Get Ready for Paris to Ancaster 2022!

With the addition of the 100k route, P2A this year is going to pose some newer challenges to riders that are opting for the extended route. Many riders come for the enjoyment and for the challenge of completing it, whereas others come to see how well they can do against the others in the field, perhaps looking to make the top 50, 100 or 200 in the field.

If you’re serious about training and preparing for P2A, for any of the race routes, you’ll want to be training with a power meter and you’ll want to be using Xert. Xert is sponsoring the race this year, and the Xert Breakthrough Training platform will be your go to system to help you be ready to do your best on race day.

In this article, you will:
● Learn the basics of getting set up with and using Xert.
● Get insight into how to gear your training towards P2A.
● Use Group Sessions to gain training and motivation with fellow P2A riders no matter where you are in the world.
● Get a non-muddy taste of P2A with Xert’s P2A race simulation session.
● See top lessons and training tips from Xert Chief Sport Scientist and P2A junkie Dr. Stephen Cheung.

Training With Xert
Xert Breakthrough Training is a complete data analysis and training platform for cyclists. To best use Xert, you’ll need a bike with a power meter or use a smart trainer leading into the event. Having a power meter is preferred so that you can use it both for indoor and outdoor training as well as on race day to see how well you performed relative to your own abilities.

Register for Xert here: by clicking on the Register button. After activating your account, complete the account set up process. Be sure to sync a few months of rides from Strava, Garmin or upload FIT files with some good recent training you’ve been doing so that Xert can get a good picture of your current training status to base the appropriate training on.

Training Program
One of the great, unique features of Xert is that you can train towards a given event using indoor workouts, indoor rides on other platforms like Zwift or RGT and outdoor rides too all at the same time. All of these can be used to help you prepare to be your best on race day.

To get your account for the appropriate training recommendations, use the Goals and Settings screen to update your preferences with the following:
Athlete Type: GC Specialist
Target Event Date: April 24, 2022

These choices will help guide you towards the training you’ll need to do in preparation for the event.

The remaining choice for you is to choose the Improvement Rate under Goals and Settings. Be sure to watch the Xert Academy videos on Youtube if you’re new to the system and would like to understand more about how the system helps you prepare yourself leading into the race.


Types of Workouts You Need to Do

As part of the Xert Training Program, you’ll receive recommendations on the types of workouts you’ll need to do and the goals you should be looking to achieve for each workout. Xert will recommend Xert workouts you can do from the many workouts in the workout library, but you can also choose to do other rides, indoors or outdoors, to accomplish the same goals. It’s this flexibility that helps you get more out of your available time and opportunities to train both indoors and out, helping you reach higher levels than with a static training plan.

We recommend that you choose GC Specialist as your Athlete Type. What this means is that your training will become more and more specific to this type of rider as you approach race day. There are many GC Specialist-style (GC Specialist focused in Xert terms) workouts in the workout library you can choose to do. The workouts mimic both the intensity and the rest in between intervals that are similar to what you’ll experience on race day.

Training Sessions

Xert offers athletes a unique training experience called Xert Sessions. Some of you may remember the Xert Virtual Paris to Ancaster Race held last year using this feature. Xert Sessions are like having a cycling studio come to your home. On given dates and times, you can join these sessions for a great workout to a great video in a group setting. Enjoy preparing for Paris to Ancaster with your friends or teammates together. Cheer each other on, encourage one another to complete the sometimes challenging workouts needed to get prepared. P2A isn’t an easy race and solid workouts and progression is needed to reach your best. Having your friends there seeing how hard you’re working, and pushing you that much more is a great way to help you reach your best on race day.

Note that Xert Group Sessions are free of charge to everyone! Once you have registered, click here to Join the Paris to Ancaster Racing Community on Xert and participate in any of the group sessions at no cost!

To get set up to do Xert Sessions, be sure to view the Xert Sessions Tutorial after registering and getting set up on the system.

Virtual P2A Racing Simulation Sessions

Every Sunday features a special session that is a simulation of an actual race. Join the session to get a sense of what the experience will be like with a video of the race itself, together with challenging targets to hit during the session. This practice will be as close as you’ll get to doing the actual race, without leaving your home.

Race Day Preparations and Tapering for the Event

Use the Sunday April 17th Virtual P2A simulation session as your last big ride in preparation for the event. After that Sunday, you should reduce your training during that week, i.e. tapering, for the event. Do some easier rides if still fatigued from training or some shorter high-intensity rides with similar intensities as in the race, if you’re fresh. Do a light ride on Saturday before the race with some short intense efforts to ensure you’re in tip top shape for Sunday the 24th.

