GFNY Punta del Este Course Strategy
Preparing for GFNY Punta del Este? It’s important to make sure that your training, nutrition, and equipment are all on point. But, in your final prep for the event, it’s key that you take some time to familiarize yourself with the course, and lay out a plan to hit your goals on race day. Here, we’re going to help you with that by familiarizing you with the course and helping you develop your pacing strategy. We’re also going to give you some quick training tips to round out your training program and prepare for the specific demands of the course. Regardless of if you’re looking at #Breaking5 with the front pack of the fantastic accomplishment of #Breaking6, we’ll have specific advice for how to plan your race.
GFNY Punta del Este Course
Perhaps the biggest challenge of GFNY Punta del Este is the distance. It’s a hefy 171 kilometers (106 miles) touring the coast, plains and hills of Uruguay.
Looking at the course, wecan see it neatly divides into four clear sections:
- An initial run along the coast, where crosswinds are likely.
- A long run north into the hills
- A long section of tough, constant rolling hills through the middle section of the course.
- A long south/southeast run for home through the plains and back to the coast.
#Breaking5 (hours, of course!) is a big accomplishment and marks you as one of the strongest riders at GFNY Punta del Este. However, strong legs won’t be enough to accomplish this. To break 5 hours you’re going to need a plan. Let’s break the race down into pieces and show you how to accomplish that, using the sections we identified above.
Fast and Furious Start
The initial run along the coast will be fast and likely affected by crosswinds. You have to be prepared for a fast start and a fight to make the front group. Start at the front if possible, and if not, move up in the bunch quickly and safely. Remember to use the group to stay sheltered from the wind: if the wind is off the right side, stay to the left side of the group. Also remember that in windy conditions, it’s often easier to be part of the paceline at the front than it is to be sitting on. Rotate and do your turns.
Don’t worry about your speed here, or overly contributing on the front. This section is going to be fast regardless, and as long as you can stay with a good group, it won’t be the place where you miss the chance to break 5 hours.
Heading North-Get Organized
At kilometer 21 we turn away from the coast and begin to head north. We now have a 40 kilometer section on relatively flat roads before the climbs start.
Here you need to take advantage of the efficiency of a group, and participate in an efficient, fast-moving paceline. Follow the example of anyone setting the tone, or help people get organized yourself. In order to break 5 hours, you’ll need to average 34 km/hour for the entire race,stops included. So, on flat sections like this, you need to be moving at 35-50 km/hour,depending on wind. Remember if it’s headwind you can gain time back later, but if it’s tailwind you need to be well over your average speed goal in order to survive the inevitable slow-down in the hills and headwind.
The Hills-Conserve but keep rolling
The course may not have any truly epic, extended climbs, but the hills that start around kilometer 60 can be leg-breakers. Repeated rollers, often gaining elevation for long periods, along with heavy roads and possible wind, all make the section from KM 60 to KM 105 a key portion of the race.
In this kind of terrain, it’s key to balance your effort. You have to get up the hills reasonably quickly, but get the pace rolling again on the flat and the downhills.
If you’re one of the stronger riders in the group on the hills, remember that the worst thing you can do is sprint up each hill, putting your group in difficulty. You’ll either drop them and be forced to face the wind solo, or make them unwilling to help you pull at the front.
If you’re one of the weaker riders in your group, you have to fight to stay in without blowing yourself up. It’s worth it to dig deep on the hills, because a minute or two of suffering up a hill will waste less energy than fighting the wind solo for the next half of the race. But, don’t be afraid to stop taking turns at the front. Let your group-mates know you’ll start riding again as soon as you make it through the hill and your legs recover. Also, check behind you on occasion. Sometimes you can get so focused on following wheels that you don’t realize a larger or more organized group is only a minute or two behind you, and that joining them could save your legs.
The Run Home
After the final tough climb ends around KM 105, you’ll have a long, gradual descending section before things get flatter again. At this point, you need to do some math. Hopefully you’re on pace and can continue aiming to hold around 35 km/h on the flat sections. If the early going was headwind, you may be below pace and need to try to hold 40 km/h with the help of the tailwind on the way in.
