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Old 03-17-07, 11:04 AM   #1
donrhummy
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Making inroads into long-hill climbing ability

My goal is to ride on some of the toughest mountains in Italy. As I posted here in the past, I have zero mountains near me on which to practice. So I've been doing hill intervals (when there's no snow) on the only real hill I have near here. My question is twofold:

Looking at the data on the only hill I have:

1. Can I realistically get to a point of being able to climb Zoncolon (for example)?
2. What interval options do you suggest on this hill?

The hill I have is 0.7 miles long. It has an overall gradient of 6% but the first 0.16 miles (844 feet) is 11%.

Zoncolon's profile (the numbers are meters):

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Old 03-17-07, 11:41 PM   #2
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Should I post this on a diff. board? (Seriously)
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Old 03-18-07, 12:02 AM   #3
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Zoncolon looks *very* tough due to the steepness of many sections, but it's not very long (just over 10K).

I've ridden with flatlanders who've succesfully tackled some of the toughest climbs in the Rockies...a few years ago, I rode with a guy from Dallas (very flat), who managed to summit Mt. Evans - at 14,000+ feet, it's the highest paved road in the US and required a 40 mile climb to get to the top.

As long as you keep yourself properly fueled and hydrated, have appropriately low gearing, and have the mentail toughness and fitness to keep the pedals turning for an hour or so, you should be OK. Just stay within your limits and you'll get to the top eventually.
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Old 03-18-07, 01:05 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by SSP
As long as you keep yourself properly fueled and hydrated, have appropriately low gearing, and have the mentail toughness and fitness to keep the pedals turning for an hour or so, you should be OK. Just stay within your limits and you'll get to the top eventually.
Good advice. All mountains can be climbed, if you take your time.

Aches and pains can become annoying on long climbs. Be sure to mix it up. Sit, stand, change cadence. If the climb is long enough, just get used to being uncomfortable. Today I did a couple of 4000' climbs. By the end, I couldn't feel my feet and my neck was stiff as an aluminum seat stay. But it was great.
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Old 03-18-07, 08:55 AM   #5
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As long as you do hill repeats and do some climbing work on the trainer, I agree that you should be fine as long as you don't make mental mistakes. As mentioned, don't go anaerobic and remember to refuel your body. I would add that you need to be sure you don't approach the climb with fear. If you assume that you're doomed because you live in a flat area, then you've already put yourself at a disadvantage and you're setting yourself up for an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy.

Do you have any larger hills anywhere within a reasonable driving distance? A weekend trip may do wonders for your confidence if you can pull it off.
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Old 03-18-07, 11:59 AM   #6
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Arrgh. By my calculations, your hill is 221'. So go at it. You need to do 20 repeats. That still won't be the same as the continuous climb. I find continuous climbs to be easier that this sort of repeat, though. On a long climb you get to settle into a sustainable heart rate and cadence, and up you go. So I'd say, you do those 20 repeats a few times and you're good to go. Mind you have low enough gearing. You'll want to be able to maintain at least an 80 cadence at no more than 92% of your LT on the 20th climb of your private mountain. You may not need that gear, but it will be good to have. Figure on spending two hours over the real climb. Why hurry?
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Old 03-18-07, 04:43 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the advice! I am thinking of doing my intervals as something like:

Start in 42-25 and each time up, switch to one gear higher until I do 42-11. Then I'll go back in the opp. direction of gears (so each interval now goes down one towards 25). For fun, I was thinking of throwing in some one-leg intervals up the hill eventually.

How important is cadence in the training? Can I work hard and let the cadence come slowly or should I not go up in a gear that makes me use a slower than 80 cadence (as Carbonfiberboy suggests)? If not, why not?
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Old 03-18-07, 05:36 PM   #8
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Keep riding into the wind? I am guessing if you live in a flat area you can get some good windy days. I know it isn't the same, but grinding into the wind while remaining as un-aero as possible has got to help.

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Old 03-18-07, 07:13 PM   #9
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I just got done doing one of the Arizona PAC Tours which include climbs of up to 12 miles, generally at a reasonable gradient (2-4%) though there were stretches of up to 8%. I am from NYC, where the most challenging hill I ride is Harlem Hill (4% for 1/3 mile). I did up to 8 repeats per session up to two times a week (when the weather wasn't awful.....there were weeks that I could only ride the trainer), and I rode my Kurt Kinetic with my 53x11 for upwards of 10 minutes at a time at a cadence of ~60, three times within a 90 minute session. I found that I got up the climbs at about 15 mph.....you'll be fine.

