Training for cycling in the Pyrenees

Julia9054

Veteran
Location
Knaresborough
@Almartino and i are currently in the Pyrenees with our bikes.
Due to me having an operation 6 weeks ago, neither of us are quite as fit as we would like to be (he stopped cycling in sympathy!). We managed the Col d'Aspin but we would like to do some of the bigger ones next year.
It seems to me that here we are looking at very long grim drags of mostly 8 - 10% but above 20km.
What sort of training would people suggest (we live in North Yorkshire)
I am light with big strong legs, reasonable stamina but naturally poor heart and lung fitness.
Al is almost the exact opposite - poor knees, heavier than he should be but with naturally good heart and lung fitness .
 

ColinJ

It's a puzzle ...
@Almartino and i are currently in the Pyrenees with our bikes.
Due to me having an operation 6 weeks ago, neither of us are quite as fit as we would like to be (he stopped cycling in sympathy!). We managed the Col d'Aspin but we would like to do some of the bigger ones next year.
It seems to me that here we are looking at very long grim drags of mostly 8 - 10% but above 20km.
What sort of training would people suggest (we live in North Yorkshire)
I am light with big strong legs, reasonable stamina but naturally poor heart and lung fitness.
Al is almost the exact opposite - poor knees, heavier than he should be but with naturally good heart and lung fitness .
Well, you obviously won't find climbs as serious as that in the UK!

Nearest to you might be something like doing Otley Chevin 6 or 7 times on the trot, but obviously you'd have the descents to recover in. (And it would probably do your heads in!) Much less busy road, further away, but a similar climb - Wessenden Head from Meltham. Both roughly 3 km at 9%.

Or you could go up to Appleby-in-Westmorland for the weekend and tackle 3 successive ascents of Great Dun Fell! :eek:
 

YukonBoy

The Monch
Location
Inside my skull
I'd say a mix of sessions involving steep hills and sessions involving long hills. Yad Moss from Middleton in Teesdale is 22km to the top. It's not a steep one but will enable you to get used to up hills of that length. You can simulate steeper gradients by increasing your gear till you're cadence drops to something you'd be doing on a 8% hill or so.

For these long cols it is a question of settling in to a sustainable pace that has you breathing and heart working away but not so hard you begin to redline. So you need to find out where that point is, through repeated climbs. If you find yourself dying or slowing down long before the summit then you are setting too high a pace.

Last summer I did a 32km of 7-12% in the Dolomites. I'd get out the saddle for the slightly steeper hairpins then settle back in the saddle for the next section. Because I knew what sustainable uphill felt like I was able to pace it by perceived effort, despite not having been up climbs that length in this country.

I find my Brompton is a good simulator for steeper hills as its lowest gear is about 48" compared to 27" on the road bike. So it works the legs, heart and lungs on gradients you wouldn't think much off with lower gearing.
 
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I say work your way up to doing that Middleton to Teesdale climb twice.

I have 20 mile climbs at 6% but with the switchbacks at 10+ percent in the turns, you get your share of steep sections as well.

I say do it twice because doing a good effort, then relaxing for a bit, then trying to climb again is really good training for mountain climbs.

I remember doing a ride called Ride Around the Bear. Most of the 9800 ft of gain was in the first 62 miles.

A big downhill of 40 miles or so, in between there are a couple short 1/2 mile climbs or so. Man, that almost killed me thinking I was going all downhill. My legs froze up. So you have to get used to doing an effort, relaxing then climbing again to survive in the mountains.

I say relaxing but actually "softpedaling" to keep your legs moving and keeping them from freezing up.

This was the ride. Second, third and fourth times I did the ride, I knew better. I kept the legs warm and ready for those little short climbs in between the downhills than can really zap your energy.

That little climb at Barton Flats hurt ha ha! Now I know better.

TheBear_zpsfee335ef.jpg
 

Twizit

CS8 lead out specialist
Location
Surrey
Similar challenge living around Surrey and having just been out to the Pyrenees. Advice I've been given in the past is to focus less on finding comparable hills per sey (you can't anyway) and get your body used to doing 2 hour + constant efforts. Just doing UK based hill reps gets you used to climbing but won't get your body used to going for so long without the respite of a downhill.