This section of the race is pretty simple: it’s where your fitness is going to do the talking, and your endurance comes into play. However, there’s two big keys. First, at this point, your group has doubtlessly gotten smaller. You all need to be involved in driving the pace. Take care of each other, stay organized, and remember you’ll have plenty of time at the end to race each other. For now, trying to drop people is only going to hurt your average speed.
Secondly, try not to stop too much. From 130 km to 158 km, there are three rest stops. These are necessary for many, but if you’re going to be #breaking5 you can’t stop 3 times in 28 km. Plan ahead, both by taking on enough nutrition when you do stop, and by talking with your group to decide which rest stops you’ll use.
Remember, if you want to be in the #Breaking5 club, you have to have come prepared with your best legs. But if you come in shape, follow this strategy and we’re confident you’ll be under the finish banner in Punta del Este in under 5 hours.
If your goal is to finish GFNY Punta del Este in under 6 hours, you’ve picked a good goal. #Breaking6 is an accomplishment that’s challenging but realistic, and if you’ve come prepared, all you need to hit your goal time is a good plan.
The Start-Play it Smart
On our initial 20 kilometer run along the coast, it’s all about balancing your effort. Don’t let your ego get involved and try to play with the strongest riders, those who will be at the front in the wind, making it hard. However, you also can’t be too worried about what’s to come and end up further back with riders who may not have the same goals as you. Strike a balance, and find a group of riders who are calm yet motivated. By the end of this 20 kilometer section you should be in your rhythm: in a good group, eating and drinking, and thinking about the race to come.
Heading North-Conserve, Conserve, Conserve
As we head North towards the hills remember we’re still incredibly early in the race. The hills won’t start until 60 km in, from here we still have 110 km to go, and we’re a long long way before you should even consider going deep. Aim to find a group rolling along just north of 30 km/h and sit in as much as possible. You’re welcome to pull at the front to help contribute, but keep those pulls short.
We mentioned finding a balance during the first section. Continue to do that here: stay mentally switched on so you remember to eat, drink, and ride efficiently in the group. Yet also take time to enjoy the views, chat with riders in your group, and enjoy the experience. Not only will that make the race more enjoyable, it will keep you physically AND mentally fresh for later.
The Hills-Taking it steady
If you want to enter the #Breaking6 club it’s not about ripping it up the hills, it’s about surviving them. That means saving energy for later. Crucially, though, it also means keeping a nice pace between the hills during the section from km 60 to km 105. Spin up the hills, keep steady pressure on the pedals on the flats and the downhills (no sprinting and recovering), and stay relaxed. Remember, we enter the hills barely ⅓ of the way through the event, and finish them with 65 km still to go.
The rolling hills in the middle of the course don’t look like much in terms of elevation,but they can be leg-breakers.
The Run Home-Nutrition, Keep Moving, But don’t forget to use your head
Exiting the last of the climbs at KM 105, you’ve now got 65 km to tackle to get back to the finish at Punta del Este.
For many, #breaking6 will come down to nutrition. Have you read our nutrition articles? Taking in 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour is absolutely key for races like GFNY Punta del Este, anything less is limiting your performance.
That means using the rest stops to stay topped up. However, don’t spend too much time stopped! Tired riders often make the mistake of taking time to rest after getting food and fluid. These minutes are wasted since you’re not moving, and your legs are just going to feel worse when you get back on the bike. Instead, if you’re tired, get your food and drink and start riding right away. Then, ride a very light pace for 10-15 minutes while you eat and drink. You’ll get a few kilometers out of the way, and you’ll refresh your legs more than just stopping will.
As fatigue sets in, remember to keep using your head. This late in the race you could find yourself riding solo; look ahead and behind to look for riders or groups that you can work together with. Eat and drink on a schedule, don’t wait until you start feeling the effects of dehydration or bonking.
Racing isn’t just a challenge for the legs, it’s also a challenge for the mind! Make a plan, stick to it during the race, and we’re sure you’ll be joining the #breaking6 club when things are over.
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