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How to not get dropped in the rolling hills

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

How to not get dropped in the rolling hills

Old 11-09-20, 04:27 PM
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rower2cyclist
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How to not get dropped in the rolling hills

Hi-I need training/workout ideas on how to improve my fitness so that I don't get dropped in rolling hills during our weekend group ride.

We usually start the ride a dozen strong and end the ride about 5-6, the pace is around 21-22mph right now but they say some days it's even faster. My fellow riders are fast and lean athletes ranging from Cat 1-3.

I am a 40yo male, 6-4, 80kg, and have an FTP around 4.5w/kg. I have a relatively big engine; I go fast on the flats, climb well in stable gradients, but I don't necessarily do well in punchy hills. I am currently Cat 4.

The course is mostly flat to rolling hills ~55mi. The flatter section is earlier where we do a decent rotating paceline but it's the rolling hills thru the end where the ride gets feisty. At the time there's already a decent amount of fatigue in my legs. Then the attacks begin left and right. I can follow the first two or three then I usually get popped. This weekend I realized sometimes I'm too slow to react to attacks even if I hear someone's attacking from behind and I let them create a gap.

My question is what are the workouts that I should be looking at in the winter? Should I try to replicate those efforts in my solo training rides or just stick to my current plan and wait for things to improve? Or should be doing longer endurance rides? I acknowledge everyone has their strengths and weaknesses but I believe there's always room for improvement. Am I hopeless?

I welcome everyone's experience and ideas on this very important matter. Thank you!
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Old 11-09-20, 04:38 PM
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I would do some hill repeats that simulates the amount of time the hill requires to get over ( I assuming they are short climbs ). I would do them in my VO2 max zone minimal recovery.
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Old 11-09-20, 04:42 PM
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I used to do a ride like that, but never had your ambition. I was pretty happy to finish with the second group.
I imagine the answer will involve intervals. Good luck.
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Old 11-09-20, 04:45 PM
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If your FTP is 360 and you have trouble on rolling hills, well, that's one hell of a group!
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Old 11-09-20, 04:52 PM
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If you're a Cat 4 with a 4.5 w/kg ftp (at 360w +!) , then it may not be your fitness holding you back.

I've raced elite national championships with less w/kg than that.
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Old 11-09-20, 04:57 PM
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Your rides sounds a lot like the the rides I did this past summer. From my own experience, I found that when I started doing longer endurance rides, like we're talking about 140 to 200 km rides, and sometimes over 200, my fitness improved a lot on the shorter 90 km rides with this group. I didn't experience the leg fatigue, and was able to push harder later. However, if you don't have the time to do longer rides during the winter, I imagine doing some longer hill repeats would be beneficial.
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Old 11-09-20, 04:59 PM
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You training rides need to be harder than your group rides. And you need to do 2 or 3 solo training rides for every group ride/week.

Or find a slower group.

But don't forget things like staying aero if you are doing 15 to 20 or more mph up a hill. I still have a bad habit of sitting up while climbing at speed. But I'm getting better. If you have developed into a spinner going up hills, don't forget to shift to a higher gear occasionally to see if your legs have gotten stronger and can spin a higher ratio at the same cadence. That might save you some energy in the long haul.
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Old 11-09-20, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
If your FTP is 360 and you have trouble on rolling hills, well, that's one hell of a group!
I was thinking the same thing as well. I can't produce anywhere near those power numbers, but our group rides typically average 35+ kph, with about 0.7% elevation.
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Old 11-09-20, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by rower2cyclist View Post
Hi-I need training/workout ideas on how to improve my fitness so that I don't get dropped in rolling hills during our weekend group ride.

We usually start the ride a dozen strong and end the ride about 5-6, the pace is around 21-22mph right now but they say some days it's even faster. My fellow riders are fast and lean athletes ranging from Cat 1-3.

I am a 40yo male, 6-4, 80kg, and have an FTP around 4.5w/kg. I have a relatively big engine; I go fast on the flats, climb well in stable gradients, but I don't necessarily do well in punchy hills. I am currently Cat 4.

