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Detailed look at yesterday’s workout: Sugarloaf Mountain repeats.

Friday, July 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Sugarloaf Mountain (yes, this is about as close to a real mountain as we get here in Florida) is a relatively short, but tough, climb. At 312 feet above sea level, the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain is the highest point in peninsular Florida. The actual climb is about .42 miles, with an average gradient of around 8.5% and a maximum gradient of around 17%.

Sugarloaf repeats. We just missed the rain. Wet roads and lots of humidity.

Sugarloaf repeats. We just missed the rain. Wet roads and lots of humidity.

For some reason Sugarloaf Mountain is not a rated climb (at least not on Strava), but it should be. In order for a climb to be rated it must meet two criteria: it must be at least 500 meters in length, and it must have an average grade of 3% or more. The Sugarloaf climb is ~660 meters in length with a rise of ~56.1 vertical meters. To get a very close estimation of the average grade all you need to do is divide the rise by the hypotenuse and then multiply the result by 100:

((56.1/660) x 100) = 8.5%

You can get a little more precise by calculating the bottom of the triangle using the Pythagorean theorem, but that’s splitting hairs, takes a lot more time and the result will be practically identical to what we just got. Plus I suck at the maths.

So 8.5% is a fairly steep climb, but because it’s short it would probably only be a rated Category 4 climb. I’m not sure why it isn’t rated on Strava. I think I’ll submit it.

Anyway, the Black Bear Rampage mountain bike race is coming up in early September, and with about 4,000 feet of climbing spread over its 40 mile race course, climbing training is highly advisable for participants!

Here in Central Florida, Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the best places to get that climbing training in–especially doing painful repeats. Dale Serge, a well-known local MTB racer, will be competing in this year’s Leadville 100 in Colorado. As part of Dale’s training for Leadville, he has been doing Sugarloaf repeats. Lots of them. I was inspired by a couple of Dale’s recent training rides, on which he did an astonishing 25 back-to-back repeats on one ride and then a jaw-dropping 33 repeats on another.

So for yesterday’s training ride Mike Simmons and I headed over to Sugarloaf Mountain to do hill repeats. Mike and I approached the workout a little differently: Mike decided to ride his mountain bike (650B Ibis Mojo), while I decided to ride my road bike (Trek Madone 5.9).

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of bike…

Obviously the Madone is lighter than the Mojo, so the Mojo is at a disadvantage there. Also, the fat and knobby MTB tires are slower rolling than the smooth skinny road bike tires on the Madone.

Where the Mojo has an advantage over the Madone is the gearing. My Madone’s crankset is 34/50, and the cassette is 11/28. Mike’s Mojo has 28/42 cranks and a 12/36 cassette.

If you’re not familiar with bike gearing, the short of the long is that Mike’s gearing allowed him to spin at a higher cadence during the steep climb, while I was forced to mash at a slower cadence (requiring more muscle).

Here’s an example. Let’s assume Mike and I are both riding on the exact same section of a climb and spinning at the exact same cadence, 90 RPM, while in our respective lowest (easiest) possible gears. For Mike that would be 28/36 (front/rear) and for me that would be 34/28 (front/rear). With 27.5″ (650B tires) Mike would be traveling about 5.7 miles per hour, while on my Madone (29″ tires) I would be doing 9.4 miles per hour. In other words, if I were to slow my speed to equal Mike’s, my cadence would be a lot slower, below 60 RPM. I definitely found myself wishing for “just one more gear” yesterday. 🙂

Anyway, that’s enough technical crap!

Mike had a flat on the very first climb, and that set him back a bit. I wound up doing 13 repeats and Mike did 10. We did not stop and we did not rest. It was a tough, tough workout!

I climbed a total of 3,553 feet over 25 miles which, to the amusement of those of you who live in more mountainous regions, is a new single ride climbing record for me. I climbed more on yesterday’s 25 mile ride than I did during a recent 100 mile ride!

My best time climbing Sugarloaf is 2:11 (59th of 858 riders on Strava), which I rode back in October 2012 right after I got my road bike. I’ve not attempted to beat that time since then (I’m sure I can, and I will), but obviously yesterday I placed my focus on sustained effort rather than going for a fastest time. I felt like I was fairly consistent with my times: the first climb took me 2:37, while the 13th climb took me 3:08.

I need to mention the descent. After the climb, of course, is the super fast ride back down to the bottom. Sugarloaf Mountain road is not exactly smooth, and there are lots of bumps and cracks in it. Also, it had rained just before we arrived, and the road was wet. I hit 46 MPH bombing down that road yesterday, which is actually the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike. That was just gravity–I was not pedaling: I got aero, and focused–obviously a wreck at those kinds of speeds wearing nothing but Lycra would be horrible.

Here’s the entire ride on Strava.

My legs actually feel really good this morning! Mike and I are going to go back with the goal of doing 20 back-to-back repeats, and then we’re going to go for 25 repeats. Twenty-five repeats should net about 7,000 feet of climbing–not bad for a couple Florida boys!

Great ride yesterday, Mike!

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “Detailed look at yesterday’s workout: Sugarloaf Mountain repeats.”
    • I found the answer in Strava’s KB. Turns out they use an automated formula that is a little different from the official UCI method:

      “To decide the category of a climb we multiply the length of the climb (in meters) with the grade of the climb in percent. If that number is greater than 8000 then it is a categorized climb.”

      Sugarloaf: 661 * 8.5 = 5618.5

      Oh well. There’s a Strava Cat 4 climb near me that is a total joke compared to Sugarloaf. Strava’s formula could use some tweaking!

      GD Star Rating

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