Help: Best approach to smash an hour long climb?

Apologies but I’m new here and I’m sure this has been covered before. I’m going to the Alps later in the year. I’m a competent road cyclist (3000 miles so far this year) and I race CX in the winter. My query is what is the best approach to smashing a PB on a climb such as d’Huez? I’ve done it before and want to beat PB.
I’m 75kg, FTP is 290 and can max out at over 1000w, RHR 46 and can go into the 180’s and hold it for a bit. In a cross race I av HR of 170’s for an hour. I’ve always approached a climb like a cx race. the problem is I can manage the HR but my legs empty too soon and i blow up. How do I manage pace and power but still max it out and empty the tank to know I gave it all i could?

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If you have a power meter on your bike then it’s fairly straight forward. Crank it up to 95% of your FTP and then hang on to the top. If you get near the end and your comfortable start lifting it a little. There’s 1000M difference between the bottom and the top so would suggest that your FTP is going to fall as you climb so starting at 95% lessens the chances of over cooking it.

If you don’t have a power meter start easy and build up to your threshold heart rate ish. Chris Boardman’s axiom still holds water. ‘can I hold this effort to the top, if the answer is no you need to back off, if the answer is yes, you need to dig deeper. The answer your looking for is maybe’.

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What’s your PB and what leads you to believe it will be a one hour ride?

Determine the right percentage of FTP and staying seated is likely the best approach though.

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if you’ve a powermeter in your bike, ride to the power you know you can sustain for 1hr in a ride the length you are doing.

If you don’t have a powermeter, look at the guys that have done around an hour on strava and see what at what VAM they are riding. Set the VAM field on your garmin and try and match it.

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Thanks for feedback and advice. I have a powermeter on the bike but I did it last year on a rental without one. I went off HR and thought was going OK until I cooked and my legs were gone.

The one hour was a nominal figure and changes depending on the specific climb. I’m looking to get better at pacing any climb of length, not just d’Huez. d’Huez is around an hour for me. I did it last summer in 1:03:11. (I was also 79kg at the time. 75 now and aim to be 72 by time I go later in the year). My target is to do sub 1. A big ask but hence my request for any advice on approach to improve.

I really appreciate the feedback. Thanks all.

Do it in the early morning!
I have done it at 3pm in the baking heat and was awful; those initial cement banks on the first turns trap all the heat in…

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Not sure if this applies in the Alps, but don’t forget to allow for the effects of altitude.

I had a plan to go from sea level to the top of Teide in Tenerife in 2 hours. I was hitting all my power targets until I got 1800m above sea level and suddenly sweetspot turned into threshold and tempo turned into sweetspot.

Other than that, having done many 1 hour time trials, all I can say is - if you had a power meter and started the climb at 95%, you might be amazed just how easy that feels at first. If you’re going on HR it should take a while to get up to threshold.

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See what it says on Best Bike Split


Also allow for the fact that your cadence might be a lot lower than you are used to for that length of time. Obviously depends on your gearing though.


If you’ve time before you go, do plenty of longer sweetspot intervals, have a look at the century plan and look at some of the workouts in the full distance triathlons plan. Workouts like pioneer, Cumberland, polar bear are great to push out your aerobic fitness.

As you’ve ridden it before, you’ll know the first five bends are the toughest, take it super easy on these, then when you get to the steadier middle section push on a bit then, I’d also warm up by riding along the valley floor for 30mins or so first. Have a caffeine gel about 45mins before you start.

Better to finish strong than go too hard at the bottom then grovel through the final sections. Good luck

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2nd this, I did a granfondo last summer and even riding conservatively (my rental bike had generous gearing), the combo of riding at altitude and riding up >12-15% gradients and riding low cadence was just something that kicked my butt (and I was riding around 200w, with an ftp of 275 at the time). Looking at it now, my avg power for 1:10 was 191w endurance and HR was 163 threshold lol cadence was 73 (the climb was 7.7miles 6% gradient and 2600ft of climbing)

In hindsight I would have done alp du zwift repeats at 100% trainer difficulty to at least get the muscles acclimated to low cadence work

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Perfect. Thank you

Excellent. Thank you

I usually will drop one of my sustained power intervals down into the 65-75rpm bracket for this very reason

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Bigger threshold

I would do some long sweetspot work up to and over an hour without a break, you will soon find your ridable limit.

I may be wrong, but I think the trainer road workout creator only works with power targets, but I think it would be helpful to recreate the hill indoors using a slope mode and practicing. You’d definitely get better. I think the free software golden cheetah could do that. It’d be easiest if you could just download a ride file from the web and play it. Not 100% sure Golden Cheetah can do that. It is free & open source so if you are into programming you could add that function… If you already have a Garmin head unit I think they can do it too. Depends, of course, on what slopes your trainer can replicate though. I also lift my front wheel with a cheap flat motorcycle stand in case the muscle use patterns differ from the flat. Probably psychological, but I find it helps.

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