The course is mostly flat to rolling hills ~55mi. The flatter section is earlier where we do a decent rotating paceline but it's the rolling hills thru the end where the ride gets feisty. At the time there's already a decent amount of fatigue in my legs. Then the attacks begin left and right. I can follow the first two or three then I usually get popped. This weekend I realized sometimes I'm too slow to react to attacks even if I hear someone's attacking from behind and I let them create a gap.

My question is what are the workouts that I should be looking at in the winter? Should I try to replicate those efforts in my solo training rides or just stick to my current plan and wait for things to improve? Or should be doing longer endurance rides? I acknowledge everyone has their strengths and weaknesses but I believe there's always room for improvement. Am I hopeless?

I welcome everyone's experience and ideas on this very important matter. Thank you!
Since we all have a different idea of what constitutes "rolling hills" how long of an effort are we talking about?
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Old 11-09-20, 06:18 PM
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Long endurance rides and max effort hills. I liked to do 4-6 X 8', max sustainable effort. One of those a week, the rest long endurance. My guess is that much of the issue is positioning. By now you know who likes to play. Try harder to know where they are. You want to be on their wheel, staying out of the wind.
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Old 11-09-20, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by rower2cyclist View Post
... Then the attacks begin left and right. I can follow the first two or three then I usually get popped.
You can either increase the power supply or reduce the power demand. The fact that you can follow the early attacks before fading, indicates you're relying too much on anaerobic power. Since there is always a limited supply of work available anaerobically, I would suggest working to increase your aerobic power production so that a lower percentage of power is coming anaerobically during these high efforts. Increased aerobic fitness will also allow you to recharge the anaerobic system more quickly, so you will be more fully recovered for each subsequent effort.

The other approach is to limit the demands during these bursts. Without observing you riding there's no way of knowing if or how you could ride in the group with lower power, but you can think about ways of lowering how much power it takes to stay with the group during your rides.
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Old 11-09-20, 07:56 PM
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Hire a coach. There's more to riding fast than just putting out watts, especially in a group.
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Old 11-09-20, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
If your FTP is 360 and you have trouble on rolling hills, well, that's one hell of a group!
One of the guys raced for his home country in the past, one of them switched from track & field like Michael Woods, one of them is a super strong Cat 3 in my area. I just met them. I guess I am ambitious enough to make the workout a bit entertaining for them.

Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
If you're a Cat 4 with a 4.5 w/kg ftp (at 360w +!) , then it may not be your fitness holding you back.

I've raced elite national championships with less w/kg than that.
Probably says more about my lack of fast group riding skills, mental weaknesses etc. You may be right.

Originally Posted by mcours2006 View Post
Your rides sounds a lot like the the rides I did this past summer. From my own experience, I found that when I started doing longer endurance rides, like we're talking about 140 to 200 km rides, and sometimes over 200, my fitness improved a lot on the shorter 90 km rides with this group. I didn't experience the leg fatigue, and was able to push harder later. However, if you don't have the time to do longer rides during the winter, I imagine doing some longer hill repeats would be beneficial.
Thank you. I wish I could do these very long base miles. But that's close to impossible with two toddlers, job, life etc. Will definitely add longer hill repeats to my workout rotation.
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Old 11-09-20, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Since we all have a different idea of what constitutes "rolling hills" how long of an effort are we talking about?
This is about 21 miles long and I rode it a bit less than an hour. The gradient and length vary but to give you an idea there are a few of them ~0.3-0.5%mi around 7-9% with maxing around low teens. Maybe my definition of rolling hills is a bit liberal.

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Old 11-09-20, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by rower2cyclist View Post
<snip>I wish I could do these very long base miles. But that's close to impossible with two toddlers, job, life etc. Will definitely add longer hill repeats to my workout rotation.
A fall-back is 1 hour rides at a steady 75% FTP, as many as you can squeeze into a week. I use my resistance rollers for those - quicker than gearing up to go out. Your breathing should be conversational and no HR drift if you watch HR. If those aren't true, slow down a bit - taxing your anaerobic is a no-no.
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Old 11-09-20, 09:59 PM
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With some simple changes to the way you ride, you can make it up hills a lot faster while fatiguing less. As long as you focus on these two simple points, you will find your riding style begin to change.

