Remember, you’re in it for the long haul. Don’t apportion your energy for one climb. Instead, parcel it out for the total number of climbs you anticipate during the ride. You may be tagging along at the back of the bunch in the early going, but by the end of the day you’ll have enough energy to blow the doors off your fast-starting buddies.
Spin to save your legs. Most riders are guilty of over-gearing on short climbs. They blast up the hill in the big ring, their cadence drops drastically, and they go over the top doing “squats on the bike.”
This approach kills your legs quickly. Instead, use your gears to keep a fairly high cadence — almost as high as on the flats (at least 80 rpm). Which gear depends on the length and steepness of each climb.
Roll over the top in a bigger gear. As you approach the bottom of a hill that takes 60-90 seconds to climb, shift to a gear that’s lower than you’d normally use. Stay seated and spin fast for about two-thirds of the way up. If you’re with others, they’ll probably be standing, pedaling slower than you and maybe pulling ahead. But you’re saving your legs. In the final third of the climb, shift to a bigger gear, stand and apply the pressure.
Your legs will still have some snap, thanks to the spinning that got you to this point, so you’ll be able to handle the larger gear. You’ll roll right on by your riding companions as they begin bogging down. And if you do it right, this should be repeatable for multiple short hills.