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Thread: Climbing...

  1. #1
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    Climbing...

    Looking for a little advice on 'learning myself to climb good.'

    I say this with 2 goals in mind. One is to be able to get over steep climbs at least mid pack in stage races. The big climb in mind is the Mogollon at next year's Gila (profile). I bring all this up now because I want to design my base with this race (and this climb) in mind.
    The other is that I want to be able to help my teammates in climbing races. I don't expect to finish with the lead group, but I'd like to be able to hang on the first few climbs to help them on the descents/flats.

    I upgraded to Cat 3 towards the tail end of this past season. I'm a "bigger" guy, who raced around 170 lbs at 5'11" this year. I could loose a bit more, but not that much more. I do well with track races, rolling road races, crits when I'm not OTB...

    Things I'm thinking of.
    - Threshold, duh. I'm sitting at 3.9 w/kg at altitude, was hoping to get up to 4.25 before that race.
    - Force production. I'm a spinner... My races typically saw ~100 cadence, training ~90. I find myself suffering on local climbs partly because I spin so much faster than the guys around me, and am cooked way too soon. I need to feel comfortable pushing that big gear.
    - Weight loss, yeah I'll get to that
    - Climb lots. I have some great climbs around here, so I was planning on hitting them up early and often.
    - Intervals on the hills (like VO2 max, when the time comes).

    Was wondering if there is any weight training, or cross training that guys have found to help their force production? As far as I have seen weights really only help with the short stuff, like track. Longer stuff is better done with state dependent training.
    Best thing I have around here, which will be hit up early and often in base, is the incline. Basically a stair master.

    Anything else I'm forgetting? That might help?

    Edit: One thing I was wondering about was cadence during boring time on the trainer/rollers after work for basic endurance/tempo. Would it help to do higher gearing, slower cadence? Should I just shoot for a self selected cadence?
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    soon to be gsteinc... rkwaki's Avatar
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    I have so much to comment on but have a conference call in a few minutes but quickly:
    1. Weights (IMHO) will help
    2. Your cadence and my cadence are very similar
    3. It's all about pacing and not going outside your limits.
    "if you ride it the way it's meant to be ridden there's no way any wife is less of a ***** than a bicycle." - gstein

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    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    The only study I remember seeing said that weights can increase your muscle's time to exhaustion at a given %FTP. I'm sure Enthalpic can link to some reading/results. Weights are a big part of many pro road cyclists' routine. Not all though. I say do some reading, try some workouts posted below and see how it works for you.

    Don't underestimate your ability to lose weight. I got down to 167 at 6'4" and was killing it in crits and hills. Base period is a great time to do it, and if you have the discipline to maintain, you'll really appreciate another 10-15 lbs coming off. Unless you can see muscle striations in your flexed abs, you have a ways to go (if you want to). Remember: cycling is just an expensive eating disorder. (I gave up on maintaining low weight b/c performance isn't important enough to me -- but I know what it can do).

    Don't forget to train hard on the 5' and 1' efforts (at the right point in your training cycle) to handle accelerations on the climbs -- and to dish them out.

    Work on some pedal stroke techniques to move muscle groups around a bit. Davis Phinney used to pedal one-legged for 5 strokes each. My mentor (5th on Mt. Evans, ahead of Grewal) highlighted the "scrape poop off your shoe" portion of the pedal stroke, along with pulling up a bit with the hip flexors. Stand for 20% of the climb (like 1' every 5'). Try all these different things and see what works for you. They may not increase power, but give you some options later in the race by conserving your top end a bit.

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    A quick calculations tells me your threshold is about 300w. You may be able to bring that up to 330 or even 350w but that's asking a lot. You can also try and get your weight down, maybe 5-20 lbs.

    If you get down to about 70 kg (155 lbs) you'll hit 4.25 w/kg. Alternatively if you increase your FTP to about 325w you'll get the same result.

