Following the completion of two SBT GTVL Blue Courses (2019 and 2021) under my belt, I decided to share some tips and tricks for preparing for the 100-mile course in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Undoubtedly, coping with this course will require preparation and possibly some additional investment in bicycles, body parts or various accessories. Not to mention, travel expenses, accommodation, food, etc. are a commitment, but a little preparation goes a long way.
For starters, Steam Boat Springs sits at 6,700 feet and the course is about 8200 feet high. We are not talking about high altitudes, but for anyone training or coming from the sea, those altitudes present their own challenges. Proper height training on the SBT GRVL blue course will go a long way to your success. In support of training on the run, CTS provided 10 week training plans for each SBT GRVL course. Day jobs and life can be a challenge, but consider it a good training guide to make sure you are in good shape. My personal training plan includes mountains… many mountains. Fortunately, we have a lot here in Wasatch.
In short, follow the training plan for best results. However, if you do not have enough time to follow it properly, ride your bike as high as you can. A.D. In 2021, I was on average 125 miles a week (less than the training system), but I accomplished much by going out. In the end, I didn’t get angry quickly, but I felt good and had a good time (oh, and I suffered on these last two hills). My fitness and training was better in 2019, but my bike choices were also very different. For me, all of that was equal to 2021.
The blue course will change for 2021
Both blue and black courses include a new 3 mile double track section on Steam Boat NW. It’s not long, but after a long climb it will come soon and the rough terrain will consume your energy. A good small stream is also used for good measurement. Beyond that, the only major change was the addition of Mount Cork to the second-to-the-end stairs. On paper, this 400-foot altitude may not seem so bad, but at close to 90 miles, in the heat of the day, it is a challenge.
Average efficiency is 7.6%, but it typically hits low adolescents throughout. Needless to say, I was in the ‘sit and roll’ mode, so I think I was going to do that for an average of 5 miles / hour. I saw many horsemen walking in that room or stopping to gather themselves. At that time, we were all very familiar with our gloves.
Looking back, the changes were good and they added some spice to the race, but I was not happy during the race. I expect minor improvements each year just to keep things simple.
Bicycle setup: 2019 with 2021
The organizers of the race gave some guidance on bicycle and tire selection as well as riding choices. Remember, Panaraker is sponsoring 33-38c tires for this course as a sponsor. Let’s get straight to the point – drive whatever you think is most comfortable for 70+ miles of gravel. Most of the roads are smooth gravel, but some parts (Lam Creek and 11 miles down 46 to the 3rd aid station) can be very nice. If you roll 700c, I go 40-42mm for more comfort and drag. Find just one thing that drives us fast.
For 2019, my choice bike was an open UPPER 47x650b wheels. The wheels were the Roval CLX 32 (now replaced by the Terra CLX EVO) and the wheels had a special rotating PRO 47. This combination of lightweight wheels, extra hoods and a fast-moving center trade was perfect for the flat blue course. In my own head tests before the race, I was able to drive faster and smoother 38c versions of the same tires. George was on the record (10-33) and 46/33 chains with their lowest cassette SRAM Red AXS. Achieving that 1: 1 ratio is certainly accepted by the doctrine.
For 2021, I wanted to see how the 700C tires work, so I opted for the Zip 303s tires paired with the Zip Tanjine Core G40 tires. I had hundreds of miles on that combination and the low profile tabs rolled nicely (but not like Pathfinder Pro). I was riding on a Ventum GS1 with a SRX GX AXS mullet drivetrain with a 10-50 cassette and 40 tooth chain. I had low driving skills for 2021, but for long road stretches or extended gravel sub-fine medium farms. Sometimes, I could not find the right gear for the topography and temporarily. But, believe me, I am so thankful for the 50t cog on that crescent mountain – All 5 miles / h speed.
When I rebuild the SBT GRVL blue course, I will not hesitate to return to the 650b tires. Of course, not all gravel bikes fit well with the 650B, but if yours works, that would be my advice. Again, it’s not a big, beautiful 650b tire, but something like a WTB Byway 47 or Speciaalized Pathfinder Pro 47. At 60 miles, the added comfort pays off quickly and you really get off very fast and you have hot feet. For those last steps. Looking at my time for my heavy classes, I was super fast with the 650B in 2019.
Let’s take a look at my Strava records each year for reference.
My official time and speed has slowed down –
- 2019: 6:08:52 at 16.2 miles / h
- 2021: 7:23:26 at 14.1 miles
Power meters and head units
Both times I used a lightweight ELEMNT Bolt GPS bike computer and Quark power meters. For 2019, it was the first bolt and for 2021, I used the updated bolt. For 2019, I only had a two-sided Quarq DZero and a one-sided unit with an opposition crunch. Knowing my power limits was the key to not resolving them. Again, I was not there to compete with the 20-year-olds – I wanted to finish with respect without much suffering.
So, on the steep or steep slopes, I changed the view to see my power outlet and the stairs with a high graph. I felt like a cheater, but pre-loading the course path on Wahu provided excellent turn-by-turn directions and elevation profiles. I suffered like everyone else, but I had a little extra help on my side, knowing how hard it was to push myself and how long I was. He definitely saved my bacon and kept me in the game.
Other tips and tricks
I can’t say how much water and fuel for this race. Free space is well stocked with both energy products and a variety of other items. Those PGB. Also, here and there, a banana and the great All Kosher Del Vinegar and Juice are perfect for pain relief in the last third of the lesson. For 2021, to be sure, I took a pack of GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules and released a tablet about 50 miles and again 80 miles. Finally, I never expected and my muscles felt good throughout the race.
I can’t adequately describe the competition and how deadly the charities and volunteers are. They go out of their way to keep you on the road so that everything is well filled. For 2021, I stayed at each aid station for a while because I did not try to break any records, but the crowd was large, so things took a long time.
If you have your heart set on the SBT GRVL Blue Course for 2022 and above, we hope this will be your guide on how to prepare, what tools to use, and what to expect on the day of race.
For more information, visit SBTGRVL.com