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Alpine advice

domphippsiodomphippsio Posts: 6
edited February 2012 in Training, fitness and health
Hi, im new to the forum, so hello and its great to see such a helpful nd thriving community.

I need a bit of training advice if anybody feels like chipping in. I am hoping to ride in the alps this year for the first time and im wondering whether i need to incorporate anything specific into my training to deal with the conditions (altitude etc). im not bad on hills over here and ride around 6 - 8 x 100 mile+ sportives each year with a fair amount of mileage in between so im fairly well conditioned and used to long stretches in the saddle. Like a lot of people, i quite fancy trying my luck on Alpe d'Huez so im training on a lot of hills.

My technique is fairly basic, push back in the saddle to engage my quads and sit down until i need to increase my cadence. I do sometimes find myself spinning too hard early on and reigning it in.

Can anybody experienced pass on some good high altitude climbing advice so im as prepared as i can be.

Thanks in advance.

Posts

  • patchypatchy Posts: 779
    Not done European alps, but have ridden Australian alps and am training for a 235km Alpine ride in March. here's my tips.

    - go low on the gearing. it's always better to have a lower gear than not. i'm riding 34x26
    and it helps
    - Find the longest hill you can and do hill repeats. Lots of them. then do some more.
    - keep the weight down. i've gone from 74kg to 68kg since November, hoping to be around 66-67kg for March. It's all less baggage to haul uphill.
    - if you can do some yoga/pilates to improve core fitness and flexibility, do it. your lower back, neck and shoulders will suffer more than on the flat as you spend more time pulling up (i do, anyway)
    - i find it also helps to raise the handlebar by a spacer so there's less back strain
    - look at the route and climb profiles so you know where you need to go hard and where you can rest.
    - don't go all out at the beginning of the climb - i find the pacing/effort similar to that of a TT. easier than you think you should be going at the beginning, hard in the middle, holding on for dear life at the end.
    - eat and drink, before and when climbing. otherwise you'll run out of energy.And after. Oh, just stuff your face whenever you can.

    that's my tuppence worth anyhow... not very scientific but works for me.
    point your handlebars towards the heavens and sweat like you're in hell
  • ut_och_cyklaut_och_cykla Posts: 1,594
    As mentioned - gears & preparation for long 1 -2 hours sustained efforts. Nothing is too steep if you have the gears but the continental climbs are all long. Pacing is key.
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 5,983
    You'll be fine. I managed Alpe d'Huez and Galibier and I am rubbish even at UK hills. As long as you are used to sustained tempo efforts don't worry too much.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • Guys, thanks for the good advice. Im used to riding pretty rough rural roads and hills and im sure the nicer alpine roads will be more forgiving and allow me to establish some rythm.

    So i need to look at my ratios; (currently on a full size double) and get some sustained tempo hill reps in and be patient.

    Patchy - thanks for the core stability advice. Im really aware that although im not carrying lots of excess timber, i definately need to work on my core.

    Cheers a lot...
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,471
    Think about your food as well. I find when I'm climbing a big mountain that eating solids isn't all that easy. If you're ok with gels and energy drink then cool, but if you're new to that it might be worth experimenting with some to find ones that work for you.
  • twotyredtwotyred Posts: 822
    Get yourself to the point where you can pedal hard for 11/2 hours. You don't need hills or hill reps for this. Doing 2-3 hour rides with the last hour at threshold plus some shorter interval and strength sessions will do it. If you have access to some big hills then use them but if you don't then don't worry about it.

    Lose as much weight as possible. If you are carrying excess then this is as important as training.

    Don't underestimate how low you can go with gears. Get a compact on with 27 or 28 tooth cassette at the back. Don't be afraid to consider a triple- unlike the UK there's no stigma on the continent about using a triple. Nobody ever failed to get up Alpe d'Huez becuase their gears were too low but plenty have failed becuase their gears were too high.

    Pacing should be no problem for you as French climbs have much more consistent grades than UK ones.

    Look down often as its good for morale. Look up less often as its not so good for morale.

    Make sure your brakes and tyres are in good condition for the descents.
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 5,983
    Biggest thing is to enjoy it, it's freaking ace!
    Take plenty layers, the temp in the valley can be WILDLY different to the top.
    Posted this before but this was part of the same ride at the end of June 2010!

    RefreshingatLaGrave.jpg

    HeadingupfromLacduChambon.jpg

    Galibierstart.jpg

    AlexwalkingupGalibier.jpg

    PoledancingonGalibierSummit.jpg
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • Thanks again. If theres one thing im not 100% confident about its how consistent i am on the flat. My climbing is ok and quite fast, although im guessing i need to make an effort to pace this more or im going to suffer.

    The chainset advice is good. I have this full size double Ultegra set up right now and it sounds like ill drop down for the actual ride. I wanted to try and get up within an hour.

    Weight - im at around 13 stone and 5'9 tall. I have quite large quads and calves (and glutes!) and seem to have more power than the tri guys i train with who try to stay slim. I think i could realistically lose 3/4 stone.

    Nutrition wise im not the best. I like most supplements/drinks/bars etc available, although i have been working on training up to 50 miles on just electrolyte, and when i ride sportives i indulge at the feed stations. This has worked for me and i have felt strong on sportives but it sounds like ill need to rethink for the alpe ride.