    Unfortunately (for me) climbing is like running. If you run a certain pace you can run a certain pace. I overheard a local Cat 1 that he ran 4:30s in high school. I think the fastest I ever ran a mile was in 6:30. This means that he'd beat me by 2 minutes a mile, every day. Maybe I could get it down to 1:30 or maybe he gets sick or whatever, but the margin would be huge, not 5 or 10 seconds.

    Likewise it'll be challenging to radically change your w/kg. I know because I went through all sorts of calculations trying to figure out what I could do to raise my FTP. It was about 2.5 w/kg until I lost a lot of weight (2003-2009 185-215 down to about 160; I'm 5'7" and I'm not a body builder). My FTP went down too, from about 270 to about 210. I almost broke 3.0 w/kg. I had some fantasies about pushing my FTP to 280 and dropping down to 70 kg, giving me a 4 w/kg ratio. I raced virtually full time in 2010 at 158 lbs, 210w FTP, and I couldn't improve on that. I raced well but on training rides I got killed on the relatively short climbs around here.

    The rest of it is red herring stuff. Force production needs oxygen and unless you're sprinting up a climb, any short term gains will result in you overtaxing your aerobic system. I can sprint up a 200m hill fine, even a few times, but ask me to do 20 minutes up a climb and even non-racing masters (i.e. over 50 years old) women drop me so hard that one innocently asked if I was really trying when she (and everyone else) dropped me.

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    and WR's post reminded me of the other thing - sit in! Just sit in until you need to do something.

    The guy that got 3rd at Elite Nationals back in 2001? had one plan going into the race - sit in, make one move, and make it work. He launched out of an absolutely demoralized field with 8 mi to go, bridged to the break in the next 5, led the break to the finish, led out the sprint, and got 3rd. He impressed the one pro in the race (Brice Jones) so much that Jones did a cyclingnews post/diary titled "Number 56" which was the guy's number. I asked the guy (and his dad) about his Nationals ride and yes, he did absolutely nothing, just saved and saved and saved until he went. Yes, he's strong, yes, he trained really hard, yes, he has an insane FTP, etc, but if he started blazing away 10 or 20 or 40 or 70 miles into the race he'd have killed himself. Instead he waited until after 100 miles of racing (I think it was 120+ miles so about 110-115 miles) before he made his first move.

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    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    100 rpm does not sound too fast to me. Watching the Vuelta I see guys spinning like mad up the climbs, and they are leading the group.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

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    impressive member badhat's Avatar
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    i realized huge improvement in my climbing this season over previous seasons. in addition to real race results, we have a steep 3 miler nearby that a lot of local racers use for kind of a fitness benchmark. prior to this year, the fastest i ever made it up was 19:30, but this spring i started posting in the low 17s with a PR of 16:59. pretty dramatic.

    I have always raced at 165 (i'm 5'10) or so in the past. but this year i cut down to a season low of around 156-157, and the difference was huge. i did a lot of repeats on that climb (effectively similar to 2x20s). i did a big blowout 6+ hour progressively harder climby suffer fest at the end of each training block and before my rest weeks. during base period i did a lot of low cadence climb intervals- 2-3 min of around 60RPMs at just below threshold.

    i'm still not a goat, but i podiumed evans and won dead dog this year, and now i think of my strengths as being SRs with TTs and tough climbs, which was a big step for a guy who just a year ago was resigned to just TTing and racing the spring "classics" series here, since i could neither sprint, nor climb.
    Last edited by badhat; 09-04-12 at 09:13 AM.
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    impressive member badhat's Avatar
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    also i shamelessly race on a 52/36 with a 28 in the back.

    i dont use it a lot but when i need it its real nice havin it
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    Senior Member agoodale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kindablue View Post
    ...
    - Force production. I'm a spinner... My races typically saw ~100 cadence, training ~90. I find myself suffering on local climbs partly because I spin so much faster than the guys around me, and am cooked way too soon. I need to feel comfortable pushing that big gear.
    ...
    This was my exact problem. When I started cycling 8yrs ago I got it in my head that I had to spin faster to climb faster. Unfortunately my aerobic system is not my strong point. It gives out way before my legs do. I finally figured things out and slowed down to 70-80rpm on climbs. I realized I can endure the increased muscular strain of a bigger gear much longer than I thought I could. My climbing has not stopped improving since that time.

