How To Climb Like A Pro: Emma Pooley’s Guide To ‘Climbing Nasty’


– For today’s video we’ve
enlisted the help of Emma Pooley. A name that will no doubt
be familiar to many of you. If you don’t know who she is, she has been a world
champion in the Time Trial, she’s won four stages
of the Giro d’Italia, and she’s won La Flèche Wallonne. We won’t focus on those too much though, because I’ve no doubt that
her biggest achievement was that she too used to ride
for the Cervélo TestTeam. She’s not actually said that too me, it’s just one of my assumptions. Anyway, she has helped
us with today’s video which is entitled, How to Climb Nasty. (intense techno music) The physics of cycling uphill are clear, it’s about the ratio of power to weight. Now, that doesn’t mean that
you have to be super skinny in order to climb well. There are plenty of super strong climbers that are on the bigger side. They just put out lots of power. But that can be especially
effective on shorter climbs. – But when it comes to
racing, or dare I say it, even just training
competitively with your mates, there are a few nuances to climbing beyond simple power to weight ratio. Because riding with other people is different than solo riding. Partly psychologically, but also you can do a lot of physiological damage if you work it right. – You can be nice on
climb, of course you can. You could not surge, or not half-wheel the riders next to you, keep a nice steady power, or even ride at the front of the group to shelter others from the wind. But cycling is not always nice. In a race for example, you
don’t really wanna be nice. You wanna hurt your opponents. You wanna wear them down, and ultimately, you wanna drop them. – Back in the day when
I was racing seriously, I’d have to do that on the climbs, so today I’m just gonna
show you a few of the ways that I used to use to
turn on the hurt on the uphill. You could call it, how
to climb like a (bleep), or how to climb nasty. (intense techno music) – The most straight
forward approach first, full gas up a climb. Now this one does rely on you knowing that you have a better sustainable power to weight ratio than your opponent. Because remember, anyone sat in your wheel is gonna be benefiting from your draught. Unless of course, it is
an extremely steep climb. (groans) There is always the slim hope that you could trick your opponents into thinking that you’re
stronger than them. (gasping) – Secondly, the technique I
like to call armpit stalking. This was taught to me by a team
director at the Tour de Lou. So basically it consists of riding just behind and to the
side of your rivals, sort of in their armpit. So this is good because it
gives you a bit of sliding space if you’re struggling to hold a pace. But it also, more importantly, is really off putting to them, to have you in their peripheral vision, just when they think
they’re going really well. From this position, you can
listen to their breathing and observe their body language so you know exactly when the
best moment is to attack. (intense techno music) My personal favourite was
the fartlek technique. Which is a word from Swedish
used in running training, where you mix up continuous
running with intervals. So I started using it in cycling training to make long climbs more interesting. And I found out my accident that it can really destroy other people. Because a lot of cyclists can ride at a steady
power for a long time, but when you add in surges,
they really struggle. So what I do is ride uphill steady. Not slowly, just maybe 10
to 20 watts below threshold, and every one to two minutes, I’d add in a 30 to 60 second surge. And I try to stay seated for the surge, so it’d only be 10 to
20 watts over threshold. And I do my absolute best to make it look like I wasn’t trying. So the idea was, that to
the person on my wheel, it wouldn’t look like much
had changed in my riding, but it would just suddenly
feel a bit harder. Now most people can
cope with a few surges, but if you can do it for
a whole hour long climb, there won’t be many people
who can stay with you. A word of caution though,
you should definitely try to practise this in training
before you implement it, because it’s physically challenging in a different way to riding steady. So, if you’re not careful, you’re can end up dropping yourself, which is not really the aim. (gasping) – Slow and steady wins the race. Similar to that, but more like traditional
attacking riding, you want to do your short attack,
so 15 seconds for example, followed by one to two
minutes of steady riding. Then repeated for the
duration of the whole climb. Now, the attacks need to
be short and really hard. – So I used to do the 15 second surges, at really the maximum power I could sustain for 15 seconds. But the important thing was
that the recovery in between was steady and not really recovery at all. So one season, I trained
this pretty specifically, and I learned to do the attack seated, and it was a really
effective technique in races. – At the very least, if you work on this in
your training sessions, you should see an improvement
in your lactate tolerance. (intense techno music) – My last climbing tip is more of a tool for
psychological warfare. This comes down to observing your rivals and listening to their breathing. When you can hear them getting
really short of breath, and struggling, implement the chat. This is just a seemingly trivial comment about the view, or what a nice day it is, or how much you’re
looking forward to coffee, or how much you like
their fancy new bar tape. It doesn’t really matter. How far did you have
to drive this morning? Oh really? That’s annoying, especially
as you forgot your pedals. Oh well. What a lovely day. It is actually really beautiful
here at this time of year. If it weren’t so cold,
I think it’d be alright. Don’t you like riding in winter? Winter, I mean, how long
does it even last in the UK? It’s (bleep) freezing. I could really do with it warming up because my hands are little ice cubes. And frankly I get chilblains these days, it’s really painful. Have you ever had– (record scratches) – Can you please stop chatting! – The point is, you have
to sound really relaxed, and as though you have all the energy and breath in the world for chatting. This is soul destroying for someone who’s struggling on your wheel. And it can be really effective if you want to drop
someone on a long climb. So just a word of warning is that you can make
yourself a bit unpopular with your training buddies,
if you do that too much. – [Dan] You can, I’m starting
to get off of you already to be perfectly honest. – To be fair, you can
bring it back quite quickly by getting a round of coffees. So thank you, Emma, for that. – In all seriousness, thank
you for the tips today. I’ve learned a lot and
I’m starting to think maybe we weren’t nasty enough
so when we were racing. – [Man] Possibly that Dan, or possibly we just were underpowered. – [Dan] Yeah, that’s right. – [Emma] No, no, too nice. – Seriously though, which
of these techniques, Emma, have you used most frequently with devastating effects
during your career? Is is just brute force, number one? – Well I don’t think frequently would describe my victory, sadly, but yeah, some of them are definitely more like
training techniques. I think maybe the seated
15 second attacks, that was a pretty good one. Because when you stay seated, people don’t expect you to be attacking, so you could really use it
as a sort of surprise attack. Yeah so, the year I
trained, that was 2010, and it was my best year definitely, and I managed to use it. I think I used it for a way to get away from the group at the end, which was good for me tactically. Very astute by my standards. (Emma chuckles) – Well yeah, that’s one to practise then, way to keep people away. – Emma being quite modest there, because we heard previous to filming this that not only did you drop the group, but the group contained Marianne Vos. I actually can’t remember
if she was seated or not when she actually did that, but nonetheless very impressive indeed. One of the biggest one
day races in the world. – It’s probably the only time
I dropped her, but you know. (chuckles) – Well we’ve certainly
learned plenty today, we hope you have at home as well. Whether or not we can
actually implement it at any point in the
future remains to be seen. – We can always try,
Dan, we can always try. – We can always try, yeah. Right, we’ve got another video which you might well be
interested in right now, because if you want to take things one step further than nasty, you might actually just want to sabotage your competitors bikes or
just be very devious indeed. You can find that video by
clicking just down here. – Yeah, do also make sure you give this video a big thumbs up. Thank you to Emma again.