Top tips for climbing
Top tips for hill climbing
If you come on a cycling holiday with Ciclo Costa Blanca it is inevitable that you will have to ride some long climbs. Those of you that watched the penultimate stage of this year’s Vuelta will have seen some of the stunning but challenging climbs that are on our doorstep. To help you reach the summit here are my top five tips for climbing.
In one of my previous blogs I emphasised the need to practice riding uphill before you arrive in the Costa Blanca. It can be difficult to ride a long steep gradient if you have never done it before. Ciclo Costa Blanca is based at the foot of the Marina Mountains and most of the ride routes include a number of climbs. This could be a bit of a shock both physically and mentally if you are not used to riding hills. The climbs in the area are long steady climbs rather than short steep inclines which are more common in the UK. If you can’t find a long climb close to home then just ride a decent hill a few times to get your legs used to climbing a longer distance.
Make sure that your bike is set up properly for climbing. If you are bringing your own bike then the main question is-does it have enough gears? The standard 39/53 tooth chainring with 11-23 cassette is ok for hills that only last a few minutes but in the Costa Blanca climbs can take over an hour to reach the top so you should think about changing either the chainset, cassette or both for a lower gear ratio. Of course that is easier said than done so the best way to ensure that your bike is suitable and avoiding the need to change your existing bike set up is to hire a bike from Ciclo Costa Blanca as they have compact gears appropriate for the local terrain. Lots of the bikes have a traditional compact chainset with 50/34 chain rings and 11 speed 11-32 cassette -perfect for the mountains. There are also bikes set up at 52/36 11/28 and 50/36 11/28.
The most efficient way of climbing is to spin in an easy gear. We all know someone who claims to have climbed a mountain in the big ring but look at the gearing the pros use up climbs and you will see that they spin up. Unless you are doing a specific strength building session then select a lower gear and spin. Try and stay seated as long as possible. When the going gets tough move towards the back of the saddle to get some extra power and only stand for the steepest of gradients or just to stretch the legs.
The main point to make about pace is not to go off too fast. The climbs in Spain are a lot longer than those in the UK so you will need to conserve energy to reach the top. The most energy efficient way to climb is to ride at the same pace from the bottom to the summit. When riding with Ciclo Costa Blanca everyone is able to climb at their own pace so don’t exhaust yourself in the first kilometre by trying to stay with the group. We will always wait for riders at the summit or a pre-arranged point so that you can ride within your own capacity. Also don’t be afraid to stop for a rest on the way up-you don’t have to ride it all at once. Actually stopping is advisable to take a look at, or a photo of, the stunning scenery on route!
The mistake that many riders make is that they try to fuel the climb whilst on the climb! This is too late as your energy stores will already be depleted and what is worse it will be hard to digest whilst cycling hard and could make reappearance! Make sure that you have an energy bar about fifteen to or twenty minutes before you get to the climb. Energy gels are good for climbing as they are more easily digested and take affect quicker than solids. Of course keep taking small sips of drink whilst climbing. Some climbs have refreshment stops on the upwards slopes but that isn’t always the case so fill up your bidons at a café or shop at the bottom.
Helen is a former age-group European triathlon champion and World and European duathlon champion. She is a Ciclo Costa Blanca Ambassador and last year cycled the entire route of the Tour de France as part of the ‘One Day Ahead team’, which raised £1m for Cure Leukaemia. You can follow her training and racing on Twitter via @helengoth