    Force production - I just started climbing in a bigger gear. Slow at first to work on form. Then I picked up speed as I got more comfortable. Occasionally I'll climb in a much too big gear at around 50-60rpm to work the legs.

  10. #10
    impressive member badhat's Avatar
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    i'm the same way.... whenever i am in a pack and start struggling with the pace of a climb i consciously remind myself to upshift one gear and grind a little.

    it hurts more but its more sustainable for me than spinning.

    i practice spinning as well, cuz its useful for short efforts like getting over very short poppers or bridging little gaps. but for long and steady, i'm much better served mashing.
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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    I am a lousy climber, at least when I race against my peers, so take this FWIW. The two key things you need to do are increase your FTP and learn to climb at pace. In the base season, add some muscular endurance stuff like weights and/or big gear hill repeats to failure. Make sure that you get plenty of rest in this phase. Taper and do a real 20 minute test to get your FTP. Then start doing some 15-20 minute climbs at 10%-15% above FTP. Concentrate on pacing, keeping a steady cadence and power output as much as you can. Also concentrate on your breathing, from your belly, deeply and at a constant rhythm. The whole breathing/effort/cadence thing will eventually become a zone that you can get into. Once you have got that down, add some attack efforts at one or two points along the climb. Your zone should be high enough so that you can stay in it for up to 30 minutes and still have enough in the tank to respond to attacks.

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    soon to be gsteinc... rkwaki's Avatar
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    Here is a little snapshot from yesterday's ride regarding cadence.
    Yesterday's ride was right around 4 hours with about 4,800 feet of climbing. Average Cadence was 88. I do not watch cadence EVER but as a young man my coach always told us out target was 90 as it was a sweet spot.
    "if you ride it the way it's meant to be ridden there's no way any wife is less of a ***** than a bicycle." - gstein

  13. #13
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
    I Then start doing some 15-20 minute climbs at 10%-15% above FTP. Concentrate on pacing, keeping a steady cadence and power output as much as you can. Also concentrate on your breathing, from your belly, deeply and at a constant rhythm. The whole breathing/effort/cadence thing will eventually become a zone that you can get into. Once you have got that down, add some attack efforts at one or two points along the climb. Your zone should be high enough so that you can stay in it for up to 30 minutes and still have enough in the tank to respond to attacks.
    "I, too, am not a climber". After all, I'm 6'6" and weigh 188#. But I've improved dramatically as a result of efforts similar to what Shovel describes. There is a local benchmark climb on my team's regular Saturday ride, called descriptively "9-Mile Hill". Anything under 30' is a good time for me. Doing that climb often, working on pacing, has been a real boon. Where I still have a problem is when someone kicks it up well above my pace. Say 40-50w higher. If that lasts too long, I'm going to redline. If I let them go, well, they're gone. That's when you need that extra kick Shovel described.

    One other thing that warrants training up is to climb in the drops. It engages your hamstrings and glutes more, and of course is much more aero. A lot of 'grind' climbs can be in 16-20mph range, and being more aero can save significant effort at those speeds. Fatigue is cumulative, so anything you save can be used later. My PR up that hill is only a tiny bit above my next best power wise, but significantly faster due to getting more aero over time. When a bunch of us were on TT bikes practicing for a TTT, and going up a hill at maybe 18mph, I dropped onto the aero bars, and my power dropped by 40w maintaining the pace. That's huge. That's the difference between staying attched and being OTB. The difference on a road bike isn't as great, but it's still major.
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

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    impressive member badhat's Avatar
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    i tend to use ~16mph as my over under for aero, both climbing and in TTs.

    if tucking low keeps me at 16 mph or better, i stay as low as i can whether its a road bike climb or a hill in a TT, but if i'm tucking and i'm still below like 16, i sit up to relax and open up my chest a little.

    obviously headwind changes the number.
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    Ugh, that Gila climb looks really hard.. harder than the Cascade climbs, which popped me.

