Hills and Flat Riding

by Mark Yeoman Coach's Corner

Today coaches corner is all about the merits of hills and / or riding the flats. Why and when will aid you towards achieving your goal.

Winter hills: winter is all about building that strong base. Making your legs stronger will aid you come the increase in intensity during the season. Riding hills takes practice, knowing what gear to use, what cadence range, how much power you should be generating. Either way, riding hills will make you stronger. BUT if you only ever do hills, then will lose that cutting edge which riding the faster fasts can do, (see below).

Flat: riding the flats can be a lot harder than you think. Hills requires you to change gears more often, get out of the saddle and therefore use different muscle groups. Whereas the flats you can be in the fast gear for longer periods of time and this can fatigue the muscles quicker than you think. If you can get into a group of similar paced riders or even a group with slightly faster riders, you will be able to travel faster for the same or less effort than you would on your own just by drafting. The reason why elite riders can ride which such high average speeds e.g. 45kph+ is because they take turns on the front to set the pace then peel off to allow the next guy to set the pace. Whilst this is going on, everyone around is drafting and taking a rest. You can improve your pedal efficiency, cadence as well as bike handling skills.

Alternate: Avoiding the flats and sticking to hills is common but you should look to alternate between hills one week and then a flatter ride the following week. This will allow your body to progress on both fronts.

Key event: if your key event is hilly, then yes, look to replicate the terrain as often as possible so you can prepare both mentally and physically. Riding the course is also advisable if possible. If you are going to do a fast race such as a qualifier or road racing, then riding hard and fast is key. Think about doing some local time trials or look to add in some ‘fun’ sprints or King of the Mountain KOM points so that you can work harder during a comfortable ride.

if you are not riding you are hiding, the biggest failure is to not try, so what are you waiting for? Saddle up and hit them hills or flats

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