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The fastest way to the top?

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The fastest way to the top?

Old 07-08-19, 10:38 AM
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cthenn
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The fastest way to the top?

I'm wondering what people's technique or "strategy" is when trying to get up a climb as fast as possible. Do you come into it full gas, and try to hang on at the top? Or the complete opposite, build a steady rhythm and hit it at the top? Or steady all the way? I'm talking about climbs of a decent length. Not hour+ long beasts, or 1 minute sprint climbs. Long ones are generally done at a steady rhythm, and short ones really don't require much technique. So, something in the 10-30 minute range. Also, does it depend on the profile of the climb? Some climbs start flat, and steepen toward the top, others are the opposite, and some are fairly steady throughout. On a climb that is steep at the top, I usually try to save something for the end, whereas if it's flatter at the top, I may push it at the start and in the middle, and try to hang on at the top. I know I can just experiment for myself, but I'm curious what works best for other people.
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Old 07-08-19, 10:46 AM
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I'm not sure how to describe it, but I always use my momentum to come in as fast as I can, then use power and cadence to pace myself.
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Old 07-08-19, 11:04 AM
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The fastest method will require endurance. You'd push your maximum heart rate that's sustainable for the time period, while also maintaining a cadence in the 65 to 85 range. If your cadence drops too low and you're in the lowest gear, you need lower gears. If you have several such climbs, don't over do it.
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Old 07-08-19, 11:08 AM
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Constant power output is time-minimizing only when conditions are constant. If conditions are variable (like, changes in gradient or wind), the time-minimizing strategy is also variable. The amount of variability that is time-minimizing is limited by your power-duration and your ability to recover from excursions above threshold. In practical terms, it's also limited by your ability to vary and control your power output.

That all said, a "close but perhaps not optimal" time-minimizing strategy is to go *almost but not quite* constant power: you want to go *very slightly* harder when you're going slower than the overall average speed (e.g., when road gets steeper) and go *very slightly* easier when you're going faster than the overall average speed (when the gradient eases off a bit).
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Old 07-08-19, 11:27 AM
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I attack the beginning to take advantage of momentum (although this may or may not benefit overall)

then stay below threshold, until the last leg & go harder then if there is power left over.

On some rides I will go all out on one climb, & drag myself or be dragged the rest of the way.

More conservative approach for long & lots of climbing.

Chasing someone helps, but if it's long I don't look too far ahead, especially when hot.
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Old 07-08-19, 11:30 AM
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Old 07-08-19, 11:40 AM
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If it's a gradual incline with kickers in the middle (say, 4-5% with short bits over 10%), I'll go anaerobic on the short pitches and recover on the more gradual stretch that follows.
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Old 07-08-19, 11:43 AM
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When attacking a small climb, say 1-5 minutes with steep gradients (maxing from 10-20%, probably averaging 6-10%) there're a couple of factors you want to look at. First, physics speaking, extra power will mean considerably more on the steepest part of the climb than anywhere else. Second, if you have a tailwind, simply get to "cruising altitude", where more power means barely any more speed on the flat, then crush the hill. If you are looking to get the KOM or something of that nature, you would want to focus on going "pretty hard" (think threshold) on the flat leading up to the hill, "very hard" (think VO2 max) when first beginning the climb, and "unbelievably hard" (think anaerobic) when encountering the steepest portion, from then on, simply keep your cadence up and power up and over the top.

Now, this is if you're seriously trying to get a fast time on the hill, as the fastest method is most definitely putting maximum effort at the very steepest gradient (which means no, don't use up your sprint before getting to the hill).

However, in a race, Gran Fondo, etc. a typical strategy is to use some extra effort to get to the front of the group before the hill and then slowly let everyone pass you as you go up the hill, catching back onto the tail end of the peloton while just cresting the hill and repeating for each consecutive hill (unless it's an uphill finish).