    Need to work on FTP this winter I think.. ****

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    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Watts. Kilograms. Raise the former, decrease the latter. Also, if you are a good sprinter right now, especially on the track, realize that losing a lot of weight and optimizing yourself for climbing will hurt your max power production.

    I was in your situation a few years ago. Same height, a little heavier and a little higher threshold. My W/kg threshold was about 4.25-ish when I stopped trying to stay with fields over climbs in stage races. Couldn't do it. The guys driving the pace on climbs are at or above 5W/kg threshold. On anything longer than a 5 minute climb, I was toast, even at my lightest and most powerful. The math was just not in my favor. At the start of a long race, a long climb will be climbed at 4-ish W/kg; threshold for me and tempo for the guys in contention. The final hill will be climbed at max pace and I would be off the back in the matter of minutes; the top guys might be climbing at 4.5-5 W/kg, which is threshold for them and VO2max for me, with bursts of much higher pace.

    Turns out I have some talent at sprinting I was neglecting while trying to stay with the climbing sprites. Got with a team that emphasized sprinting, especially track sprinting, and I am much more in my element.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 09-04-12 at 12:55 PM.
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    Senior Member Debusama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    Ugh, that Gila climb looks really hard.. harder than the Cascade climbs, which popped me.
    Did you do Wenatchee? That stage P/1 race looks pretty nasty, but the cat 3 race doesn't look any worse.
    Cat-3 Fred

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    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Another technique point, of probably more limited use on long climbs: when a group hits the bottom of a hill, they tend to light it up for the first bit before settling in to a slower pace. As in, the group is hitting the bottom of the climb at VO2 max or maybe even higher, before settling into a threshold pace. You can choose try and follow the surge, which may be the best strategy if you have enough fitness that it doesn't put you over the edge. If you don't, recognize when that initial pace is too high to follow without blowing up, and let them gap you. When they slow down, and they inevitably will, you can grind back up to them at your own pace.

    The problem with this strategy, of course, is that it is the strategy of a weak climber. It's a way to try and hang in and survive over a climb. There are very few situations where it's useful offensively. On a long climb, you're probably toast - it really does come down to W/kg. The other problem with this strategy is that it takes self-knowledge, confidence, and usually some luck. Not something I like to rely on.

    And it really helps to bring down the kg, whether or not you have the W. When I was racing at 123 lbs in college, I told myself that it wouldn't be a big deal if I gained ten lbs or so, since I might have a bit more power. And then I did gain ten lbs. Granted, it came with a big drop in fitness as well, but the point has been sinking in - I'm not a natural climber, and I need all the help I can get.

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    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Debusama View Post
    Did you do Wenatchee? That stage P/1 race looks pretty nasty, but the cat 3 race doesn't look any worse.
    I only did the Wenatchee crit this year. I've done the RR in previous years; got popped on the climb as a 4, same as a 3... I wouldn't imagine it'd be much different as a 2.

    It's not that I don't like climbing, I do - I just like to do it at my pace.. =]

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    Senior Member Debusama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    I only did the Wenatchee crit this year. I've done the RR in previous years; got popped on the climb as a 4, same as a 3... I wouldn't imagine it'd be much different as a 2.

