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Teach me how to climb...

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Teach me how to climb...

Old 06-01-10, 07:29 AM
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Teach me how to climb...

So I'm going to be in Waitsfield, VT for the next month (the home of the Green Mountain Stage Race) and my primary training goal is to become a better climber. I'm 6'5" and about 83kg, so climbing has never felt really "natural" for me but I have always loved it. I plan on riding all the steepest and longest pitches around (Lincoln Gap, App Gap, etc.) and tailoring my training so I am focusing in Joe Friel's Region II (The primary priorities of which are: 1. Force, 2. Muscular Endurance, and 3. Endurance).

Any advice or workouts anyone can provide that are specific to improving climbing ability and technique? What sort of repeats/intervals have you had the most success with?

I'm trying to lose weight, and am doing so steadily so hopefully that will help the effort. After another recovery day or two (after KSR) I'll be timing myself on a hill-climb to get a baseline for the summer.

Thanks in advance for your help (or your sass, because I know there's plenty of that out here too )!
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Old 06-01-10, 07:30 AM
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"teach me how to climb"

is there something specific you want to work on? Cadence? Climbing out of the saddle? What's wrong with just climbing lots (i.e. why complicate things with "intervals")?
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Old 06-01-10, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by bdcheung
"teach me how to climb"

is there something specific you want to work on? Cadence? Climbing out of the saddle? What's wrong with just climbing lots (i.e. why complicate things with "intervals")?
Sorry for being so vague...I'll be riding hills every day so I anticipate gains in fitness that will come naturally, but I'm wondering if it would be more beneficial to do short bursts on a very steep grade, or maintain the same cadence on a long hill to improve muscle tension, vary cadences over-under style, or alternating seated/unseated intervals etc. I would really like to learn to climb out of the saddle as I am seated on most climbs so any tips on that would be helpful. I just wanted to know if there is some workout for you climbers out there that has really helped your training? I'm happy to just ride everyday and get in tons of volume, but I would like to be more focused as I will not have teammates to push me/limit me.
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Old 06-01-10, 08:13 AM
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For single efforts, I tend to climb faster at about 80 rpm, but if I want to do multiple hills, recover, hit the flats and climb more hills, I need to keep the cadence up closer to 90. Otherwise, I'm toast after the first hill or two. It's taken a while for me to be able to develop the lungs to keep up with that.

That's just me, yrmv, but it's worth figuring these things out about yourself.
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Old 06-01-10, 08:13 AM
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It's my understanding that it is more work for bigger dudes to climb out of the saddle so perhaps working on seated climbs would be prudent.
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Old 06-01-10, 08:20 AM
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climbing will go differently depending on each grade, who else is going up the grade with you, and how far away the finish line is... (obvious, but just to be clear)

Some times you will have to hold on by your fingernails as little dudes with goat-legs pull on the chain, and on others there will short steep pitches where big sprinters blast right up - it is always different.
SO, since it sounds like you don't have a clear style of how you climb best... try lots of different stuff.
Try high cadence, try low cadence, try 2' climbs, try 15' climbs... give everything a try, but mostly listen to your body and the SRM and see what works best.

I'm not quite a climber, but pretty darn close, and even I have trouble with some types of hills and certain race situations -
You will ride yourself into a knowledge of where you can expect to suffer less, and where you will suffer more,
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Old 06-01-10, 08:54 AM
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what is you key event that you are training for?

what type of climbing will determine the outcome of this event (gradient, duration, etc...) ?
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Old 06-01-10, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by ldesfor1@ithaca
what is you key event that you are training for?

what type of climbing will determine the outcome of this event (gradient, duration, etc...) ?
I'm training for the Green Mountain Stage Race in September so I can easily practice all the climbs in that race, but I would like to improve my climbing overall.

My current style of climbing is seated 90% of the time, very high cadence (obviously depending on the grade) but I'm most comfortable at 90 rpm on hills. My general strategy in the KSR was to pace myself, remain seated and spin at high cadence and pass the people who surged early (very much in the TT mindset). I would like to be more comfortable out of the saddle for when I need it and be able to create/respond attacks on climbs. So I want to focus on shorter efforts in the context of long climbs.
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Old 06-01-10, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by ronsalicious
I: I would like to be more comfortable out of the saddle for when I need it
II: and be able to create/respond attacks on climbs.
III: So I want to focus on shorter efforts in the context of long climbs.
I: do this a lot
II: practice attacking yourself on climbs, especially when it hurts
III: do this as well

practice what you intend to apply
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Old 06-01-10, 09:39 AM
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I have good climbing technique, but tend to lack the ability to hit the really steep grades hard. Hence, yesterday was not at all my kind of climbing.

