Climbing to the Top
Climbing can be one of the toughest yet most enjoyable aspects of road cycling.
l’Alpe d’Huez uphill time trial in 39:41. Five percent slower there was 2 minutes back; only good enough for 5th place. Not everyone can climb like Lance so let’s say a strong cyclist can ride l’Alpe d’Huez in 70 minutes. A 5% increase from that makes you 3:30 faster. It’s hard not to be happy with that improvement. The increased red blood cell mass from altitude training helps deliver more oxygen to your muscles. The thinner the air, the more red blood cells you’ll need. If you’re going to climb the cols of the Tour de France, proper altitude training can help you since many of the summits are over 1600m elevation. As you get closer to the summit of these high peaks, your body is more fatigued yet is working even harder to deliver adequate oxygen. At 1524 meters, available aerobic power is estimated to be 94.4% of sea level power in acclimatized athletes and only 91.1% in non-acclimatized athletes (Bassett). When incorporating altitude into your training plan, make sure to reduce your training volume & intensity to allow for the increased stress that high altitude places on your body.
Improving you climbing ability is hard work, but the process yields great results. There will be many tough days on the hills. A positive attitude and long term focus will help you through the challenging sessions. Stick with it, because the view from the top of the climb is indeed the sweetest.
John Phillips is a Senior Coach for Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS) and an elite cyclist and duathlete. Although he’s big and tall for a cyclist, he can climb like the wind. To find out what CTS can do for you, visit www.trainright.com.