Climb Like A Pro
Climbing hills well is as much about technique and attitude as your power-to-weight ratio. Following these tips will help you get to the top without turning your lungs inside out
“If you’re a weak climber, start at the front from the foot of the climb so that if you do slip backwards, you will be at the back of the bunch over the top as opposed to out of the back,” Dig Deep Coaching’s Dan Fleeman tells us. As a former British national hill climb champion, he should know.
Whether you love or loathe the hills, with practice you should learn to pace your way to the top. “Most experienced riders ride on feel,” says Dan. “Knowing when to push on and when to ease off comes quite naturally with experience. A heart-rate monitor or power meter can be useful if you know your threshold number as you can ride on or just below that number on the longer climbs.”
If the climb is brief but steep, Dan reckons that a different technique is required: “Short, sharp climbs can be ridden flat-out, whereas on longer climbs you need to take the time to find your rhythm and then push on as you approach the top. Longer climbs require a higher cadence so you don’t build up too much fatigue; for shorter climbs this isn’t so much of an issue as you will just power over them quickly.”
Ride On Cobbles
Cobblestones may not be part of your day-to-day rides but if you want to complete a Paris-Roubaix-style sportive, it’s good to know how to face them
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas obviously knows a thing or two about riding cobbles. Back in 2004 he won the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix, and in 2015 won the E3 Harelbeke cobbled classic . Geraint reckons it’s not just the rider who needs to be ready for the cobbles – your bike needs to be prepared, too.
“Wider tyres help, with less pressure than normal,” he says.
“I usually have two rolls of tape, some guys use gel. We use a bike with a longer wheelbase for a softer ride. Obviously the average cyclist wouldn’t have this luxury.”
There’s no shortcut to improving your riding on the pavé, says Geraint, the only way to get used to the cobbles is to go out and ride them. “If you can ride at a good power for two to five minutes then you will be okay,” he reckons. “Paris-Roubaix is pretty much 20-odd mini-TT efforts across the cobbles. If you have the power that’s half the battle.
“The closer to the front of the bunch you ride, the better. On the cobbles crashes and incidents are going to happen, so the fewer people in front to slow you down or make you change your line at the last minute, the better.”
Ride an Echelon
Echelons, when the peloton forms into lines to shelter from crosswinds, are among pro riding’s most impressive sights. Here’s how you do it
You needn’t be a top rider to master echelons, says 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt: “If you do it right it’s no harder than riding in a regular paceline. If the wind’s brutal enough then echelons tend to form naturally. Sometimes the more experienced guys shout at people to get organised.”
Magnus tells riders not to fear losing the front group. “When echelons form you might lose 30 or 40m to the front row, but it’s better to do this than sit in the gutter and suffer. You need to be aggressive and fight for your place in the line, but at the same time stay calm, judging the gap to the rider in front so you stay safe but have enough space to react to a gust of wind.”
Look out for your teammates, too. “Ride together. That way when one teammate goes to the back of the echelon, they can wait for the other rider. The teammates swap positions each time they rejoin the echelon, protecting each other from riders trying to push their way into the line.”
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