Do you have any advice for uphill time trials?

Ask a Pro Question Q Phil GaimonCongrats on your wins in San Dimas and Redlands.* Do you have any advice for an uphill time trial I’m signed up for?

My bike is light. I race and train with power and know roughly what wattage I can hold for about 10 min­utes, the likely duration. I also have a good 60-minute warm-up routine.

 My question: Is there any advantage to alternating sit­ting and standing, spinning at an above-average cadence, attacking the hill two or three times within the TT? Or is it best to simply get up to speed and then stare at my power meter? Also, I’m 6 feet 1 inches, 160 lb., Category III—should I try to lose weight?

Pacing should always depend on terrain. In any time trial, you should save the most energy for the hardest parts; for an uphill TT, that’s the steepest portions. I think cadence is mostly a preference, but I always feel more powerful when I’m spinning high RPMs and seated. I only stand up to accelerate back to speed after a steep pitch or a corner that slows me down.

When it comes to weight, as an amateur riding for Fior­difrutta in 2008, I found myself at a group ride in Boulder, where I overheard some of the best domestic climbers (who shall remain nameless) talking about negative-calorie soup and how skinny they got themselves in the winter. “I got to 135 before I got sick,” bragged one of my manorexic idols. That comment stuck in my mind. You’re in for a long career if you want to be a climber.

It’s a sad reality that the skinnier you are, the better you go uphill, as long as you don’t get to the point that you’re wasting away and your power suffers. I recently saw a starving child in an African relief commercial and slapped myself for wondering how he got so lean. I do enjoy the simplicity of a job that boils down to a power-to-weight ratio, but you have to keep an eye on it so you don’t shut down your metabolism and make yourself sick.

Pick the races where it’s most crucial to be skinny, lose the weight slowly, and let it come back afterward. Get peri­odic skinfold tests to keep track of your body composition. Never go below 4 percent.

If you’re still a Cat. III, you don’t have to put yourself through that yet. Just get stronger and grab those upgrade points. There’s nothing more annoying than a Cat. III who drives his friends nuts walking around in compression tights and weigh­ing his food, and it doesn’t make sense for you to make those sacrifices. Don’t skip the brownies until losing the extra five pounds will actually affect your life. And for the love of God, don’t start brewing negative-calorie soup. A friend once pulled out a scale to weigh his pasta at my house. I told him to put it away or we’d see how much his front teeth weighed.

* I won things!  

Ask a Pro answers every question you’ve always wanted to ask about pro cycling. Recently retired pro cyclist Phil Gaimon gathers the absolute gems from his monthly Q&A feature column in VeloNews magazine into Ask a Pro and adds a dose of fresh commentary and even more acerbic and sharp-eyed insights.

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