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Excellent hill training ride yesterday.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Monday’s 116 kilometer/72 mile ride was fast-paced–especially the first ~30 miles, which I rode solo at a 23.1 MPH pace–but there was no climbing or elevation involved in that ride.

My friend Tracy Draper wanted to do some hill training yesterday and, after Monday’s flat-as-a-pancake ride, pointing my front tire a little more skyward sounded great to me. Well, sort of… my legs were still recovering from Monday’s effort.

Tracy put together a nice little 30.5 kilometer/19 mile loop in hilly Clermont. The route took us up some of our favorite Clermont hills, including Sugarloaf, Buckhill and The Wall. Each 19 mile loop contained more than 1,500 feet of elevation, and the plan was to complete the loop three times back-to-back, giving us a total of more than 90 kilometers/56 miles with 4,600 feet of elevation.

With my legs still a little rubbery from Monday’s TT effort, I was sort of on the fence about the hill training ride… but not for long. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I consulted the only Rule that really matters in cycling (NSFW), and publicly committed to the ride.

Here’s the actual elevation profile (as recorded by my Garmin Edge 810) from yesterday’s ride (click to enlarge):

Actual elevation profile from yesterday's hill training ride in Clermont, Florida. No real flat sections to be found here!

Actual elevation profile from yesterday’s hill training ride in Clermont, Florida. No real flat sections to be found here!


We may not have many rated climbs here in Central Florida, but there is some nice elevation to be mined around here if you know where to ride!

Anyway, because this was a hill training ride, I was not out to break any personal records for time. I decided to hone in on a specific facet of my climbing technique: creating power while climbing IN the saddle with a relatively high cadence. Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of pros are using this technique during climbs, and they are generating astonishing amounts of power while seated and quickly spinning.

So I remained in the saddle the entire ride, even during climbs, and as I climbed I kept a close eye on my cadence and power. I tried not think about speed, and instead focused on technique: pedal smoothness, torque efficiency, keeping my upper body still, proper breathing and, as I just mentioned, doing all this while in the saddle, spinning quickly and generating good power.

I actually posted some of my strongest times deep in the ride. My legs felt surprisingly good, but I believe the main reason for the time improvements is because I was becoming more comfortable with the techniques I’d been practicing.

Here is my data from a couple of the hills we climbed. These snapshots were from deep in the ride, and the third time we hit these hills on yesterday’s ride.

First, Sugarloaf:

Sugarloaf Mountain.

Sugarloaf Mountain.


As you can see, Sugarloaf is not a long climb, but it’s pretty steep with a maximum grade of around 17%. My goal was to keep my average cadence above 90 RPM, remain seated and keep my power output fairly high, but steady and sustainable.

Here’s The Wall:

The Wall

The Wall


The Wall is not quite as steep as Sugarloaf, but it does hit a fairly respectable maximum grade of almost 15%. I was able to keep my spin quick while generating good, but sustainable, power.

Even though my legs were not fresh for this ride, I never felt like I was in any danger of blowing up or cramping. In fact, I felt stronger as the ride progressed.

Certainly hard, out-of-the-saddle climbing will always be an important skill in cycling, but also I feel the technique I practiced yesterday is another valuable weapon to have in my arsenal. I’m going to continue to work on this skill in the coming months.

John Stone Fitness Comments

6 Responses to “Excellent hill training ride yesterday.”
  1. 17% stings the nostrils!!!! Love climbing and hate it at the time. Nothing gives me a better sense of accomplishment than making it to the top of a climb. Love the charts…Garmin edge looks pretty strong. Do you know the overall length and average grade of sugarloaf? Just curious.

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    • I’d love to go to Europe for a few weeks and try my hand at some real climbs! I recently finished watching the 6-stage Tour of the Basque Country, and had to put Spain on my bucket list. Stunning.

      I’m extremely pleased with the Edge 810. It’s been rock-solid for me.

      The Sugarloaf climb is ~660 meters in length with a rise of ~56.1 vertical meters. Dividing the rise by the hypotenuse and then multiplying the result by 100 gives the average grade:

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

      The Pythagorean theorem would provide more precision, but that’s overkill here and the result would be nearly the same.

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  2. I think the Pythagorean theorem would give you the degree of angle which comes out to 5 Degrees. (I just drew in ACAD.)

    Did your back give you any trouble staying in the saddle for the climbs? It would always kill mine.

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    • I meant that more precision could be obtained using the Pythagorean theorem to determine the correct horizontal distance. In reality, though, on a relatively mild climb like Sugarloaf, the length of the road and the horizontal distance traveled are going to be almost identical.

      My lower back has been 100% trouble-free since shortening my stem. That little equipment tweak made all the difference in the world.

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  3. You have to come in Italy. Here there are high and long hills. Today was the second time with stages, it’s ok, but I have to train a lot because my ftp is too low 🙁
    Your blog is fantastic!

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