How to Pace Yourself

Getting a few races or sportives under your belt before the summer is a great way to supplement your training, but you need to pace yourself. Starting too fast is a common mistake, says cycling coach Ric Stern of It’s a question of riding at the right pace for the right race. Here’s how…

…Over a 10-mile TT

Warm up to prime your muscles and respiratory chain, then start with a controlled acceleration. It may take about five minutes to get your heart rate to about 90 per cent of your maximum HR, at which point you should feel the effort biting into your legs. The last few minutes of the 10 miles will feel seriously hard. If after five minutes it feels too easy or you’re below 85 per cent of your max HR, try harder.

…Up a hill sprint

Even though this is still a much shorter and harder effort than a 10-mile time trial, don’t absolutely blast it off the line or you’ll fade too fast, too early. Make sure you warm up well, with a couple of 10-second sprint efforts thrown in to kick-start your respiratory chain. Then start hard and quickly wind the pace up to above 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate, and try to hold this pace throughout.

…On a long hill climb

Most long climbs in the UK need an effort somewhere between a 10 and a 25-mile TT pace (85-90 per cent of max HR), depending on how much more riding you need to do after you get to the top. Pick a gear that allows a good cadence of 70-90rpm and alternate standing with sitting to change muscle groups. Don’t let other riders distract you from your pace.

…Over a 100-mile sportive

Do the distance, or at least the time in the saddle, in training to give you a benchmark. Take the first 15 minutes steady until you’re warmed up and any pre-start adrenaline has subsided. Severely ration effort beyond your lactate threshold HR throughout – roughly 80 per cent max HR, or the level at which conversation is hard to sustain. Pick the right group to ride with.

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