How to train for long climbs?

Hey there!

I’d like to echo what other athletes have been saying here and advise that you don’t overthink the cadence issue too much.

As you said, when you get out on steep pitches, sometimes your cadence just has to come down – and that’s totally fine.

The workout text we have in some of our indoor training sessions are generally just suggestions for you to dial in your form on the bike. If they don’t apply to your goals, then you can certainly ignore them as appropriate.

Since it sounds like you’re going to have to get ready for some lower cadence efforts, it would be a good idea to do that during some of your training days. You could focus on doing just a little bit at first (like 1 min “on” at low cadence, 1 min “off” at your normal, preferred cadence) and eventually build up to doing entire, longer efforts at the cadence you anticipate hitting during your race.

If you have long climbs you could possibly travel to that aren’t too far away, it might be a good idea to get out and see how things go in the real world! If not, no worries – you can prepare all the same. Flat roads with headwinds could be a good option, as well as simply using your trainer to simulate those steeper grades.

Additionally, consider how you might want to approach your race. The Climbing Road Race plan will incorporate surges and bursts into most of your sustained effort work to simulate how it usually feels to race uphill in a peloton. If you think you’d be better off riding at your own tempo without as many surges, the Gran Fondo or even the 40k TT plans could be better options that will focus more on purely sustained efforts without the spikes in power.

Hope this helps! Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

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Unless you are at 5w/kg+ even a compact chainset is too big. Put on a chainset that fits rings small enough to ride uphill at your self selected cadence.


For low cadence practice, If you ride with a club, simply act like about half of my club and refuse the shame of every using the little chainring 99% of the time.

Seriously though, riding with a slower group and intentionally being in too hard a gear up hills is the perfect practice.

  • train your aerobic ability
  • keep steady, pace conservatively
  • get the lowest gearing possible, running out of gears is a lot worse than larger gear jumps
  • fuel well (especially in advance)

That’s all I’d say is really necessary. Having done 5 different climbs with more than 2000m net elevation (Veleta, Haleakala, Mauna Loa, Teide (3 different ascents), and Roque de Los Muchachos), I’ve always found that you have enough to worry about, so don’t let cadence and power be among them.
I usually pace these at a high Z2 and research in advance, what gearing I need. 50/34 11-34 was perfect on all of them but Veleta (where I would have needed even lower for the beginning).

In racing, you will also want to keep in mind the event as a whole (considering there are more climbs than one). You need to train for repeatability as well and see a realistic pacing. I usually race events like Haute Route at Low to mid Zone 3, when the climbs are about 1 hour long and you have 3 in a day.

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If the climbs ar long, do big chunks of sweetspot or tempo work, you can do them almost anywhere. If the climbs are short and steep, do lots of threshold over/under work as you’ll be hitting the climbs hard to stay in the race and recovering after.
For gearing, I’d much prefer having a gear small enough that I never use than maniacally hitting the shifter praying there’s an easier gear left to change to.
If you’re going over 1800m, eating and drinking more than you think you should is the way to go. Altitude can play funny tricks on you.

Don’t worry about the cadence, you’ll just do it - don’t overthink. You’ll be in the 70s range for most long climbs (11-32 for me there). E.g.,


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My Ultegra came with 52/36, I already ordered a 50/34.


Thanks. There’s so many talking about changing to Gran Fondo that at least I’ll have a look at it.