Remember to always keep your back straight. I see tons of tons of bikers every single day riding with a horrifyingly slouched back. This simple point alone will help you keep your body tight, resulting in better power transfer

do some basic full body strengthening workouts. You can do bodyweight, light dumbbells, resistance bands, or whatever you have laying around your house.

Remember to keep everything nice and tight - your back, abs, legs, shoulders pinned back, etc. By scooting my ass back and focusing on involving my glutes/hamstrings more (by simply squeezing my butt and using your core as a stabilizer) I am able to transfer a lot more power to the ground.

My most helpful suggestion would be to do basic full body/core strengthening workouts off the bike

best of luck
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Old 11-09-20, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by rower2cyclist View Post
This is about 21 miles long and I rode it a bit less than an hour. The gradient and length vary but to give you an idea there are a few of them ~0.3-0.5%mi around 7-9% with maxing around low teens. Maybe my definition of rolling hills is a bit liberal.
Aero still matters a lot in rolling hills like these. Aero will help you build more momentum on the way down and carry it farther uphill.

Get slammed down on the bike. If uncomfortable in a fully slammed down position, you need to train in it, unless the position causes bigger problems.
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Old 11-09-20, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
Aero still matters a lot in rolling hills like these. Aero will help you build more momentum on the way down and carry it farther uphill.

Get slammed down on the bike. If uncomfortable in a fully slammed down position, you need to train in it, unless the position causes bigger problems.
If you are sitting in a group you can't go downhill any faster than the rest of them, unless you are on the front which is unlikely if you are just trying to hang on.
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Old 11-09-20, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by rower2cyclist View Post
This is about 21 miles long and I rode it a bit less than an hour. The gradient and length vary but to give you an idea there are a few of them ~0.3-0.5%mi around 7-9% with maxing around low teens. Maybe my definition of rolling hills is a bit liberal.

What Colnago said above: VO2max work with minimal recovery.
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Old 11-10-20, 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by rower2cyclist View Post
Thank you. I wish I could do these very long base miles. But that's close to impossible with two toddlers, job, life etc. Will definitely add longer hill repeats to my workout rotation.
I think this is the sticking point. I'm nowhere near in your league (and I'm 20 years older than you), but the thing that stuck out in your OP was that your legs are tiring during a 55 mile ride. When I am in good summer shape (for me), I'm doing a century most every Saturday and probably also 2-3 other rides/week above 50 miles. If I go on a tough ride with riders better than me, it will probably be 50-60 miles and on a Wednesday evening. I may get blown out, but tired legs will be the least of my concerns. It will be simply because I don't have their watts, either in FTP or in the sprints.

If you really want to improve, you need more time for training. But I would be the last person to suggest that you should neglect your childcare duties to do more training. In a few years, your kids will be older and will require less of your time. You'll still be pretty young by my standards, and you can really dedicate yourself to training. That's my $0.02.
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Old 11-10-20, 04:45 AM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
Aero still matters a lot in rolling hills like these. Aero will help you build more momentum on the way down and carry it farther uphill.

Get slammed down on the bike. If uncomfortable in a fully slammed down position, you need to train in it, unless the position causes bigger problems.
No.
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Old 11-10-20, 05:11 AM
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Learn to quit working so hard prior to the rolling hills part of the ride.
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Old 11-10-20, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
No.
Why do you think slammed down aero in the bike is bad for rolling hills?
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Old 11-10-20, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by LAJ View Post
Learn to quit working so hard prior to the rolling hills part of the ride.
I was waiting for this to come up.

As I've aged, and am still trying to occasionally ride with faster people, I've learned to spend more time drafting when possible. It makes those climbs somewhat more feasible.
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Old 11-10-20, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
If your FTP is 360 and you have trouble on rolling hills, well, that's one hell of a group!
That was my initial reaction when reading the post... Jeez!
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