Ontario’s Perennial spring classic, Paris to Ancaster, always has excitement extremely high in Ontario and beyond as one of the biggest early season gravel races around. The demands of the race are tricky: It has a few highly technical bits, some potential for serious mud OR snow, and it happens at a time when many participants have been unable to do much outdoor riding leading into the race. So, how do you prepare?
If you’re early enough, I suggest checking out our 3 Months to Paris to Ancaster plan—if you’re already riding regularly, you should be able to get a benefit out of it even if you’re jumping in late. If you’re not sure how to tweak your training because you’ve left it until a few weeks out from race day (or less), you may want to book a consult to talk through now til race day.
And if you’re feeling good about training but a bit nervous about race day itself, here are 5 of the most common suggestions I make to help clients avoid the common mistakes with Paris to Ancaster are below. I hope they help your race prep. (And make sure you check out this episode we just did on early season gravel races!)
1) Stop thinking about the Distance : Match the Terrain & Skill Demands Instead
Yes, teh race is 40, 70 or 100KM long depending on which version you do. But that’s not the killer. If you only have a few days to get ready, get outside and get in some training! The race is won on a potholed start, a loose gravel uphill (often with running), so look at doing 4-5 x 5-10min hard efforts (often through Forest trail as on left above) and accelerations out of forest/paths. If you can get through all that then you have the infamous Mud Shoots and the final ‘Martin Rd’ Climb (video) (strava) to deal with. The endurance is important but your technical skills, ability to stand up, choose a line and ability to shift are going to be much more helpful then riding exactly 70km the weekend prior to the race. Focus on the terrain.
Intensity – Experience the race before you get there.
The final effort at Paris to Ancaster is Martin Road—and it’s a killer. The more prepared you are to ride up a steep, long climb while tired, the better it’ll go. You can see riders standing and emptying all their energy at the end of the race. This took much practice on his race bike being ridden on similar hilly, gravel terrain. Find a big hill and ride up it, maybe find a few and put one or two at the end of your ride this weekend. Push to that ‘race pace’ where you are noticing your breathing and ride there for a while (5+min) … remind yourself that it is ok to be in a bit of discomfort and try to relax while pedaling hard/going quickly. Experience the race before you get there.
Prepare your Race bike for the race NOW – and ride it on similar terrain this weekend. No changes next week
I always shudder when changes are made to the race schedule or bikes in the weeks before a race. Set up your race bike as if the race was this weekend and use all your gear, fueling, preparation in that key workout/ride. This is so big for confidence and also greatly reduces the chance of something small and silly ruining your first race. Worn pedals, loose bolts, leaking tires, seized cranks, slipping bars/posts, loosening cranks, broken chains and faulty tools are among most common ‘silly’ little things that stop us from JUST PEDALING on race day.
And PSA: CHARGE YOUR BIKE IF YOU HAVE ELECTRONIC SHIFTING. Every year, someone DNFs P2A because they forgot to charge their gravel bike that’s been in the garage all winter.
Dismounts and Mounts – Keep Moving Forward.
I am pretty (really) crazy about mounts–bike carry-remount for all my athletes. While the importance in many races is minimal if any, there seems to always be those few critical moments after a crash, or small mistake/’dab’ where our ability to keep moving forward off-bike or transition between on/off bike becomes critical to finishing well or at all. For many P2A athletes that first right hand turn off the rail trail will require a run-up … how fast you get off your bike, grab that top-tube and then at the top remount can make the difference between making a group that will carry you to a personal best finish or fighting in no-man’s land all day. Some of the forest trails are hectic and brief un-clipping or mount/remounts are required to keep moving forward. For some of us that final climb on Martin Rd. will be too much and so these ‘off-bike’ skills are important to maximizing our efficiency. ( check out these videos to learn about mount and dismount )
Remember to Enjoy your training and Race Day – Smile + Recruit Friends
It is cliche but RELAX and ENJOY. You will survive and you will have a smile at the end and some great stories. The reason to race is to push yourself to new limits and situations AND MOST IMPORTANT to make great friends to share the journey with. I always look forward to chatting with old friends and making new friends at races. The shared experiences are something we will chat (and exaggerate about) for years.