I much prefer a long steady grade like whiteface.

I think it really comes down to FTP w/kg. I am at 4 w/kg and it's not enough. If the climb is less than 15 minutes then I can put out quite a bit more, but the longer the climb (regardless of the varying terrain) the more it favors those who put out 4.5 or 5 (in Masters anyway, and in my analysis of most hilly cat 3 races, similar power is required.)

I would compare it to our hilly training race which has four major climbs per lap, all of which are around 8-10 minutes each. Whereas I can make it up the first (longest) one and hang with the stronger guys, the difference is in that, after only a two minute descent, the next climb begins and you are right back on the hammers for 8 minutes more. Again, those who were only at threshold for the first hill are going to have a lot more in the tank.

The strongest guy in our club seems to have FTP w/kg of 4.7 or so. This is verified by his cat 3 placings in hilly races as well.

The winners in the M40 class at KSR were probably at 5, judging by their relative times compared with people I know. Same goes for cat 3.

I wish there were a magic method that would help me go faster uphill, but it really comes down to power in my case, being somewhere between 7 and 8 % body fat.

I will, however, suggest working on making your breathing more deep and regular, as well as sometimes just focusing your eyes on the road immediately in front of you and not always looking at the top of the hill. This makes it (for me) more like a TT and less of a feeling of "OMG I have to make it over this stupid thing..."
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Old 06-01-10, 09:51 AM
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There may be some psychological factors that make climbing different then riding hard in the flats but basically it's the same thing. Pedal your bike as hard as you can

No need to be aero for the most part unless there is a head wind so you can sit up a bit. I prefer to ride the tops YMMV.
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Old 06-01-10, 10:17 AM
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I'm not sure you can do a whole lot to improve climbing in a month.. not enough time to lose a bunch of weight, or really change/improve your climbing approach.

I would suggest just getting the FTP up, that will make climbs easier no matter what. My $0.02.
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Old 06-01-10, 02:02 PM
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for a stage race like GMSR, boosting LTP will be most benneficial.

Boost your LTP.

Also lots of climbing @ LTP will assist in learning what techniques make you climb more powerfully... rememeber that just because it feels more comfortable to spin at high cadences doesnt mean it's more powerful. but it might be. try stuff out and look at the numbers.

...and learn to suffer, hard.
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Old 06-01-10, 02:03 PM
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for a stage race like GMSR, boosting LTP will be most benneficial.

Boost your LTP.

Also lots of climbing @ LTP will assist in learning what techniques make you climb more powerfully... rememeber that just because it feels more comfortable to spin at high cadences doesnt mean it's more powerful. but it might be. try stuff out and look at the numbers.

...and learn to suffer, hard.
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Old 06-01-10, 02:31 PM
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W/kg. That's it. Grow bigger legs and/or lose weight.

To grow bigger legs, do 5-20 minute hill repeats. Try to make it something like 40 minutes of climbing per session (2x20, 3x12, etc.), twice a week.

To lose weight, well, eat less.

If climbing is a skill, then it is one which requires a prerequisite W/kg to execute.
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Old 06-01-10, 10:04 PM
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Yeah, ronz. You might just be better off trying to lose about a pound a week or so. 2-3 weeks before GMSR, stop losing weight and just go by feel. Even if you gain a couple of lbs you'll still have lost more than that and you'll be fresh.

Not losing power, and dropping a few lbs will do a lot. No doubt you'll get stronger at the same time given that this is your first 'camp' of the year.
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Old 06-01-10, 11:03 PM
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Idesfor1@ithaca:

don't you have a thread on this?
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Old 06-02-10, 07:28 AM
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i guess i agree, i would focus on climbing period over climbing within a climb. the thing that will most likely get you is app gap. nobody got dropped last year until app gap i don't think. the lincoln gap or whatever, where the feed zone was, was pretty easy. everyone was moving pretty good, but nobody was attacking.

