Pro Gravel Racing Champ Colin Strickland talks about training, equipment and moderation

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What makes Colin Strickland tick? What is the secret of its success? Hear from the gravel champion himself here.

The first rule of behavioral economics is that people may not always be rational, but they are predictable. We all base our lives on routines. This goes for almost everything – eating, working, sleeping, vacation, family, exercise, you name it.

After profiling dozens of professional athletes, I thought I saw the pattern in these overtakers: a willingness to sacrifice other parts of life in order to maximize their potential.

That is, until I met Colin Strickland. Although he is one of the best gravel drivers in the world, he values ​​moderation.

Strickland is a former road racer who won Unbound gravel 2019 while setting the course record and finished in less than 10 hours – the first to do so. In doing so, he beat World Tour riders and previous winners, and surprised many in the cycling world.

Strickland is returning to Kansas this June to break his own record as Unbound returns after the pandemic.

Curious about his preparation ahead of the race, we sat down to discuss his training regime, nutrition and recovery plan, and the equipment that will get him back in shape.

Colin Strickland: cycling background

Strickland got into cycling very late by most standards, starting his first race after college. Rather than feeling a step behind his colleagues, Strickland sees his late start as a competitive advantage.

He watches many elite riders burn out from a life of pressures and stresses and intends not to think about the established path and instead enjoy the process.

Strickland began riding a bike to commute to work and quickly learned that he loved to ride hard and fast. He switched to local street cat races and later found success on the national road racing circuit, including some top 3 finishes.

Still working full time, Strickland signed with Specialized for the 2016 Red Hook Circuit. After winning three of the four races that year, he turned pro.

A year later, Strickland made his first foray into the gravel race. “It took a race, maybe two, before I realized that gravel was going to be the next big thing.”

Feeling that the overall experience would set the sport apart from other formats, he began to shift his focus from road and critical racing to gravel.

Unbound gravel gain

His first visit to Unbound was in 2019 and he didn’t know what to expect. “I usually get my best results in similar formats, rolling and fast courses, but never for that long. I was confident and made sure to drive my own race. “

His racing style is impulsive and improvisational, which ultimately paid off. Strickland played that the conditions were favorable for his driving style, broke off the lead halfway through the race and never looked back.

He lived in central Texas and felt comfortable in the 90-degree temperatures and the direct sun. “It scorches you. You are covered in sunscreen or you are sunburned. Fortunately, I had trained a lot hotter, ”said Strickland.

Strickland’s return to racing

This year, in large part due to COVID, Strickland didn’t drive as often before it came to Unbound. Instead of trying to simulate races and stick to a strict schedule, he plays it by ear.

“I’m not crazy about a training plan and I’ve never had a trainer. I don’t have the data points from previous races, but I know the general formula for success. Volume is the name of the game for long distance gravel racing. The more volume I go for, the better, but only up to a point. “

This is where Strickland differs from the mass of top-class cyclists. “I have other things ahead of me in my life. There is always a balance for me. I rebuild three diesel engines, renovate a trailer, have projects around the house, and see friends. My general rule of thumb is that when I feel strong, I get tough, and when I’m tired, I take a day off. I moderate my training intuitively and relax. “

Colin Strickland

A lesson in measure

If Strickland’s training plan sounds laissez-fair to a professional athlete, it is even more so for his nutrition plan.

“At home I am fluent with food. I grew up in a family with healthy foods, so my diet is generally good. In general, I avoid junk meat, add other proteins to it and eat mainly vegetarian. “Outside of these guidelines, Strickland is not rigid with calories, carbohydrates, or diets.

It would be easy to write off Strickland as an anomaly – someone so talented doesn’t need a strict plan to keep up. But that’s not all wrong, it’s his secret. Through the balance between cycling and other areas of life, Strickland relieves stress and thus achieves even more success.

“Sure, I could try tweaking more to get a little more out of it, but I really enjoy being where I am and how I got here,” says Strickland.

On most training drives, he skips gels and racing snacks for real foods like nut butter sandwiches and fig bars.

“I do a few drives before the race to experiment with different foods. I recently did a 5 hour time trial on liquid calories only and it didn’t work for me, so I’m going back to the old formula. “

His recovery plan is similar. He only rolls, freezes, or stretches when he thinks it’s necessary and occasionally uses a Normatec to stimulate blood circulation.

Break the bike

Colin Strickland rides his bike on the infamous Road To Nowhere

Strickland pulls in Allies capable Gravel frame and goes with it Envy 3.4AR wheels, Perseverance Orange Seal, and Specialized 42mm Pathfinder Pro tires.

“I learned the hard way that you don’t want to drop out of an event. I’m always wrong about bigger tires because flat tires are the slowest tires. “

Strickland co-operates a Shimano group GRX Di2 shifter and Dura-Ace crank. Like many in the world of gravel cycling, he has switched to a 1x drive with only one front chainring.

He uses a Wahoo ELEMNT cycle computer, a Specialized Romin Evo saddle, a prototype of a Rapha gravel kit and sunglasses, as well as a prototype Specialized alternative helmet With Specialized Recon MTB shoes.

“That prepares me for anything, like a field of mud. It’s a Boy Scout mentality preparing for the worst of conditions so you’re prepared for anything, ”Strickland said.

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