Don’t let Strava go to your head

Saturday I had a “free” day from training. It wasn’t a rest day, but a day without intervals. Typically, I was supposed to go out and ride. It was just a matter of figuring out what I wanted to do.

The ride got started late in the day due to an event I was in charge of earlier. After being on my feet all morning into the afternoon caused me to be a little down about the ride. Still, I didn’t hesitate. I got home, changed and rolled the bike out of the driveway.

Since I had some freedom in what I was doing, I decided to do a little Strava hunting. What better place to do so then in my old hunting grounds — the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power route. There were already several Strava segments created from the route. There was one more that I wanted to create. This ride would give me the data I needed as well as show me how I stacked up along the route.

We’re talking about a 30+ mile ride with over 2000 feet of climbing. Along the way would be several “sprint zones” that often culminated with a climb. Typically, I have made this ride in a group and as you approach the sprint zones the group rides very much as you would in a race to see who would reach the line first. The goal in the ride was to claim as many of the “wins” as you could.

Doing the route alone is a different experience. There is no hiding in the group. You are riding exposed and without the motivation of other riders around you. I set as my goal to average 17 mph for the ride and try to land in the top ten of the various Strava segments.

I was quite surprised by the results and it reminded me of something important to consider before you start going out and bragging about your Strava KOM awards!

  • The first segment is aptly named “HOP 1st KOM” and it starts on Tanner Road between Rutherford Road and Reid School Road. It has an average of a 6% grade for just under a half a mile. I scored a KOM with a time of 1:28.
  • The next segment is one I had created earlier and is one of my favorite ones on the ride — when we are in a group. When you are riding it alone, it isn’t quite as fun. Drafting plays a big role in the “HOP Meece Bridge Sprint Zone.” The overall grade is less at 2%, but the over mile long sprint zone has a long stretch of straight road perfect for a lead out. There would be no lead out today, but I still took the KOM with a time of 2:59.
  • Now it was on to another one of my favorite segments on this route: “Quarry Road Climb on Hour of Power Ride.” Oddly enough, the average grade at 1.7% is less than the previous segment, but it definitely feels like you are climbing more! Covering 1.3 miles, the segment as listed in Strava is slightly longer than the traditional zone for the Hour of Power. Still, it is close enough and once again I took the KOM by covering the distance in 3:54.
  • Next? “HOP 3rd KOM” (technically the HOP Meece Bridge Sprint Zone isn’t really a “KOM” but Strava doesn’t offer sprint points) so this is the third climb to contest. It is one that I typically have not participated in while doing the group ride. However, I gave it a shot over the short .3 mile segment with a 6.2% grade. I bagged another KOM with a time of 46 seconds.
  • The route is well into the second half by this time and I was having trouble maintaining my 17 mph average as I neared the segment I created called the “HOP State Park Gate Sprint Zone.” Ironically, on a segment that has an average grade of -1% it is the climbing that gets you! You have a long lead out on rolling terrain before you (almost literally) dive down to the bottom of the dam at the Paris Mountain State Park. At that point, you kick up over .2 miles on a 6% grade. Your legs go from wildly spinning to grinding it up in a matter of seconds. This segment also became mine with a time of 2:32.
  • You’re not finished yet! There is still “Oakleaf.” In Strava this “optional sprint zone” covers a little more road than we typically contest on the route. In Strava it is called, “White Oak on Hour of Power.” It culminates in a climb up an 8% grade. What makes it really hard is the fact that it comes after 20 miles of hard riding and other sprint zones. It is why some bypass this segment. I didn’t bypass it this time, but neither did I give it much of a go. I ended up 3rd with a time of 5:39 over the 1 mile segment.
  • Finally, there is the climb up “Nature Trail at Herdkoltz Park.” Since, I already owned that KOM, I took it easy up the 7% grade covering a half a mile. My time of 1:50 was still holding.

So, what was surprising? It was simply the fact that I got so many KOMs on this route. I didn’t expect that at all. Sure, I didn’t hang back, but neither did I give it all I had on each segment. Beyond a doubt, I have completed every single one of these segments faster than I did on that ride.

That leads me to the lesson to learn from Strava KOMs. If you get one, don’t be bragging about it! You may get embarrassed.

Take for instance the Meece Bridge Sprint Zone… I finished that segment on Saturday with a time of 2:59. George Hincapie is listed in 43rd place with a time of 4:07. Anybody out there think that I could beat George head-to-head on that segment? I didn’t think so.

The thing is that segments “important” to you are not so significant to others. Just because you are spilling your guts to get the KOM doesn’t mean that they guys in second place did. He could just be out there using that segment to get somewhere else. Should he decide to take your spot, he could do so with no trouble.

Having said that, Strava is still fun for “bragging rights” among your buddies. It can breathe new life into some old rides and give you something new to talk about. More than that, it can give you some motivation to improve yourself.

So, anyone ready to go out there and knock me off the top? Start at Sunshine Cycle Shop and follow the route from there. See if you can average 17 mph or more while getting your best times on the segments. No fair to go out and cherry pick! Let me know how you do.