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"Tune up" training for mountains

Old 04-03-23, 04:27 AM
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"Tune up" training for mountains

Have a trip to the mountains coming up in 1.5 months. Doing a few 5-6k+ climbs over the course of a few days/

Did cycles of FTP/V02 intervals over the winter. Took it easy for a few weeks after. Been doing 2x +/- per week rides with random intensity, along with Z2 rides, for the past month.

I want to do a 2 week tune up session for the climbs. Most of the climbs are long and steady 6-8% - some have sections of 15+% mixed in.

--The steeper sections will take me above threshold, this is my concern--

One climb will be 3+/- hours and I will be at 80-90% of threshold for the duration. With sections that will be above threshold, some close to V02 max or more.

FTP intervals, V02, HIIT during the tune up? A bit of all three?
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Old 04-03-23, 08:52 AM
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IME climbing itself is the most stressful part of a mountain ride. D'oh, I know. But you can get lower gearing so you spin; you can even get off the bike and walk a few hundred yards -- which often is as effective as anything else to use different muscles, ease up on the bike-climbing muscles, and generally stretch and relax while you're still making progress.

A while back I did a mountain tour with a rider from Florida. His training consisted of climbing the bridges over the Inland Waterway, climbing ~70', descending the other side, turn around, rinse and repeat a half dozen to a dozen times a day, 3-4 times a week. He stayed with the group the entire week, and was one of the stronger climbers. If you have something like those bridges near you, that would be one way to get your climbing training in.
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Old 04-03-23, 10:48 AM
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Doesn't sound like a wise game plan to me. I've never done 6k' but have done 4k' every year for many years. My practice is to put on a hard limit of 84% power and 94% HR. That means low enough gearing to do that without killing your legs. Never, ever go over threshold. If you've got something left, take it up in the last mile.

For prep, besides the usual, I like 1-legged pedaling on the trainer, alternating legs and cadence for 2' intervals for up to 45', some 55 cadence, some 85 cadence, no stops. I also like long Z3 intervals outdoors at a steady 100 cadence, say 2-3 30' X 5'.. I also do strength training, mostly back and legs, deep squats, Romanian deadlifts, Romanian split squats, that sort of thing.

Probably the most important thing is to have your nutrition for this sort of thing absolutely nailed.
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Old 04-03-23, 10:58 AM
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Oh- and the other thing: once a week go out on a 4-5 hour all-out ride to exhaustion in hilly terrain
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Old 04-03-23, 12:16 PM
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Yeah, as others have implied, climbs are only "over threshold" if that's how you do them. Burning matches on long, non-competitive, rides with huge verticals doesn't sound fun.

Two weeks isn't very long and unless you're young and in great shape, packing it with lots of intensity is going to burn your biscuits. I'd do a lot of slow volume and maybe two or three threshold workouts, like 4 x 8s la Seiler 2013, and then take a couple of days off, but I'm old and broken down.
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Old 04-03-23, 12:26 PM
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What works for me to get "tuned up" for some big climbing are hill repeats. Los of hill repeats.

Pretty simple stuff. Find a hill to climb, do it a bunch of times at tempo pace. Most of the time in the saddle, sometimes out of the saddle. Keep doing that until my legs are quite tired.

Leg muscle fatigue is the limiting factor for big vertical climbing (at least for me), so I guess it makes sense to train them for fatigue resistance.
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Old 04-03-23, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
Yeah, as others have implied, climbs are only "over threshold" if that's how you do them. Burning matches on long, non-competitive, rides with huge verticals doesn't sound fun.

Two weeks isn't very long and unless you're young and in great shape, packing it with lots of intensity is going to burn your biscuits. I'd do a lot of slow volume and maybe two or three threshold workouts, like 4 x 8s la Seiler 2013, and then take a couple of days off, but I'm old and broken down.
I used to live in Paris, which isn't very hilly, and then (try to) ride in either the Alps or Pyrenees during vacation. I survived, and had a good time, though there were one or two rides that were a little grim. Grimness makes for a better story when you look back. Since there aren't many hills around Paris, my training consisted of going 'round and 'round (and 'round and 'round some more) the training loops in the Bois de Vincennes or the Bois de Boulogne at relatively low intensity. The intensity was in riding through Paris traffic to and from the Bois. You don't really need hills to train to ride hills -- it's easier and more reassuring if you do, but power-to-weight is the name of the game and you can do that without hills.
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Old 04-04-23, 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
Yeah, as others have implied, climbs are only "over threshold" if that's how you do them. Burning matches on long, non-competitive, rides with huge verticals doesn't sound fun.

