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Training for altitude

JonEdwardsJonEdwards Posts: 452
This an MTB Q, but I figured I'd get more sensible advice here.

I'm doing the Megavalanche in Alp d'Huez again in July - basically a mass start DH race, which starts at 3300m and lasts for ~1hr with a few climbs thrown in. The first part of the course is open (down a glacier), then it funnels into singletrack, where there's very few overtaking opportunities, so a good start is vital.

Now last year, despite having got pretty fit before hand, I was *absolutely hanging* within about 30secs of the start - simply lack of oxygen. I'm not a powerful rider to start with (good power to weight though @ 140lb), and hauling a 40lb bike about doesn't help, but simply hanging onto the bike was as much as I could do, let alone sprinting flat out on it. Once I got down to about 2000m performance noticeably improved, and I was picking off other riders (mostly on the climbs :roll: ) quite nicely.

So what can I do to avoid a repeat this year? I'm reasonably fit (although a few weeks off riding due to a knackered ankle hasn't helped). Can do a lap of RP in pretty much spot on 20mins (never tried 3 as I get bored riding in circles like that), or can average 19mph over 50 miles on my own.

Any advice appreciated!


  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,589
    1. Take a turbo trainer and a track pump into your bathroom
    2. Seal up the door, window and any other openings with duck tape
    3. Poke a small hole in the door and stick the nozzle of the pump to it with duck tape
    4. Keep pumping until your ears pop

    Voila - your own personal altitude training chamber!
  • Heckler1974Heckler1974 Posts: 479
    There's an article in Cycling weekly this week about altitude training where they put you in a barometric chamber thingy and you cycle on a tread mill. Costs a fortune though so I'm not sure how practical that would be. Other than that, can you spend the day before or even night before in a hotel at that height to acclimatise?
  • JonEdwardsJonEdwards Posts: 452

    I'll be spending the preceeding week in AdH (1900m) which will help and I'll be preriding the course a couple of times, but there ain't nothing at the top bar the cable car station!

    Interestingly, the stress of the "race" environment adds a lot to the breathing issues - its the only competitive event I do, as I'm hugely overcompetetive by nature and get a monster attack of nerves on the start line, worrying in case I balls it up (I have the last 2 years). I absolutely cannot just go along for the experience/fun of it. I *HAVE* to RACE it and end up beating myself up over it, which I accept is stupid, but I strongly believe the point of a competition is to WIN it - anything else is failure.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Cant see you can realistically do much more than you're doing. Just get up there. I've stayed up there too and it does seem harder to do stuff up there but I reckon a fair bit is in the mind. When I ride up there I dont really notice. I'm too shagged to.

    Aah - just noticed you're starting even higher up the slopes. Oh well - at least everyone else is in the same boat - does anyone live at those altitudes in europe ?
  • JonEdwardsJonEdwards Posts: 452
    just noticed you're starting even higher up the slopes

    Yup. About as high as you can get - the top of Pic Blanc. It realli s quite thin up there!

    the view from the top

  • shockedsoshockedshockedsoshocked Posts: 3,953
    Depending on what you do, the week at altitude at AdH could do more harm than good!
    "A cyclist has nothing to lose but his chain"

    PTP Runner Up 2015
  • DaSyDaSy Posts: 599
    I found that at the top of the Col de Bonnette/Restefonde at around 2800m. I gave a little sprint out of the saddle near the top, and my heart rate shot out of control.

    I agree with those above in that there really isn't too much you can do about it realistically. Just be aware of the effect and try to breath deeply from the diaphragm rather than shallow pant, and don't push too hard straight away, build up speed over a short time.

    And good luck, don't forget to enjoy it...
    Complicating matters since 1965
  • Alex_Simmons/RSTAlex_Simmons/RST Posts: 4,161
    There's an article in Cycling weekly this week about altitude training where they put you in a barometric chamber thingy and you cycle on a tread mill. Costs a fortune though so I'm not sure how practical that would be. Other than that, can you spend the day before or even night before in a hotel at that height to acclimatise?
    A waste of money.

    Acclimation for competition at altitude requires several weeks of living/training at altitude, or at least 8-12 hours per day exposure to hypoxic conditions.

    An hour or so per week in such conditions won't cut it, and in fact all it will probably do is lower the value of your training as you'll be forced to reduce power output and not gain any of the relevant benefits.

    Get threshold power up as high as you can.

    I recently wrote an FAQ on the item on this page:
  • supra-mansupra-man Posts: 358
    I had excatly the same issue as you last year , when I did the mega, this year Im returning alot fitter and have done a lot or cross training running 10k in under 40 mins 15 k runs ... as it was so hard and the clostet thing to getting your heart racing like that here is running, and cycling isnt as violent.

    other wise check out your food during the week as body will be producing masses on new extra cells to transport more oxygen. that will make you feel tired and so you ll need to eat alot more of specific nutriments food what ever to compensate.

    then best thing is to get in to a race in uk after that as it ll be so easy to breath. :wink:

    how did you find the climb around alpes dhuez before going back down in foret de sardonne??
    specialized enduro 06 gone snif
    RS Lyrik U-turn sold
    Mondraker Dune XR

    My Megavalanche qualifier :
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,027
    Isnt performance at altitude just a bit of a lottery?
    I would agree in getting your peak absolutely right prior to race but why worry too much? you read of so many athletes / mountaineers despite huge fitness, simply crumbling at altitude.
    Goodness didnt we have the English footballers having a bit of a moan?
  • incog24incog24 Posts: 549
    Altitude is pretty interesting. I've done two summers in Ladakh so have an idea how my body responds now but its incredibly individual. Personally I get big gains in acclimatisation at 3000m+ over the first 48hrs, then its fairly gradual. However if you were to attempt that before a race you do risk fatiguing yourself. So I guess you're looking at a trade off between a faster start or a faster lower section.

    If you're looking for a way to develop a cyclists body, 9 weeks at 3500m+ with 4 of them over 5000m is a great way to bleed off every bit of unnecessary upper body muscle!
    Racing for Fluid Fin Race Team in 2012 -
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