On race day, make sure your bike is fully tuned up. Consider using a thicker chain lube if the conditions are going to be wet or muddy. Waxing your chain is now the big thing so consider doing that to get an added edge.

During the race, especially the 100k route, you’ll need to stay hydrated and fueled throughout the race. This can be difficult with the challenges you’ll face from the varying terrain but it’ll be vital to do so in order not fade as the race wears on. Find a group that’s riding at a good pace for you. If the group is pushing you towards your threshold power often, you’ll fade dramatically throughout the race. Find a group where your efforts near threshold power are minimal.

An Xerter’s Analysis of P2A

Below, Xert’s Chief Sport Scientist Dr. Stephen Cheung assesses his 2018 Paris to Ancaster data file to glean some lessons about both racing demands and favourite workouts he does to prepare.

While it is true that fitness is fitness, the best path to success in racing is to match your training and fitness to the requirements of the event. Let’s take a look at some of my past P2A data files to see what we can learn about best ways to train and also to race it!

Coloured power data, purple line is Maximal Power Available (MPA), grey line is elevation.

Here is my Xert data file from 2018, where I had an absolute peak performance in the 70 km event, placing 177th overall from a previous best of 263rd. I stayed in a smooth and fast moving pack of about 6-8 riders all the way until the final mud chute.

A quick glance at the power file shows that gravel racing is not at all steady like a time trial.

Indeed, there’s barely more than a few seconds of steady effort at a time. Rather, there are hundreds of short hard bursts above your threshold power, and they take place throughout the entire race.

Being able to perform these hard bursts over and over and over again requires both high anaerobic capacity, but also high aerobic capacity. The latter is essential in helping you recover from each hard burst, and to make those hard efforts even after 2-3h of racing.

Lesson 1. Build that base.
Even though racing is often won and lost because of very hard efforts, the foundation remains building a big aerobic base. Doing so takes a long time, so it is not something that can be rushed. The preferred indoor workouts feature as much duration as you can handle at a time at fairly light effort.

“Cheung – Don’t Look Back in Anger” is a good example of a longer endurance workout for base building.

“Working Man – Extended” is another good longer endurance ride.
Both feature enough variability that you’re not slogging through a long steady effort the whole time.

Lesson 2. Lots of Repeated Efforts
Another important observation is looking at the purple MPA file, which is analogous to your level of fatigue. It drops a little bit throughout the first quarter or so of the race, but it never drops so much that you are truly at your physiological limit to generate power.

In this way, gravel races are similar to cyclocross or mountain bike events. There are lots of bursts, but you are mainly pushing hard for brief periods, usually to clear an obstacle or short hill.

Therefore, in training, the emphasis does not need to be on efforts that take you to your limit in terms of taking you to absolute fatigue. Rather, the focus should be on being able to handle repeated short bursts over and over for a very extended time.

During the Build period, it’s hard to go wrong with variations of the Hour of Power type workouts, where you spend an hour at a sustained hard effort, then every couple of minutes throw in 15 s or so of hard effort and come right back to that sustained effort.

Lesson 3. Intensity and Repeatability
You also see on my race file that there are some very intense efforts, with very short bits of recovery. So as we get closer to race day and in our Peak phase, we need to replicate this in training. While in the Peak period of training, I like to switch to microburst type efforts that increase the intensity of effort and decreases the recovery time.

I really like 20/20 or 15/15 intervals, where you go very hard for 20 or 15 seconds, then have the same amount of time to recover where you are still riding and not completely resting.

Doing multiple sets also really help with your repeatability and being able to ride hard near the end of the race rather than just surviving it. So the goal is to have your hard efforts at a level where you can do all of the planned efforts at similar power output, rather than a really hard first set and then a much weaker second and third set.

One of my favourites from the Xert workout library is Let the Sparks Fly, featuring alternating 20 seconds on/off. This workout takes you down to intermediate levels of fatigue, then keeps you there by dynamically adjusting the wattages of both the on and off efforts. It also simulates gravel events in that even the recovery blocks are not simply “ride easy” efforts but forces you to maintain a sustained level of fatigue. Finally, the three set enforces the repeatability concept of being able to sustain hard efforts late into a gravel event.