You got into road cycling? Nice, well done, you started riding longer distances and you have a goal to ride your first 100km, 100miles, 200km or whatever distance is your goal. In this article I’m going to share with you my experience of my first time attacking 300km. You’ll learn how to do your first 300km ride. I’ll share with you what I have done right and what I have done wrong so that hopefully you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made.
My ride from Nice on the Mediterranean coast in France to La Spezia in Italy. 320km and 2700 altimeter. This took me 15h and 15 minutes. Average speed absolute 21km/h
The first third of my journey
After eating carbs like a machine the day before, my journey began on Friday 02.10.2022 in Nice, France. My alarm bell on my phone went off at 02 :10am. I roll out of my bed all my clothing is thoroughly prepared next to my bed. I get dressed and have a bit of oatmeal and hit the road. I remember the feeling excactly how bizarre it felt to ride through Nice without any cars. After 3km I reach the big road that goes along the shoreline. I ride into the direction of Italy.
I turn on my headlamp only when there are no streetlights. The first hours were very easy. I have hero legs and nothing can stop me. After about 3.5h I have already done my first 100km and the sun was about to rise over the sea. I’ve had no wind and empty roads, so my average speed was quite high. I stop for the first time to take a pee and switch my head lamp against my sunglasses. I started eating my snacks not long before.
I have already almost done a third of my route and I felt like there was 95% of my fitness left. Well that might be easier than I imagined I thought to myself.
The second third of my journey
I kept on going my body had definitely burned all the carbs stored as Glycogen in my body, I started relying on new carbs that I gave my body. About 4.5h later I reached Genova in Italy another 100km have fallen. The second third felt harder but still I was in shape, I consumed all of my Snickers, Cereal bars, nuts and emptied my bottles of water for the 3rd or 4th time. I felt that my body was challenged but I was still hanging on to it. 200km was my biggest distance I have ever done so far on my roadbike and right now I did in in 8h alone and still felt surprisingly good. In the second third, I plundered two boulangeries, one before and one in Genova. Italian croissants seemed to be a super deal, they give you carbs and even some fat and they taste great. One of the croissants didn’t fit into my stomach so I decided to take it along. Since I didn’t have a backpack I was forced to squish it to a small ball and put it in my back pocket of my cycling jersey. That felt like a crime. At this point I believed, that, as long as I keep up the supply chain of food and water getting into my stomach I would be able to continue indefinitely.
The last third of my journey
The city of Genova was a big mess. It was about 11:00am. And motorized vehicles were all over the city. Traffic, red lights and the fact that I had to search my route constantly slowed me down extremely and felt quite annoying. After 8 hours in the saddle patience is a bit harder, especially if you know you still have more than 100km to go and you’re concerned about your average speed.
I took me about 1h to cross the entire city by bike which is only about 10km long. Massive drop in my average speed. Just about when I was leaving the city behind I started feeling my left knee, my, leg muscles in general and my ass was suddenly hurting too. I checked my saddle and saw that it was ever so slightly turned to the left. A feeling that I knew well already. Whenever my saddle is slightly turned into one direction, I have a pain on the outside of that knee. In the months before I never had that problem because it was really just a tiny bit and I didn’t ride over 200km lately.
The next 40km are harder but my body is still working okay. Two hills of about 200 altimeters each came up. They felt very hard and steep. I stopped on the side of the road and stretched my legs a bit. My muscles felt like the muscles of an 80-year-old. I conquer the second mountain and descend into a town. I stop at a small grocer’s shop. I buy a lot of chocolate, Sprite (something that I don’t drink under normal circumstances, and a huge packet of crisps. I ate almost the entire packet and stuff the rest under the front side of my jersey. I have a very nice conversation with the grocer that apparently is also a cycling fan and impressed by my route so far. He knows the area well and tells me that there is only about 50km left to my destination La Specia.
I have prepared a small cheat sheet that I stack to my toptube of my bike. On there I can see that actually it is more than 70km left. I’m at this stage where I don’t really enjoy riding my bike anymore and I would be happy to be over with my day. That’s probably why I believed that grocer and not my cheat sheet. Wishful thinking. Another fact on my cheat sheet was the 600m pass coming up that I just ignored, I didn’t want to see it. But sooner or later the pass came and I couldn’t ignore it. Now both my knees were hurting and the best way to minimize the pain was to cycle in the standing position. 1.5h brutal hours after saying buona giornata to the grocer that told me there were only 50km left, I saw a sign “La Spezia 48km”. I was back in reality. The 600m pass felt like crossing the entire alpine range at once and I have absolutely lost all of my motivation.
