Training for Hills

I am in need of some advice as to what type of wind trainer sessions produce the best improvements in the area of attacking small sharp hills. I find it difficult to go over in a heavy gear, but changing to a smaller gear only makes me go slower. How do I train, on my wind trainer, to ride at a high cadence over these type of hills?

P. Freeman

Dave Palese replies:

To improve your performance when making these types of efforts, I would start with some strength training to develop explosive power. These efforts would be designed into a program to help the rider develop the cycling-specific strength required to create separation during the attack. The ability to create separation is a key component as it puts your opponents at a disadvantage.

Try doing some Standing Starts. These sprint efforts are done in a very large gear, say 53x14-11, depending on your level of development. You start from a standstill, with your dominant leg in about the two or ten o'clock position. Jump hard out of the saddle to get on top of the gear, trying to get up to your maximum cadence, then sit and maintain the cadence for the length of the effort.

Start with five or six sprints, lasting eight seconds each. Rest for three to five minutes between sprints. Over 8-12 weeks, build up to doing something like two sets of five to eight sprints lasting eight seconds each, resting two minutes between sprints, and ten minutes between sets.

The next ability to address is sustaining a high power output at a high cadence.

You describe the hills in question as small and sharp. So I'll assume that these are hills that would be climbed in the range of two to three minutes.

After you have a solid base of aerobic training in place, you may want to add VO2 Max intervals into your training. These are high intensity, high output, submaximal intervals. One of the keys to doing these interval effectively is keep your cadence high, 90-110 rpm. For your specific situation, a cadence of 90-95 would be appropriate for use on a hill.

VO2 Max intervals can last anywhere from three to eight minutes depending on your level of development.

The intervals are in a moderate gear, 53x17-14. Build over the first minute of the interval to your target output and then try to sustain that output for the remainder of the effort. These intervals are very taxing, and should only be attempted after establishing a solid base fitness in the Endurance, Tempo and Threshold zones (commonly referred to as zones 2, 3, and 4).

Start by including two sets of four intervals, each interval lasting three minutes, with four minutes rest between intervals and 10 minutes rest between sets. Over time you might work up to doing two sets of three intervals, each interval lasting six minutes, with five minutes rest between efforts and 10 minutes rest between sets.