The Tour de France, notorious for its epic climbs, begins July 2nd and this is an exciting time for us bike geeks! Do you fantasize racing up the L’Alpe D’Huez (the place where the Tour is won) side by side with Contador? If so, I’ve got some must-know climbing tips for you:
adapted from a piece by Josh Horowitz of PezCycling News on Active.com
It is very important to maintain a higher cadence on the climbs as it is more efficient and more effective than pushing a big gear at a low cadence (remember last month’s piece on fast and slow twitch muscle fibers…). A low cadence uses the fast twitch muscle fibers which take a long time to fatigue, so unless you are close to the end of a race, you better save those puppies and use a higher cadence. If you have to run off the bike, this is an absolute MUST do. A higher cadence places emphasis on the slow twitch muscles (fatigue slowly and recover quickly). While it will be impossible for you to hold your cadence at 85-95rpm as you can on the flats, try to hold the highest cadence you can- generally around 70rpms- your stroke should feel smooth and your breathing should remain rhythmic. If your breathing becomes irregular or you start panting, you know you are working too hard!
2. Base Training
Doing thousands and thousands of feet of climbing is not necessarily the best or fastest (or practical) way to achieve climbing fitness. Whether you are training for a 10,000-foot death ride or a pursuit on the track, base training is where it all begins. You will need to build the aerobic base to support the harder work and training for the hills. This provides a solid platform for the rest of the training.
3. Threshold Training
A higher threshold HR or functional threshold power (FTP for those of you with power meters) will improve your ability to climb tremendously- even if you don’t have hills to train on. One way to do is with 2-4 repeats of 10-15 minute time-trial intervals done at LTHR or FTP.
4. Anaerobic Training
Many athletes, especially touring cyclists and triathletes, ignore the need for training above threshold because their events don’t necessarily require it. By training above threshold level, not only will you improve V02 max and anaerobic endurance, you will also improve threshold power. In addition, it will prepare you to follow accelerations, adjust to grade variations, and power up over the crest of a hill. For those of you training for IM events, anaerobic training will occur in smaller doses- as it takes a lot of recovery from these workouts, and you can’t afford the downtime.
5. Hill training
You can do seated repeats from 1-15 minutes on a hill to build hip and leg strength, you can do standing repeats from 30 secs to 10 minutes, you can do big gear training in a low cadence to build bike specific leg strength (and to simulate to some degree what it will be like climbing at a lower cadence). You can ride hilly courses on a computrainer. Oh, what fun!
6. Positioning (for cyclists)
Start the climb near the front of the pack so you can drift back but stay in contact with the group. If you start near the back, not only will you have to keep the pace of the lead riders, you will have to make the additional effort of accelerating around dropped riders.
7. Pay Attention (for cyclists)
Don’t just look at the move in front of you; try to see two or three moves ahead. Pay attention to everything. Listen to the breathing of the riders around you. Notice what gear they are in and if they discretely shift into a bigger one. Watch out for a rider who seems fresh and is looking around sizing up his competition. Call out an attack so you can get some help from other riders, or make the attacking rider call off the break.
8. Follow Through
Whatever you do, do not sit up as you crest the hill. It’s tempting to think, “Great, we made it to the top, I’m safe.” Riders can lose three bike lengths to the rider in front just as they begin the descent, or they get gapped by the rider in front of them and never catch back on. You’ve done the hard part. Don’t do all that work just to get dropped on the descent. Change into a big gear again as you crest the hill and pedal downhill- this will allow you to get the lactate out of your leg muscles quicker than if you coast down- hill. (Lactate is removed in the blood, and blood flow is higher in working muscles).
9. Get out of aero position (triathletes and time trialists)
If your speed drops below 17mph, you will have more benefit coming out of aero so you can breathe better (you open up your lungs this way) and you can get a bit more leverage by pulling on the bars. The aero advantage is mostly lost at speeds under 17-18 mph. Slide your butt to the back of the saddle as it will give you more leverage again.
10. Focus on your pedal stroke
Even out your stroke- don’t just hammer away at the front of the pedal stroke, but rather imagine that you are pedaling on elliptical cranks so that you utilize the whole pedal stroke and engage all your muscles, while taking some of the pressure off the quads.
11. Find your speed and rhythm
Let your body tell you what it needs- find the speed and cadence that allows you to control your HR. Don’t follow a wheel that is going to pull you out of your zone- because if you go anaerobic you will take longer to recover and you will burn one of those matches I wrote about last month. Keep your grip loose on the bar, as a tight grip will increase your HR (the pressor response).
Ok, so that was the physical stuff, but we all know that is not all that matters when climbing. Your MIND is your best ally! Here are some things to consider to keep your mental wits about you when you’re chuggin’ along:
–Change your Mindset. Don’t say to yourself & others, “I’m not much of a climber.” Instead, switch your thinking to “I am a Strong Climber and I Love to Climb!”
–Relax and Settle in. You’re going to be there for a while. J Accept it & enjoy the challenge. –Take The Pain. It’s never going to be easy. It’s part of the sport we love. Know that the discomfort is part of the process; its just your body doing what you asked of it.
