Youʼre synched perfectly on the wheel in front of you, tucked in the draft with awareness of every shift in the windʼs direction. The hill comes sooner than expected yet youʼre ready, unleashing a barrage of wattage across the tarmac and breathlessly cresting the hill, all without hesitation. While freewheeling the descent you smile knowing you just smashed the KOM.
The rest of the ride is spent impatiently as you canʼt wait to get home and upload your ride to Strava, splashing your name atop the leaderboard and confirming the KOM youʼre sure to have waiting there. Pulling up to the driveway, you unclip and get the upload done: no cups, no top ten, just the ever-disappointing PR medal. How can it be?
KOM hunting is a sweaty art that requires dedication, repetition, a little creativity, and suffering above all. The satisfaction of unlocking a shiny gold cup is immense and addicting as youʼll find yourself getting greedy after a taste of victory. If at first you donʼt succeed, pore over this guide and try again.
First and foremost, be honest with yourself. What are your qualities as a rider? Are you a weightier sprinter gunning for hors-catègorie segments won by local heroes? Or perhaps youʼre contesting power climbs without any anaerobic work in the bag?
Without knowledge of thyself and proper preparation, the odds of taking a KOM from a better prepared rival are unlikely, especially if the segment is hotly contested.
Play the odds into your favor: Look over your Strava history and find patterns in your performances. If you find that your best performances come from a certain type of terrain, focus and make that terrain your strong suit. Above all else, take a dedicated approach to training. Fitness is the KOM hunterʼs bow and arrow.
Survey the Segments
Now that youʼve zeroed in on your skill set, open up the Strava segment explorer and have a look. Select a few very doable segments. Remember, the longer the segment, the higher the fitness level required to crush it, so as with anything training related, start small and build your way up very slowly over time. There is no greater mistake in KOM hunting than going too hard too soon.
Warm up, Test Run
Every system on Earth needs to boot up first, and the human body is no different. Prior to KOM hunting a long, satisfying warm up is required. Do not underestimate the power and value of warming up and the role it will play in your reign of cups. A proper warm up entails an absolute minimum of 30 minutes with a variety of intensity zones mixed in.
Start with 10 to 15 minutes soft-pedaling, just getting the blood flowing and breathing in the cool morning air. There should be no sensation of effort. Gradually build into another 10 minutes of brisk riding that you could do while maintaining a conversation. Build into 5 minutes of tempo riding which will make such a conversation more ragged but still somewhat possible. Now, sprint as hard as you can while seated for 5 seconds. Repeat the seated sprint two more times with recovery at an easy pace between each.
The sweat on your brow means the thrusters have been primed and itʼs time for a test run. With at least 5–10 minutes of easy riding between your warm up and the segment, begin building your pace up as you head toward the segment, being careful not to overdo it. The point here is to not hit the segment cold but also avoid going too hard too soon. Find the happy medium on your test run: Youʼll know the pace was overdone if you wear out quickly. Conversely, if you have more energy after the segment than during it then youʼll know that you came in
Itʼs very unlikely that youʼll grab the KOM on your first time out. You may very well ride that same segment for years before nabbing it. The point is, persistence pays off. Strava will chart your progression so that you can see whatʼs working and what isnʼt.
Tips for Attaining KOM Glory
There are, of course, plenty of hacks you can use to bring those cups closer.
Ride with somebody faster than you. This is, undoubtedly, the best way to come out on top. Of course itʼs never fun admitting when someone is better than you, but in this case, it will pay dividends. Riding with fast friends on a consistent basis and trying to win the contested segments will shape you up for the best, even if you lose 100 sprints before edging out one victory.
Know exactly where segments begin and end. Donʼt spend your precious energy on an immaculate run only to stop 50 meters before the GPS demarcated endpoint. Study your chosen segments well and know exactly where to start and stop your effort.
Create your own segment. No, not at all segments have been created, and maybe the KOM that best suits you hasnʼt been drawn yet. Perhaps the long 45-minute local climb contains a 5-minute section that you eviscerate on every attempt. Crown yourself by making a Strava segment out of it.