Joe lives in the Midwest of the U.S. and has done some long hilly rides but doesn’t think this will be good enough training for riding the Etape du Tour and the longer climbs of the Pyrenees or Alps. He wants to know how the longer climbs differ in technique and training.
I plan to do the E’Tape du Tour next year and while I have done numerous long hilly rides they are of the short steep rolling hill found here in the Midwest USA. How are long steady climbs in the mountains different as to techniques and especially training if one does not live in a mountainous area?
The main difference is the length of the climbs; they are long and seem to go on forever. When you start an Alpine or Pyranean climb you must remember to hold back, not to attack the climb, you need to pace yourself or you will blow up. You use lower gears and tend to sit on most or all of the climb, only standing to stretch the legs or on steep sections. If you were to try and ride out of the saddle all the way up you would never make it.
On longer climbs you need to find your rhythm, if riding with others don’t take any notice of them, ride within yourself don’t push it. If using a pulse monitor then you know that you should be riding with-in a certain pulse range, if you go above that too early its asking for trouble later. Your pulse will get higher the longer you climb, unless you slow down for a ride mate, so don’t worry if you are on max by the summit.
How to train for the longer climbs is a bit tricky if you don’t live near a similar mountain, but it can be done. If you pick one of your longer climbs and ride up it as many times as you can, this is not quite the same as riding up one long climb, but it will give you the feeling of an Alpine mountain. It is a form of interval training and will build up your basic power and strength.
Also you could ride up a not too steep climb in as big a gear as you can manage as often as you can manage, this will also help you with your power out-put. With both of these methods you must remember to have a warm-up ride first and to use a pulse monitor to make sure you don’t go too hard, but stay within your training zone.
Take it easy at the bottom of a climb and build up in speed as you near the end.
Good luck with the Etape.