It’s a simple tri truth: How you ride hills during a race can either set you up for glory or a glorious bonk. To ensure you’re the one breaking away instead of fading behind, we asked überbiker Chris Lieto how to dominate an undulating course.
On a short, 50m hill
Approach: If the hill is not steep, use your momentum to carry you to the top. Stay in aero and try not to shift gears. If you must shift, wait until the last possible moment.
Near top: Stay in aero. Then, without shifting, stand for about the last 15 meters to keep your momentum going over the hill.
Crest: (Same goes for longer hills.) Don’t rest on top. Keep up your speed, stay aero and carry your momentum through the hill. Finish your climb 15 meters past the crest of the hill.
On ¼-mile hills
Approach: Carry your momentum into the hill as far as you can while staying in aero. As you slow down, downshift, then ride the rest of the hill at the tempo you’d like to maintain for the whole bike segment.
Downside: Always look past the crest of the hill. If it’s flat, upshift as needed to maintain your tempo. If it’s downhill, upshift and stand for five seconds to get your momentum fired up again.
1+ mile hills
Ascent: Don’t attack. “In races, a lot of athletes will out-climb me,” Lieto says. “But I out-ride them.” Why? Because he doesn’t overexert himself on the hills. “Being aggressive is easy when you’re fresh and your adrenaline’s going, but you’ll pay for it on the fourth or fifth hill, or on the run.” On training rides, find your ideal tempo for the distance you’re racing, then stick to it on race day.
Near top: Stand with 15 to 20 meters to go to regain your momentum for the descent, but you don’t want to be out of the saddle for more than 45 seconds.