Two weeks isn't very long and unless you're young and in great shape, packing it with lots of intensity is going to burn your biscuits. I'd do a lot of slow volume and maybe two or three threshold workouts, like 4 x 8s la Seiler 2013, and then take a couple of days off, but I'm old and broken down.

I've got the volume and relative fitness. But I'm a 190# rider - 10-15+% grades will put me just over threshold, even with 1x1 gear ratios. No way around it.

My definition of threshold is FTP & HR @ FTP - which I know both numbers. I will have times above FTP.

When I say over "threshold" - I'm talking about short efforts up steep ramps on the climbs.

I did 3 months of hard training this winter. A month of easy Z2 after. Over the last week I've been doing some 1.5 hour rides at 90% of FTP, and some long FTP intervals...

Sustained steady power will be OK. I want to focus training on for these over FTP efforts.
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Old 04-04-23, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
What works for me to get "tuned up" for some big climbing are hill repeats. Los of hill repeats.

Pretty simple stuff. Find a hill to climb, do it a bunch of times at tempo pace. Most of the time in the saddle, sometimes out of the saddle. Keep doing that until my legs are quite tired.

Leg muscle fatigue is the limiting factor for big vertical climbing (at least for me), so I guess it makes sense to train them for fatigue resistance.
I'm thinking this is the answer. We have short and steep hills in some areas around here. 10-17% 150-200' climbs. I have no choice but to be at tempo or above when climbing them.
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Old 04-04-23, 08:56 AM
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I am in a similar situation, timing wise, where I will be in Mallorca Spain for two weeks of cycling the end of May. We have been to Mallorca several times and very familiar with the terrain. Also, in 2018, we did 10 days of cycling in New Zealand which was very hard daily cycling with a lot of climbing including punchy coastal rides with rolling terrain with 15% short grades.

For me, riding longer, harder terrain every day is about volume and glycogen conservation. There are several routes in Mallorca that are over 2.5 hours of difficult terrain but totally worth the ride. The solution is low gears and low body / bike weight. Here is my body weight tune up going on now. I stand in front of the mirror and see if there is anything that needs to go. Then I get rid of it. I wore a tight base layer to the gym so for the entire time I could see where I need improvement. I am going to be totally ruthless. And I forget the scale. I can weigh myself and say yeah, that is a good weight, and it is, but too much other excess flab when observed in a mirror naked is not good. You asked for it.

My plan is to continue with my track training and add a volume day (3 hours) and begin increasing each week. I want to increase my training load. I am doing a lot of interval and threshold work that includes climbing repeats. Pick the best hill that you have and do 10 repeats or whatever.

I am going to incremental gain this upcoming trip - equipment, tires, wheels, clothing, helmet, body weight and training. I may take an easier week the week before the trip. My goal is to use the least amount of Kj per mile possible so that I can enjoy the trip and not get too depleted. YMMV.

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Old 04-04-23, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Jughed
I'm thinking this is the answer. We have short and steep hills in some areas around here. 10-17% 150-200' climbs. I have no choice but to be at tempo or above when climbing them.
I have this problem too. Although you mentioned 1:1 gearing - I assume you mean cog / chainring ratio so that your lowest gear (in terms of gear inches) is about 27-28?

There is nothing wrong with using even lower gears in order to manage your pace on such climbs - during the event, that is. (training is a separate matter). I have low gears in the 18-20" range on my various bikes and I know how to use them. This past Sunday I did a fairly long ride at Zone 2 pace, and it included a 1.5 mile long climb that rises about 855 feet, for an average grade of about 10.8%. I think the steepest section is about 17%. I was in my 18.5" low gear almost the whole way, and was able to limit my HR to the high 140's, knowing that the top of zone 2 for me is about 136-138 bpm, and the bottom of zone 4 is about 160-162 bpm. So yes, I was in the middle of Zone 3, but not so far into it that it ruined my legs for the rest of the ride. I felt just fine, in fact. The best you can do is the best you can do. If my low gear had been 28", I would have been well into zone 4 and therefore much worse off afterwards.

As for training, I think there might be value in doing climbs at a range of paces, in the context of whatever you are trying to do on a given day (e.g. is it an intensity day, or a zone 2 day?).

