This training article was written by Cycling-Inform for L’Étape Australia by Tour de France.
I don’t know about you, but I love riding up hills. It doesn’t matter if you love them or hate them, you’ll be encountering them when riding L’Étape Australia so here are seven tips to help you become a better climber.
- Train on hills.
It seems obvious, but shunning away from climbing hills isn’t going to help you become a better hill climber. No amount of fast bunch rides on flat roads will prepare you for the extended periods of developing power at lower cadences that you need for climbing hills. If you’re on a home trainer, on one of the many virtual training platforms available to you, make sure that you drop your cadence to simulate hill climbing when you do encounter hills in your virtual sessions. If you don’t have hills in your area, then find a stiff headwind and drive into it in with your big chainring.
- Mix it up.
In line with the first tip, try to mix up your climbs. I often get asked what’s the best hill repeat to do? The answer, there isn’t one. Make sure that you mix up the length and gradient of the climbs in your training. I recommend that you hunt out the longer and steeper climbs. It will help you prepare for the hills presented to you on the day of the event. Also, if your knees are up to it change into a gear or two harder than usual to simulate steeper gradients on some, but not all of hills on your ride.
- Work on your technique.
Hill climbing is done at lower cadences. Because of this, there isn’t much momentum to carry your leg through the pedal stroke’s dead spots. When you are out on the bike climbing hills in your local area, practice working on developing power through the top of the stroke and the bottom of the stroke as you climb. While you are doing this, relax your upper body and lock your core to drive from your hips rather than rely on bracing you back with your arms. It will make you more relaxed and efficient.
- Get good at standing.
Practice getting out of the saddle and standing so that you develop an efficient standing technique. It will help you push through steeper gradients when you encounter them rather than having to step off the bike and walk.
- Don’t hit the climbs too hard at the start.
Aggressively attacking the bottom of the climb only to fade and finally run out of energy is very inefficient for long endurance events. It’s much better to build into the climb with a steadier and more comfortable pace, resulting in a faster overall time.
- Keep your cadence high.
I’ve talked a lot about riding at lower cadences to help you prepare, but when it comes to the event, you’ll want to keep your cadence high on longer climbs to save your legs. Muscles don’t act any differently when you are at a gym or on a bike. The heavier your weight at the gym, the fewer reps you can do before you have to recover. Same for on the bike. The lower the cadence you ride at, the more force you must produce to keep the pedals going around and the quicker you’ll fatigue. I recommend a compact crankset and a 11-32 cassette to give you enough gearing to keep your cadence in check and accommodate most of the gradients encountered at L’Étape Australia.
- Get over your fear of climbing.
Make hills your friend. Riding hills helps with all aspects of your riding, and we use it as an essential component of building strength and endurance with our riders. So, check-in mentally with yourself and start changing your mindset around climbs. Use them to challenge yourself and make you a better rider.
See you on the road!