    It's not that I don't like climbing, I do - I just like to do it at my pace.. =]
    Funny, I did fine on the road race (8th), but that crit killed me. Something about the uphill portion turning into the headwind seemed to always leave me fighting the wind without a wheel to get on. That was the first time I'd been dropped since my first race.
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    I did the Mnt Baker Ride 542 competitive road race last sunday.
    (still waiting results)
    In prep, I've been doing a lot of all out 2 hour training rides all season. Squeezing in as many hours as possible with work, which is probably about 12 hours / week over the last few months. 22-25 min power on a couple of early season TT's were 300-310 watts.
    That did NOT translate into the estimated 1-2 hour limit Golden Cheetah CP curve of 295 in the least... I ended up somewhere around 250-260 and vaste interne (inner lower quad) strain for 4 days... finally almost gone this morning. Even my most intense 2-3 hour rides never result in any noticeable pain or fatigue the next day, and haven't for several years.

    My point. I haven't found anything that will train me for an hour or more of uninterrupted climbing except doing the climb.
    If I were actually able to hold 290 for the duration, I would have been near the top 10. Instead, I was back mid-pack out of ~100 riders.
    If you want to increase your 60-90 min power, you need to have a route that lets you stay on the power without powering down for even 1 stroke. Or learn to love riding a trainer :-P ick


    Other things I found:
    5lbs would have saved/cost ~1 minute over the 55-60 min climb. (Me and the bike weighed in @ 175lbs. should be able to drop 5lbs off the system next year.)
    20 watts (270) would have saved me ~4 min @ 175lbs
    another 20 (the GC estimated) would have been ~7 min faster.

    Power is obviously more important than weight by a significant amount.

    my new winter goal is to make the GC curve a reality. I guess more trainer time might be in the future.

    T

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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tctdvm View Post
    If you want to increase your 60-90 min power, you need to have a route that lets you stay on the power without powering down for even 1 stroke. Or learn to love riding a trainer
    I disagree. Doing "all out 2 hour training rides all season" is not how I would try and raise my FTP.

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Yep.


    GC's CP curve is higher than my FTP too. It's better if I do a short (3 min) and long (20min) all out interval on days that are reasonably close and use the calculate CP feature. But even then it's higher than best 20 min * .95. That's because CP only uses two points. So if the 3 min one is low, it'll show a high FTP. I don't do many 3 min intervals and my aerobic work capacity is not that good. Having a poor AWC shouldn't make your FTP higher.

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    powered by Racer Ex gsteinb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
    I disagree. Doing "all out 2 hour training rides all season" is not how I would try and raise my FTP.
    htfu

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    Quote Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
    htfu
    exactly :-)

    seriously my "all out 2 hour efforts" look nothing like they sound. Far too many interruptions. They end up being interval training. even 10 min is hard to come by. I've never done an uninterrupted 60 min effort with power. On sunday, I chose to leave the PT at home because it's old, on a training wheel and adds 2 lbs to my bike. So, it's a case of 'observing the experiment changes the results'.
    In fact I did my last 4 TT's completely blind. No power, no HR, no Cadence, not even speed. Trying to learn to listen to my body more closely. It likes to lie to you. The PT work I did taught me that. Worked great, since I broke all of my last year's bests by 15-60 sec.

    But I'm not going to let a Power meter tell me to slow down if my body is ready to set a new PB, either. PT tracks what did, not necessarily what you can do today.



    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    Yep.


    GC's CP curve is higher than my FTP too. It's better if I do a short (3 min) and long (20min) all out interval on days that are reasonably close and use the calculate CP feature. But even then it's higher than best 20 min * .95. That's because CP only uses two points. So if the 3 min one is low, it'll show a high FTP. I don't do many 3 min intervals and my aerobic work capacity is not that good. Having a poor AWC shouldn't make your FTP higher.
    hmm, interesting. my 7 min and 21.5 min pb's actually poke up through the curve...everything else falls away pretty quick. I haven't been running power since June, though, so it's not really an accurate picture anymore.

    Bottom line is, training's gotta fit into your life, not the other way around. If that ever switches, I'm out, or someone better be paying me. Otherwise, it's gotta be fun.

    T

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