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1st Hill Climb

bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
edited October 2016 in Amateur race
Just thought I'd do a little write up on my first hill climb as there wasn't that much on here when I was looking.

I didn't get much riding in during the first half of the year because I moved house, cities and jobs in March plus I'm currently studying for a part-time Masters, so I had got back up to 76kg and was pretty slow on the club rides... My masters finished for the summer at the end of July so I decided to get back in shape and I was looking for something to target, and closest to actual competition I've got before is timed climb sections on sportives. I've always fancied TTs, but by the time I figured I'd be able to get some reasonable form back (September-ish) most evening 10s are done for the season. While I was looking on the CTT website I came across the Snake Pass Hill Climb, run by Glossop Kinder Velo and decided that would be a good option. At 5.3km and 320m climbing I thought the climb would suit me reasonably well, I don't have the best power to weight even when I'm relatively in shape so steadier climbs 5-6% are much better than the 15-20% ramps that seem to be all round the Peak District.

I had a good 3 months of cycling, got back down to 70kg and went from being straight out the back on the club run climbs to being relatively quick... Unfortunately my final preparation wasn't ideal as I went to Oktoberfest Sunday-Wednesday beforehand and I don't think 3 days drinking litre steins is the best preparation for a hill climb!

I was feeling pretty relaxed in the run up but I had a look at the start sheet a few days before and got a bit nervous as there were several names I recognise from Strava leaderboards on it... On the day I arrived a bit later than I meant to due to bike faff (I recommissioned my turbo bike, an alu Defy, on the basis it is 1kg+ lighter than my steel Condor and it was having teething issues). I had planned to do a couple of laps of a 6km, 170m climbing loop to warm up but only managed to fit one in.

I rolled up to the start feeling a bit of adrenaline, exacerbated when I saw the standing start (with a block and someone holding you up) which I'd never done before - half expected to fall over in front of everyone. My original target was to get a time that was at least a 20; I'd never ridden Snake Pass before but I have ridden Cairn Gorm a few times and they are very similar in terms of length and average gradient, so looking at that I figured I should be able to hold a VAM slightly over 1000 (mid-20s). Then I chatted to the guy a minute back from me and he said he was targetting sub-20, so I set a new goal of not getting caught by my minute man...

I also had a plan which involved not going off too hard and steadily ramping it up, but obviously that went straight out the window! I was up to the top of my threshold HR almost immediately and spent the whole climb oscillating between threshold and anaerobic, which was a bit of a mistake as it meant I had nothing left for the flatter fast section at the top. Crossed the line and almost collapsed, choking on my own phlegm and whimpering, and it took me a few minutes to get my breath and contemplate riding back down.

Rode back down to HQ and found I'd done an 18.07, which I am absolutely ecstatic about. OK it's some way off Tejvan Pettinger's CR of 11.36 :lol:, and by the time I left HQ there were only 7 people slower (which probably didn't change as I went early with the slow lot), but it is a good 2-2.5 minutes quicker than I expected. Didn't get caught either ;)

Think if I paced it better I could have found an extra 10-20s, and I could also stand to lose another few kilos so next year I'm going to target a 17 :D :twisted:

Very well organised by Glossop Kinder Velo, everyone was very friendly and everything was easy to find. Before I signed up I worried that everyone would be hardcore 60kg skeletons and I'd be really out of place, but actually it was totally fine (I did know that it would be, really). So for anyone else who may be contemplating having a go I'd say definitely go for it, if nothing else it's a cheap motivational tool for your training (£8 entry), plus you get cake!
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  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    Actually another 7 people went slower than me. 35th of 49 starters - might sound rubbish to everyone else but it's made my evening :D
  • bobmcstuff wrote:
    Actually another 7 people went slower than me. 35th of 49 starters - might sound rubbish to everyone else but it's made my evening :D

    It's pretty good actually... a VAM in excess of 1000 over 18 minutes is a pretty good one. The wind would have pushed you a little today though... :wink:
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    Yeah, the wind helped a bit. Definitely made a big difference on the flatter bit at the top. But, my VAM fell away to hardly anything there anyway because the gradient was so low. And there was a cross/headwind on a couple of (short) bits.

