You’ve banked a solid block of training time. Your bike is perfectly dialed. Now it’s time to put your fitness to use. Maybe that means entering a race. Or perhaps you’re ready to claim a few Strava KoMs. But what’s the best strategy for taking down the local hitter and getting your name atop the on-line training platform’s prestigious leaderboard? Here are five tips to help you earn that coveted KoM crown.
Do your research
Before heading out on your bike, it pays to have a plan. That planning process starts with examining the Strava segments in your area and determining which are legitimately attainable and best suit your skills. Start by looking through Strava’s Segment Explore webpage to find out who the current fastest riders are for your local segments. If the name atop the leaderboard is familiar from a recent Tour de France broadcast, best look for another segment to tackle. More importantly, target segments that are best suited for your riding strengths and style. Maybe that’s a 20-minute climb with an unrelenting 8-percent average grade. Or perhaps it’s a rolling 10-mile stretch of tarmac where time trialing prowess is key.
Get to know your segment
Once you’ve chosen a segment, determine exactly where it starts and finishes. (If it’s not immediately clear, switch to satellite view on the Strava segment map and zoom in for a closer look.) Now head out for a few shakedown rides. These practice sessions will help you understand where you can conserve energy and when you need to give full gas. You can even try different approaches, say pushing hard initially, then settling into a steady tempo or vice versa. Afterwards compare your times to know which strategy works best.
Make sure your segment of choice is uploaded to a GPS device such as the aerodynamic Garmin 520, which is compatible with Strava live segments and includes a 2-month trial of Strava Premium. With this membership, your starred Strava segments automatically sync with the 520 for live feedback during your ride. You also get alerts for a segment’s start and finish, and can see leaderboard rankings once you complete the segment. The 520 has a color display and executes automatic data uploads. It even calculates cycling-specific VO2 max and recovery time when used with power and heart rate, and it can track Functional Threshold Power (FTP), watts/kg, and cycling dynamics when used with Vector or Vector 2 power meters. That means you can track your progress to better know when you’ve achieved peak fitness and are ready to go for that KoM.
Pick the perfect day
When you’re ready to claim your Strava crown, keep an eye on the weather — and wind. It’s unlikely you’ll nab the top spot on the leaderboard riding through a driving rainstorm or into a headwind. Instead, opt for a mild sunny day, ideally when the wind is at your back.
Rest up, then go for it
Make sure to start your KoM chase with fresh legs — and not at the end of an all-day ride. Begin your spin with a 20-minute warm-up to loosen the legs and elevate your heart rate. Then get a rolling start into your target segment and give it your all. Just remember to pace yourself so you don’t blow up before the end. You’ll know you’ve perfected your effort if your legs and lungs are burning in agony at the end of the segment, but not halfway through. And whether you get that KoM or just slice seconds off your personal record, consider it a job well done. Then start looking for your next Strava segment challenge.