If you're going for maximum distance, say ultra distance events like 150 miles, 200, etc. it's been shown to be considerably better to keep a consistent, steady, power to the hill, up the hill, and down the hill. The reason being, is the lactic buildup caused by repeated spikes into the VO2 max or anaerobic range have been shown to be quite detrimental when going for overall distance, everyone reacts differently to this, and it is slower than powering up the hills and lightly pedaling down the hills, until you're at death's door 8 hours later, wishing you had saved your legs.

Lastly, if we're talking a time trial, it depends on distance. If you're doing a rolling 40k course with sharp hills every few miles, it would be best to keep a consistent power and with increases only up to around 15% higher than what you can average for the entire TT when encountering the hills. If it's a much smaller time trial, say 10 or so minutes, simply smash each hill with ungodly power, while keeping a little in the tank for powering over the top and maintaining speed through the flats.
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Old 07-08-19, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan333SP View Post
If it's a gradual incline with kickers in the middle (say, 4-5% with short bits over 10%), I'll go anaerobic on the short pitches and recover on the more gradual stretch that follows.
Why? Unless you're going extremely fast, even on the 5% gradients you're mostly fighting gravity. Time-versus-effort tradeoffs don't look much different there than on a 12% gradient. It theoretically makes sense to go a little harder on the steeper spots because aero losses aren't wasting as much energy, but not all that much harder.
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Old 07-08-19, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
Why? Unless you're going extremely fast, even on the 5% gradients you're mostly fighting gravity. Time-versus-effort tradeoffs don't look much different there than on a 12% gradient. It theoretically makes sense to go a little harder on the steeper spots because aero losses aren't wasting as much energy, but not all that much harder.
For me at least, I can recover on a 5% gradient given my normal gearing. I can't recover on a 10+% gradient, so I try to get them over as quickly as possible if it's a relatively short pitch. YMMV.
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Old 07-08-19, 12:25 PM
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It really depends on the totality of the ride. In general, I like to save up for steep sections, but I also kick things up right before sections where recovery is possible.

If it's a long ride with a lot of climbing, I sometimes mark the mileage of critical points (start/end of climbs, especially steep sections, flats) on my arm to help me plan my effort. I find that knowing what's ahead and where helps both speed and morale.
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Old 07-08-19, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn View Post
I'm wondering what people's technique or "strategy" is when trying to get up a climb as fast as possible. Do you come into it full gas, and try to hang on at the top? Or the complete opposite, build a steady rhythm and hit it at the top? Or steady all the way? I'm talking about climbs of a decent length. Not hour+ long beasts, or 1 minute sprint climbs. Long ones are generally done at a steady rhythm, and short ones really don't require much technique. So, something in the 10-30 minute range. Also, does it depend on the profile of the climb? Some climbs start flat, and steepen toward the top, others are the opposite, and some are fairly steady throughout. On a climb that is steep at the top, I usually try to save something for the end, whereas if it's flatter at the top, I may push it at the start and in the middle, and try to hang on at the top. I know I can just experiment for myself, but I'm curious what works best for other people.
Pacing yourself.

Endurance drops rapidly when you overdo it, with 5% over your one hour power dropping endurance to 20 minutes and 10% 10 minutes.

On longer rides, harder efforts have a disproportionate impact on fatigue (approximately equal to the square of effort), use more glycogen, and potentially shift your energy substrate utilization for the remainder of the ride. For 100-200 miles I'll aim for the same 150W I would on flat ground,.

Racing you may do better working harder on the steep sections. Slow sections make up a disproportionate fraction of total time, and you're losing less to aerodynamic drag on them. You can probably recover on the following downhill where you spend little time and pedaling has little impact on speed.

Running out of gears and being forced to walk will slow you down even more.

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Old 07-08-19, 01:07 PM
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On shorter climbs (less than ten minutes) I like to start at a slower pace and then start pushing the last 25%.
On longer climbs, I have to resort to digging deep into my suitcase of courage.
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Old 07-08-19, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn View Post
I'm wondering what people's technique or "strategy" is when trying to get up a climb as fast as possible.


