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.
Coach Fred Matheny 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.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.