–Don’t Look Up! Look down at the pavement at about a 10 degree angle in front of you. From this angle, it will appear to your brain that you are riding on a flat road–and that’s not so bad is it? And you won’t see how far it is to the top.
–Smile. It’s that simple. Chrissie Wellington can’t stop smiling! Why not — you’re doing something you love, right? And it will make your competitors wonder how you make it look so easy. J Smiling also tells your brain you are having fun, it relaxes your whole body, and will help you stay loose on the bike.
Here’s a healthy recipe for a meal that won’t bog you down in this summer heat!
Garden Lentil Salad Pita
1/4 cup canned lentils, rinsed and drained
2 medium stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup baby carrots, diced
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt & pepper to taste
1 whole grain pita, cut in half
Toss lentils, celery, carrots, lemon juice, oil, salt & pepper. Serve in pita when ready to eat.
310 calories, 6g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 500mg sodium, 58g carbohydrate, 13g fiber, 8g sugar, 11g protein.
Doing an Ironman this Year?
What should you put in your special needs bags? Here are some items to consider:
*Bike special needs: nutrients and anything else you think you might need during the ride—Vaseline, frozen sports drink bottle, gel flask just in case, etc. You pick this up about midway through the ride.
*Run special needs: maybe a change of socks, Vaseline, salt tabs, pain killers (but not NSAIDS), special food, a long sleeved sweater in case it is cold when you run in the dark (tie it around your waist, so you have it). This will be available about half way through the run.
Performance-Enhancing Bracelets – A bit off-balance!
Ok, just admit it. You have one of those hologram stability bracelets in your drawer, don’t you? It’s ok to fess up. They were quite the rage. You saw it for yourself. When someone tried to push you over while wearing it, you didn’t budge. I know. I know. We’re all seeking ways to improve our balance, flexibility and strength but the truth is – these types of bracelets won’t be our magic bullet.
According to a published March 2011 study funded solely by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the bracelets simply don’t work as advertised and are an absolute scam. The sales demonstrations you see are essentially carnival tricks. By altering the way you apply force to the body, you can easily change the outcome.
The Australian government recently took Power Balance to task because the company has no credible scientific evidence to back up the claims they make. As a result, the Australian manufacturer of Power Balance bands was forced to publicly apologize and admit there is zero scientific backing to their claims.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Power Balance continues selling their performance jewelry with the same claims as before. The U.S. government has yet to address Power Balance’s marketing claims or those of other bracelet makers like them, but several class action suits have been filed throughout the U.S. against the company citing false advertising and unfair business practices.
For time-proven, legitimate ways to improve stability, strength and fitness, make sure to read our piece below on YOGA!
Featured Athlete: Raul Rodrigues
I asked Raul to be our featured athlete this month, and he decided to write an informative piece instead. Thank you Raul! Great info – read below:
“Knowing where to spend your money for training and racing bicycles.”
By Raul J Rodriguez MD, DABPN, DABAM, MRO
Cycling and related endurance sports can be expensive. When you decide to compete is when it can get really expensive though, especially with regards to equipment. Your bicycle becomes an extension of your body when racing. The better the equipment, the more efficient the ability to transfer power from your body to the road. Contrary to popular belief, better does not always mean more expensive. A few things factor into what “better” will mean for you.
The 2 first things you must consider when selecting equipment are the appropriateness and specificity for your individual needs. We will start with the bicycle frame. Once you decide exactly what you will be competing in (triathlon, time trialing, road racing, mountain biking), you will select a frame that is designed specifically for the type of riding that you will be doing.
A true time trial or triathlon bike will perform so much better than an adapted road bike. This has to do with the geometry of those frames, as well as the aerodynamic features. There actually is a difference between tri and TT geometry. The more specific you can be the better for you. For these types of frames you would want to save to get a high quality carbon frame. You are better off getting a mid-range set of components and getting good aero wheels. Adding ceramic hybrid bearings to your wheels will reduce your rolling resistance. Tires for Tri and TT need only be mid-range in quality as they will be rarely used for the hard turns seen frequently in road racing.
If you want to road race, then select a frame with racing specific geometry. Due to the higher crash risk of these races, you are better off with an aluminum frame or an inexpensive but stiff carbon frame. You would hate to have to replace a cracked $3,500 frame after a racing crash. Aluminum frames can withstand most crashes without breaking. A smashed $1,000 carbon frame is much less painful to replace than a $3,500 frame. Spend your money on getting racing grade components, premium tubular aero wheels and the best tubular tires you can find. The highest quality tires will outperform lesser tires when subjected to hard turning. Ceramic hybrid bearings will also help greatly by helping the racer save that little bit extra for the finishing sprint.
If you race mountain bikes, select a quality aluminum full suspension frame that is specific for the exact type of racing you will be doing. Do not race cross-country with an all-mountain style bike. Mountain bikes are very specialized in their design. Selecting aluminum for your frame material with reduce cost and increase durability. Crashing is a part of mountain biking and carbon frames cannot withstand impact. On a mountain bike, focus your financial resources on the quality of the suspension system, the components, and the wheels/tires. The benefit derived from reducing the rotational weight of a wheel is most notable on a mountain bike. The correct size and tread pattern of a mountain bike tire also makes a huge difference.
