Gravel Training

There are 4 parts to gravel training that I will describe in this training tip.

  1. Base Training 
  2. Long Rides
  3. Riding a LOT 
  4. Nutrition

Many athletes will be relieved to learn that they don't need to hammer out VO2's and Tabatas interval workouts to prepare for gravel. This could explain their rise in popularity! The strategy and tactics are of a gravel race are different from road races and therefore so is the training. 


    1. Base Training with Sweet Spot 

    I've analyzed thousands of gravel race files and they are essentially how long the athlete can hold sweet spot  (84-97% of FTP) before they get tired.   Therefore, the limiting factor in one's performance becomes how much time the athlete can spend in their sweet spot. Is it 60 minutes, 2 hours, 4 hours or the whole race?

    Read about How Much Sweet Spot Training You Should Do. Overall take the amount of climbing or hard sections from the gravel course in minutes and train to be able to do that much sweet spottin'™ !

    The power data below is from the 2016 Crusher in the Tushar. There was 134 minutes worth of sweet spot climbing and *honestly I could have used 200 minutes of sweet spot. The Crusher in the Tushar is all about being able to do two one hour climbs (at altitude) and being able to roll the sweet spot watts in-between and after the Col de Crusher for 5-6 hours.


    Often times when I'm analyzing gravel power data its easy to pinpoint the moment the athlete just didn't have anymore sweet spot watts in them and has to slow down. For me, in this race it was up the final climb the Col de Crusher. Thus I achieved 134 minutes of sweet spot climbing and after that I was running on tempo and high zone 2 fumes. The training conclusion is to match the power demands of the gravel grinder to your training. Thus key element # 2:

    2. Long Rides: Gravel Simulation 

    If you are training for a race that is 140 miles long and/or has 8,000 ft of climbing? Guess what: you should ride that long and climb that much in training. Thus the "Gravel Simulation Ride". These rides are as diabolical as they are common sense and that's what makes us crazy.  For the Crusher in the Tushar you face 2 one hour climbs. Therefore simulation rides consists of 5-6 hour rides in the mountains at altitude with an hour long climb at the beginning and an hour long climb at the end of the 5 hours, just like the Crusher.

    A 'next level' addition to these rides is to find climbs that are as steep as what you'll face in the race. Finally the ultimate simulation ride is actually riding the course. Here's one of my Strava simulation rides that I affectionately titled "Crushar in What Tushar" This was as close to the actual Crushar that I could find in Colorado. 

    3. Riding a LOT (Training Load)

    Being consistent with your training is the single greatest 'training technique' masters cyclists can benefit from. Strive to push your training load as high as possible right up until two weeks prior to your gravel event. What are some numbers to achieve? Read our Masters Training Load Tip here.

    If you are behind in training and feeling good, go ahead an push your training load as high as you can get 1 week prior. Then take a rest week to be as fresh as possible come race day.





    If you have been raising your training for 12 weeks or more to levels that you haven't been to before, you can try to "Peak". And in order to peak, you need to Taper - use our 2 week Taper Plan

    If you are cramming to get in as much training as possible like your college exams, forget the two week taper, train another week and take an epic rest week leading into race day.

    4. Nutrition: What you Eat and Drink

    Nutrition (and hydration) on the bike is the final piece to your gravel training. And the best time to dial in what you eat and drink is during your gravel simulation rides. Practice how you want to play!

    Specifically we are talking about consuming 60 - 110 grams of carbohydrate per hour during your race and simulation rides.  It is a LOT to stay on top of and equates to consuming energy gels, blocks and bars every 20-30 minutes so you want to practice.    

    If you are all in to train for gravel but overwhelmed with everything above fear not - we specialize in gravel training and coaching. 

    What the Results Look Like:

    Go into "Monk Mode" for the next six weeks, train hard, follow our gravel plan, recover harder and this could be you:

    Copyright 2024 , FasCat Coaching

    Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. In 2013 Frank uncorked one to win the amateur Crusher in the Tushar and finished 13th overall against the pros. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been coaching gravel since its inception and have a complete year round gravel training solution for you whther it be 1x1 coaching or using the FasCat app.

    About Frank Overton

    Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

    Hire Coach Frank!