I use climbs of different lengths for intervals, but I don't avoid the more modest ones on Zone 2 days either. If nothing else, it helps you hone your ability to pace them properly on your long distance event. It's a learned skill.

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Old 04-04-23, 12:02 PM
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I have 23 g.i. on my single and 15 g.i. on our tandem. I'm a believer in having a gear that's lower than what I intend to use. Try a long hilly ride where you never drop below tempo for 3 continuous hours. It gets tiring.

I do long climbs at 78-83 cadence. It's pretty simple to use an online bike calculator, input gearing and check speed at cadence. Then use a bike power calculator to see how much power it's going to take to climb 15% at that speed: No guessing.
https://www.machars.net/bikecalc.htm
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Old 04-04-23, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I have 23 g.i. on my single and 15 g.i. on our tandem. I'm a believer in having a gear that's lower than what I intend to use. Try a long hilly ride where you never drop below tempo for 3 continuous hours. It gets tiring.

I do long climbs at 78-83 cadence. It's pretty simple to use an online bike calculator, input gearing and check speed at cadence. Then use a bike power calculator to see how much power it's going to take to climb 15% at that speed: No guessing.
https://www.machars.net/bikecalc.htm
Bicycle Speed (Velocity) And Power Calculator
34x34, 26.6gi.

I'm going to be grinding a bit over 9%.

15% @ 300W = a whopping 4.3mph. 50 RPM.
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Old 04-04-23, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Jughed
34x34, 26.6gi.

I'm going to be grinding a bit over 9%.

15% @ 300W = a whopping 4.3mph. 50 RPM.
For reference, my average speed for that one hard climb I mentioned above was 3.4 mph, at an average cadence of about 64. My low gear is actually 17.9 g.i. (I was wrong before when I said it was 18.5" - that's a different bike). A cadence of 64 feels a touch low to me, but it's not that bad either.

Low gears permit less power and reasonably comfortable cadences. Both help keep the legs fresh. The limit is how slow you can go before you can't really balance the bike any more. My limit is around 2.5-2.75 mph or so, but it requires a fair amount of concentration. 3.5 mph isn't too bad, though. Super low cadences make it harder since you have the momentary lull between power strokes where you slow down. Lower cadence means longer lulls.

A 28" gear, for instance, at the same speed, would have my cadence at 41 rpm. I can balance at 3.4mph at 64 rpm ok, but I am not so sure about 41 rpm. Might be forced to increase power.

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Old 04-04-23, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Jughed
34x34, 26.6gi.

I'm going to be grinding a bit over 9%.

15% @ 300W = a whopping 4.3mph. 50 RPM.
Kinda gets your attention, doesn't it? But this is why I do 50-55 rpm intervals. Even really low gears can meet their match. OLP helps too. I'm useless standing for some reason, so I just sit.
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Old 04-06-23, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Jughed
34x34, 26.6gi.

I'm going to be grinding a bit over 9%.

15% @ 300W = a whopping 4.3mph. 50 RPM.
This is the reality, so you do need to practice low cadence, high torque intervals. Ideally both seated and standing - I usually alternate.
Sub-threshold/Sweetspot and VO2 max intervals are good for climbing prep too. But don't overdo it. Rest and recovery is where the gains are actually made.
Over-under intervals might help here too for those steep ramps.

Even though it's not ideal, you can go over threshold for short intervals on these long climbs when necessary on the steeper ramps, but you need to be conditioned to recover quickly while still at tempo and be right on top of your fuelling & hydration.

Ideally you would also benefit from even lower gearing, but I find 1:1 is manageable for even the steepest of gradients. But I can pretty much guarantee that you would use a lower gear at some point on a big climb if you had one!
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Old 04-12-23, 04:27 AM
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When you hit grades that steep, you probably are going to go over threshold. That isn't really the challenge, though. The challenge is how well you recover from that once the grade diminishes and you still have climbing to do.

Show up to your cycling adventure at the lowest weight you can muster and with a lot of endurance training .. Sure, do hill repeats also, but they are not the most important factor, I don't think.
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Old 04-12-23, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan
When you hit grades that steep, you probably are going to go over threshold. That isn't really the challenge, though. The challenge is how well you recover from that once the grade diminishes and you still have climbing to do.
If you're doing long duration climbs, you should try to avoid threshold efforts as best you can. They wear you out, and the key to doing long duration climbs is to manage fatigue.

