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By Columnist Genevieve Whitson – Professional Cyclist 

Up Hill Cycling
Photo Credit: Paul Dobson, 2010 – Fred Whitton Challenge 2010

You do not need to be a natural to master climb. The biggest myth out there is that you are either a ‘natural’ or ‘no hope’ on hills – and its just not true. Learning to climb takes a bit of patience, but anyone can take their climbing ability to a new level.

How to Climb

The first step is to actually train on hills, or if you don’t have access to hills to replicate hills on a turbo trainer or gym. Climbing well requires strength and endurance and that is something that not all riders are born with.

So, if you’re currently struggling with hills, then I would suggest getting some good endurance rides in. Therefore, increasing your practice stamina and strength together. For instance ride for at least 1.5-2 hours over mixed terrain, which requires you to change your gears a lot and get in and out of the saddle. This makes your muscles more adaptive to changing power output and will make it easier when you target specific hills in a few weeks time.

Hills Sessions

Once you have some stamina in your legs, then it’s time to some specific sessions on hills. I would suggest, over the winter, doing some low cadence strength work on hills. This includes repeat efforts going up at around 60-70rpm for 5-minutes at a time and then spinning back down the hill around 90-100 to flush the legs out. This is quite an old school way of building strength in the legs and has been commonly used by Tour de France riders for the alpine stages.

Gym Sessions

The key is to not do this session all-year-round as it’s really taxing on the legs, but over the winter it’s perfect for lifting the power. If you don’t have access to good hills, then head straight to the gym for squats and deadlifts. Squats, in particular, done properly (I suggest getting supervision for anyone new to lifting weights), will also build up the muscles in your quads, while the deadlifts will focus on the calves.

After a few months in the gym, you’ll notice a considerable difference climbing. To get the ‘jump’ for climbing, for example, when the bunch goes up and someone attacks or cracks up the gears, you need to practice pure speed on hills. Find a hill which you can tear up at max effort for anywhere between 1-3 mins which will help prepare your body for the pace changes in groups. You can even incorporate 30-seconds on/30-seconds off amongst this or in alternative reps to help your lungs and muscles adapt to the changing pace of group rides.

Climbing should not be feared! Go find a hill and go forth!

About Our Cycling News and Review Columnist

Jarlath-Cross-20131-960x576_GenevieveGenevieve Whitson is a NZ born, British/Scottish cyclist, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Gen has a raced at the highest level for Road, Cyclocross and Mountain biking, have competed in four World Championships, multiple World Cups as well as riding professionally on the road. Gen has raced all around the globe on the road bike and is currently riding for a Belgium team, Isorex competing in all the major spring classics.

Highlights of her career include gaining a top 30 finish at the World Cyclocross Championships, a stage win in a major USA road tour, and winning the 2015 Scottish National Hill Climb Champs. Gen also loves to ride a rickshaw in Edinburgh for strength training on the side and is heavily involved in supporting/mentoring up and coming female/male athletes to ride to their potential. Her mantra on the bike is: Eat the pain…

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.


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