Improving Race-Day Climbing Performance
by Lance Watson
One of the simplest ways to improve race day performance is to know what to expect on any part of the course. Familiarize yourself with the bike portion by pre-riding, paying attention to any technical sections and the noting the profile. If you don't naturally climb like a mountain goat, keep in mind these tips that will help you conquer the course when it goes UP!
- Embrace the climb knowing that you are well equipped to handle the battle against gravity. The tips presented here are for climbing while seated. Since standing requires more energy, only come out of the saddle for steep climbs on surface with good traction, quick bursts or to stretch the legs and back.
- Concentrate on steady breathing, relaxing the shoulders and keeping the elbows bent. Focus on a smooth cadence and using the full pedal rotation to propel the bike forward. Try to keep upper body motion fairly quiet as bobbing and moving around wastes energy.
- During long climbs, remain seated, look fifteen to twenty feet ahead and break the climb into many smaller sections. With many shorter goals you will be at the top before you know it.
- Pick a lower gear to start, shift the front derailleur before the hill goes upwards as it is almost impossible to change chain rings when on a hill. Choose a gear that allows you to hold a steady pace for the entire climb. You want to ride at a threshold state, always pushing but not going so hard that your speed drops off towards the top. Continue to pedal over the crest of the hill into the next section.
- For steep or technical climbs, slide forward on the seat, drop your elbows and pull back on bars. Concentrate on keeping the front wheel on the ground; you will often have to make small adjustments to your position on the seat. Centering your weight over the bike allows the front and rear tires to maintain their grip, the front for steering and the rear for traction. Remember to look ahead, visualize yourself making it and don't give up.
- On sharp uphill turns like switchbacks, stay towards the outside of the turn where the grade is not as steep and there generally is not as much washout. Remember to keep the bike as vertical as possible, when turning, to keep the front wheel tracking. If there are technical sections in the climb, back off the effort a bit, allowing your heart to rest before you make the push over the obstacle.
- Often the climb will flatten out between numerous steeper grades, use these sections to recover your breath and flush some of the lactic acid from the muscles by spinning at a higher cadence.
Accept the challenge of climbing strongly and you will add another potent weapon to your race arsenal.
Over the past 20 years, Lance Watson has coached a number of Ironman and Olympic Games Champions. Beginner and experienced triathletes can contact him at LifeSport Coaching (coach@LifeSport.ca) or visit LifeSport.ca.