March 10th will see a new first for New Zealand cycling with the inaugural Ruapehu Gran Fondo taking place courtesy of Dynamo Events. It just so happens that we’ll be on the start list and we’re a little apprehensive about the task, so we put the question of how to prepare for the long climb up to the Whakapapa Ski Field to Logan Griffin from Spoken Coaching.
There are two distance options available for riders taking on the first ever Ruapehu Gran Fondo; a 164km event tackling 2861m of climbing, and the Mid Fondo distance of 117km that serves up 2525m of climbing. Either way . . . there’s plenty to tackle, with most of the vertical metres taken up with the final 13km from Bruce Road to the finish line. Truth be told there’s little descent, or even flat road, during the final 54km; it’s going to be a challenge and no mistake.
Our problem is that we have little in the way of comparable climbs where we are. Our longest climbs in the surrounding areas go on for not much more than 2-3km; so it got us thinking: would riding up the same short climb over and over again be the most ideal way of training? How would flat-road training or even indoor training weigh up to prepare us for the Ruapehu Gran Fondo? Logan Griffin of Spoken Coaching was on hand to give us the benefits of his wisdom. Here, in his own words, Logan explains more.
Option 1: shorter climbs
There are three main ways to train for longer climbs when you don’t have them easily on hand. The first of which is using similar but shorter climbs. When using shorter climbs focus on the total time you spend climbing to try and replicate the final climb at the Ruapehu Gran Fondo.
Whilst the Strava up there is just under 20 minutes for the more recreational rider especially at the end of a long event I would be looking to replicate 30-40minutes of climbing.
So if your local climb is 5 minutes at threshold pace, you want to be building up to doing 8 reps in 1 session. A key point for these reps is try to keep to a 2:1 work:rest ratio so for our same 5 minute climb above try get back down and starting your next rep in about 2mins 30seconds. This we find is about the ideal time to let you get some recovery but also ’tricks’ the body into experiencing many of the same stresses as a longer climb.
Option 2: flat roads
The second way we would recommend would be to try and replicate the climbs on flat roads. Similar to the above method starting with 5 minute blocks can be good and then with that 2:1 ratio you can build up to 5×8, 4×10, 2x20m etc, using power or heat rate to try and ride at about a threshold or FTP intensity. When doing the efforts on the flat ride 1 or two gears harder than you usually would just enough that you’re never quite ‘on top of the gear’. This will more closely replicate the lower cadence and higher torque you will experience on the climb.
Option 3: indoor training
The final method would be to use your indoor trainer. Ideally we would always recommend getting out on some actual climbs (even if they are shorter) but for some of us who are forced indoors there are ways to train specifically for this challenge. On the trainer we would recommend doing similar efforts to as you would be doing on the flats. Break the climb down into chunks and then as you progress do less reps of a longer duration but again using that 2:1 ratio. Also similar to outside, try and ride just 1 gear harder than is comfortable when training for climbing.
Our final tip would be to get to know your heart rate or power thresholds. For the longer climbs riding at or just below this is going to be really important, it’s easy to follow others at the bottom when you’re feeling good but if that pace is unrealistic for you blowing up a few minutes later will be a painful experience and will lose you a lot more time in the long run. If you are doing some of the sessions mentioned above you should be able to start to notice and feel where your threshold is. Alongside nutrition and training of course, those three things will be the keys come race day.