I find one of the most frustrating things about riding with friends or competitors while climbing is reacting to their changing pace. We’ve all been there right? One minute they are making us hurt and then the next minute we are almost running into their back wheel!
The fact is everyone has their own unique style of climbing, their own slightly different zones, and their own climbing strategy that’s best for them. Finding that perfect climbing match is less likely than finding your soulmate on Tinder!
So what do you do when you find yourself on the bottom of a climb with some other riders and they start riding in a style you may not like?
Well, most people make the common mistake of just riding straight to the front and set the pace they like. While this is the “feel good” strategy, it does not work. Why? First off there is a draft on the climbs and you burn up the needed energy for the top of the climb over your competitors. Second, you show all your cards to those behind you. Within minutes they can figure out what parts of the climb you struggle on and which parts you are strong one with this information they will know exactly where to drop you.
Instead, I recommend staying behind as the best strategy and using these tips to allow you to ride in your own style.
1. Ride behind, but slightly overlapping wheels off to one side. You will see in the photo above how Flavia on the left side of the photo, and Brian on the right side of the photo are doing that. This smooths out all the surges and allows you to look ahead and strategize for the upcoming terrain, not worried about where the wheel in front of you is.
2. When you are in doubt with what the leader is going to do next with their pace, stand! In the photo above you can see Flavia is standing anticipating a pace change from Greg who is leading on the front. Standing sets you up to accelerate or decelerate in an instant. Think of yourself as a wind-up top while standing. If you slow, you are coiling more energy to release. If you speed up, envision yourself releasing the stored energy.
There you go! Give these tips a try on your next climb in a group ride or race!