THE TEST CLIMB

How im­proved over one month

Cyclist - - Climbing | Performance -

Stock­er­ston Rd, Rut­land: Strava KOM:

first at­tempt: Five weeks later:

3m 26s 1.7km, 5% ave gra­di­ent, 89m alti­tude gain 6m 21s 5m 15s

pri­mar­ily the first two that hin­der progress. But as the road ramps up and the speed drops, the im­por­tance of aero­dy­nam­ics di­min­ishes and the bat­tle with grav­ity in­ten­si­fies.

‘At very slow speeds [16kmh or less] air re­sis­tance is neg­li­gi­ble,’ says Dr David Swain, pro­fes­sor of ex­er­cise sci­ence at Old Do­min­ion Univer­sity in Vir­ginia.

I don’t tell him there are plenty of climbs where I’m proud to get any­where near this ‘very slow speed’, and in­stead fo­cus on his point: I need to think less about my aero pro­file and more about de­fy­ing grav­ity, since the less weight I have to carry up­hill, the eas­ier life be­comes. So nat­u­rally I start with the bike.

A £259 up­grade would shave 53g from my ped­als; £280 in­vested in a new sad­dle could cut 65g; and £50 could re­move 13g (less than a nose blow) from my bot­tle cage. An in­vest­ment in some new wheels, though, seems a wiser bet.

‘Weight saved on any re­volv­ing part is worth more than saving it on a static el­e­ment,’ says Chris Board­man in his Bi­og­ra­phy Of The Modern Bike. ‘The ef­fect of low ro­ta­tional mass is so im­por­tant that rid­ers are pre­pared to use su­per-light car­bon fi­bre rims and sacri­fice some brak­ing ef­fi­ciency in or­der to min­imise weight around the ex­trem­i­ties.’

Jake Pan­tone, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at wheel­builder Enve, con­firms that: ‘The lighter the wheel, the bet­ter it is for go­ing up­hill un­less you are rid­ing at speeds in ex­cess of 13mph [21kmh]. Ba­si­cally the faster you go, the more you ben­e­fit from aero­dy­nam­ics.’

Rid­ing up any se­ri­ous gra­di­ent at 21kmh is as much of a pipe dream for me as find­ing the £2,500 for a new pair of Enve hoops, and as the nee­dle of the bath­room scales spins to 75kg I re­luc­tantly ac­knowl­edge that whit­tling tim­ber from my six-foot frame is the most cost-ef­fec­tive op­tion to re­duce my up­hill load.

Jo Scott-dal­gleish, a nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist spe­cial­is­ing in en­durance sports, un­der­stands my co­nun­drum. I want to lose weight but main­tain suf­fi­cient en­ergy to train, plus any ad­just­ments to my diet have to be fam­ily-friendly. Af­ter all, it’s tough enough to get the chil­dren to eat lasagne and peas, let alone a Sky-style beet­root, car­rot and ginger smoothie.

‘If you want to lose weight you need a small calo­rie deficit,’ says Scott-dal­gleish. ‘A big calo­rie deficit is go­ing to be counter-pro­duc­tive be­cause you need en­ergy to train, so look to eat about 300 calo­ries per day less than you nor­mally would. Plus you need to in­crease your pro­tein in­take to pro­tect your mus­cle mass.

‘The first thing that has to go is junk. You can’t ex­pect to im­prove your body composition by eat­ing crisps and sweets, and al­co­hol has no ben­e­fit.’

In the end, eat­ing one slice of toast in­stead of two for break­fast, choos­ing soup in place of a panini at lunch, and fore­go­ing wine with din­ner

‘A lot of the time it’s a climb where the se­lec­tion of a race is de­cided, and if you can get up over the climb near the front you’re there for the kill’

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