Do you come into it full gas, and try to hang on at the top? Or the complete opposite, build a steady rhythm and hit it at the top? Or steady all the way? I'm talking about climbs of a decent length. Not hour+ long beasts, or 1 minute sprint climbs. Long ones are generally done at a steady rhythm, and short ones really don't require much technique. So, something in the 10-30 minute range. Also, does it depend on the profile of the climb? Some climbs start flat, and steepen toward the top, others are the opposite, and some are fairly steady throughout. On a climb that is steep at the top, I usually try to save something for the end, whereas if it's flatter at the top, I may push it at the start and in the middle, and try to hang on at the top. I know I can just experiment for myself, but I'm curious what works best for other people.
10-30min is a time trial.

Lots of stuff on TTs, You come in well warmed up, don't go out too hard, finish hard.

Like TTing you have to deal with aerobic ability/lactic acid/burn. Standing can help but takes more energy. Assuming the hill is steep enough you can mix up position as aero is not much of an issue, but standing takes more. Finish out of the saddle.
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Old 07-08-19, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
Constant power output is time-minimizing only when conditions are constant. If conditions are variable (like, changes in gradient or wind), the time-minimizing strategy is also variable. The amount of variability that is time-minimizing is limited by your power-duration and your ability to recover from excursions above threshold. In practical terms, it's also limited by your ability to vary and control your power output.

That all said, a "close but perhaps not optimal" time-minimizing strategy is to go *almost but not quite* constant power: you want to go *very slightly* harder when you're going slower than the overall average speed (e.g., when road gets steeper) and go *very slightly* easier when you're going faster than the overall average speed (when the gradient eases off a bit).
Good feedback. When I first got a PM, I realized just how "unbalanced" I was on variable grade climbs. I'm talking on the order of 80-100 watts. Really pushing too hard on the steeper parts, and practically coasting on the flatter portions. I've "only" been using a PM for about 4-5 years, and I'm still trying to re-train my body to push harder on flatter roads/climbs. What feels like cruising power on a climb feels like turning myself inside out on a dead flat road, still to this day. So yeah, I basically do exactly this now, a little bit harder on the steeper parts, and a bit easier on the flatter parts, but keeping the overall output closer to my power goal for the overall effort, instead of more wild fluctuations. Also it depends a bit on the profile, I'm always wary of those steep finishes. Roads with flatter finishes I'm much more apt to "dial it up to 400 watts" early on and try not to blow up at the end.

Last edited by cthenn; 07-08-19 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 07-08-19, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan333SP View Post
If it's a gradual incline with kickers in the middle (say, 4-5% with short bits over 10%), I'll go anaerobic on the short pitches and recover on the more gradual stretch that follows.
Yeah, I don't have the lungs and legs for that. One of many reasons why I don't race, I can't handle violent rhythm changes.
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Old 07-08-19, 03:48 PM
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10-30 minute climbs are basically best done at steady power, usually near or slightly over your threshhold. Know your zones, settle in right away, and just manage your HR.

I MAY try to mark a wheel, but that's only if i"m confident they won't blow me up, and that they are likely to blow themselves up. But then i'll sit on the wheel and just try to manage my effort and HR.

If I am going to go over my zone, it's always going to be for the steeper parts or switchbacks (you get more benefit at the higher effort lower speed parts).

Later in the climb I may decide I'm feeling good and up my effory, but it will be a small increase and still be consistent power while climbing.

If the climb is followed by a descent, then I very much want to be on the back of whatever pack is in front of me over the top. So I will absolutely bury myself to catch that wheel before it gets over the top. I can recover in the draft... which I won't have if I don't catch that wheel!

