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Cycling hill training: Get fit for the mountains with Wattbike Atom

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6 Sep 2020

Train for big climbs at home with advice from Wattbike’s training consultant, Dr David Nichols

The UK can do punchy climbs, but it doesn’t really do big mountains. With our summits measured in hundreds not thousands of metres, there’s also the possibility that you live in Norfolk, where the largest hill only just gets into triple figures.

Unable to replicate the sustained efforts needed to conquer an HC climb on home roads, this can leave British riders maladapted to the more altitudinous terrain found in the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites or other high places.

Yet enter a mountainous sportive and you could be expected to tackle several sizeable cols in a day.

Happily, the solution doesn't require booking yourself an altitude training camp. Instead, with the help of a home trainer, cyclists can bring the mountains to their living rooms – as Wattbike’s training consultant, Dr David Nichols, explains…

Bringing the outdoors inside 

‘Long climbs rely almost wholly on aerobic energy,’ says Dr Nichols. ‘There might be small contributions from anaerobic work but predominantly the focus should be on improving aerobic capacity.

‘Aside from training to power, many indoor trainers can also simulate the gradients and road feel to closely mimic the real-life demands of riding climbs.

‘Knowing your FTP provides a crucial anchor for pacing on a long climb. Set off around 80-90% of FTP in the first 15-20 minutes then gradually adjust your effort based on how you feel.’

How to do the session

‘This session trains you to endure long periods at or around FTP threshold,’ says Nichols. ‘Most of the effort is below FTP [eg, 20 minutes at around 85% of FTP] but with some short bursts pushing above FTP [120% FTP].

‘The really tough thing about this session is sustaining the 85% FTP effort immediately after doing a 30-second burst at 120% FTP. You never get to go easy, as is more common in an interval session. This is to be as specific as possible to the demands of a tough climb, because if you don’t keep up your effort on a real-world climb you’ll grind to a halt.’ 

Below is a hill climb turbo training session. After a 20 minute warm-up, do two blocks of 20 minutes at 85% FTP, interspersed with 30 second bursts at 120% FTP every five minutes. Recover by riding for 15 minutes at 50% FTP. To find out how to determine your FTP, go to cyclist.co.uk/ftptest

To do this workout and many more, download the Wattbike Hub app, available free in the App Store and the Google Play Store.

Next, watch our three minute video about HIIT and the FTP test.