Staying under threshold is tricky on really steep grades of 15% or more. My go-to method is to stand and mash, but mash easily. It should feel like walking casually up flights of stairs.
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Old 04-21-23, 04:34 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan
When you hit grades that steep, you probably are going to go over threshold. That isn't really the challenge, though. The challenge is how well you recover from that once the grade diminishes and you still have climbing to do.

Show up to your cycling adventure at the lowest weight you can muster and with a lot of endurance training .. Sure, do hill repeats also, but they are not the most important factor, I don't think.
Lower weight is good, but don't make the mistake of trying to lose it in the final lead-up to the event. Otherwise you will show up with low energy levels and likely flop. I find that I also need to supplement basic endurance training with repeated efforts at the power/cadence required to haul yourself over those ramps. You need to feel what it's going to be like, both physically and mentally.
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Old 04-21-23, 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
If you're doing long duration climbs, you should try to avoid threshold efforts as best you can. They wear you out, and the key to doing long duration climbs is to manage fatigue.

Staying under threshold is tricky on really steep grades of 15% or more. My go-to method is to stand and mash, but mash easily. It should feel like walking casually up flights of stairs.
That's good advice. I was just looking at my data from the L'Etape du Tour last summer (for another thread) and was surprised to see that I spent less than 6 mins at threshold power over the whole event. But depends on the scale of the event. This was 4500 m of steady climbing in 40C heat! On lesser events I go full gas up some of the steeper climbs and recover fine. It's all about conditioning and simulating the required efforts (which I mostly do on my indoor trainer).
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Old 04-21-23, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
That's good advice. I was just looking at my data from the L'Etape du Tour last summer (for another thread) and was surprised to see that I spent less than 6 mins at threshold power over the whole event. But depends on the scale of the event. This was 4500 m of steady climbing in 40C heat! On lesser events I go full gas up some of the steeper climbs and recover fine. It's all about conditioning and simulating the required efforts (which I mostly do on my indoor trainer).
Interesting. On my last good event, 2019, I had ~45' above power Z3 and most of that in Z6, but zero time above Z3 HR. Lots of little spikes in the first 3 hours and then nothing until the last 45', lots of little spikes again. Probably all about position w/r to other riders in the flatter parts of the course, nothing over Z3 on the climbs. 10 hour ride, 9357 climbing. Average speed only 1 mph less than in 2000.
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Old 04-21-23, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Interesting. On my last good event, 2019, I had ~45' above power Z3 and most of that in Z6, but zero time above Z3 HR. Lots of little spikes in the first 3 hours and then nothing until the last 45', lots of little spikes again. Probably all about position w/r to other riders in the flatter parts of the course, nothing over Z3 on the climbs. 10 hour ride, 9357 climbing. Average speed only 1 mph less than in 2000.
For me the LEtape was a special case. Basically 8 hours of steady state climbing with epic descents between the cols. There was always a wheel to follow in the endless chain of riders and no point in making any sudden surges.
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Old 04-21-23, 09:22 AM
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It think there is a lot to be said for just going out and doing as many 30 or 40 miles of some of the hardest terrain conditions you can find in your area as you can find. And do them at the maximum effort you can sustain. But what you need to mentally prepare yourself for is just grinding away for hours in a very low gear and having the world pass by you slowly. At least until you get over the top and are on your way down!
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Old 04-21-23, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
If you're doing long duration climbs, you should try to avoid threshold efforts as best you can. They wear you out, and the key to doing long duration climbs is to manage fatigue.

Staying under threshold is tricky on really steep grades of 15% or more. My go-to method is to stand and mash, but mash easily. It should feel like walking casually up flights of stairs.
Have you tried your "mash easily" on the bottom of Sierra Road? I had trouble keeping my front wheel down. I was running about 500 watts going up that section with some guys pulling away.

How do you climb Sierra Road?
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Old 04-21-23, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
Have you tried your "mash easily" on the bottom of Sierra Road? I had trouble keeping my front wheel down. I was running about 500 watts going up that section with some guys pulling away.

How do you climb Sierra Road?
Sierra Road, there's a climb I haven't done in ages! All I can remember is that it's a pretty long grind, with a couple stair steps. One thing's for certain--I never rode any part of it at 500 watts!



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BTW, if you want to take the Strava KOM on Sierra Rd, you'll need a bit above 5 W/kg for 20 minutes. That's out of my league.
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Last edited by terrymorse; 04-21-23 at 07:42 PM.
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