    Looking at the photos I've almost certainly got the highest BMI of any entrant, which I guess is good... Room for improvement?!?
  • bobmcstuff wrote:
    Yeah, the wind helped a bit. Definitely made a big difference on the flatter bit at the top. But, my VAM fell away to hardly anything there anyway because the gradient was so low. And there was a cross/headwind on a couple of (short) bits.

    Looking at the photos I've almost certainly got the highest BMI of any entrant, which I guess is good... Room for improvement?!?

    It's a good place to start
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    It's actually quite frustrating as I'm at my lightest in 10 years - but I seem to have lost all the weight from my face, neck, shoulders and arms. I'm the same height and weight as Mark Cavendish yet I look fat.

    Ironically I'm getting told by friends and relatives that I am looking TOO thin now because the midriff weight isn't really visible in normal clothes.

    Stupid body.
  • bobmcstuff wrote:
    It's actually quite frustrating as I'm at my lightest in 10 years - but I seem to have lost all the weight from my face, neck, shoulders and arms. I'm the same height and weight as Mark Cavendish yet I look fat.

    Ironically I'm getting told by friends and relatives that I am looking TOO thin now because the midriff weight isn't really visible in normal clothes.

    Stupid body.

    If you're the same height/ weight as Cav then you're almost the same as me (I've managed to get down to just over 68kg for this weekend and I'm 5' 8"). That's not a terrible BMI, although yes I could probably get down to 65kg if I really, really tried but then I'd probably lose power for the TTs I regularly do.

    The best and most reliable way to get better at climbing is to ride hills, ride big miles with hills thrown in and then in the spring start thinking about specific intervals to increase both your threshold and maximum power to really get you shifting. But you'll probably find that both improve if you go out and hit the hills hard anyway.

    Have fun!
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    Yeah, my BMI is fine - and in regular clothes I look thin. But the fat I have seems to be mostly haunches, so in cycling gear I don't look particularly thin.

    Touched 69kg for a bit, I think ideally for cycling I'd be 65kg but then my friends and family would be constantly telling me how gaunt and emaciated I look, even though BMI would still be normal. When I was sub-70 I got told I looked too thin, despite still having the spare tyre in lycra. For real life I probably need to do a bit of upper body work, keep the ~70kg and lose the fat round the middle. Easier said than done though as it seems to be very stubborn (I'd probably have to lose all the rest of the fat in my body for it to start going...).

    I was 88kg in Jan 2014 so can't complain too much though :D
  • AK_jnrAK_jnr Posts: 717
    Just shows how you have to ignore BMI. I am 72kg at 5'9 with a visible 6 pack.
  • In my competitions, I take most of the heads in climbing. And I see pretty often how everyone is standing and pushing hard but I have tried and you know what works the best? When you sit and pedal hard. Not using too small gears but the moderate ones. I am 75kg and my bike weight about 14kgs so believe me, I know what I'm talking - try it out. The main problem is that pedaling by standing takes too much extra energy.
  • Storming wrote:
    In my competitions, I take most of the heads in climbing. And I see pretty often how everyone is standing and pushing hard but I have tried and you know what works the best? When you sit and pedal hard. Not using too small gears but the moderate ones. I am 75kg and my bike weight about 14kgs so believe me, I know what I'm talking - try it out. The main problem is that pedaling by standing takes too much extra energy.

    You can develop more power by standing up, but it won't last for long, so it is a good strategy for short punchy climbs (2-4 minutes). Sitting is preferable on longer and shallower climbs, where aerodynamic drag plays a role.

    14 Kg bike on a hill climb? CHapeau... :shock:
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    AK_jnr wrote:
    Just shows how you have to ignore BMI. I am 72kg at 5'9 with a visible 6 pack.

    :cry:
  • pinnopinno Posts: 39,371
    bobmcstuff wrote:
    ...as there wasn't that much on here when I was looking.

    Thanks for that Bob. It was a good read and well done.

    Muscle weighs more than fat. I tried to get down to my previous 65 kg's and despite some long rides and more miles than I have done last year already, I cannot shift that last bit of weight (69 kg's in March, 66.7 now. Bmi 21.7) but I noticed that my jeans are a heck of a lot tighter in the leg yet I have only one hole vacant on my belt.