Climbs under 10 minutes can be climbed well over threshhold, but steady power is still usaully going to be the fastest.
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Old 07-08-19, 04:11 PM
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Ala Johan Museeuw,, tempo climb in the big ring and leave your rivals behind.
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Old 07-08-19, 06:20 PM
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I don't personally consider any hill that can be conquered in 10 minutes a "climb"-- that's gonna gain what, a couple hundred feet? At least not that I would need to pace. I can head east and climb 3,000 feet in 9 miles. How do I get through that as fast as possible? Well, it's like a 90% of FTP effort and I'll need 3-4 days to recover. So I don't worry about how to do it the fastest. The goal is to get to the top. It takes however long it takes.

I do have a nearby street with a segment that is about 0.75 miles, averages 9%, and climbs about 375 feet. The fastest way to the top is to just blow up. Go as hard as possible for 7 minutes, try not to die. My PR required an average output of 304W, which was around 95% of my FTP at the time. I did the climb three times that day, and the third trip up was 2 minutes slower than the first.
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Old 07-08-19, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I do have a nearby street with a segment that is about 0.75 miles, averages 9%, and climbs about 375 feet. The fastest way to the top is to just blow up. Go as hard as possible for 7 minutes, try not to die. My PR required an average output of 304W, which was around 95% of my FTP at the time. I did the climb three times that day, and the third trip up was 2 minutes slower than the first.
So your FTP was ~320, and your PR was achieved by 7 minutes at 304 which was as hard as possible, trying not to die?
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Old 07-08-19, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
So your FTP was ~320, and your PR was achieved by 7 minutes at 304 which was as hard as possible, trying not to die?
It makes sense when you consider that he said that sub-10-minute efforts don't require pacing strategies, and that his approach to the climb is to "just blow up."
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Old 07-08-19, 09:45 PM
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Yep. First two times up within 10 seconds of each other. Third trip way slower. I dont know if it was the average, or the peaks into the high 600s, but it certainly sucked. Im not much of a climber.

Worse still is looking at the times of lightweights that go 2mph faster on 20 fewer watts.
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Old 07-08-19, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
It makes sense when you consider that he said that sub-10-minute efforts don't require pacing strategies, and that his approach to the climb is to "just blow up."
Good point.
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Old 07-09-19, 12:10 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I attack the beginning to take advantage of momentum (although this may or may not benefit overall)

then stay below threshold, until the last leg & go harder then if there is power left over.

On some rides I will go all out on one climb, & drag myself or be dragged the rest of the way.

More conservative approach for long & lots of climbing.

Chasing someone helps, but if it's long I don't look too far ahead, especially when hot.
Its a net loss attacking at a speed higher than the expected ascent speed, - unless of course the initial speed is "free", form descending the previous hill or because its your normal cruise speed on flat road.

- Reason being overcomeing wind resistance is Very labour intensive and even a very fast approach will only gain a few metres before you are back down to normal ascent speed.
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Old 07-09-19, 12:18 AM
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Assuming I'm in peak form, which almost never happens... it mostly depends on the condition of the pavement. And wind. Can't do much about wind other than get lower.

If it's smooth, I mostly sit and spin. If it's the usual sluggish feeling chipseal or striated concrete, I'll switch between sitting to spin and standing to mash. Especially if there are unavoidable rough seams, ledges and choices between bad potholes and horrible potholes. Then I'll time my standing climbs to navigate the rough spots and minimize jolting my back, neck and skull.

Mostly I end up climbing like guys my size (I'm 5'11", 150 lbs, but old and slow) -- LeMond and Armstrong at their peaks. Except much slower. But after watching many, many of their climbs and time trials, it makes sense why they didn't stand longer like the little guys -- Pantani and Contador -- or sit 90% of the time like the bigger guys with massive leg, hip and lower back power -- Merckx and Indurain. Switching between sitting and stand seems like a reasonable way to maintain momentum, conserve energy, recruit fresh muscles when the others are wearing down, etc.

This has improved my times on some climbs, but not much on others. Really seems to depend on the condition of the pavement. I seem to do a bit better with lower tire pressure
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