The 2014 edition of the RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride has two defining climbs in it. In this article I discuss the climbs and how to prepare for them and ride them.
The first is on day three with a climb over Tawonga Gap from Tawonga over to Bright. It’s roughly a 7 km climb with an average gradient of around 6%. It’s a fairly steady gradient all the way up. It’s a well-known climb in the area of Bright and frequented by many cyclists who ride in this region. There is a large parking space at the top and a viewing platform that gives you views over the Kiewa Valley. It’s certainly worth the stop at the top to see where you have just ridden. The second is the climb from Whitfield to Tolmie road on the way to Mansfield on day 6. This is just before the rest day. It’s around 31km to get to the top elevation of the day and has an average gradient of around 1.7%. It’s made up of a longish climb and a shorter climb with some undulations hence the average gradient being quite low. It’s not as a well-known climb as the Tawonga climb but it’s one of my favourite climbs in the area. The gradient does vary, and there are some very short sections that do touch around 8%. Apart from that most of it’s a comfortable climb with gradients around a manageable 3-6%. I like just to take my time getting up it. There are some good views and you’ll pass under the largest single power line span in Australia which is towards the top of the Whitfield climb. Once you pass, that it’s just rollers up to the highest point of the day. With some specific hill climbing training, you’ll be able to ride over both comfortably. So here are a few tips to help you.
Training on hills:
This one is fairly obvious but here are some pointers to help you out. In your preparations leading up to the event, you’ll want to seek out and ride up a few hills in your area to get use to climbing. Climbing involves riding at a lower cadence while still maintaining a reasonable amount of power. As this is different to just riding along flat roads, you’ll need to practice to prepare your body for it. If you are new to hill climbing or find hill climbing challenging then I recommend that you find some short, low gradient hills in your area and then progressively build up to longer climbs with steeper gradients. If you have only short hills in your area, consider riding up them several times in a ride to replicate a longer climb. Tracking the vertical meters climbed using a cycle computer like the Garmin will help you calculate the amount of climbing you have done per ride so you can track your progress. If you don’t have hills in your area then, you can put your bike in a hard gear and ride at a lower cadence (around 60rpm) to simulate hill climbing for part of your ride. Ideally this is done into a headwind. Time to make headwinds and hills your friend. By riding up hills in your preparations, you’ll become more comfortable and confident that you’ll be able to ride up them during the RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride.
Riding is faster than walking so by staying on the bike and pedalling up the hills you’ll get to the end of the ride faster than having to walk up the hills. Just as you put your car in a lower gear to get up hills it’s the same for your bike. The lower the gearing on your bike the easier it is to climb hills. So, in the lead up get your bike checked to see if you can have the gears lowered. Compact cranks and triples are great for lowering your gears to make it easier to climb.
Climbing tips on the day:
If you are a slower climber then, I urge you to try to change into your lowest gear and keep peddling through rather than just stopping at every climb you encounter. By attempting the climb, you’ll find that you’ll ride more into them. Also, if you are riding on rollers try to keep off the brakes, while being as safe as possible, when going downhill so that you build up speed and momentum to “coast” up the first half of the next climb. This will save you a lot of energy. I’ve mentioned changing into a lower gear before you get to the climb so that it makes it easier to climb so remember this when you are out on the road. On day 3 and 5 leave early so that you don’t have the pressure of having to rush the ride. Finally, on the longer climbs rather than thinking about how long the “never ending” climb is, focus your attention on chunking it down by just focusing your attention on just getting around the next corner. Then once you get there, reset your next goal to another point in the distance that you can see. By using this technique you can leapfrog up the climb, and it will be much more manageable. I hope these have been helpful. All the best with your training for the RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride.