There are several hill climb events in my area towards the end of the year, from august onward. Most of the hills are no longer than 0.8km long and well above an average 6% gradient. The main ones I will be targeting are three climbs ranging from:

 0.7km, average gradient of 7% (and a max of 14%), personal best is: 2:25 

 0.5km, average gradient of 10% (and a max of 13.5%), personal best is: 1:51

and finally the local leg breaker (its hardly Colombia where I live I know):

 0.8km climb with and average of 13% (and a max of 15%), personal best is: 4:44

If I am warmed up correctly could I race each of these time trials in my respective power ranges of

  • 1 minute (434W)

  • 2 minute (374W)

  • 3 minute (346W)

  • 4 minute (340W)

  • 5 minute (336W)

    or would I stick to my ftp (220W) for the duration of the climb?

Sticking to functional threshold power is my current strategy but found it hard going just because of the steepness of the climbs.

  • 2
    It might be easier to use the formatted text option to put the data you give in paragraph 2 into a table, and the various items in paragraph 3 in a list. I'm also seeing abbreviations such as "pb" and "ftp". Please use the full words to be clear.
    – BPugh
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 15:49

5 Answers 5


Functional threshold power is defined as the maximum power you can produce for one hour. See for example, this blog.

Since you know that your events are much shorter, you don't have to be so conservative. And since you know your output for the approximate times those courses take, you should plan that level of output for the race.

Even with that approach different people will have different ideas on whether to go at the same power all the way or keep some in reserve for the steep bits.

My thinking is that the slow sections are where you lose time, so keep some power in reserve for the steep parts.

  • 3
    Constant power output is time-minimizing only when the conditions are constant. If the slope varies (or the wind blows differently on different parts of the course) the time-minimizing strategy is to vary power. The optimization problem is finding a (varying) pacing strategy that gets you to the top of the hill in the shortest time while meeting constraints on energy expenditure. That's a difficult and interesting problem, particularly when the durations are so short and the work rate will be above VO2Max.
    – R. Chung
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 2:22
  • @R.Chung Yes to all 3 points. And just because the OP has measured his power ranges does not mean that they will stay the same: with training they will improve.
    – andy256
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 2:32
  • 1
    A second issue is how the OP measured his power: with an on-bike power meter on hills, or indoors. Estimates of what he can sustain for X minutes can differ depending on how it was measured and the grade he tested on, especially when the anaerobic component is large.
    – R. Chung
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 3:24
  • 1
    @R.Chung How about I post a question like "How can I use a power meter to guide my training?" So that you can explain fully?
    – andy256
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 6:43
  • 1
    Well, first, bicycles.stackexchange prefers questions that can be answered, not just discussed; but, second, I try to know and do as little training as possible. Coaches and racers do ask me for advice and information but not about training.
    – R. Chung
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 15:15

I was told by a frequent hill climb winner his strategy was always to start off steady but to steadily wind up the power over the length of the climb. He was amused by spectators' usual comments on the early section, "He's way off the pace". Myself, I get it all wrong and fly from the start, end up sounding like a seal choking on a penguin just trying to stay on the bike.

  • 1
    The OP expected to be able to complete the segments in around 5 minutes or less. Does the pacing advice you necessarily translate to that duration?
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 21:44

These type of short hill climbs are an incredibly hard type of racing. Essentially success comes by enduring the most amount of pain you can suffer before blacking out. If you don't hit your max heart rate by the end you held back too much. On a local stage race, we had short 18 % climb as a single stage! I hit my max heart rate twice in the 1.5 min climb due gradient changes. At the end I felt obliterated and in some ways worse than after how I felt after the road race or criterium. Immediately after crossing the line I wondered if I needed to be inspected by the ambulance staff as I was seriously worried about to dropping dead of a heart attack.

Of course I am somewhat embellishing the story (but not that much). The take home is that while pacing and effort strategies remain important, mentally preparing yourself to suffer terribly is probably the most important aspect of this type of event.


It is an old question, but, one important thing I didn't see mentioned is to actually test the climb to see what gearing you will ride it... Since averages are averages and some parts may be less steep, you could start with big ring and upper cassette gears then drop to small ring for a steeper part. Also, if in small front ring, keeping at least one easier gear to resort to and feel a bit of relief by the end can be mentally refreshing. So, more than pacing I would say that finding your ideal gearing for the climb is the point. Your upper body will also play an important part.

For pacing itself I would say it is all out, but contrary to what people say I will go really fast from the beginning, because the finish line works as the proverbial carrot, and you will go all out when it is in sight, but if you've been too conservative at the start the all out for the finish may not be enough.


Depends how you feel on the day, and what's coming up later. Sticking with your FTP may be too conservative to win the day, but if its just one of a series of climbs then working at your FTP may burn you out too soon.

Standard advise is to carry all the momentum into the climb that you can, getting you some distance up. Drop gears to keep your cadence up. Then keep working till a third to half-way up the grade.

At that point you stock take yourself - decide how much you have left. If the finish is at the top then go for it, but if there's hours more riding after this climb then just maintain.

When the top comes in sight, add effort like your mum/SO is watching. You can recover on the downhill.

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