How to Crush All The Climbs In Your Next Gran Fondo


At Gran Fondo National Series we strive to put together world-class routes that challenge participants' strength and endurance as well as their ability to ride intelligently. Because your competitive performance is scored based on your combined time through timed segments, you can approach the event differently than a road race or a start-to-finish timed cycling event. While not every timed segment will be a climb, GFNS events typically feature plenty of climbing. Read on to find out how to nail – not flail – your way through the timed climbs, as well as every other climb on the course. 

1st Climb: Don't Blow It

We know it's hard, but this is not the time to push yourself close to a max effort in order to notch a great time. Do that, and it'll likely be the only good time you log for the day. You have to remember this is just the first of several climbs. Ride strong, but don't burn too many matches. If possible, find a group that's setting a strong pace on the climb and settle into that pace. Let them pace you up the climb at an effort that ranks around a 7-8 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. The additional benefit is that you'll go over the early climbs with a strong group that can help share the work on the flats and rolling hills to come. The name of the game here is DISCIPLINE.

Mid-Day Climbs: Stay Focused

A big part of riding well on a succession of climbs depends on what you do on the descents and valley roads before the next climb. Descents are free speed, and during less technical sections of road, descents are a great time to eat and drink. It's much more pleasant to eat when you're not pedaling hard to stay on a wheel. Eating on descents also gives you time to at least partially digest your food before ramping up the intensity again on the next climb. Starting a big climb with a full belly can get unpleasant quite quickly. Like the climbs early in the event, you want to keep your perceived exertion around a 7-8 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. The exception is that you want to stay with a good group of riders so you can share work during flat and rolling terrain. Be careful when you dig deep to stay with a group, though. If you crack you'll slow dramatically and lose contact with that group completely. But if you're getting dropped and you gauge your effort to keep the gap relatively small, you'll have a much better chance of rejoining the group on the downhill. The name of the game here is DILIGENCE.

Late-Day Climbs: Let It Rip!

Your goal throughout the day is to hit these slopes with as much left in the tank as possible. Everyone will go slower as the miles pile up; and sometimes it's the rider who slows the least who comes out on top. Late in the day, especially on the final climb or the final timed segment, it's time to dig deep. Even though your power output or pace might be lower than it was on mid-day climbs, due to fatigue, these final climbs may feel like the hardest you've pushed yourself all day.  Then find a sustainable pace that should feel like the hardest you've pushed yourself all day. Remember that it's your timed segment performance that matters in a GFNS event; you can leave it all out there on the final timed segment and roll easy to the finish line. 

It's not the first 2,000 feet of climbing that gets you. It's the last 2,000. If you ride intelligently during the early and mid-day climbs, don't be surprised to find yourself passing many riders who cracked from going too hard too soon.

Reuben Kline