Every pedal stroke hurt and I could almost not sit down anymore. Why do I do stuff like that. Time was passing extremely slow a minute felt like half an hour. But on the other hand I started to realise that I’m about to do something very special. Suddenly I felt blessed that I have the time and the health to do something like this and I knew in this moment when my emotions were all over the place, that this day won’t be forgotten quickly. I started to calm down and almost appreciate my situation. Because it was special so much more intense than just a normal day at University. The pain is absolutely still present but it troubles me less.
Then out of nowhere there is a sign, that I have reached the highest part of the pass. I know that from now on it is almost purely downhill to La Spezia. I descend into a valley that is really fricking cold and foggy. I’m empty no energy left and certainly not in the mood to be cold. I stop to put on all the layers that I brought along. More than at the beginning of this trip at 02:00 am.
As if it wasn’t enough, a slight rainfall topped up the situation and made it really hard to continue. My fingers were stiff and I didn’t know if I would be able to let go of the handlebars. I do not even want to drink water anymore. My body is in survival mode and shut off everything that wasn’t legs pushing on medals. My brain was extremely slow, almost unable to think at all. I saw a bus stop at the side of the road and fantasized how comfortable it would be to just stop and wait for the bus. I already prepared an excuse why the bus was a good option for safety reasons or whatever. But fortunately a voice in my head said “Joel you’re going to fucking hate yourself if you quit now”. So I continued. About one hour later I descended into La Spezia in a trans like condition. I made it, I absolutely mad it I screamed out loud. It was already 06:00pm. I almost fell of my bike couldn’t properly walk anymore, but I’ve done it 15h and 15min and I have completed the 320km to La Spezia. I’m limping to the sea for 5 minutes and then get 2 big Poké bowls, that I eat in my Hotel bed. 30 seconds after I fall asleep.
What I have done right
I got up very early 02:00 am might seem exaggerated and for most trips it is but trust me it’s a very shitty feeling to ride through the whole day and then have to finish when it’s dark. Calculate your duration and start accordingly. Personally, it almost always takes me longer than I think. If you do your big day in Summer you have way more daylight which is perfect.
Preparation the days before
You shouldn’t ride a couple of days before your big day to give your body a real good recovery phase. But on the other hand your big day should also not be the first day on your bike since 3 weeks. Carb loading the day before is a good option to fill those Glycogen reserves. It will help you in the beginning but after a certain time you’ll anyway need new fuel.
Bring bike repair essentials with you
Nothing ruins your day more than a flat tire that you can’t repair, because you wanted to safe some weight and didn’t bring a spare innertube. Weight does anyway not really matter on flat routes and you are probably going to ride quite flat routes if you try to do a new record distance.
Find a flat route
If you want to ride a new record distance every altimeter is hard and not necessary, try to avoid it.
Check wind direction
There are good applications like windy.com to check the wind forecast. Especially if you live in a windy area wind can help you extremely or brake you completely. Riding 10 in a headwind is no fun. Windy.com is a good option to do that.
What I haven’t done right
Making sure your bike is perfectly set up
Well is was almost perfectly set up, the problem with the saddle was a hidden problem for the first 200km and it still hurt me. If you have never done 100km maybe it is a bit courageous to try directly 300km.
Don’t overestimate your absolute average speed
Average speed is the speed that you have on average when you roll. Absolut average speed for me is the average travel speed including also pauses. I tend to underestimate the influence of pauses on my absolute average speed. Just a bit of time standing still hurts your average speed drastically. It’s better to not stop to often and to long. If you can eat and drink while riding, change jackets, arm warmers and legwarmers on the fly if you’re capable of doing stuff like that without risking crashes.
A crash isn’t worth it but there’s nothing more annoying than stop every 30 minutes to change something especially if you ride with other people and they do the same.
Well some pauses are necessary you can’t buy stuff riding through a supermarket and you’re probably not a pro having feed zones where food is handed to you while riding.
Don’t start to fast
Especially if you have rested very well before the big day and done your carb loading you’ll feel invincible in the beginning. If you overshoot though you’ll pay the price. I should have probably hold back a bit more. You see the times 3.5h for the first 100k, 4.5h for the second and over 7 hours for the last 100km. That isn’t a perfect example of pacing.
Use a Garmin/ Wahoo Head Unit for navigation
If you ride you new record distance, chances are, you don’t know the roads you’ll ride on. There’s no wors way to loose time by having to stop and check the maps or even wors go into the wrong direction and have to turn around. I didn’t have a Garmin yet where I could see my route. I have done a lot of one-handed riding with my phone in my hand trying to figure out where to turn right. This isn’t only dangerous but annoying and it hurts your absolute average speed extremely.
I estimate that I have at least lost an hour or even more just be looking for directions. If you want to travel fast, it should be your goal to ride as smoothly and steadily as possible.
I hope this article helped you and gave you some useful tips on how to do your first 300km ride.
For some good training rides read this article about the Best one-day Road Cycling Tours in Nice Côte d’Azur