    Great advice guys thankyou...
  • Tom DeanTom Dean Posts: 1,723
    Nutrition wise im not the best. I like most supplements/drinks/bars etc available, although i have been working on training up to 50 miles on just electrolyte, and when i ride sportives i indulge at the feed stations. This has worked for me and i have felt strong on sportives but it sounds like ill need to rethink for the alpe ride.

    No need to do anything special re nutrition, just stick to what you normally do. You will go through a lot of water but there are lots of fountains where you can top up. Plenty of places too to stop for a nice proper lunch, make the most of it! It would be a shame to stuff yourself with supplements on holiday in France.
  • twotyredtwotyred Posts: 822
    My climbing is ok and quite fast, although im guessing i need to make an effort to pace this more or im going to suffer.

    Absolutely. There's nothing in this country that takes much more than 20 minutes to get up and most of it is much less than that. Alpine climbs are more like time trials.
  • mamba80mamba80 Posts: 5,032
    For me, take a decent water proof lightweight jacket, you can freeze on some of the descents.
    and as you r not in an event, enjoy all the cafe' at the summits :mrgreen:

    if your bored, have a play with this as to how much time and effort weight can cost you.
    http://www.coastsci.org/Power/ClimbCalc.html

    On the left, it has a drop menu with some the climbs you maybe doing.
  • patchypatchy Posts: 779
    I forgot one last tip.

    Look around and enjoy the views as much as you can.

    Jacket tip is also very useful - descending for an hour if it's cold and/or wet is no fun. It's even worth taking some full finger gloves or liners just in case.

    I'd try and eat proper food (bananas, malt loaf etc) rather than gels/supplements, but that's mainly cos I'm not a big fan of energy bars. I try to only use gels in a pinch or towards the end.

    Finally - while i agree that you don't need to 'do hills' to get the power/pacing down, I find it helps both psychologically (for the sensation of going 'up') and for refining a comfortable climbing position. But mainly the psychological side. :)
    point your handlebars towards the heavens and sweat like you're in hell
  • Good advice, a decent rain jacket is on my shopping list and ill try a mixture of some natural foods and supplements to see how i get on. I have rescued a few rides with power bars in the past...

    I have a training plan developing now thanks to the advice you guys have kindly offered. Its good motivation.. Huge thanks..

    Superb shots of your ride Napoleon...
  • Until recently I lived in the South West of France, just north of the Pyrenees. So I have ridden a lot of the Pyrenean passes and also many in the Alps, including Alp d'huez. Last year I successfully rode the Raid Pyrenean and the L'Ariégeoise sportif. I concur with all the advice written by "patchy".

    Since being back in England and training for last years sportif I used a local safe hill for training. This was steeper than those I was training for, but much shorter. Therefore I did weekly repetition climbs on this hill until eventually I could do sufficient number of climbs that equalled the distance of the real climbs at the pace I was looking for.

    Very important is don't take any excessive fat with you. Not only does the weight of this fat give you more work to do, the fat also insulates your body causing heat fatigue. Don't forget the fat is also in your inside obstructing movements of your heart, lungs and muscles.

    Talking of heat don't forget the weather. The Alps look fantastic when watching the "Tour" in the comfort of your front room but in real life the weather is often extreme. When the sun is out it can be like an oven and when not it can be freezing especially on the descents. It is really, really unpleasant and frightening doing a descent when you are shivering so much that it is difficult to see, steer or brake.

    Anyone can get up an Alpine climb with a realic pace and optimum gearing. Many riders have passed me at the bottom of climbs only for me to re-pass them 3/4 up and then drop them. They are in their bottom gear, out of the saddle slowly straining the peddles around and I am seated in a much lower gear spinning at a comfortable pace.

    Optimum Gearing.
    1). Find your sustainable climb cadence. 2). Make a sensible estimate of how long it will take you to perform the climb i.e. Alp d'huez and determine your average speed from this. Most Alpine climbs are at least 10 time longer than long English climbs so fatigue should be considered. 3) Adjust your bike's gear ratios so you are peddling at your optimum cadence at your average speed. 4). Have a lower emergency gear or gears for off days, wind etc. 5). Don't forget you are doing this to enjoy yourself.
  • Canny JockCanny Jock Posts: 1,051
    Some good advice on here. Anyone know any good turbo workouts which would be good prep for Alpine climbs?
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 5,983
    2hrs tempo.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • Hey Nap, did you do the Galibier from the north or south?
  • Guys. Any thoughts on spinning in terms of training usefulness? I did a few 45 minute sessions last week and found it hard. The relentlessness of the sessions paid off when i got outside on the bike as i felt pretty good.. Any thoughts or experiences?
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,471
    Guys. Any thoughts on spinning in terms of training usefulness? I did a few 45 minute sessions last week and found it hard. The relentlessness of the sessions paid off when i got outside on the bike as i felt pretty good.. Any thoughts or experiences?

    Personally I don't think much use at all. On these climbs you generally won't be changing intensity much at all. In an ideal world you'd look to ride up the climb at the same intensity throughout, so an hour or so of steady state is what you need to do. If you want to mix it up, vary the cadence. Obviously you should ideally have enough gears to spin up at a decent cadence, but on the off chance that you don't it pays to be able to grind as easily as you can spin. I did the Mortirolo last year for instance and it would have taken a bloody low gear to have spun up that :lol:
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