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Old 03-18-07, 07:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donrhummy
Thanks for all the advice! I am thinking of doing my intervals as something like:

Start in 42-25 and each time up, switch to one gear higher until I do 42-11. Then I'll go back in the opp. direction of gears (so each interval now goes down one towards 25). For fun, I was thinking of throwing in some one-leg intervals up the hill eventually.

How important is cadence in the training? Can I work hard and let the cadence come slowly or should I not go up in a gear that makes me use a slower than 80 cadence (as Carbonfiberboy suggests)? If not, why not?
The dang hill is so short. 221' should take you between 2.5 and 7.5 minutes, depending on how strong you are. That's not long enough to build real power endurance, but it is long enough for interval training. You could try doing it seated at a steady 50 cadence and 90-95% LT, repeating 3 or 4 times. That will stress your legs. Another time, do it once at 50 and the next time at 100, and repeat. That's good training, too. If you can get up the whole hill one-legged, that would be fantastic.

I was talking about the gearing you will want for the real climb in my previous comment.
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Old 03-19-07, 05:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy

I was talking about the gearing you will want for the real climb in my previous comment.
ah, ok. Thanks!
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Old 03-20-07, 03:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SSP
Zoncolon looks *very* tough due to the steepness of many sections, but it's not very long (just over 10K).

I've ridden with flatlanders who've succesfully tackled some of the toughest climbs in the Rockies...a few years ago, I rode with a guy from Dallas (very flat), who managed to summit Mt. Evans - at 14,000+ feet, it's the highest paved road in the US and required a 40 mile climb to get to the top.

As long as you keep yourself properly fueled and hydrated, have appropriately low gearing, and have the mentail toughness and fitness to keep the pedals turning for an hour or so, you should be OK. Just stay within your limits and you'll get to the top eventually.
I agree that flatlanders can train for long climbs, without actually climbing. The key is developing your power/weight ratio @ threshold. This can be done on flat land, with longer intervals of 10-40 min. Aim for at least 40' and up to 60' or more per session. For example: 2 x 20', 4 x 10', 3 x 15', 1 x 40', 3 x 20', 2 x 30' etc. The recovery time doesn't need to be any more than 5' between reps.

You can do these with your hands on the tops of the bars to simulate your climbing position, or whatever. I wouldn't spend to much time on that short hill of yours because it isn't long enough to maximize threshold training. I think you will get a bigger payoff by focusing on longer intervals, even if they are on level ground. You could do your VO2 max intervals on your hill, however. As you may know, these are 3' to 8' intervals, harder than threshold (113-120% of threshold power) usually with a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Aim for ~ 25' of total work. For example: 5 x 5', 4 x 6', 6 x 4', etc. Generally, they are done at an intensity that you can barely manage for the duration/set.

Last edited by fuzzthebee; 03-20-07 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 03-20-07, 05:06 PM   #13
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There's been research that confirms Stairmaster (generic: step trainer?) training transfers well to mountain cycling. I just tried to find the article though and failed.

Hitting that Stairmaster as hard as you could and being able to endure variable intensity sessions of several hours might be a very helpful goal. It would definitely be a confidence builder given you have no other real way of testing your sustained endurance while under heavy load in a mountain climbing posture.
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Old 03-21-07, 01:32 PM   #14
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There are some good tips here.

FWIW, I live in a flat part of the world (Belgium), but managed to get up Mont Ventoux a little while back without any real hill climbing. Bloody hard, but OK. On the other hand .. not nearly as hard as this one you've dug up .. wow!

I'd look at fuzzthebee's post .. in my opinion/experience, no amount of shorter hill repeats is going to equate to the hour or so of climbing that you'll need here (though not saying they aren't entirely unhelpful). Better to work on power at threshold either on the road or trainer. 2 x 20 at L4 is the classic, and the one that has got me the most benefit across the board.

And get your gearing right .. do you have a triple? I did Ventoux on a 39 x 26, but I wouldn't try it again without at least a 34 x 26 or even smaller. There the incline is around/under 10%, a bit easier than this.