    Dunno what VAM is. Do some go by feel and ditch all the technology?
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    pinno wrote:
    bobmcstuff wrote:
    ...as there wasn't that much on here when I was looking.

    Thanks for that Bob. It was a good read and well done.

    Muscle weighs more than fat. I tried to get down to my previous 65 kg's and despite some long rides and more miles than I have done last year already, I cannot shift that last bit of weight (69 kg's in March, 66.7 now. Bmi 21.7) but I noticed that my jeans are a heck of a lot tighter in the leg yet I have only one hole vacant on my belt.

    Dunno what VAM is. Do some go by feel and ditch all the technology?
    VAM's actually more old-school than HR or power - it's just a measure of how many vertical metres you are covering per hour. So a VAM of 1000 means I would ascend 1,000m/hr (regardless of horizontal distance). On my Garmin I used the vertical speed - 30s average.

    HR was pretty much useless as I just went balls-out the whole way. Possibly wasn't the best strategy. VAM was fairly useful because every time it dropped off it worked like a stick to beat myself with. In a more typical UK hill climb (i.e., 5 mins or less) I imagine it would be less useful, those ones look to be all about all-out power to weight ratio and short term explosive power.
  • HR is a pointless measurement in hill climbing... it's a bit like estimating the weight of apples in a basket by counting them, without actually knowing how much an apple weighs...

    VAM is old fashioned but inexpensive to measure and very reproducible if the climb is steep enough (> 6%). Power is a very good indicator, but it's expensive to measure if you want the number to be reproducible.
  • pinnopinno Posts: 39,371
    Beyond a bike computer and apart from an Polar HR monitor which became a distraction and a PITA, I have not used much technology. Seen as I wasn't training for anything specific, I sold it.
    So if I find a Ordinance Survey map and ascertain the vertical distance between the first contour line and the last, then measure my time in between, I could work out an approximate VAM? Going by VAM, what's the sort of average VAM for a 40 ++ something? Maybe, I could train for a hill climb, roll back the years and have a laugh.
    Now, I just try to stick to an average 90 rpm (averaging 84 over all terrain) . My cadence facility on the computer is my friend.

    Slightly off topic:

    If I ever hear 'hill climb (apart form lung busting efforts)', it always reminds me of when I was in High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells visiting my brother. There was a Hill climb the Sunday of the week I was there. I was eagerly (and nervously) awaiting the event (back then I was 59kg's). It would have been my first but was cancelled after the storm in '87. Quite sure there's a few on here that know the climbs in that area. Looking it up, they use Firle Hill. The name doesn't ring a bell TBH.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • pinno wrote:
    Beyond a bike computer and apart from an Polar HR monitor which became a distraction and a PITA, I have not used much technology. Seen as I wasn't training for anything specific, I sold it.
    So if I find a Ordinance Survey map and ascertain the vertical distance between the first contour line and the last, then measure my time in between, I could work out an approximate VAM? Going by VAM, what's the sort of average VAM for a 40 ++ something? Maybe, I could train for a hill climb, roll back the years and have a laugh.
    Now, I just try to stick to an average 90 rpm (averaging 84 over all terrain) . My cadence facility on the computer is my friend.

    Slightly off topic:

    If I ever hear 'hill climb (apart form lung busting efforts)', it always reminds me of when I was in High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells visiting my brother. There was a Hill climb the Sunday of the week I was there. I was eagerly (and nervously) awaiting the event (back then I was 59kg's). It would have been my first but was cancelled after the storm in '87. Quite sure there's a few on here that know the climbs in that area. Looking it up, they use Firle Hill. The name doesn't ring a bell TBH.

    I am a 40++ for a long climb (> 20 min) my VAM is 950-1000 mt/h; for something between 6-10 min it's around 1100-1250 and for something under 6 min it's around 1300-1350 mt/h... I can probably get to over 1500 for sub 2 minute climbs, but they don't make much sense
  • pinnopinno Posts: 39,371
    I presume that because you can hammer up a sub 2 minute climb, measuring VAM would be erroneous.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • pinno wrote:
    I presume that because you can hammer up a sub 2 minute climb, measuring VAM would be erroneous.

