To examine pacing strategies of ultracyclists competing in the Race Across AMerica (RAAM), the world’s longest ultracycling race, covering ~4860 km from the West to the East coast of America.
Age, cycling speed at and across time stations, race distance, relative difference in altitude between time stations, wind velocity, wind gradient, and temperature at each time station were recorded for women and men competing from 2010 to 2014. Changes in cycling speed and power output of elite and age-group finishers were analyzed using mixed-effects regression analyses.
Cycling speed decreased across time stations for women and men where men were faster than women. Power output decreased across time stations in women and men and was lower for women for all finishers, the annual 3 fastest, and age group 60–69 y but not for age groups 18–49 and 50–59 y. The change in temperature and altitude had an influence on cycling speed and power output in all finishers, the annual top 3, nonfinishers, and in all different age groups for both women and men but in the age group 50–59 y altitude had no influence on cycling speed.
Positive pacing (ie, decrease in speed throughout the race) seemed to be the adequate strategy in the RAAM. The top 3 finishers started faster and had a higher power output at the start than less successful competitors, achieved the highest peak cycling speeds and power output, and maintained peak cycling speed and power output longer before slowing down.
The authors are with the Inst of Primary Care, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.