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How to train for your local hill climb

In-depth
7 Oct 2019
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‘The hill climb scene is going from strength to strength,’ says Dan Evans, who won the British National Hill Climb Championships in 2014 and 2017.

‘I’d say it went really mad in 2016/17 – you had Paddy Power running bets on the Nationals – so a lot more people have got involved and have been training to make it the focal point of their season.

‘Hill climbing is really raw – there’s not too much thinking involved and the fastest rider wins every time,’ he adds. ‘If you’re a regular cyclist you’ll probably have a decent standard of fitness all year round, and by the time the hill climb season takes place in September and October it’s a case of honing your climbing.

‘Strava is great because it allows me to pick a variety of hills and hit them as hard as I can. It’s old-school stuff; I’d rather just climb hills without stressing about routes, intervals or hitting specific numbers. Once I’m into the season I find this approach keeps me fresh – too much training and I underperform at the weekend.

‘In September and October I race on Saturday and Sunday. From Monday to Wednesday I do steady endurance rides and I have Thursday and Friday off.

By loading my miles at the start of the week I’m fresh by the weekend and I have time on those two days to focus on nutrition, clean the bike and prepare my kit.

‘My training for the 2014 British Championships was very structured, and did everything by the book. If you’re going to do intervals, the key is to make sure they’re specific for the hill climb you’re training for.

It sounds simple but a lot of people miss the point. If your event is a short, steep climb that takes two minutes, don’t hammer yourself doing 20-minute intervals.

‘Beyond fitness, the whole hill climb thing is a mental battle. There are two types of hill climber: the one who just wants to survive and the one who has a face like a wild animal, who’s putting in a live-or-die effort.

The latter is going as hard and as fast as they can, and hanging on in agony for the line. You should always try to finish at the same intensity you start with – it’s not a constant effort, but the realisation that it’s nearly over gives you a big boost at the end.

‘If you don’t love the suffering it’s not for you. Finding new routes on Strava can make training much more enjoyable, but you have to enjoy flogging yourself up a hill in the first place.’