Finally, as has been pointed out, get your head in the right place. Whatever happens it's going to be hard, but that doesn't mean it's not doable. Be positive, enjoy the challenge. (easier said than done of course ...)

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Old 03-22-07, 08:39 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bing181
There are some good tips here.

FWIW, I live in a flat part of the world (Belgium), but managed to get up Mont Ventoux a little while back without any real hill climbing. Bloody hard, but OK. On the other hand .. not nearly as hard as this one you've dug up .. wow!

I'd look at fuzzthebee's post .. in my opinion/experience, no amount of shorter hill repeats is going to equate to the hour or so of climbing that you'll need here (though not saying they aren't entirely unhelpful). Better to work on power at threshold either on the road or trainer. 2 x 20 at L4 is the classic, and the one that has got me the most benefit across the board.

And get your gearing right .. do you have a triple? I did Ventoux on a 39 x 26, but I wouldn't try it again without at least a 34 x 26 or even smaller. There the incline is around/under 10%, a bit easier than this.

Finally, as has been pointed out, get your head in the right place. Whatever happens it's going to be hard, but that doesn't mean it's not doable. Be positive, enjoy the challenge. (easier said than done of course ...)

B
Thanks! that's great advice. I think I will add in a long-interval session with 20+ minutes straight at zone 4-5 and see if I can eventually stretch that out.

Can you tell me a bit more about your experience on climbing Ventoux? Where did it hit you the hardest? Did the thinning air make a difference?
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Old 03-22-07, 07:16 PM   #16
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You and the other posters are doing the basics: assuring that you are in the best condition for a major tour. After 24 tours in the Alps, I know you can't ignore conditioning. But much of this is mental. We can usually find plenty of hills to train on, and power over them in a matter of minutes. But the real difference on these big pass roads is that you are climbing for a couple of hours. I've toured with people who are very strong and fit club riders, but who cannot cope with the steady and relatively slow grind to do these climbs.
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Old 03-23-07, 08:45 AM   #17
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I live in Florida. I have done long climbs out in the Rockies like Lizard Head Pass, Red Mountain Pass, Bobcat Pass, Teton Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Kicking Horse Pass, Muddy Pass, Trail Ridge Road and many others. The longest climb we have within a reasonable drive is "Mount" Sugar Loaf and it is .5 miles of 7% with a short section at 14%. I did fine on the long climbs. I like to sit and spin so I had a triple chain ring and that worked well. I think the big thing is get your aerobic conditioning in good shape and if you can, lose some weight. The lighter you are, the easier it is to climb (unless you really trash your aerobic conditioning whilst losing weight).
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Old 03-23-07, 09:09 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
There's been research that confirms Stairmaster (generic: step trainer?) training transfers well to mountain cycling. I just tried to find the article though and failed.

Hitting that Stairmaster as hard as you could and being able to endure variable intensity sessions of several hours might be a very helpful goal. It would definitely be a confidence builder given you have no other real way of testing your sustained endurance while under heavy load in a mountain climbing posture.
I would very much like to have a look at that study. My intuition is that specificity rules in sports, but I'm open to scientific challenge.
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Old 03-23-07, 09:38 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
There's been research that confirms Stairmaster (generic: step trainer?) training transfers well to mountain cycling. I just tried to find the article though and failed.

Hitting that Stairmaster as hard as you could and being able to endure variable intensity sessions of several hours might be a very helpful goal. It would definitely be a confidence builder given you have no other real way of testing your sustained endurance while under heavy load in a mountain climbing posture.
I'd say hitting the Stairmaster for several hours at a time would qualify one for some serious psychiatric counseling.

