Climbing. Some love it, some hate it. More often than not a rider’s attitude towards climbing correlates with their bodyweight. The bottom line is that climbing is generally dictated by watts per kilo. Simply put: to climb faster, you need to put out more power, or weigh less. Or both.
There are a myriad of strategies that can be enacted with coaches, physiologists and nutritionists until you’re light and strong enough to leave all your mates behind. But bike races are not raced in a lab.
It’s a curious observation that those who test well in the lab often get smashed by their less-impressive counterparts in real-life racing. Sometimes it’s attitude, sometimes its technique, sometimes it’s pacing. But whatever is letting you down, here are a few tips to help you improve.
Being at the front is a tip I’ve gotten for group rides too. The rationale is that stronger climbers will pass you, but hopefully you won’t fall to the very back – so you’ll still crest the hill with the majority of the group.
Being in or out of the saddle, all that matters is that you are comfortable. I was given a “tip” once that if everyone else is out of the saddle – you should be too. I disregarded the tip, and have since found the following video:
The science says there’s no difference (same as the article), even if the standing test was done so the guy wasn’t standing the entire time. What really dictates getting out of the saddle is how steep the climb is – you need to get out of the saddle to keep the weight distribution between the front and rear wheel. Too much in the back, the front lifts and you could end up on the ground. Too much in the front, and you loose traction in the rear – spin out. Spinning out isn’t that much of an issue on pavement/asphalt, but when the terrain is loose (gravel, dirt, mud) – it’s a lot more likely, and a lot more obvious.
Listening to the breathing of the people around you is very much a thing. In a group ride, it’s a courtesy to the person you’re paired with so you know if you should back off the pace. But as the article points out – in a competitive setting, use that to your advantage. Which leads into the next point…
As with any competition, knowing your opponent is key. Know when your opponent is “riding the rivet” so you can push them beyond the breaking point. I’ve had the experience where people misread me, because I am an unorthodox cyclist – I push big gears, low cadence. I get a lot of sneers, and it takes a few rides before that goes away.