Conquering gradients with British National Hill Climb Champion, Ed Laverack

Love cycling but hate hills? With the influx of professional riders taking on the gruelling Everesting record, we wanted to learn more about what it takes to emulate these performances.

Learning the right climbing technique will help you ascend those hills and mountains faster. Luckily, we've got some advice and tips for you from reigning British National Hill Climb champion, Ed Laverack.

1. Don’t neglect the fuel

Finding your optimum performance weight through experimentation is how I have always looked at this. If you own a power meter, you will know when loosing body fat is affecting your power because power will drop and perceived effort will rise. The optimum place is where, ideally, you’ll be a lean, healthy hill climber and it won't affect your life off the bike. For you that could be 70kg, 60kg, 76kg. We are all different, and should never compare ourselves to others.

2. Short, but intense, training

High intensity, low volume is the most common approach. 8–15 hours a week is usually enough for most to give enough emphasis to preparing for hill climbing events. A particular favourite session of mine is over under micro intervals. During this session you spend 30sec at maximum intensity followed by 15sec very easy, repeated 15–20 times for example. I would do multiple blocks of these with 5min rest between blocks.

Short but intense training

3. Optimising sleep and recovery

We hear this a lot today and that’s to make sure you sleep well enough so you recover enough. We are all different so how much is enough? I try to sleep more during a build up to a race, it helps with nerves and it can help keep body weight at its optimum and hunger in check. You need to be rested enough to be able to perform the key intervals.

4. Hydrating for the workouts and races ahead of time

Most sessions are 60-90min long therefore you will only need some light carbs and a bottle of water to complete the sessions. For race day, depending on the length of the climb, you will be looking at consuming liquid as and when you are thirsty, preferably beforehand. You wont be carrying your bottle up the hill so drink 500ml straight after waking up if the event is at 10–11am. A cup of coffee pre-event will give you some fluid whilst also giving you a caffeine boost.

5. The day it matters should be nothing out of the ordinary

Race day itself should flow. You should have practiced it in training with mock attempts. The key is making it feel natural and giving it a flow state. People have their favourite music or warm up routine to help them with this. You can practice event routines using online racing platforms or your favourite local segment on a hill.

Ed Laverack

6. Don’t come in too fresh

Tapering is not usually necessary because training is low volume high intensity anyway. However, I wouldn’t push myself in training in the days leading up to it. Much of this comes down to the faith you have in your ability and the training you have already put in for weeks beforehand.

7. Your mindset can make or break the performance

You have to be willing to commit to the effort you are about to put in, no second-guessing your ability. If you have trained for it, you are ready for it. But don’t let that limit you either – if you are feeling very good because of external factors, like the fans cheering you on, then use that to your advantage come the final part of the hill.

8. The most crucial part to any successful high intensity performance is pacing

Climbing hills is not always about going at maximum capacity the whole way. It's about knowing where you can go harder on certain sections of the climbs and easier in others, even knowing if the wind will play a part. These small things add up especially if the climb is over 10min in length.

9. Buy the gear, but have an idea

Light equipment is the name of the game, but not so light that you sacrifice stiffness. Think about the skeleton of the bike, the frame is the starting point, then you work from there. Most people have a mix match of equipment, as long as it works and is light then it serves its purpose.

Ed Laverack in HEXR

10. If you can handle the long travel, you can perform better

Plan in advance, book a hotel if you need to that is close to the venue. Check the menu so that you have an idea of what they will serve you for breakfast or your evening meal and check if there is a convenience store nearby. The journey takes as much out of your legs as the actual race so be mindful of this. Take regular breaks if you are driving on your own.

You can follow Ed on Instagram to find out more of what’s in store for 2020.

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