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Hi, I've been blowing up on the first climb of races for two seasons now. I've identified this as ONE of my weaknesses, and been trying everything I can to train around/through it, without much success. My latest plan is to do more and more intense hill sprints and more intervals at flat out intensity..

On long races, I seem to be able to keep pace, but I lose touch with the leaders right on the first hill, then I have to time trial alone, picking off the stragglers till I get a mid-field finish...frustrating..

I've tried every tactic I can think of to keep on the leaders, but I rarely make the top of the first climb in a lead pack. So then I grab a couple of other stragglers and chase back..and sometimes I am ok. Usually, I seem to be able to climb with almost anyone once into the race, but that first hill I just suck!

I guess I am really just fishing for a sympathetic word here (Ha!)..I know I'm just too slow up these first hills, but sheesh!, I really can't think of any training that I am NOT doing to try to get better at that part of my game...
Don Hanson
 

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Is kind of hard to say why because, without any power data, we would have no idea how hard are those hills. Or how hard the stronger riders were climbing? With hilly races, the first rule is to stay near the front. Avoid being boxed in to the right. Stay at your left. Go a bit little over the center line if you must in order to pass slower climbers. As soon as you notice a gap is forming in front of you, speeding up your cadence and try to close the gap.

There is the fitness aspect of hilling climbing. You have a somewhat steep hill near where you live? What is the fastest time up on that hill by your local strong racers? I train with a power meter and I know how much power I need put out on a hill in order to keep up with the pack. Once you got your fitness down, you have to work on your climbing technique. I know this is old news but I just discovered I can spin very fast on a climb and still putting out the required power. The up side is that I get less tired and can do more of the hill repeats without any significant power drop. I actually discovered this ability during my race in Housatonic where everyone was on their 23rd and I would be on my 25th. The effort felt so easy that I couldn't believe I was still with the main group after the KOM climb. The climb literally eliminated more than half the field of 124 riders.

Gnarly 928 said:
Hi, I've been blowing up on the first climb of races for two seasons now. I've identified this as ONE of my weaknesses, and been trying everything I can to train around/through it, without much success. My latest plan is to do more and more intense hill sprints and more intervals at flat out intensity..

On long races, I seem to be able to keep pace, but I lose touch with the leaders right on the first hill, then I have to time trial alone, picking off the stragglers till I get a mid-field finish...frustrating..

I've tried every tactic I can think of to keep on the leaders, but I rarely make the top of the first climb in a lead pack. So then I grab a couple of other stragglers and chase back..and sometimes I am ok. Usually, I seem to be able to climb with almost anyone once into the race, but that first hill I just suck!

I guess I am really just fishing for a sympathetic word here (Ha!)..I know I'm just too slow up these first hills, but sheesh!, I really can't think of any training that I am NOT doing to try to get better at that part of my game...
Don Hanson
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
How about an aerial tram? Or an anti-matter frame for the bike?

Orbea_Carbon_Force said:
Is kind of hard to say why because, without any power data, we would have no idea how hard are those hills. Or how hard the stronger riders were climbing?

I have countless very steep long hills in my riding (area). I often train with very fit quite successful climbers and usually I won't be too far back, even when a couple of the very stong climbers are going at each other.. Like maybe a minute back in a 2000' hill done at about a 30 min pace for them. These are podium or top ten contenders in some of the Northwest's more difficult stage races. So, I can climb, and I do train hard. My area, the Columbia River Gorge, there aren't many rides where you don't either have major climbs or major headwinds..

With hilly races, the first rule is to stay near the front. Avoid being boxed in to the right. Stay at your left. Go a bit little over the center line if you must in order to pass slower climbers. As soon as you notice a gap is forming in front of you, speeding up your cadence and try to close the gap.

Yesterday's race, I did all that..completely wrong! I decided to try 'pacing myself' up the climb so that I didn't just blow up. But, jockeying around other faltering riders up the first part, then trying to go all out to catch the expected surge over the steepest part at the top..well, didn't work! And, at this particular event, the Oregon Bike Racing Association's State Masters Championships, we were forcefully warned that the 'centerline rule' was in effect and would be very strictly enforced. The State Patrol made that one of the conditions under which they would 'allow" the event, and made it clear to the organizers that any violations would make it real difficult for them to get another race permit in the future. This was all explained to each group at the start..So, our whole pack was confined to just one narrow lane..making the accordian-effect even worse than usual. At least we fared better than the Senior Mens, who "lost" well over half the field.."DNF" is how they scored..

As for "how hard the stronger riders were climbing"..*As hard as they could* is my opinion. As usual, my group (60+ Masters) was riding with the 50+ Masters, but scored seperatly. There are some very very stong climbers in that group, and they pulled apart the feild, taking two of my strong climbing compatriots along in their break.. I hear that at the end, one of the 60+ guys (the eventual winner) took a flyer..the other, in a group of 5 or 6, decided "no problemo" that with all the others, the breakaway could get caught any time they wanted. But at the end when he tried to get a chase going, he realized (and was laughingly told) that all the others were in the 50+ race, not the 60+..and they saw no reason whatsoever tiring themselves out chasing for nothing!..Hee hee.

