having the ability to enjoy a more social ride.

I can’t find the words to express how much I’m looking forward to the CTS Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo. I can’t wait to reunite with old friends, make new ones, and see the CTS Athlete Community come together for a great ride and incredible beer and food. See you there!

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

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