When it comes to climbing a hill, sure it takes good fitness and strength to make life a little easier, but one thing most riders neglect is their technique.
As with any other sport, like tennis or cricket, cycling technique should form a part of your training. Here are three things to think about over the next month when tackling the likes of the Old Freeway, the flagship climb of Boileau Velo Coast to Coast! Former Pro Cyclist Stephen Cunningham give some top tips.
Start slow, finish fast
Most riders I see try to set a high tempo at the base of a climb, only to slowly fade and lose power as the climb progresses. It’s WHEN not IF the ‘lights go out’ – leading to a shift of 2 or 3 easier gears, and while the heart rate remains high, the power is rapidly dropping. Always aim to start a climb as slow and in control as you can, then as the climb progresses, gradually lift your effort, heart rate and speed – all the while trying to remain as relaxed as you can, especially in the upper body. This approach will ensure you are not dropping power and in fact increasing it – you’ll be amazed with the result.
I like to consciously focus on my breathing when climbing, it’s THE most important thing to focus on – turn your four cylinder into a V8 with twin carbs, through a conscious, controlled and rhythmic breathing technique. Remember if you are not focusing on your breathing, you are not focusing on your climbing effort. Most importantly, if you’re breathing remains in control, so do you!
Climbing with a high cadence is great, but only if you are generating enough power with it. High cadence climbing was made famous by the likes of Lance Armstrong, who worked hard to first build his leg strength, before then lifting his cadence, and placing more work onto his heart and lungs. We all know now there was a little more to it in his situation.. but that said, Lance certainly revolutionised climbing through a higher cadence with power. But there is little use spinning away like mad when you aren’t generating the power. So for the next 4-6 weeks, focus on working on your leg strength, through a slower cadence of around 75rpm. If you have a power meter, great – but it’s not necessary. Just find a nice balance between your heart rate, speed and cadence and this acts as a measure of power. In time, you want to then lift your cadence to around 90rpm, while holding the same gear – now you’re climbing!
As well as being the Coast to Coast ambassador, Stephen Cunningham operates 1 on 1 and small group technique sessions through the summer months in Adelaide – www.procyclingskills.com – He’s already helped hundreds of cyclists significantly improve their riding, purely focused on tailored advice capitalizing on an individual’s strengths and improving their weaknesses.