Question: I’d like to ride PAC Tour’s Ridge of the Rockies next fall. It goes from Montana to Texas in 18 days, averaging 108 miles a day with lots of high-altitude climbing.
What’s the best way to pace a long tour? I could ride hard and fast every day, get to the motel quicker and have more rest time. Or I could ride slower to conserve energy but get in later with less time to recuperate. — Rick W.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Ridge of the Rockies is a challenging tour — and it goes right through my hometown of Montrose, Colorado. So I’ve had the chance to ride with it several times. You’ll love the Montrose-to-Durango day over Red Mountain Pass.
Your pacing decision will be a key to how much you enjoy the tour. If you ride fast, you get in early and have more time to recover. But you also need more recovery time because riding takes more daily energy. Digging deep into your reserves will catch up with you well before the second week. Once you get in the hole, even extra rest time each day won’t allow you to recover by the next morning.
So the trick is to find a balance between (a) the pace you can handle day after day and (b) time for off-bike recovery.
Here are some tricks I’ve learned while crossing the U.S. with PAC Tour and riding 500-600 miles during nine week-long PAC Tour training camps:
- Take it easy the first two days. Your fitness and experience will enable you to figure out how hard you can push. You’ll feel good at the start, but by the time you hit the 5,000-vertical-foot climb over Colorado’s Grand Mesa between Grand Junction and Montrose, you may not have much left in your legs. So imitate Tour de France riders and “ride into” the tour the first few days.
- Join pacelines when possible. Shared effort makes the miles go by with less energy expenditure. This is especially important in headwinds.
- Save time when you’re off the bike. PAC Tours are structured so you ride 25-30 miles from one rest stop to another. It’s easy to fritter away time that would be more effectively used for recovery at the destination motel. So develop a ritual at rest stops: park your bike, fill your bottles, and snack while socializing for a few minutes. Then look for a compatible group and hit the road.
- Get underway early. By rolling out at first light, you’ll finish in midafternoon if the day’s miles take six or seven hours to cover. That’s plenty of time to service your bike, wash out your clothes, have a good dinner and get to bed early. The motel won’t be noisy. No one is up late carousing on PAC Tour!