The SBT GVL is an epic ride in the mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It has long been a favorite of many athletes and has recently exploded as a top race for gravel specialists across the world.
Fueling for an event of this magnitude requires planning, diligence, and practice. Failing to “hit the mark” in hour one may lead to true failure in hours 6, 7, 8 +. “Early and often” is vital to improving your ability to maintain the performance you desire for the full event.
For the full meal deal (aka. the Black Course), you’ll be looking at a long day with a couple of notable features that stand in your way. At 6,700 ft and climbing to over 8,400 ft, this event is not an excessively high-altitude challenge. Yet, it’ll be worth knowing you’re going to be at altitudes that do affect performance.
August 14th, 2022
It is likely to be hot and dry, placing even higher importance on being hydrated. While water is readily available, taking on electrolytes with your fluid will be key to maintaining as much homeostasis as possible with regard to fluid levels, namely sodium.
All of the resources available show an average temperature to be expected in the mid 80ºf for that time in August. With lower humidity than any midwest or east coast event, you can expect it to be dry. With that being said, don’t forget the vitality of hydrating properly in the build-up to the event.
For this event, we’ll focus on the Black Course, which is the ‘main event’. This will gain upwards of 9,200 ft of vertical over 142mi of relatively smooth gravel.
Unlike events like Unbound, Midsouth, and Big Sugar, this one packs most of its climbing in two significant climbs. These are the bulk of the effort for most pros and amateurs alike, where either the fireworks will go off or wheels will come off.
The word on the block is that the route is said to be a “nice gravel road” that is relatively smooth and not technical. That being said, any sort of lack of attention that comes over an athlete can lead to mistakes.
The route will feature five official Feed Stations…beginning at 26km in and repeating roughly every 20km or so until the finish.
Essentially you have access to water and snacks every 20-25km, but don’t rely on it if you need special treatment or food. The race’s nutrition sponsor is Honey Stinger, so take that into consideration when planning what to expect.
If you are one of the racers targeting as fast of a result as possible, then consider that stopping at aid stations does cost time…but running out of fuel and popping like a balloon in the middle of the race costs more.
Your mode of fueling can likely just be bottles and food in this case. While this event does have aid stations, carrying weight in liquid means the security of constant fuel and hydration. Having a hydration pack in addition to bottles is certainly an option, but can be skipped if you don’t prefer a pack.
Our revised Feed Fueling Formula (FFF) is a simplified, cleaner version of our recommendation for athletes. Let’s review before we get into your plan for a gravel event!
It's all about Carbs per Hour.
Forget about calories – focus exclusively on how many carbs per hour you are consuming. You will see a massive performance improvement, especially in multi-hour workouts.
Most athletes training above zone 1 & 2 are burning around 3g of carbs per minute. Many female athletes may be burning even more. This is an average of 180g of carbs per hour you are burning. That’s a lot.
Your goal: consume 80g of carbs per hour.
It's easier said than done. You'll be amazed at how you are constantly eating/drinking, but remember you are replenishing less than half of what you are burning.
The Feed Fueling Formula (FFF) uses a ⚡️ icon to signify how many carbs every product has.
Gravel events are typically longer in duration and place a heavy emphasis on endurance. While the terrain can vary by event and location, most require a lot of time in Zones 3 where you are burning a lot of carbohydrates.
Additionally, with the roughness of gravel and the need to keep focus on your bike handling, this plan is tailored towards half of your per-hour fueling coming in the form of liquid.
If you are tackling a longer event, such as SBT GRVL, then in this case your average pace might be a bit lower. You are likely burning less than 3g of carbs per minute. If so, think of dropping down to ⚡️⚡️⚡️ per hour.
Pro Tip: bring sachets of Maurten 160/320 or NeverSecond to refill your bottles with when at feed/aid stations. That also eliminates about 2 Gels from your pockets, per hour.
We’d love to help you, so please reach out to our team and coaches for more help, guidance, and recommendations!