    Not erroneous if measured accurately, but where do you draw the line... what is meaningful? I can probably clock a 3000 mt/h up a steep railway bridge. The shortest hill climb TT is probably 2-3 minutes for the fastest guys
  • VAM is a good way of comparing climbing performance from one climb to another (assuming they take similar time to complete). Without an accurate power meter it's probably the best way of comparing you performance across two different climbs (post ride). With accurate VAM, weight, and a few assumptions for rolling / air resistance you can pretty accurately calculate power or vice-a-versa

    VAM does have some quirks: you'll generally do better VAM on steeper gradients or if the climb has a small downhill or flatter gradient that will also reduce VAM.

    For shorter climbs you'll be able to put out more power and achieve a greater VAM.

    I'm not sure how useful VAM is a pacing tool however. If your climb has variations in gradient that will play havoc with instantaneous VAM. Also, the sensors that are used to measure VAM on bike computers aren't very accurate.

    For typical UK hill climbs I'd say if you've not got a power meter, you'd be much better off using RPE to pace. For climbs over 15 minutes or so you might consider using heart rate.

    Climbing isn't just about hitting a target pacing and holding it though. Most climbs have features which favor variable pacing. I.e. you'll climb quicker for a given power (or even a slightly lower power) if you push on a little harder on sections of steeper gradient, rougher tarmac, or greater headwind and recover in the 'easier sections'. Being able to sense when you can and should push on a little more, without blowing up is the real 'art'. This can be aided with a power meter, in a way it can't with VAM or HR.
  • There is an argument for pushing harder on the steep bits if you have to choose where to push harder, as you get a linear correlation between power and speed.... if you push harder in the shallow bits, you get very little speed in return for your power, as power and speed have no longer a linear relationship
  • pinnopinno Posts: 39,371
    There is an argument for pushing harder on the steep bits if you have to choose where to push harder, as you get a linear correlation between power and speed.... if you push harder in the shallow bits, you get very little speed in return for your power, as power and speed have no longer a linear relationship

    Like riding into a howling gale up a false flat. Been there. Got the T shirt.

    Sometime earlier this year, standing on my pedal going up the slightest incline in my lowest gear (39x25) at 9mph into one hell of a headwind. At the exact point on my return, I was cruising at half the effort at over 30mph.

    Now this ^ would seem slightly off topic but I had plans to do the Marmotte in 2017 and a good way to simulate (so I was told on here somewhere) a long sustained effort was into a headwind with continuous pedalling. The longest 'flat' I can find is about 12 miles* and I did 2 'rotations'. Due to other things, the Marrmotte dream will have to wait...
    Should be the equivalent of the Galibier? Maybe.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • pinno wrote:
    There is an argument for pushing harder on the steep bits if you have to choose where to push harder, as you get a linear correlation between power and speed.... if you push harder in the shallow bits, you get very little speed in return for your power, as power and speed have no longer a linear relationship

    Like riding into a howling gale up a false flat. Been there. Got the T shirt.

    Sometime earlier this year, standing on my pedal going up the slightest incline in my lowest gear (39x25) at 9mph into one hell of a headwind. At the exact point on my return, I was cruising at half the effort at over 30mph.

    Now this ^ would seem slightly off topic but I had plans to do the Marmotte in 2017 and a good way to simulate (so I was told on here somewhere) a long sustained effort was into a headwind with continuous pedalling. The longest 'flat' I can find is about 12 miles* and I did 2 'rotations'. Due to other things, the Marrmotte dream will have to wait...
    Should be the equivalent of the Galibier? Maybe.


    In the 2015 EdD the climb to Tan Hill was battered by 30-40 mph head wind... I was doing 4 mph with a 36 x 34 gear and the gradient was probably 3-4%

    I don't think climbing big mountains needs any special training, you just need a couple of sprockets more than you normally use. People find it tough, as they pretend to use the same gears they use for their local hill. For Galibier and Alpe d'Huez you probably need a 34 x 32 to play it safe in the steeper bits when you begin to be tired. You would never use a 34 x 32 on a 10% section in the UK
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    I didn't find Alpine climbs all that difficult pacing-wise (I mean, they were physically hard, but I didn't blow up or anything). Because I record HR I know what HRs I can sustain for various durations and types of riding e.g., for ~20mins on the turbo so I just took a bit off that and paced up. I was lucky enough to be living in Scotland at the time and rode quite a few climbs that are similar sorts of steady efforts over 20 minutes (i.e., 300-350m elevation in 3-5km), and after you ride for 20 minutes it's more mental than physical to keep it going for an hour. Obviously there's some drop off physically but it's not the same as going from a <5 minute climb to a 20 minute climb.

