Training for a long climb IRL

Planning on doing some long (50 mile) climbs (as high as 5000 feet) in real life in late August. Suggestions for using Zwift to help train? Should I continually ride the Alpe? Or is there a training plan with specific rides and techniques that would improve my performance and make the real life rides more fun? Thanks.

The Haute route training program may help with training for you up coming ride. Some of the workouts are pretty tough.
Climbing the Alp regularly will certainly build up endurance, but not give your legs a full cadence spectrum workout which you will need for real roads.

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The Ven-Top climb in the France world is about 21 km long and just over 1500 meters of climbing. The main climbing section is about 19km long at an average 8% gradient.

The only way to get better at climbing is to actually climb. If you are able to ride outside and you have hills available then get out there an ride them. If you are able to find a climb that lasts 5-10 minutes then this would be enough to get in to a rhythm and also mix up techniques (low gear/high gear/ standing intervals). A hill repeats outdoor session is a really good way to improve.

If you are training only indoors then there are other challenges. Mainly you don’t get the reality of gravity but the flywheel inertia instead. Another thing to consider with indoor climbing sessions is to prop the front wheel up to simulate a 5-8% gradient. This will work slightly different muscles that would normally be used riding outside due to the different pelvis angle.

I didn’t use Zwift for this but the old fashioned PerfPRO Studio- I set up intervals like 4x10, 4x15, 3x20, 2x30min and they were all at low cadence of 65rpm. They were all about 85-88% FTP.

Just doing 3 of those a week helped. I had no decent hills available outside nearby. You may be able to replicate it in Zwift somehow. If you want to replicate the incline as well, put some phone books under your front wheel (or similar).

In Zwift, use Ventoux, it’s the best route for that kind of training.

Great suggestions, everyone. I love the long climbs, and I’ve done the Alpe a few times, but I feel like I’m super slow. So I thought I could magically “train” some unused muscles to make me a little quicker. But I think I’ll just prop up my front wheel and ride Venttop and the Alpe a few million times.

Mix up the climbs a little Andrew by doing some intervals on them.

Although i free ride i’ll throw some intermittent ‘attacks’ in to the climb, where i’ll smash 6-7w/kg out for 15 seconds or so. Then return to your rhythm. Another thing you could do is a 4 minute ramp, where you try and squeeze from Zone 3 to Zone 6 and then return to tempo over a few minutes. Perhaps choose certain hairpin sections to go hard on the AdZ and tempo the others.

All these techniques harness slightly different muscles (as things get harder), push your anaerobic system (when you hit the red zones!) and work on your lactate clearance. Rather than just tapping out the climb, pushing in to harder efforts will gradually make you faster.

One thing I can really credit Zwift for: Climbing. Until I rode Zwift, I think my longest climb was (literally) a few hundred feet of elevation. Which felt like it was going to kill me.

The fact is, there are a lot of cyclists in the world who live their lives in places where there simply aren’t many hills. Let alone mountains. I live in SW England, where there are certainly some sharp uphill sections of pavement. But Cheddar Gorge (165 meters of elevation over 3.5 km) isn’t really in the same category as the legendary Alpine or Pyrenees climbs.

Now? I’m not going to say I enjoy climbs. But I will say its now more a matter of how fast (or slow) I get up them. Not whether or not I’m going to keel over dead or pass out from exhaustion.

Thanks to wattages, and learning about FTP, etc. - I’m pretty comfortable knowing the amount of exertion I can put out for an extended period of time. The thirty, sixty, ninety minutes that it’s going to take to get up a long climb. Without Zwift, and a power meter, and a knowledge of how FTP works, then I was really “winging” it. I’d pick a level of effort that “seemed” sustainable and just hoped I wasn’t going to run out of gas. Or I’d make it to the top with barely enough energy to make it home again.


If you want to get really serious you can get one of those tents to sleep in that simulates altitude. They are costly so perhaps if you have contacts with a local sporting institution or team you can borrow one. Go moderate with the altitude first.

On the weekends make sure you do some super long rides to get used to the distances.

I trained for rides of say 100km / 4000m+ with the ideas I put above, though I didn’t get to try one of those altitude tents. I know others that did and combined with the training they built up big FTP in the area 340w (and not heavy).

I know for coming back from riding in the Alps or the Dolomites that I absolutely fly for about three or four weeks.

I don’t have any hills nearby worthy of note, the longest one is probably about a minute or two and 63m. So I don’t have any other options. But I don’t have any issues riding up Col du Galibier or Bonette in France with that sort of preparation.

Only other thing to note is that you have to prepare for the descents as well. If you don’t ride them all the time then it’s something to consider. It’s about being comfortable and safe.