cyclist riding hard

8 Tips For Setting Personal Records on Cycling Segments

 

Even though I am not fast enough to set KOMs in Colorado Springs, I still upload all my rides and off-bike activities to Strava. I like it. I rarely pin on a race number or even go on aggressive group rides, but I still have a competitive streak. Strava allows me to compete against myself, compete with a few friends, and track my performance over time. CTS has had a long partnership with Strava, and we are proud to have played a variety of roles in the evolution of the platform. Strava co-founder Mark Gainey is a long-time CTS Athlete, and along with David Lorsch, Andrew Vontz, and a great development team, Strava has done a great job understanding what motivates and connects endurance athletes. One of those motivations is to continue improving performance, but as you get faster it becomes more difficult to beat your own best times. Whether you’re in contention for a true KOM/QOM or not, here are my tips for setting a new PR.

Train Specifically

Obviously, the more fit you are the better chance you’ll have of setting segment PRs, but if you have been on Strava for a while you may notice – as I have – that you set your current PR on a really good day a long time ago, or set all your PRs a few years ago when you were lighter, younger, and in better shape. Just like you train specifically for the demands of events and races, you can also train specifically for the demands of your goal segments. This was the whole basis for developing the segment training plans that are available for Strava Premium members today, and I have used one of the programs last winter to set a new PR on a 94-second hill. It may not be a big win, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a few small wins every now and then.

Hunt when you are fresh

The day after a hard interval workout might not be the best time to go PR hunting. It’s better to pick a day when you are more rested. This could mean waiting until the end of a rest week, or at least after a few days of light training. Also, go for your PR early in your ride when you are less fatigued.

Get the wind behind you

When the wind is in the right direction to give you a tailwind on your chosen segment, that’s a good day to go for it! In many places, winds gradually pick up during the afternoon. On canyon climbs in the mountains the temperature gradient often leads to a tailwind going up. When you know the weather patterns in your area you can use them to your advantage.

Do Long Segments on Cool Days

On segments lasting 15 to 60 minutes, cool weather helps slow the increase in core temperature that will eventually cause you to slow down. Given that winds often increase in the afternoon, many riders choose to go PR hunting on long segments during morning rides when temperatures are cooler and winds are calm.

Do Short Segments on Hot Days

Hot air is less dense than cool air, meaning you can go a little faster in hot weather – until your core temperature increases significantly. The increase in core temperature and thermal discomfort will blunt performance more than the slight change in air density will improve it, which is why short segments are best for hot days. You can attack the segment and finish it before you overheat.

Get a rolling start

For a better chance of setting a new PR, start with speed! Getting up to speed at the beginning of a segment robs you of precious seconds. Strava can show you where you’re losing and gaining time. When you compare your segment performances against your current PR, you may find you’re going faster for most of the segment but losing time at the beginning.

At the same time, be careful not to work too hard before the segment starts. Whether they’re PR hunting or just climbing during a training ride or event, I see a lot of people attack the bottom of climbs so aggressively that they blow up and slow dramatically halfway up. Finding the right balance can take time, but you can lose more time slowing at the end of segment – whether it’s a climb or on flat ground – than you will gain by going harder at the beginning.


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Ride smarter, not just harder

If you’re riding a favorite segment, you’ve likely ridden it many times. Learning where to drive the pace and where to ease up is crucial. It’s also important to know exactly where the start and finish points are and to roll all the way through the end of the segment; don’t give up early.

Don’t hunt PRs every ride

Tracking your progress with segment data is fun, but during periods of focused training you are going to be fatigued. That’s part of the training process; you have to work hard enough to get slower before you can recover and get faster. During these times your segment data will show that you are going slower, which can be frustrating. That’s OK and all part of the plan. Be careful not to confuse segment hunting with structured training. Focus on your training and then use the fitness to hunt for PRs!

One final note: PRs in a group don’t count!

Technically they do, in that Strava will give you a PR whether you’re in a group or not. But for my own knowledge, the most valuable PRs are the ones I get on my own. I realize this somewhat contradicts tips about taking advantage of cool temperatures and tailwinds. Those are aids that help you go faster, just like drafting or having a pacer, but you have to draw a line somewhere. For me, that line is taking advantage of the collective power and speed of a peloton.

Have fun out there!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS


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Comments 4

  1. STRAVA used to have see-through badges and cups for the current year – that was good for seeing progress through the season even if PR was set a while ago – not sure why they got rid of them, but maybe due to it not making sense in Southern Hemisphere?
    Also live segments are only useful on a regular gradient because the position of your PR is based on average speed.

  2. Good advice here, thanks! I’ve found the single most valuable tool is to use Live Segments and a power meter to pace, especially on long climbs. Essential to avoid blowing up early and finishing super strong.

  3. I’m curious, as a CO Springs resident, where’s your 94-second hill? Also, I will re-state the obvious: Eat Breakfast! Thanks for the wisdom over the years.

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