    I wasn't staring at the HR or anything, just kept an eye on it and if it went a bit high I backed off slightly. Conversely it reminds you if you're being lazy too :D

    Did the Colombiere from Cluses and the Joux Plane, approx. 850 VAM on both (which I hadn't looked at before now), and averaged 181bpm (!) on the Joux Plane and 176 on Colombiere. I made the mistake on Colombiere of trying to ride it like the Joux Plane, which made the last few km a bit horrible because it's 2.5km longer and steep at the end.

    Keen to go again anyway :D
  • pinnopinno Posts: 39,371
    pinno wrote:
    There...linear relationship

    Like...Maybe.

    In the 2015 EdD the climb to Tan Hill was battered by 30-40 mph head wind... I was doing 4 mph with a 36 x 34 gear and the gradient was probably 3-4%

    I don't think climbing big mountains needs any special training, you just need a couple of sprockets more than you normally use. People find it tough, as they pretend to use the same gears they use for their local hill. For Galibier and Alpe d'Huez you probably need a 34 x 32 to play it safe in the steeper bits when you begin to be tired. You would never use a 34 x 32 on a 10% section in the UK

    I now have a 34x27 as my smallest gear. I am pretty comfortable going uphill but the alpine climbs are a little daunting. I think the best thing I can do is a couple of recce's and see if I need a 32 cassette. I could easily shed 2 kg's in preparation.
    Is the max gradient on d'Huez 10%?
    As for the special training, my friend from Gernika said 'you don't build any condition on the hills'. I found it a surprising statement. I was living in Cheltenham at the time and was always doing hilly rides and stagnating. He suggested 3 high cadence flat rides to one hilly ride. I get bored of flat rides easily but I now tend to do 2 flat rides (sometimes a roller session as a substitute) to 1 hilly ride and it does have an effect of maintaining souplesse other than stretching.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • Thanks for the insight. I've always fancied doing some Hill Climbs but don't really know where to look aside from browsing individual club's websites. Is there a centralised list of events anywhere that may assist me?
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    mikelister wrote:
    Thanks for the insight. I've always fancied doing some Hill Climbs but don't really know where to look aside from browsing individual club's websites. Is there a centralised list of events anywhere that may assist me?

    CTT is where I entered the Snake Pass one, and there's plenty more on there: https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/

    That's just the "open" ones, not all of them require that though - just like regular TTs clubs put on "club" ones where you just turn up and go, but I don't know where to find a complete list of those except for the club websites.

    I found http://www.northcheshireclarion.co.uk/timetrial.html useful for identifying some TTs near to me (haven't actually done any yet though!).
  • pinno wrote:
    Is the max gradient on d'Huez 10%?

    As average over 1 Km or more yes, but there are long steep ramps, especially at the bottom that are over 10%
  • pinnopinno Posts: 39,371
    pinno wrote:
    Is the max gradient on d'Huez 10%?

    As average over 1 Km or more yes, but there are long steep ramps, especially at the bottom that are over 10%

    So when does it ease off, i.e if you were doing the Marmotte, how far up the climb could you safely say "Nearly home"?
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • webboowebboo Posts: 2,874
    The mistake I always used to make when riding in the Alps was saving sprockets just in case it gets steeper as I would in the UK. Start in your lowest gear and change up if it feels ok, rather try to grind it out.
    Also take time to get used to the heat. I remember riding up the Colombier and I could feel my head crinkling in the heat.
  • pinnopinno Posts: 39,371
    webboo wrote:
    The mistake I always used to make when riding in the Alps was saving sprockets just in case it gets steeper as I would in the UK. Start in your lowest gear and change up if it feels ok, rather try to grind it out.
    Also take time to get used to the heat. I remember riding up the Colombier and I could feel my head crinkling in the heat.

    Me born in Kenya me. I love the heat. I hate the cold. It's my main concern if it is sub 12 deg at the top of the climbs, i'll be in a poor state.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
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