There is the fitness aspect of hilling climbing. You have a somewhat steep hill near where you live? What is the fastest time up on that hill by your local strong racers? I train with a power meter and I know how much power I need put out on a hill in order to keep up with the pack. Once you got your fitness down, you have to work on your climbing technique. I know this is old news but I just discovered I can spin very fast on a climb and still putting out the required power. The up side is that I get less tired and can do more of the hill repeats without any significant power drop. I actually discovered this ability during my race in Housatonic where everyone was on their 23rd and I would be on my 25th. The effort felt so easy that I couldn't believe I was still with the main group after the KOM climb. The climb literally eliminated more than half the field of 124 riders.
Last season I gave the 'spinning fast" technique a very serious trial. From the get-go in my winter training, I trained that way, learned it and then kept spinning up climbs, working on "smooth" etc. And comparing the results to some of my prior times and recent times, the fast tempo didn't make me any faster up known climbs. I climbed spinning fast the whole season, but I still dangled off the back.

.This season I've lessened my attempts to spin a super high cadence in favor of what feels more natural to me, what my body seems to prefer. I climb equally well (or "badly" might be a more honest word) against people I've trained with the whole time..It is useful to sometimes crank it up in tempo to attempt to clear out my leg muscles..but on long hills..over say a 1000', climbing in a taller gear seems to work as well as anything for me...

The advice about a longer warm-up...I have been working on that recently, adding a resistance trainer to my take to the race-gear..Perhaps I need to go at the trainer much harder...next race I'll try that..

The advice of riding in the front up the early climbs..That I WILL do, if I can. Yesterday's race, trying to 'pace myself' at the rear of the pack on the first hill..that was a poor tactic...but as I said in my first post, I'm trying just about everything I can think of to improve my results..even stuff that might seem obviously counter productive. My better results *have* been when I went out strong with the front of the pack..

Oh yeah, I have improved significantly early this season against my "benchmark" training partners because I really lowered my body mass over the past winter..I'll be trying to re-dedicate my eating yet again to shed another 10 lbs. (My best weight this season was in May when I raced at 163 at 6'1") This last race I slipped backup to around 168#, not good for climbing. I just saw that Hincapie is at 140 and 6'0"!! I guess if I could be racing at 155, my climbing might improve. I did get faster going from 175 to 168, significantly faster up the hills...so the weight is a no-brainer, isn't it?
thanks for the pointers..
Don Hanson
 

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Being at the back of the pack when they hit the hill is a big problem. If you are at the back, you have to go faster than the guys at the front just to keep from getting dropped. If half the pack gets dropped on the climb, the pack winds up being half as long as it was. To still be at the back of the pack on the top of the climb, you have to go as fast as the leaders plus make up the distance of half the length of the field. That might be an extra 30 seconds.

You also have to waste energy going around weaker riders and closing gaps, while the guys at the front can ride a steady pace.

Getting a good warm up is very important. You have to go pretty hard in the warmup.

Riding at the back and not warming up enough were two of my biggest problems when I raced. I'm a climber not a roleur so going hard on the flat to stay up front was difficult for me.

If you can pretty much keep up on average on climbs but get dropped when the hammer goes down, you need to do short hill intervals. Like repeats of 5 minute intervals with incomplete recovery in between.
 

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Also, the nature of hilly races is generally starting slow before the big climb with over 100 riders, on some narrow country road. That's why it is IMPERATIVE to get near the front before hitting the big climb. Get to the starting line very early. Learn to clip in fast and on a small ring. Once you get rolling, constantly evaluate your position. Fight your position at the front. Move up from the side. I prefer the left side. As soon as the road opens up a bit more, move up.

ericm979 said:
Being at the back of the pack when they hit the hill is a big problem. If you are at the back, you have to go faster than the guys at the front just to keep from getting dropped. If half the pack gets dropped on the climb, the pack winds up being half as long as it was. To still be at the back of the pack on the top of the climb, you have to go as fast as the leaders plus make up the distance of half the length of the field. That might be an extra 30 seconds.

You also have to waste energy going around weaker riders and closing gaps, while the guys at the front can ride a steady pace.

Getting a good warm up is very important. You have to go pretty hard in the warmup.

Riding at the back and not warming up enough were two of my biggest problems when I raced. I'm a climber not a roleur so going hard on the flat to stay up front was difficult for me.

If you can pretty much keep up on average on climbs but get dropped when the hammer goes down, you need to do short hill intervals. Like repeats of 5 minute intervals with incomplete recovery in between.
 
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