My riding buddy could not ride this morning so it was either ride alone or do a club ride. I choose the club ride - it was in an area about 45 miles from my house in eastern NY near the Mass boarder. A 41 mile ride set at a moderately fast (tour) pace. Thought this would be good as I have never ridden in this region before. It was as expected - strikingly beautiful - rolling through farms and small towns.
Before the ride started the ride leader talk about the course a bit and said that we would regroup at the top of the climb and wait for everyone to catch up. This part of the country can have some steep hills. The ride started off well - I held back in the pack as I did not know what to expect with this group and I did not want to stress my knee which I tweeked a few weeks back. For the first 18 miles the ride was on rolling terrain and we were averaging about 19 mph - I wasn't feeling at all pushed, it was a good pace. Then came the big climb. I did not know how long, how steep or what.
So here is the question. How do you climbers approach a hill you have never climbed before?
Turns out this was a good size climb - about 1100' rise mostly between 5% and 6%. It was a winding road so I could not see what was coming. I went down in my little ring and spun for as long as I could to keep up and then started to fade. After that I made no attempt to stay with the group because I did not want to irratate my knee so I just drop down to the lowest gear and took my time - mind you I was huffing and puffing, but not grinding too hard. When I got over the top everyone was waiting for the old fat guy as promised. After a glorious decent and a short rest stop we headed back out for the last half of the ride. I stayed with the leaders - doing a little over 20 mph. I guess I did not spend enough on the hill. It was a great day - perfect temps (high 60s). I ended up with a 17.5mph average which I consider great for this time of year although I was a shameless parasitic wheel sucker for a most of the ride.
Usually when I know a hill I can time my power output to exhaust my reserves when I crest the top - keep my momentum up and standing only when I have to. On long hills where I don't know what's coming mentally I just hunker down and crank it out making sure I don't spend it all in one place. This typically results in getting dropped.
Whats your strategy for those long climbs?