The training tire is a great example of certain equipment choices for training, as opposed to racing, can save you money. Tire costs add up very quickly if you were to ride expensive tires every day. This is why you want to buy less expensive, puncture resistant tires that are made with harder, longer wearing rubber. Use these with a set of rigid, durable, and inexpensive training wheels. You can save money by patching punctured tubes instead of a new tube for every flat. Mid-grade bicycle chains perform well and can be replaced more frequently. Helmets and eyewear can also be of mid-range quality, as they typically perform very well with a small weight and style penalty. Gloves are optional for most types of bicycle training but should be worn in racing. These are some of the most widely used consumables that do not need to be of premium quality.
Certain consumables do need to be of premium quality, due to a number of reasons. High quality cycling shorts, chamois pads, and seats improve comfort and reduce the risk of dreaded perineal injuries. Shoes and pedals comprise the primary transfer point of power from the rider to the bike. You cannot cut this corner. Well made jerseys and other apparel are typically more comfortable and ventilate better. Nutritional supplements should be well researched and purchased in small quantities until you know how well they will work for you. Most supplements have been shown in studies to not work and are a waste of money. I will tell you which ones do work in my next newsletter segment. Using a coach actually saves you money by making your training much more efficient, which results in greater performance gains for the same amount of your valuable time used for training. But if you have read this far then you probably knew that last bit already. A professional bike fitting is always money well spent as a good fit will improve performance and reduce the risk of repetitive motion and positional injuries.
Financial resources are limited for most people. Efficient allocation of resources when training and racing will optimize your performance and save you money. Spending in the right places will prevent you from being at any significant equipment disadvantage with the big budget racers. Your well chosen equipment will level the playing field. You will do the rest.
Did you know…?
32% of triathletes do yoga (Triathlete Magazine, May 2011)
Are you one of them? If so, that’s great. I’m sure you’re experiencing the benefits of this fantastic discipline. If you’re part of the other 68% that don’t, well then, this is for you. I understand your schedule is packed with swimming, biking, running, working, family, etc so that’s why I’m just asking you to incorporate the three poses below into your routine:
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon)
This pose is probably the best hip opener in yoga. It helps open the deep muscles of the hip and the hip flexors. To do this pose, start in Downward Dog. Lift your right leg up and sweep it through to your mat, folding it and placing it on the mat. Keep your right foot flexed to protect the knee. Your left leg is straight behind you with the toes pointed. Keep your hips square and level, with the left hipbone pressing toward your right foot. Inhale and press your hands into the mat, getting as much length in the spine as possible. Exhale as you walk your hands forward on the mat, coming out to your edge. This might be on the elbows, with the arms extended all the way out or right where you started. Hold this pose for one minute. Remember to breathe! Switch sides.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose- great name!), variation
This twisting pose is excellent for creating balance between the left and the right sides of the body, for opening up the chest and torso, and for opening up tight hips.
Sit tall with both legs extended in front of you. Make sure you are sitting evenly on your sitting bones. If your hips are very tight, sit on a block, or folded blanket until you can sit with a straight spine. Bend your left knee in and place your foot on the ground on the outside of your right thigh. Place your left hand on the ground behind your sitting bones, as close to the back as possible. Inhale and reach your right arm straight up. Exhale and twist to the left, rotating from the waist. Place your elbow on the outside of the left quadriceps and gaze out over your left shoulder. Hold for one minute and switch sides.
This pose is excellent for opening up the chest, shoulders and the hamstrings. It also mirrors the proper upper body alignment for cyclists.
Start on your hands and knees, with your knees directly beneath the hips and hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Exhale and tuck your toes under, pressing your tailbone toward the sky. Keep your knees slightly bent to start. Press your heels toward the ground, it is okay if they don’t reach it. Lower down onto your forearms, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Broaden your shoulder blades away from each other. Breathe deeply and hold for one to two minutes.
Melissa C-W – did big SYd and bested her past times and was very close to negative splitting the repeats. She will do it next month!
Adam – was within 15” of his goal and set a PR for the 40k TT on his bike. this is the ride of truth and is SO hard.
Jim Redgate – took 6th on the Clermont hills last weekend! And this is only his 3rd race!
Melissa Wu- took 1st in AG at the WPB TT in June.
Bonnie- Mack Cycle Olympic
Frannie- Mack cycle Olympic
Eric- Clermont Olympic
Orando- Sprint triathlon
Carol- Triangle Tri (sprint)
Julia- leaves to ride the great climbs of the Tour at the end of July! She will be out there actually on the Alpe D’huez!!
They way I see it:
How about this for good form? Note: slight forward lean, good knee and arm drive, head position is perfect, and you can tell she is moving! Go, Sue, Go!
Have a great month! If any of you would like me to research and then write about a particular topic, please let me know!
Once again, thank you to Melissa Wu for helping me with this newsletter- she does the bulk of the work!