I would climb up app from waitsfield, then go down towards bristol and repeat.

then i would go to american flatbread for pizza and beer.
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Old 06-02-10, 07:50 AM
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here are some other things to think about when you're actually climbing. i'm not the worlds best w/kg and eventually on steep stuff i get called out and dropped, but i do fairly well climbing with guys who are likely more talented than i am by doing some of the following:

1 - be prepared to suffer. really suffer. the kind where you're having conversations with yourself. when those voices that say "i'm not a climber i need to give up the wheel and go at my own pace" start talking to you, think positive thoughts. sounds goofy and schizo, but it helps.

2 - focus, when you're following a wheel, find something to focus on. for me, the smaller the better. I'll focus on a spot on the hub of the wheel i'm following. your periphery should allow you to see whats up ahead and going on around you, but focusing on something precise helps (me) suffer.

3 - know how you climb best, eventually you'll end up on or near the front. if you're a steady climber, stay steady and lead for a while. this lets YOU control the pace. if you're an attacking climber, more power to you, if you get near the front throw it down, just be sure you have some reserves to recover when you get caught and cant get much out of a draft.

4 - rhythm. this is critical for me. find a cadence that lets you hold the wheel in front and keeps you tapping a good beat. there are certain climbs that I do and always get dropped. there are others that i ride away from the same folks that dropped me a climb ago. all due to rhythm.

5 - be comfortable. hands on tops is good, holding your bars such that if they were a saltine cracker (or trek carbon steer tube) you wouldnt crack it. this helps your breathing too. wiggle your jaw periodically, it's a reminder to stay loose.

6 - be seated as much as you can, stand for a little change in position and if a flattish portion of a climb is present you can acclerate enough to sit up for a micro recovery. this is a personal preference really, I actually tend to stand more than most to regain momentum then get back in the saddle to grind on.

7 - be vindictive, if you're going to get popped, attack like you stole something. make someone else hurt.

these are things that have helped me in climbing races. eventually if long and steep enough fitness is revealed, but these things might help some.
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Old 06-02-10, 02:00 PM
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"Ride lots."

Because you'll get to know what works for you in different situations - long, steady climbs, or short spiky steep ones. Or long, steady climbs with some short spiky bits. Reading about it is good, but knowing it is better.

I spent seven months living in a hilly area and I got to know what my body can handle - when steep grades make me blow up, what it feels to be going right at the tip of too-hard, and when even while going really hard I start to recover and can bump it up a notch, if only for a few moments. It was a good start to learning how to climb.

Too bad I'm moving to a flat state in the fall.
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Old 06-02-10, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by MDcatV
here are some other things to think about when you're actually climbing. i'm not the worlds best w/kg and eventually on steep stuff i get called out and dropped, but i do fairly well climbing with guys who are likely more talented than i am by doing some of the following:
1-7 are all good. I also like to remind myself that if I'm hurting, so are other riders. Some people make it look easy, but if the pace is tough it's tough for everyone (unless they are significantly stronger than you, in which case there isn't much you can do anyway).
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Old 06-03-10, 03:34 PM
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One bit of advice... if this race has *long* climbs and you know you are not one of the best climbers, then resist the urge to stick to the lead group. I've gotten my best results when I let the entire pack go up the road at the base of the climb. The good climbers usually attack at that point, and everyone else tries to hang, but drafting has little benefit and most of the field is actually going far into the red. Sure enough a few minutes later they've popped and are weazing and gasping and hating life. Meanwhile you spend the whole climb passing these fools and end up better placed at the top (and fresher) than if you'd ridden it like everyone else.
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Old 06-03-10, 10:22 PM
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Advice or rather caution for the watts/kg people. My watts/kg are fairly good. I can't climb worth crap in a race. Reason? I am a TTist and I like steady climbs. Most races are a continuous cycling of surges. This is where I lack BIGTIME. If I can get on the front and set the pace I usually do ok (not great because the little guys always come around) but when I am following wheels, the surges kill me. So for the advice, how about "how do you teach a guy to climb who has a decent FTP and w/kg but is ****ty at 2 watts above ftp?
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Old 06-04-10, 01:50 AM
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Practice surging?
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Old 06-04-10, 04:37 AM
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Ex does that. I forget which thread he talked about it. MIght have been my anaerobic recharge thread.
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