My experience of using the Stairmill for several seasons is that 45' to 1:20 (my personal psychiatric limit) does help aerobic conditioning. It's good when you just don't want the saddle-on-the-trainer thing. The effect on road biking is that of aerobic conditioning, but there's little help there for some of the pedaling circle: pushing forward at the top and pulling back at the bottom, which I personally find critical in climbing. Still, I use it once or twice a week until the rains let up in the PNW. It helps endurance. If you can hold 90% of LT for 1:20, you're in pretty good shape.
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Old 03-25-07, 02:19 PM   #20
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I've noticed a few things:

1. Hills are about 40% harder than anything I can do on the trainer. I just can't get it as tough. Even when I have my HR at the same levels (same max HR, same avg. overall HR for both trainer and hill rides) after the hills I'm destroyed, worn out and sore the next day. On the trainer, I'm tired but not destroyed by the effort even though the HR is the same. I'm guessing it's a tougher load on my muscles on the hills (on the trainer I've tried it on the strongest setting and lowest gears to no avail)

2. I can tell that while my 5 minute power is increasing that it won't translate to riding up 10% grades for 2 hours. Also, the 11% I have is pretty friggin' tough when I ride it hard, not sure how I'll be able to handle 6 kilometers of 14% just from this training.
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Old 03-25-07, 02:40 PM   #21
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Is this not just a question of speed and gear ratios ?
A road bike set up with a wide range triple and slow speed should get you up nearly everywhere if you just take your time. Doing it fast is a completely different activity. I climbed Col de la Bonette (2800 m) with a loaded Mtb, no big deal physically (but a wonderful experience) because I was going slow. The poster who gives you an hour to get up your Italian mountain is not giving good advice IMO, 2 hours sounds much better. Do not try to do it with 42-25 unless you are very fit, get a triple.
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Old 03-26-07, 04:23 PM   #22
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I live in the Dallas area (pretty flat) but I take vacations in the mountains - I just love big climbs.

Here's what I've learned:
- Gearing - bring lower than you think you'll need, it's a good psychological crutch. When riding new terrain, there's always that "I'm not sure how much further" factor that gnaws at you, so have a bailout.
- General fitness - no matter what, try to show up in the best shape you can get into. If you need to lose 20lbs, work on that. If you _want_ to lose 5 lbs, maybe do intervals instead.
- Big gear work - what works for me is big gear/slow cadence work - normally I'm a high cadence spinner when under pressure on a group ride, but on long steady climbs where I'm setting my own pace, I tend to turn bigger gears. So I do lots of longer intervals - 10-20minutes- seated, on the tops, biggest gear I can turn over at about 60 rpm. Make sure you don't tweak your knees doing this.
- Standing work - same thing - big gear, stand for 5 minutes (or work up to it if you can't). Side note - James Brown's classic "get up (like a sex machine) runs for about 5 minutes, the beat is just right for a big gear cadence, plus you got JB going "HUH!" every once in a while.

Yes I know Lance stands with a high cadence, but he's a freak and I'm not. Me, when I'm setting my own "long ride" pace, I stand with a low cadence. Maybe you're different.

Don't sweat it, you'll do fine. Be sure to take lots of pictures!
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Old 04-25-07, 01:11 PM   #23
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OK, so I guess now my question to everyone: how long do you all estimate it'll be till I see some significant improvement?
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Old 04-25-07, 04:35 PM   #24
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OK, so I guess now my question to everyone: how long do you all estimate it'll be till I see some significant improvement?
Your first post was about 5 weeks ago. I would have expected you'd see quite a bit of improvement by now. I take it by this question that you have not. If that's so, then I ask what was your base before you started training for this ride? Because if you've got a pretty good base and you did the long LT intervals on the flat like fuzzthebee said, and hill intervals on your private mountain, you should have made a lot of progress. Up a cog or two, I'd say.

I just did some rather steep stuff lately. Are those numbers along the bottom of the Zoncolon profile grade percentages? I assume you have a triple. If both these things are so, go to a 26 inner ring, and a 12-27 cassette. That way the rest of your drivetrain is still suitable for normal riding, but you've got some seriously low climbing gears. You'll need to be able to climb this thing mostly seated. I was on some steep gradients and had to climb out of the saddle in my 30 X 25. That was not good.

So what have you been doing and how is your progress?
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Old 04-25-07, 08:35 PM   #25
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I have made progress, but it's hard to tell for certain just how much (don't have a power meter). Until it's a huge improvement, it's harder to notice. However, I did notice a few things:

1. I can sit at LT a lot longer than I could before
2. I don't get as knocked out by the hill intervals as before - i.e. I recover quicker between them

Still, I'm not certain just how much of an improvement I've made as I neglected to look at my speed and HR the first few times I did the intervals. Stupid, I know, but I didn't. So I have to go by feel.
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