7 Mental Tips for Better Race-Day Climbing

Manage Your Physiology

We all have a specific style of climbing, whether it be standing, sitting, sustainable or attacking. The key is to either use that style to stay on the climbs, or, when you are the dominating rider, use it to drop other riders.

For example, if you are an attacking type of rider, use that attacking mentality to: 1) eliminate riders over time and 2) bridge up to attacks without taking other riders with you. And when you are a sustainable style climber, the opposite will be true.

The great example at the 2011 Tour was when Ivan Basso had Sylvester Szmyd go to the front on the climb of Luz-Ardiden. He set a monster tempo that eliminated so many riders. It was done to perfection! It was a perfect example of good tactics using a rider's style to dictate what happened on the climb. It obviously worked!

In the Beginning

The beginning of a climb is always a challenge--especially if there has been a long descent before, where your legs have not applied much force to the pedals. You begin the climb and your legs feel like bricks. A lot of times there is not much you can do about this.

You can help ease the feeling, by keeping your legs moving on the descent as much as possible in a gear that allows some force. Also realize that the feeling will not last long as you start the climb. Try to both physically and mentally ease into the climb and know that your legs will eventually adjust to the new applied force. It may take a minute or two, but the key here is to realize that it will happen, just hang in there and don't slow down!

Heads Up!

So you are climbing along, suffering, focusing on the rider in front of you. You are super proud of yourself for the job you are doing. You then proceed to look up and there is 10-bike length gap up to the group! You are on the edge and find it almost impossible to bridge back up to them.

I would say that this is one of the more common mistakes made by amateur racers. It's important to keep your head up and look around and in front of you to see what is happening, even when you are suffering. By doing this, you can anticipate when gaps open a rider or two ahead up the line and move up to where you need to be, before it's too late. It's easy to look down when your heart rate is 180-plus beats! Resist that temptation and keep an eye out to see what is going on around you.

I hope that we've given you a few valuable tips that will help you compete better on the climbs. It's important to understand that climbing is also a learned skill, not just pure fitness. Riders who don't excel in this area can make up for it with confidence and smarts!


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Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling-specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com.

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