Bici employee Alex Fraser-Maraun's perspective on KOM season.
AFM (left) with the crew post ride
Every year, with a reliability as sure as the changing of summer to autumn, the shift from race season to KOM/QOM season occurs. For those who aren’t aware, KOM/QOM hunting involves riding a climb, or “segment”, as hard as one can, and uploading the ride data to Strava. If you achieve the fastest time on that given segment, you are awarded a little digital crown to distinguish your effort.
The shift from racing to the offseason has always been made a little easier using Strava as an outlet to channel any residual fitness, for me. My coach will generally reorganize my training into a highly polarized blend of maximal efforts and easy 1–2-hour rides. The important thing here, is that all the hard work has already been done during the race season and in training leading up to it. As the cumulative fatigue level generated by the season begins to descend, there is a perfect window of good form to utilize, lasting roughly a month.
I’ll start with several adjustment efforts in the 2–3-minute range and aim for maximum RPE. 1-2 of these short efforts, a couple times over the course of a week, and interspersed with good rest, will have the body and mind primed for longer segments. The question then becomes, which segments do you target? I believe that a segment should always challenge you. I take into consideration several qualifications: the effort must have a great number of attempts, though the sheer number of attempts isn’t enough alone – the quality of those attempts must be of a high level. A valuable segment should also be one that occurs over inherently difficult terrain. So, a frequently ridden effort over difficult terrain, against a high level of competition.
For the past several years there have been two climbs that perfectly fit that description and have remained firmly out of my grasp, in Mt. Seymour and Cypress Mt. Both are over 10 kilometers long and their respective KOMs have seemed so far out of reach as to dissuade me from even trying. As a result of that mentality, it was a rather strange feeling to be gently noodling towards the base of Cypress, one mid-September afternoon, in a Pearl Izumi Mach5 skinsuit and aboard my feather-light Factor O2, ready to tackle the elusive “Shed to Powerline” segment.
I’m lucky enough, as an athlete of Red Truck Racing, to have several of the strongest and most supportive athletes in Canada usually eager to help on such an occasion. Declan Kelly and Al Murison would be my companions in suffering in this instance, along with several other high-level racers from the local scene. In the days leading into the effort, we came up with a plan that we hoped would provide the best result. Declan, a helpless lover of data, calculated the exact power output he would need to produce during his portion of the effort to keep us on track, as well as the speed we’d need to maintain over various stretches of the climb. He also carefully examined the barometric pressure, temperature, and wind forecasts, and chose the ideal time and day for the attempt.
Declan would pace the group for the first 8 minutes of the effort, while Al would be waiting midway up the climb, acting as a satellite, to pace us from the first to second lookout. After that, myself, Rob Watson, Sam Kaufman and Colin Eriks, would rotate in a pace line for the remainder of the effort.
We all met at the base of the climb, shed any extraneous gear – there was no need for saddle bags, water bottles, or extra layers – and each administered a pre-effort gel. For me, the Neversecond Espresso caffeine gel was the perfect candidate. Declan took us through the start of the segment at 45 kilometres per hour, the simultaneous beep of our head units reassured us as to the commencement of the effort. My mind began to section the climb into easier to digest portions – a psychological trick to make the effort easier. “I just need to get to the first lookout, that’s the hard part done…” Of course, the first lookout came, and it only got harder. We crested the second lookout, following a huge pull from Al, who brought us up to pace with Phil Gaimon’s effort. At that point, it was still too early to believe – we had to remain composed and think of nothing but maintaining the effort.
The gentle grades of third lookout came, and with it the smallest respite – one last gulp of oxygen before settling into the final three minutes of the effort. Those three minutes were the worst, most mentally demanding of the entire climb; this is the point where you must take a body that is already wavering on the limit and ask it to provide more. Those final three minutes crawled past, and by this point my only companion was an Elemnt Bolt, which informed me that I was on pace. I floundered my way over the final 100 meters, and pulled sharply to the side of the road, depositing my bike and stumbling away.
When you’re in the effort, you’re often alone – there are no spectators, and no (or few) people to witness what you’re doing. The community engagement is something that generally comes after the fact. Following our successful attempt on Cypress I was blown away by the response. To all those who responded with warm words, kudos, patted me on the back, or even approached me on subsequent rides to convey their pride in what I’d done, thank you – here’s to the 2022 KOM season!