There’s something not quite the same about how the Pros climb and how we climb. They go faster, I suppose. There’s that. They’re skinnier, too, and climb better for their weight to boot. And they’re stronger, that probably helps although I can’t speak from personal experience. I’ve also noticed that while under pressure, theirs is still a Magnificent Stroke, while ours typically start tracing the lines of the Hurt Box. Their cadence exudes Fluidly Harmonic Articulation and hardly seems to notice changes in gradient; whereas the slightest change in pitch brings us to erratically dissonant chaos.
We can go slower and with a less Magnificent Stroke, and still look pretty cool doing it. Speed is relative, and so long as no one else is around, we can look like we’re going fast, too. And we can rock our shoulders and grimace and do it all like the Pros. And then we can practice and practice and practice but there will still be a fundamental element missing, a certain je ne c’est quoi.
And that brings us to Part VI in our Look Pro series.
You know that part of the climb near the top? That part where it gets less steep? That part where you ease back and bask in the pain of a job well done? That’s the part where the Pros move Sur la Plaque. In case you don’t speak the language of the peloton, that’s French for, “Put that thing in the big ring, fucktard.”
Aside from a willingness to suffer more than anyone else in the most painful discipline in cycling, the key to being a good climber is to continue to pile coals on the fire as you approach the top of the climb and power over the crest. Per Richard Virenque, 7-times (give or take, its not worth looking up) winner of the competition in the Tour where some sadistic asshole puts a sprint at every hill they can measure:
You have to be able to move sur la plaque as soon as you’re at the top. I generally change gear 300m from the top.
That makes it almost the same as a fact, so take it from Tricky Dicky and think about these points next time you’re shopping at the Five and Dime:
- Getting air back in your lungs can wait until the way down. Power over the top and you’ll shed 3/4 of the riders you’re with.
- Your body is governed by ancillary concerns like “stopping the intolerable pain” and “not dying”. Those types of concerns have no place in cycling. Like training a dog, the only solution is to teach your body to stop fussing so much by going harder.
- Your body gets used to the rhythm of your cadence and will send signals discouraging you from lifting it as the gradient eases. This is what the shifters are for. Use them to fool your body, assuming your body is as much of a dumbass as mine.
- Two cogs roughly equals the big ring. If you’re going to shift twice, forget the right shifter and go for the left.
- As you approach the top of the hill, casually exaggerate the motion of your left hand as you cram it into the big ring and rise out of the saddle to power through. The riders who managed to stay with you will wimper right before the elastic snaps.
Come to think of it, it’s no wonder Maillot a Pois competition is dominated by dopers.