QUESTION: I can stick with the weekend group ride most of the time. But the route includes five short hills, and when we hit them the pack goes berserk. The mellow pace is replaced by mad sprints to the top. I’m usually 30 meters off the back and have trouble catching up before the next hill. How can I stay in contact? — Molly C.
RBR REPLIES: It can be frustrating when riders jam the climbs, but I’ve rarely ridden with a group that didn’t do it. It seems to be a natural reaction.
You could try discussing hill behavior with the group’s leaders. There’s a time to go hard on climbs, but that time isn’t on every hill when the group has a mix of rider abilities.
Unless weekend outings are declared training races, they should be at a steady pace for good aerobic work. The hotshots should save their heroics for interval sessions and competition.
But if they persist in attacking every rise, try these tips:
- Get to the front before the hill. Maybe you can keep the group’s speed under control simply by climbing at a pace that’s brisk but doable for you. Also, at the front you have an unobstructed path. You won’t be slowed by other riders.
If you do get passed, you may wind up at the back going over the top, but you’ll still be in contact. However, if you start the climb at the back and get dropped, there’ll be a huge gap by the top.
- Apportion your effort. Start the climb in a smaller gear and spin fast. A third of the way up, shift to a medium gear and slow your cadence slightly. The last third of the climb is crunch time. Use a larger gear, stand up and pour on the power.
- Don’t go anaerobic. If you get dropped despite your best efforts, don’t continue to hammer. You’ll almost certainly blow up and slow to a crawl, losing big time. Instead, ease off to remain at an aerobic level, keep spinning and maintain momentum. You’ll save time and energy so chasing back on will be easier.
Most hills have a down slope on the other side of the top. If you are dropped going up the hill, it is usually easier to catch up on the downhill side as most groups that hammer up a hill ease off after reaching the top…..but I assume that is also difficult for you basis your comment. Thus, other than training to improve your hill climbing ability, the advice to be at or near the front of the group before the hill is probably the best solution.
Luc Gadbois says
I am surprised people still recommend the get to the front before the hill thing. It seems ridiculous. Firstly, when you are riding in a group with two abreast, the two in front are pulling and you might have just done your turn or you might be a few rows back. This recommendation requires you to break the paceline so that you can get on the front and further disrupt the paceline. Maybe this works in a pro race where you are 5 abreast and 30 riders deep. The other two recommendations are good!