With my new schedule at work, I’ll be missing the this Saturday. The climb was used in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s final stage last year, and also features in two local races, a hill climb race, and this weekend’s TT. Last year’s winner was , now racing in the ProTour, the highest level of the sport.
I finished with a time of 18:56, in 5th place. The first half of the Pro/1/2 field was in the 18 minute range, with the exception of George, finishing in an incredible 17:15, a full minute ahead of second place. Riders like George show the divisions of fitness across the elite level of the sport, with riders capable of world-class competition displaying fitness on an entirely separate level.
For the mortals lining up this weekend, I wanted to give insight into pacing strategy for this race, which will also be applicable to hill climb time trials in general.
As you can see, the climb is steady overall. The flatter sections are on the middle third and a few hundred yards just before the push to the finish. The steepest section is around the second set of switchbacks.
A common pacing strategy for flat time trials is to break the race into quarters. (See a great quarter based for flat or rolling TTs on Joe Friel’s blog). But for this climb I use thirds, because it fits best with the profile and geography of the climb.
Before I get to the specifics of pacing for this race, I’ll describe the basis for pacing any time trial. Physiologically, lactic acid builds during the effort. Eventually lactic acid builds until you can’t ride any more. Ideally you want to ride at a steady effort that will have you at the breaking point at the finish line. Lactic acid can be very hard to eliminate during the race due to the intense effort, so if too much is accumulated during the early part of the race, it will remain for the duration. This means that an ideal pacing for a completely flat TT will have slightly (1-3%) lower power for the first half versus the second.
However, no TT is flat. Especially this one. When traveling uphill at a slower speed, wind resistance decreases. That means that a higher percent of your power output goes to forward progress, rather than being wasted pushing against the wind. Therefor, pushing hard into the wind is not as effective as pushing hard up a hill. For any TT you’ll need to ride harder when the course is steepest.
The profile of Lookout is nearly ideal for employing both of these strategies.
First Third: Start to the first switchback
The most important aspect of this part of the race is to hold back. You will be excited and race-ready. Your rested state will make your perceived exertion lower than normal. A power meter is quite useful here. I wouldn’t ride at more than 10% above FTP for the first third, no matter how easy it feels. Ride slightly harder on the few sections where the grade increases. Stay seated and spin a relatively high cadence (90-100 rpm). This will save your legs for later in the climb.
Second Third: First switchback to the Saddle Overlook
This is the flattest section of the race. Don’t let the first set of switchbacks fool you. They are actually relatively easy. After the “M” is the flattest section of the race. Get aero and ease off a little bit when your speed increases. If you have a power meter, ride at FTP on the ‘flats’. This is the opportunity to ‘rest’ before the push to the finish.
Final Third: Saddle Overlook to summit
This is when the race is won or lost. Immediately after the overlook heading into the second set of switchbacks is the steepest grade. The switchbacks are also steep, as is the section immediately following. At this point it is a good idea to climb standing since you’ve been saving your fast twitch muscle fibers by staying seated earlier. You should be ‘racing’ to the last corner before the road flattens out. Get up to speed on the flat section and then rest for a few seconds and surge through the finish.
In a normal TT at 25 mph, 80% of your effort is against the wind, but a 20 minute run up Lookout (13.5 mph) will still put 15% of your effort into the wind, so varying your effort with the grade will still be beneficial. Also keep in mind aerodynamics – if you can hear the wind buffeting your ears, or your speed is over 15 mph, consider riding in the drops or hoods. Wear a skinsuit and shoe covers if you have them. Don’t bring any extra equipment (watch, bottles, cages, flat kit). And don’t forget to pedal hard. Good Luck.