First century with lots of climbing

Hi All,

I have signed up to do my first century in 2021, fingers crossed it’s goes ahead. I’ve made a training plan for this focusing on century speciality. I’m on LV with one extra ride a week, so sort of in between LV and MV. My question is this ride will have over 10,000 feet of elevation and the area will see regular 20%+ sections, the area I live in is fairly flat with a few hidden hills you can tackle by choice.

Is there any thing else I should do to prepare for this ride other than the training plan I’m currently on?

I’m fairly heavy rider at 88kg but i don’t fear hills, just ride my own pace and focus on the decent. I’m planning on been 83kg for the day.

What gearing you have? Also make a point to get outside and ride hills.

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When I did the Mallorca 312, the Marmotte, LBL and Flanders most of my training was in flat east England where its impossible to do the climb. If you develop your power on the flat, its the same power on a hill albeit you go slower, you don’t need to do the climb.

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I assume this is a supported century. For a supported century of this size, there’s usually a time cutoff for sections. Meaning you can’t fall behind the SAG vehicles. They will usually detour people onto a different (shorter) route to try and finish the event in a reasonable amount of time (before the volunteers pack up and leave).

Look at prior routes and what the rules are.

FWIW, I can’t do such an event on a LV plan with minimal riding.

You will also need to add saddle time. You want to have enough endurance to last your estimated completion time. That means you will have to progressively build hours.

Plan your nutrition. You will need to pack your own, just in case the SAG areas are closed.

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I’m on a compact with an 11-34

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Get yourself plenty of gearing options and if at all possible go ride some similar gradients at least once or twice to get a feel for them. Up to the low teens % then with decent W/kg and regular gearing (something like a 36-28) I find you can climb reasonably comfortably and aerobically. Once at 20% though then unless you have crazy W/kg or some super low gearing there’s going to be an element of having to muscle your way through those sections at low cadence which can take a lot out of you. Which isn’t ideal on a day when you’re going to be going longer than you’ve ever gone before!

Probably also a good idea to do a century in training on your flatter local roads to get a feel for that kind of distance, saddle time, nutrition needs, etc.

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I do one long ride a week which at the moment is between 3/4 hours. Obviously with this coming the plan was to work up to 7/8 hours in the saddle before the event.

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I have ridden sections of the route before when on holiday in Yorkshire, I see what you mean about the 20% it’s just a case of get up. As for nutrition I’m trying to eat more real food in my weekly long ride, with a carb mix in my bottles. So far my stomach is holding up which is a good sign. It works out around 60g carbs an hour.

Five years ago I bought a road bike, joined a club, and signed up for an event in 7 months with 15,000 ft of climbing over 5 mountain passes and 120 miles. When I bought the bike my fitness was built on doing 2 high-intensity spin classes a week plus another road ride or two on my mtn bike. Was 95kg and roughly 235W FTP but no real endurance, and everything out my door is pancake flat but the Sierra mountains are 45 minutes from here. Certainly not ready for my first flat century, let alone one with 10,000 feet of climbing. Posted some thoughts about it here:

Hope that helps.

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Thanks I’ll have a read of that. The only bonus is, climbs in this region never seem to be longer than say 3/4 miles. But for what they lack in length they make up for it in gradient. The steepest climbs in my area top out at say 10/12%.

Did you manage to get through the ride ok?

Use this to calculate power needed on some of the stretches.

Use this to calculate your speed (34x34 @ 60rpm will be ~4.7mph)

If your FTP is not above 300W, you will need lower gearing, IMO. Just my $0.02 on that.

I live in a hilly area, and 10,000ft centuries are a dime a dozen. I’m lighter than you by just a bit (riding weight is 80Kg out of shape, 74kg in shape), but at my best, my FTP was 278W (when I did these types of centuries) and I was close to the last person to finish the course. Prudence, now, would be to pick the 70mi course and go with that and see what you can do.

The big issue is if you can sustain your watts at the grades of each climb, with your gearing. A sustained 14% grade, if every hill was that grade, would pop me real fast, with 34x34.

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Thanks for the info. I have done other events up to 65 miles in this area with about 2/3rds the climbing and I got through it fairly comfortable but was a reality check about the nutrition I took. Obviously this is a step up and the only goal I have next year. I had a look at the previous years times and last place was 13 hours. My goal is under 8 hours.

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For that much climbing I prefer more gears but you might not be able to. Good luck with your ride.

I’m on a long cage ultegra but note sure what gears I could go up to as far as I’m aware 11-34 is largest road cassette without going MTB gears? If that’s even possible.

Sounds like you’re good to go then. Best of luck to you. I hope it’s fun and not a Z4 sufferfest.

13hr, damn! 8hr would be reasonable. Enough room for things to go bad.

The last time I did Levi’s Gran Fondo, a bee got in under my goggles and stung me on the eyelid. It was a descent and I dived for the road side, still early so lots of riders. Nobody liked me making that emergency ditch with my eyes closed.

Lots of people went down over the course of the ride so we all would have to wait at SAG stops, if we were behind the accident, while medical crews cleared the carnage. I think there were at least 3 such stops. People riding above their technical skill on roads that were cracked and broken.

Yeah I got a pack of the organisers which had last years fastest and slowest times. Think this is a way of making you feel you can do it :joy:. Thanks for the support hopefully in may I’ll be posting a picture of the medal not me in the back of the broom wagon.

yes, except for the first century Feb 2016 because I bonked at mile 80 from not eating enough and the 5300 feet of climbing before mile 60.

The training rides in the foothills have some really pitchy stuff. Here is a particularly nasty climb for a sub 3W/kg rider on 34x32 gearing:

and a local favorite hill repeat (its a 90 minute ride / 30 minute drive away):

I’ve got a lot of torque and can muscle up those, along with longer climbs like 3 miles @ 9%.

To prepare for that out my door (pancake flat) I do a fair amount of low cadence work (40-60rpm) into a strong headwind and that does a good job of developing leg strength and endurance needed for those types of climbs with the gearing on my bike. Recently upgraded to 34x34.

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Yorkshire. 100miles. Lots of >20% Climbs. Is it The Struggle? There were lots of people walking Park Rash in 2019. The hairpin corners must be getting on for 30% and due to number of bike walkers you don’t get to pick your line!

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Well done. It is the struggle. I’m lucky enough to have done park rash this year on holiday. For me I went straight into the little ring and the 34 and just didn’t pretend to be contador😂 after the trees it settles down to 10% but your still a long way to the top. What people forget to mention about that climb is the decent is amazing after it so seriously worth it.

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Lots of good advice above, especially gearing. FWIW, I started structured training last summer when preparing for my first century. I used a plan by Peaks Coaching Group and attribute two main aspects for successfully completing it.

  1. Structured training in general. Be consistent with your training, even if low volume.

  2. Get some long rides in. My longest before the century was about 70 miles and seemed about perfect. Being able to spend that long in the saddle requires some training, as does being able to hold position (especially your head with a helmet) that you don’t get on shorter rides. Read the weekly training notes as I think most ‘allow’ substituting a longer Z2 ride instead of the (typical) Sunday ride.

PS - I did another century in September following TR’s SSB-MV (no build or specialty) and did fine. Only issue was actually my neck muscles since I didn’t get any outside rides in longer than an hour prior to the century (SSB-MV has some 2-hour Sweet Spot rides but those were the longest).