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Sean Kelly
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Become a Better Climber and Ride the Highest Cols

Climbing is one of the biggest challenges in cycling as most events have many cols. Every cyclist, of any ability, would like to master the art of efficient and energy saving climbing. So, what training do you need to conquer the Cols of Legend?

cycling-climbing

Fitness – Fitness underpins cycling whether you are on the flat or riding a 10% gradient. As such building miles is important. Getting a good base is the key to improving your climbing ability.

Improve your Core - After an hour or two of riding, and especially climbing, many athletes complain of lower back soreness/tightness and lower back fatigue. Many cyclists who ride hard, training each week for hours can have significant power loss due to a weak core. By weak core we are referring to a lack of functional stability in the abdominal region.

This lack core control and stability directly affects the transfer of power through the pedals. A big power gain could be had by strengthening your core and improving your stability so you aren’t losing power with every pedal stroke.

Practice Riding in and out of the Seat - A cyclist should practise riding in the seat and also out of the seat. These two positions use different muscles and standing can help temporarily rest and stretch the muscles used more in a sitting position.

Riding out of the seat is often hard for cyclists, as the strength through their hips is underdeveloped, as is their knowledge of how to centre their weight over the bike. By this, we mean not hanging over the front wheel when you are out of the seat, as this will slow you down. The steeper the climb, the further back you need to put your weight by lifting your chest, to remain centred over the bike.

Fuelling – Discovering when you need to refuel over a long ride is important. Taking on liquids, small amounts, at the right times will help you maintain your energy levels and as such, you will have a better ride. Seasoned cyclists try to get the timing right so they take on food and drink before they feel their energy levels drain. This allows them to keep a consistent pace. For riding hills effectively, the importance here cannot be overstated. Always refuel early in the ride.

If you are having food only take on small pieces at a time, as it is easier to breakdown the food and won’t block your air passage. Always take a sip of water after the food to help clear the air passage.

Pace, Cadence, and Gears - Grinding or climbing at a low cadence (let’s say below 70-80RPM) puts your muscles in a contraction for a longer period of time, compared to climbing at a cadence of 80-90RPM. When your cadence is higher, your muscles don’t contract for as long during each pedal stroke and thus don’t get as tired. The lower the cadence, the longer the muscle is put under load and the faster it fatigues.

Each rider has his/her ideal climbing cadence. This cadence can, however, be changed and often increased, with training. Often, cyclists climbing at 60RPM all day wonder why their legs feel heavy. Training at a lower cadence to build strength but learning to climb at a higher cadence gives you the ability to climb longer, with more pedal efficiency and less muscle fatigue.

Food Choices – Often, the food choices we make are good, but the quantity is too much for what you need on a daily basis. So by looking at your portion sizes you can reduce and loose the extra few kilograms that you are carrying up every climb.

Becoming a good climber doesn’t happen overnight, but the reward is worth the effort.

Submitted on: 10/01/2017

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