Climb like a Grand Tour stage winner

How to climb faster without losing weight? Chris Marshall-Bell asks all-star selection of WorldTour stage winners

Climbing
(Image credit: Russ Ellis)

Summer is upon us and that means, first and foremost for us cyclists, watching the Tour de France and Vuelta a España – and wishing that we could climb as well as the peloton’s mountain goats. 

Only a few will ever be able to match the rhythm and acceleration set by the world’s finest, but that’s not to say we can’t learn from that. To that end, we turned to a selection of climbing specialists to ask their advice on how to hit new heights in our ascending ability.

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Ride your own style
Tejay van Garderen, USA, EF Education-Nippo. Giro d’Italia stage winner, 2017

“You’ve got to find the best way for you to get up the hill. If you try to recreate someone else’s style, it won’t work. Imagine, for example, if Bradley Wiggins climbed like Alberto Contador: out of the saddle, hard and punchy accelerations, and Contador climbed like Wiggins: methodical, in the saddle, no wasted energy, treating the climb like a time trial. If they’d done that, they wouldn’t have had the success they did. Chris Froome spins 100rpm – if I did that, my heart rate would go through the roof. Learn what your own body is comfortable with.”

Prepare on the flat (if need be)
Robert Gesink, Netherlands, Jumbo-Visma, Vuelta a España stage winner, 2016

“I am from Holland where riding up mountains is quite difficult because there aren’t any. But that’s OK because, in the end, climbing is all about watts per kilo. If you can push high watts on the flats, you will be able to climb as well. It may not seem like it, but you can train for climbs on the flat quite well. Whenever I return to Holland, I find a five-hour training ride harder because there are no downhills where I can stop pedalling, but I never return to the mountains out of shape.”

Climb like a stage winner

(Image credit: Future)

When on the limit let instinct take over
Ilnur Zakarin, Russia, Gazprom-RusVelo, Giro d’Italia stage winner, 2015 and 2019 

“Many people ask if you should be out of your saddle when it gets steep, but it really depends on the circumstances. There’s no definitive answer. If you are at your limit, then you don’t pay attention to your position on the bike – don’t worry about it. The same goes for breathing: when you’re climbing hard, you can’t control how you breathe. It should be the last thing you focus on. Don’t overload the mind with worries you don’t need.”

The full feature with more tips from some of the best riders in the peloton is in the Aug 5 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine, on sale now in shops and online. You can also subscribe, save on the cover price and get it delivered each week. 

Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.


Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter. His laptop is as important as his avalanche equipment when he goes ski touring, and he almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from mountains.