Suggestion near here was to do lots of laps of Richmond Park, which is a reasonable 7 mile rolling circuit. Trouble is that's mindnumbingly boring, so I've always just tried to find a reasonable rolling route that doesn't afford me any downhill rest periods, and to just head out round that solo for 2-3 hours.

Obviously doing some hill climbing is also still worthwhile!
 
Similar challenge living around Surrey and having just been out to the Pyrenees. Advice I've been given in the past is to focus less on finding comparable hills per sey (you can't anyway) and get your body used to doing 2 hour + constant efforts. Just doing UK based hill reps gets you used to climbing but won't get your body used to going for so long without the respite of a downhill.

Suggestion near here was to do lots of laps of Richmond Park, which is a reasonable 7 mile rolling circuit. Trouble is that's mindnumbingly boring, so I've always just tried to find a reasonable rolling route that doesn't afford me any downhill rest periods, and to just head out round that solo for 2-3 hours.

Obviously doing some hill climbing is also still worthwhile!
I've seen similar advice that you need to replicate the effort, so a 20km TT which requires a similar power and HR effort as the hill climb, this for me would be the height of masochistic boredom though, at least climbing a hill has a purpose.

Chris Boardman famously stuck his bike on a treadmill angled at the % he needed. He then sealed his room and reduced the air pressure to simulate the altitude! Of course if you don't want to go to those lengths it might be understandable.
 
OP
Julia9054

Julia9054

Veteran
Location
Knaresborough
Today was the Col des Borderes. Short and sharp! About 330m but only 3km.
Our campsite is directly at the bottom in Estaing
 

EasyPeez

Über Member
Would you consider an indoor trainer for over the winter? I'm not really sold on the idea, and in any case don't have the space right now, but a friend of mine has spent the last 12months using bespoke training plans on Zwift in preparation for cycling up the Alpe d'Huez.

He was always a decent cyclist, but this time last year I could out pace him on pretty much any climb we tackled together. This summer in Flanders was a different story - my year of commuting single speed on the flat was no match for his Zwift mountains regime and he was often leaving me (and all the rest of the gang) for dust on the cobbled flats and the classic climbs. No mountains in Flanders of course, so riding in the Alps will be different for him, but that's what he's been training for and it's clearly improved his speed and stamina all round.

If indoor winter training is not attractive/possible you could try following one or more of these -

https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/training-plans

Not specifically aimed at preparing for mountains, but there are enough options that you could probably cherry pick bits from them to use for your own goals?

This is also worth a look - https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/article/izn20140626-Tackling-Long-Climbs-0

And +1 for the gear suggestions above - I swapped my lowest gear from 34/28 to 34/32 for Flanders and really felt the benefit. Another mate invested in a GXR derailleur and 40t cassette for his road bike - tantamount to mechanical doping if you ask me!

Cheers, enjoy the Pyrenees, hope to see you on a ride again soon :-)
 

slowfen

Veteran
The campsite in Estaing is great, stayed there a few years ago.
With the climbs, is about finding your own pace, long climbs at someones elses pace are not easy. Also getting you attitude right, its long, will be uncomfortable at times, may get cold, but enjoy the view, the achievement and the ride down.
I live in the Fens, my hills are the wind, and have done pyranean, alpine climbs as well as Mt Ventoux

Ps I always felt the vultures were waiting for the cyclists to stop so they could eat
 

CXRAndy

Guru
Location
Lincs
Gear your bike properly. That means being able to sit and spin 85rpm up what ever gradient you are attempting. I fitted out my touring bike with MTB gearing for mountain climbing. I can usually use a 36t chain ring upto a 35t cog, but I have a bailout granny ring-26t and a 40t cassette cog. When things get tough and I can drop onto the granny ring, slow down into zone 2 and recover whilst I continue.

I currently weigh 100kg

20180929_071807.jpg
 
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si_c

Veteran
Location
Wirral
I'd do hill reps, find something a bit steeper than you'll be riding and of moderate length and build up to doing an hour's worth of reps.

A direct drive indoor trainer and Zwift is also a good option... I watch Netflix while doing an hour's climbing.
 
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