Empty but not exhausted after event - is it my gears or my training?

Now here’s an odd one. I’ve done two relatively long Sportives: Liege Bastogne Liege and the Marmotte Alpes. Both times I was empty at the end, but not particularly tired. It makes me think I’m doing something wrong and can actually ride them faster. Your thoughts please.

For context:
Marmotte (last weekend) consists of three major climbs (Glandon, Telegraphe & Galibier and Alpe d’Huez), I rode the first two climbs conservatively (I stuck to about 65% of FTP), knowing there was a long way to go and I wanted to empty the tank on the last one. However, at that point, it wasn’t happening, the legs did not have any more power in them than about 70% of FTP.

During the entire ride I was never even heavy breathing - I could (but didn’t) have been able to talk all the way through. Kept on top of the feeding (plus the carb-loading before) I stayed warm in the cold and cool in the hot. All went well, but can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that I could not ride the last bit somewhat faster.

I suspect gearing may have something to do with it. My bike has a 34-30 as lightest gear - my cadence was low - G.O.A.T low: 60-70rpm on average. I’ve already ordered a long cage to allow my derailleur to run a 34-34 ratio.

Other than that - what can I do in training to improve? This would be a great topic for a ‘call with a coach’… but hey, I’m relying on you now. Is it a training volume issue? Should I go for longer rides in the prep?


First, nice job on both of these!

Second, there’s a great, dare I say BRILLIANT post on here about pacing which I suspect this is (although do not discount the value of more gears to allow you to spin a bit faster and save your muscles) from Sir Neal (ex-of Wahoo/The Sufferfest :frowning: ).

Take a look at this, Sir Erik @TrapMeSuf and see what you think:

Edit: I will add that this strategy worked VERY well for me on a long climby event.


Good job indeed, I always find doing low rpm intervals or miles just absolutely burns my leg muscles even if I’m not doing FTP efforts, I find it does take a lot more concentration and effort, I’d rather use a lower gear and spin a bit quicker and not have to grind up the climbs putting even more lactate in my leg muscles.


Thanks guys.

Sir @Glen.Coutts, that’s a helpful post and I’ve pretty much followed that method. Leaving more in the tank for later would suggest going even slower on the first two ascends. That would leave me grinding at 50rpm or so.

@Shaned1972, that’s going to be my plan now. Will get myself a larger cassette and spin 34-34 up the hill. In theory that would allow me to spin about 10rpm quicker at the same power. I’ll practise that on the local short hills, see how that’s going to work out for me.

Might not be relevant, if similar effort at higher cadence doesn’t cause the same feelings, but maybe not eating enough?

I’ve finally started eating on rides less than 4 hours over the last 6 weeks and feel like a totally different person. But most people are not as intelligence challenged as me I suspect…


I’m sure the gear change will make a TON of difference. You’ll have no regrets there. As for the post, my take away wasn’t so much to reserve more in the tank for later but to expend more of my energy during the parts of the ride when the elevation goes up, and slightly less than I would have normally when things ease up or flatten out. For me, this was a very different way to look at pacing. In the past, I would just try to stay within a target range for the entire ride. Now, for longer events (where elevation comes into it), I am consciously putting in more effort going up, and easing off when going flat or down.

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Not apples to apples by any means, but… it reminds me of an experience running high school track.

I did distance running (1 and 2 miles) and was always the slowest, but felt I had more to give at the end and that I wasn’t pacing right and wasn’t really going as fast as I could and maybe I just needed to push myself harder. For instance, in a pre-season time trial I ran with the varsity runners who were taking it a bit easy and I managed to stay with them which helped me keep a more even pace and I ended up running my fastest mile and two mile times ever.

So during the season for a 1 mile race I thought maybe I just needed to go out faster and try to stick with the pack for as long as I could instead of falling back and being content with my slower time at the back.

Well, it was brutal, and nobody knew what I was doing, but my teammates were supportive and cheering me on the stay with them. I hung on for the first lap and a half, but then my legs were screaming and I couldn’t hang on because I really just wasn’t that fast. Well, I had completely worn out my legs and I quickly fell back. I could barely do more than a slow jog. After a slow lap to recover, when the last and slowest runners passed me I wasn’t breathing hard i tried to pick up the pace to stay with them, but my legs were just empty and I had nothing in them despite not breathing hard at all.

Similarly, when doing long endurance rides now, if I keep my cadence higher I feel better for longer. If my cadence stays low I can’t ride for as long. So I would suspect you may be correct in your assumption that you need lower gearing. And it’s also possible that despite eating on schedule that you still need to eat more. Or maybe a combination of the two. Or maybe you need some additional endurance training and your endurance just isn’t quite as high as you think it is?

Wish there were still some coaches in here like Sir Neal who could jump in and give you better advice that sounds less like dart throwing. :dart:

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