Knowing how best to tackle long climbs can be the difference between reaching the summit and rolling back down defeated. As with every aspect of cycling, it’s as much about your head as your legs.
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Taking a measured approach and thinking your way through the many hairpins and ramps of the climbs you might be tackling will mean you reach the top and can celebrate your achievement, rather than rolling back down with your tail between your legs.
You’ll want to ride at a pace that you can comfortably sustain. Attacking your mates on the early slopes will soon catch up with you as the climb continues, and you won’t have anything left for the latter part of the climb.
For endurance it’s important to stay seated and spin at a high cadence, around 90-100rpm where possible. Using your aerobic capacity rather than pure muscle strength, you’ll retain leg power for when you really need it: towards the top or on the steeper ramps.
Unless you’re doing a controlled fasted ride, fuelling is essential for all kinds of cycling. However, when you’re climbing this is even more important: get hungry on the way up and you may not see the top.
It almost doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as it doesn’t disagree with you, you just need to make sure you do eat something. Remember: little and often.
Get out of the saddle
In slight contradiction to the pacing strategy, there are times when climbing out of the saddle is necessary. Taking on hairpin bends and coping with short changes in gradient may need extra effort, which standing up can provide.
Finally, preparing for the descent
You’ve made it to the top but now comes the descent. Riding faster for a lot less effort you’ll soon cool down so it really pays to carry extra clothing. Arm warmers and a gilet or wind jacket will be very welcome when making your way back to the foot of the climb.
Additional photography by Graham Watson and Yuzuru Sunada