American gravel rider Colin Strickland celebrated National Bike Month by tackling the fearsome Road To Nowhere in his home state of Texas.
- Gravel riding is lighting the sport of cycling on fire with endurance and brute toughness needed to ride hundreds of miles at a time, while facing some of the nastiest weather and terrain in the world.
- In celebration of May’s National Bike Month in the US, Strickland – one of the world’s top gravel cyclists – has told the story about the rise in gravel grinding, why it’s continuing to grow and how he is training his body to reach a goal that no other athlete has ever accomplished – winning the prestigious 200-mile Unbound Gravel event back-to-back.
- The 34-year-old from Johnson City revealed: “Going in to Unbound 2021, I am quite excited to be coming in to the race as a target – I do thrive on that challenge. Generally, training the body’s ability to push for 10 hours straight at any level without the cracks seeping too deep is essential.”
- Following a team evaluation at Red Bull’s Athletic Performance Center, Strickland put his body through the ultimate physical stress test out on West Texas’ “Road To Nowhere”.
- The world-renowned route goes across Marfa to Ruidosa, along the Mexican border and the Rio Grande, with Strickland riding for over 100 miles in 98-degree heat, against 25mph winds and above 8,000 feet of elevation in preparation for the June 5 Unbound Gravel competition.
- He added: “I would rate this as by far the hardest effort that I’ve ever done on a bike. I definitely faltered several times, as the body just could not cope with what I was asking it to do. But it really served well to push me to where I was trying to go… which was to the breaking point.”
Here is what else Strickland had to say after returning to his Austin training grounds:
What are the areas you’ve been focusing on?
When I went to the APC in Santa Monica, they came up with these three areas for me to focus my training. They were climbing, heat adaption and oxygen consumption.
And how do you improve each of those?
I’ve always trained on feel and listening to my body. They did mention I could try using a sauna for heat adaption, but I ride in the heat in Austin- often through the heat of the day, which gives me my edge. I also think my Chihuahuan bloodline helps. When I look at my mother, she’s like me, her veins run on the outside of her muscles which is great for shedding heat. I am terrible in the cold – my body is optimized for shedding heat in the hot or the cold!
How about the other two, oxygen consumption and climbing?
Well, the best way to get those is just to ride your bike a lot. I’ve always been someone who does a lot of volume. On Saturday (before the “Road To Nowhere” effort the following Tuesday) I did 112 miles at 24 mph average. I try to get those big rides in. Even if my FTP (the power a rider can sustain for about an hour of maximal effort) has gone down, that’s ok, what I am really good at is going hard for long distances. I can keep riding hard for eight to 10 hours.
Is that what gives you the edge?
Yeah, I came along at just the right time! I think there are a few things that help me in gravel. One is trying not to waste energy on the bike, staying off the brakes in corners etc. I also seem to do better the faster a race is, which is something I train for. I practice doing long hard rides and staying in that aerodynamic position.
Photographer Credit: Ross Morales / Red Bull Content Pool