Take hold of the short, sharp in­clines

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Steve Thomas

Mas­ter­ing power climbs

Power climbers, such as the Clas­sics spe­cial­ists, are usu­ally big­ger pow­er­houses who can ham­mer away on the flats, too. They can han­dle many re­peated ef­forts on shorter climbs. They tend to out­num­ber pure climbers. That said, many great all-rounders, such as Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Ale­jan­dro Valverde, have also man­aged to ex­cel on the short climbs as well, prov­ing that with train­ing, it’s pos­si­ble to up your game on any grade or ter­rain.

Core fac­tors

Although we of­ten see su­perb power climb­ing demon­stra­tions on the great murs and bergs of Flan­ders, we mostly en­counter hills at home that are rel­a­tively smooth and well-graded. On these rises, you can fo­cus much more on get­ting the power out ef­fec­tively and less on trac­tion. You should ride mostly out of the sad­dle if you’re go­ing all out on a power climb. Brace your legs from your trunk to get the max­i­mum power ef­fi­ciency. The up­per body is an area of­ten ne­glected by ama­teur cy­clists. Yet, most pro rid­ers put in a great deal of up­per­body and strength work year-round with­out bulk­ing up. By im­prov­ing your core and up­per-body strength, you will take ad­van­tage of a full-body ef­fect on the bike, which helps to spread the work­load greatly. If you wres­tle and bob your way up a short, steep climb, a sig­nif­i­cant amount of power al­most evap­o­rates with every wasted ac­tion, which adds up sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter a few climbs. If you bob too much, you should reach for the weights.

To the fore

Be­ing close to the front of a group on a short climb is essen­tial. Gaps can open up quickly. There is lit­tle time to make up ground and get around other rid­ers. Plus, the ham­mer will of­ten go down over the top of a shorter climb, which makes for a bub­bling lac­tic bath of a chase if you’ve lost ground.

Even if you think you can’t stay with a group on a power climb, you should get as close to the front of the pack as pos­si­ble head­ing to the hill. This po­si­tion­ing will al­low you to sag through­out the climb and, ideally, slide back on over the top. Get into po­si­tion ahead of time to avoid putting your­self into en­ergy debt be­fore you even start go­ing up.

If you are suf­fer­ing through a bunch of sharp rises, hold on for a slight lapse in pace or a slow cor­ner that will al­low you a mo­ment to re­cover and re­turn to the group if you do lose con­tact. Do what you can to hang in there.

Sprocket se­lec­tor

On shorter power climbs, you will nearly al­ways use larger gears, com­pared with long climbs, to main­tain speed be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the rise. If you know the climb, then judg­ing your gear­ing is much eas­ier. Al­ways re­mem­ber that if it’s steep and the gas is on full burn, you will quite prob­a­bly be stuck with what­ever gear you select for the du­ra­tion of the climb. Play it safe: keep things one gear lower than you think you can han­dle. Also, fac­tor in your ac­cu­mu­lated fa­tigue. If you don’t know a climb, try to find out what lies ahead from other rid­ers. Play it safe with gear­ing. Chang­ing on and off the big chain­ring un­der pres­sure could drop your chain, so it’s of­ten wise to slip to the small ring and a smaller sprocket, just in case.

“The ham­mer will of­ten go down over the top of a shorter climb, which makes for a bub­bling lac­tic bath of a chase if you’ve lost ground.”

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