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All out uphill effort.

Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
I am no stranger to big european climbs and think I am a fairly competent climber. This year I am off to do the Ventoux again but I really want to do the best time that I can. I managed 1hr48min three years ago but since then I have really improved and lost 12kgs.

The question is should I totally go flat out to start with and taper off towards the top or should I go at a fast steady pace all the way. I dont use HRMs but know how listen to my body on big climbs.

I have good fitness and doing a lot of interval work on my spinning bike and my recovery time is getting better all the time.
Brian B.


  • Steady, you'll just blow up if you start too fast. You need to find the fastest level that you can sustain for the duration of the climb, it's far easier to start just below this level and gradually home in on it than it is to go too fast, blow up and then try to cling on.

  • Having blown up on a French Climb, I don't recommend going all out from the start.

    I think if I were to do it again, I would find quite a high (but sustainable) pace and give it some gas closer to the top if I have anything left in the tank.

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  • My advice here would be to break it into 3 sections and aim to go progressively harder in each so that the final third of the climb you are at max effort.

    Even when i do the hil climb races in the UK, on the longer ones (e.g. Hartside) it is hard to be flat out all the way and some pacing is required.

    I'd spit Ventoux as follows - from Bedoin to the end of the tree section as part 1, from there to chalet Reynard as sec 2, and from chalet R to the summit as the third grunt for home.
  • Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
    Some great advice here and I like celbianchi advice in spltting up the climb. Having done the Ventoux before I like your splits - very good. I have blown spectacularly before in the Alps and Pyrenees(usually later in the week after a few days in the big mountains) but last year I managed the Bormio side of the Stelvio in 1hr 30 and even then I was holding back some and have got a lot of confidence on big climbs now.

    Later that week I did both sides of the stelvio in the same day at a reasonably fast speed and felt good all day but did this with my tried and tested way off steady pacing. I would usually never start off fast on a climb like the Ventoux but having done a lot of work on the recovery side I was wondering if it would be reasonable to do intervals of high intensity and periods of recovery in between the big efforts. I know I can set a good pace and keep it going all the way up but when I do this on big climbs I always think that I could have done better and just nudged the pace up without going too far into the 'red'.

    I am going with my mate who is a great climber and excels on big climbs. I can hold his wheel for a time but like a true climber he can devastate me with sudden bursts of acceleation. I was hoping that the interval work I am doing would enable me to keep with him during his acceleration periods but also worried that if I try this I might blow and never recover. I was wondering how others approach big climbs and their techniques.
    Brian B.
  • The need to match accelerations on climbs is purely a tactical issue in a race.

    If getting to the top in the shortest time possible is the aim, then the steadier the (maximal) effort, the faster you'll be overall. That's because the relationship between the physiological "cost" and the intensity you ride at is not linear. The extra speed from shorter intense efforts will be more than lost by the forced recovery time and very low speed that results.

    The other factor that can come into play is the impact of altitude/reduced oxygen availability. On some high alps that can mean slowing down at the upper altitudes may be forced upon you.
  • LJARLJAR Posts: 128
    Some research papers (I'm sorry I don't have references) have shown that negative splitting, or starting at a pace you know you can maintain and then getting faster over the course, leads to faster overall times in time trials and hill climbs.

    So my advice would be to start at a pace where you have no doubt you will be able to maintain it all the way to the top. At half way assess the situation and speed up if you want to, the do the same at 3/4 of the way.

    This ensures you don't start building up and oxygen debt too soon (and spend the whole climb in pain), plus will give you the psychological edge of going fast and overtaking others towards the end of the climb, which is something I find really motivating.
  • Don't worry about sticking on your mates wheel (unless you want to obviously, I'm not here to stop you having fun) the fastest way up the climb is the steady way. If you're fast enough, you'll catch him up again later... if you don't then you'd never have been able to hold his wheel anyway. That's the nice thing about climbing, it's very zen, almost like a form of sweaty, painful meditation... :D
  • Looking at the gradients you have 2 "easy" sections

    The first 7K from Bedoin and km's 16 - 21 around the Chalet Reynard. I'd suggest that if you can match your steady effort on the harder parts with these parts you might well improve your time. i.e. don't use the bit after Chalet Reynard as recovery and don't set off too slow. I assume you'll be well warmed up before setting off from Bedoin.

    Easier said that done of course.

    Best of luck.
  • Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
    Thanks. I knew that a sustained pace would probably be best for me - Its what I have done before on big climbs but I do like the idea of gradually upping the pace as I ascend rather than trying to acclerate for short intervals.

    Whatever happens it will be a good day out and I also get to see how the Tour riders go up two days later.
    Brian B.
  • Brian B wrote:
    Thanks. I knew that a sustained pace would probably be best for me - Its what I have done before on big climbs but I do like the idea of gradually upping the pace as I ascend rather than trying to acclerate for short intervals.

    Whatever happens it will be a good day out and I also get to see how the Tour riders go up two days later.

    Cool - If you haven't seen the pro's ride the big climbs before prepare to be in awe. I get up hills ok, do relatively well in hill climb races. I did Ventoux in around 90 minutes, at a steady pace, Iban Mayo holds the record in 55'21. D'huez always amazes me as well, I have done a short 59 on it which would see me no doubt languishing behind the grupetto even after they have done a long stage, and 22 minutes down on your typical stage winner!

    Enjoy it. I will be on Ventoux on race day, probably going to watch from Chalet R.
  • Some people have mentioned negative splits which - as borrowed from running/marathon training - are the optimum tactic to go for, but as anyone who has tried them will attest, it's bloody difficult over a long endurance event!

    The optimum realistic tactic is to aim for a constant effort throughout, then overstressing yourself if you've got anything left in the tank at the end. Going balls-out at the beginning will just come back to haunt you at the end. Pacing yourself consistently will always be the fastest approach.

    I like the poster's suggestion above as to the 3 splits. I'd second it - when you get to the cafe 2/3rds of the way up, where you take the right-turn to head above the tree-line, that's where I'd start pushing yourself a bit harder. Remember that there are some extremely steep sections prior to that and if you over-egg it and top zone 4 HR you'll just be knackering yourself and the top section will be reduced to a crawl.

    So, in summary: nice even pace! :)
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