Training

Cycling On Form: Workouts for climbers

Workouts designed specifically for the riders who can raise the pace when the road tilts up, thriving on longer, mountainous ascents.

Member Exclusive

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great perks.

Start Free Trial

Already a member?

Sign In

You may have an idea of your strengths and weaknesses as a cyclist, which kind of terrain suits you, and the on-the-bike skills and riding style you use to go farther, faster. But many riders find themselves chasing wheels they shouldn’t chase, or not sticking to who they are on the bike. You can improve your fitness, better execute your plan, and win your ride if you stick to your strengths.

The Rider Type quiz will help you dig into your cycling DNA and point you to the kinds of workouts best-suited for your type.

Once you identify your type, perform the PTZ Test (below) to find the power zones you’ll be training with.

Find Your PowerTrain Zones

This field test will give you the baseline power zones that will be used in your rider-type-specific workouts. Try to evenly distribute the power throughout the duration of the 12-minute effort. Don’t worry about finding the perfect road for this test; a few slight downhills or corners are just fine. If the road is representative of what you’ll ordinarily be training on, then it is great for your PTZ test.

Graphic detailing how to find powertrain zones

Performing singular intervals is helpful for developing fitness, but putting the effort into context, such as a race, will give you practice for the real thing. So I’ve developed 3 workouts that put you into race scenarios. Find suitable terrain for these workouts, get your game face on, and go for the win!

Terminology

  • Power Floor: You should always stay within a prescribed zone, but where “power floor” is noted, it’s crucial to not fall below that PTZ.
  • PTZ: PowerTrain Zone
  • Standing body position: out of the saddle, standing on pedals, hands on the hoods
  • Seated body position: remain seated, in the saddle

Workouts for Climbers: Technique

Today’s focus is building the strength to climb with better technique. We will use lower cadence for you to focus on your three points of power (hands, core, and feet.)

Total time: 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy warm-up

1 x 8 min., alternate between:

  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 2 at 50–70 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery after the full interval

Seated Climbs: Technique

  • 2 x 8 min. seated climb, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 5-min. recovery between each interval

Seated Climbs: Strength

  • 3 x 1 min. seated climb, PTZ 9 at 50–70 rpm
  • 1-min. recovery between each interval

Standing Climbs: Technique

  • 3 x 3 min. standing climb, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 3 min. recovery between each interval

Standing Climbs: Strength

  • 3 x 30 sec. standing climbs, PTZ 10 at 50–70 rpm
  • 1-min. recovery between each 30-sec. interval

Workouts for Climbers: Big Mountain Stage

Today is going to be an epic mountain stage. It is going to be a shorter stage but with two massive climbs. This means that the pace with be ferocious from the get go, with you having to ride in your Threshold and Explosive Zones on both climbs to either stay with the leaders or make the time cut at the finish line. Be sure to find a route that includes enough uphill miles.

Total time: 1.5 hours | Warm-up: 15 min. easy

Warm-Up: The Early Breakaway Goes and You Conserve Energy in the Peloton

  • 1 x 15 min. PTZ 2–PTZ 4 at 80–90 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery

First Climb

On this climb the peloton is driven by the teams of the best climbers to set a strong pace to bring back the breakaway as well as to empty the legs of the rivals in the bunch for the last climb. To do this the team will change the pace in areas they can surf the terrain like out of switchbacks and transitions on the climb from steep to shallow.

When there is an acceleration on the climb due to a favorable terrain change, stand on the pedals and use a slightly higher power but maintain a low cadence. This helps because you are dropping your body weight into the pedal stroke to add the extra power and torque, creating an increase in speed without adding much power like your competitors do.

When the speed is stable again, you will return to a seated position with a lower power and a lower cadence.

1 x 12 min., alternate for the whole climb:

  • 3 min. seated, power floor of PTZ 5 at 80 rpm
  • 1 min. standing, power floor of PTZ 6 at 70 rpm
  • 10 min. recovery on the downhill

Second Climb

On a long climb, and with how competitive the field is, one strategy (but not the only one) is to follow the surges and then counter-attack in the end to go for the win.

