7 Mental Tips for Better Race-Day Climbing

There are many workouts and training tips you can do to help you become a better climber. But in this article, I want to put the specific types of training aside. Instead we will review some general concepts and most importantly, tactics and strategies you can employ while you are climbing in race situations.

It's Still the Engine

This cannot be ignored, as the bottom line is you still have to have a range of fitness equal to your competition level (e.g. Elite 4, 3) to compete on the climbs. More importantly, try not to stereotype yourself as a climber or non-climber. Way too many riders inaccurately classify themselves as a specific style of rider and this does not allow them to fully develop as bike racers.

The key is working on a general level of fitness, as this will allow you to compete in a variety of race types successfully.


Being patient and relaxed is essential to good climbing. Everything in a sense moves in slow motion, so your moves on a climb can be a bit slower and smoother.

For example, if an attack goes, try to pick a landmark to bridge up to the attack over time, as there is no need to accelerate as hard as the attackers did. Accelerating hard only produces more lactic accumulation and fatigue. After all, what you are trying to do is eliminate major changes in intensity during a bike race, which is a primary cause of fatigue.

The Dog Whisperer

Have you ever seen the show The Dog Whisperer? One of the key elements you take away from the show is how Cesar Milan consistently talks about how the human should show strength, confidence, and calmness towards the dog. In other words, the dog will immediately sense weakness from the human if you are scared or intimidated.

Apply this lesson to your competitors on the hills. During a race, we usually encounter better climbers, but those climbers don't have to know that. Ride next to them, right along their shoulder, your bars close to their hip and show them you are present and are confident. If you display any type of weakness, trust me, they will sense it and attack hard to drop you as soon as possible, just like a dog!

Poker Face

What ever you do, don't allow your competitors to know you are suffering. Climbing hurts, there is no doubt about that. So do your best to put on your best poker face, act the role of a lifetime, and not allow anyone to know it.

This goes hand and hand with the tip above concerning The Dog Whisperer. Good riders will look at how you are acting, watch your movements, and listen to your breathing to get a gauge on how much you are suffering. Probably one of the best examples of a climber that does this is Ivan Basso. His style is smooth, his face the same, he rides as near the front as possible, showing his presence. Whether he is hurting or not, he is showing the confidence needed to climb with the elite of the sport.

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