THE TEST CLIMB
How improved over one month
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’