At the bottom, following attacks

1 x 4 min., alternate between:

  • 30 sec. standing climb, power floor of PTZ 10 at 80 rpm
  • 30 sec. seated power climb, power floor of PTZ 5 at 80 rpm

The Middle

  • 1 x 4 min. PTZ 5

To the finish: Cover attacks, counter-attack, and win!

1 x 6 min.:

  • 30 sec. standing, PTZ 10 at 80 rpm (cover the attack)
  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 5 at 80 rpm
  • 30 sec. standing, PTZ 10 at 80 rpm (cover the attack)
  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 5 at 80 rpm
  • 1 min. standing, PTZ 9 at 80 rpm (counter-attack with the long surge)
  • 1 min. seated, PTZ 5 at 80 rpm (clear lactate and maintain speed)
  • 2 min. seated or standing accelerations, PTZ 6 at 80 rpm (increase pace to hold the gap and win!)

Workouts for Climbers: Steep Race Finale

In today’s workout we are simulating a big day of climbing, finishing on a steep final climb. There will be a total of six short, but very steep climbs, with the finish line on the last one. This will be as much about standing technique as it will be about your efficiency in power zones.

The tactic today will be to stay in the peloton and follow the top riders, as you expect it to come down all to the last climb. It will be a test of using the right zones and technique to be as efficient with your energy as possible. Then, on the final climb, you put it all out there, going for the win with very tired legs. Be sure to find a route that offers some steep climbs.

Total time: 1.5 hours | 15 min. warm-up

Steep Climb 1

The group is riding steady. You just follow the wheels in good position at the front of the group.

  • 1 x 5 min. seated, PTZ 4 at 60–70 rpm

Steep Climb 2: Gradient and Pace Change

This climb has many gradient changes that cause the riders to shuffle in the group. You must change zones and techniques to keep your position at the front.

1 x 6 min., alternate between:

  • 30 sec. standing acceleration, PTZ 7 at 80 rpm (moving up through the group)
  • 1 min. seated, PTZ 4 at 60–70 rpm (holding position)
  • 5 min. easy riding in the peloton

Steep Climb 3: Switchbacks and Pace Change

This climb is very twisty, causing many pace changes, and the group rides a faster pace to battle for front positions. You ride aggressively to move out of the switchbacks and then keep the pace to hold your position.

1 x 5 min., alternate between:

  • 20 sec. standing acceleration, PTZ 8 at 80 rpm (accelerating out of the switchbacks)
  • 40 sec. seated, PTZ 5 at 60–70 rpm (holding position)
  • 5 min. easy riding in the peloton

Steep Climb 4: Steady

With the last two climbs being quite frantic because of the dynamic terrain, on this fourth climb the riders slow down to regroup as they know the final two climbs are where the battle will be. You just stay near the front and ride a steady pace.

  • 1 x 5 min. seated, PTZ 4 at 60–70 rpm

Steep Climb 5 : Switchback and Pace Changes

The race is now on. Another twisty climb presents the top climbers with an opportunity to increase the pace and reduce the group to just the favorites. You stay at the front, responding to all of the pace changes out of the switchbacks.

1 x 5 min., alternate between:

  • 20 sec. standing acceleration, PTZ 8 at 80 rpm (accelerating out of the switchbacks)
  • 40 sec. standing, PTZ 5 at 60–70 rpm (holding position)
  • 5 min. easy riding in the peloton

Steep Climb 6: All-In to the Finish

The last climb to the finish sees the riders throw everything in. You are tired, but going to go for it. You follow the first big acceleration, make the selection, and then counter it with your own move to the finish line for the win!

1 x 3 min.:

  • 1 min. standing acceleration, PTZ 8 at a high rpm
  • 1 min. seated climb, power floor of PTZ 5 at 80 rpm
  • 1 min. standing climb, power floor of PTZ 8 at a high rpm (counter attack and hold it to the line to win!)

Adapted from Cycling On Form: A Pro Method of Riding Faster and Stronger by Tom Danielson with permission of VeloPress.