Tricks and Mind Games for Climbing

Yvette Yeates - Grand Tours Project Team

Jun / 10 / 2021

Mountain climbs...for elite riders right?...Not really. Trust me, let me explain and offer you my tricks and mind games.

The mountains of Europe provide some of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world. Many are iconic and famous but there are also hidden gems ridden by locals and are waiting to be discovered by you...yes you!

We have in our calendar a large offer that includes many epic mountains, great riding and exclusive opportunities to explore hidden gems.

It does help to be a good rider, to be fit and prepared for big climbs. I am NOT a fit elite rider but here is my big secret for riding in the mountains:

For every 100 kilometre day, half of it is in reality, you are only riding 50 kilometres.

It works for me.

Ok ok, then there are the 1000m, 2000m or more ascents but the same rule applies, there are the equal measure of descents. Below are some of the tricks and mind games that I use and could possibly help you reach the daily challenges of mountain climbing. You do not need to be an elite cyclist to reach the passes to achieve the sense of satisfaction that is hard to find in your living room on Zwift.

My tricks and mind games:

1. Drink plenty of water the night before.

2. A hearty Low Glycaemic breakfast - Healthy food that is broken down more slowly and causes a gradual rise in blood sugar levels over time i.e. sustainable energy release. For breakfast that would include some fruit, pulses, whole-grain foods, such as porridge oats. Not forgetting to have the odd pastry and croissant.

3. I swear by chamois cream or anti-chafing cream. It reduces the chaffing and the risk of infection from bacteria.

4. Heart starters in the morning eg. double espresso at breakfast for me.

5. Magnesium test tubes or tablets as well as salt tablets (helps to avoid leg cramps).

6. On the bike I take a bottle of water and a bottle of electrolytes - I prefer grapefruit flavour. Of course in the Alps there are always water troughs and fountains to refill, just don’t use the fountains that have signs saying “non potable”.

8. I have a little bag on my top tube for easy access to energy bars, jellies, gels, a secret stash of gummy bears for emergencies, and lip balm.

9. I carry an MP3 with me to take my mind off the bike computer that never seems to be working or to distract me from the endless road up. I listen to upbeat music like Nicki Minjai’s "Woman Like Me", Garbage’s 'Stupid Girl', 'Promises' by Calvin Harris and Sam Smith or Ariana Grande’s 'Breathin' remind me to keep breathing! But whatever keeps you going is good.

A word of warning, to ensure I am aware of my surroundings, I only wear a right side earpiece so I can hear traffic. BTW I've heard that the bone conduction 'headphones' are a good option. If anyone has tried them, please let me know.

10. Remember to drink, drink, drink!

11. It’s ok to stop, to stretch, to get your breath back. The views and photo opportunities are endless...even during a misty white out, they make very atmospheric photos.

12. Create three stages for the climb. When one third is completed, stop and recover - only two thirds left to go. At two thirds, stop and rest and realise that you’ve done two thirds and there is only one third to go! Or just aim for four switch backs and then stop, rest and recover, or stop at every 200m of altitude. Set small targets.

13. On day rides when I have no commitments, if the ride takes me all day (and summer days are long), then it's ok to take ALL DAY.

14. And if you love descents, then the reward of reaching the top of the pass is the descent.

15. Don’t forget that technology is here to help and for those of us that need the help to get out there and enjoy riding, to keep up with friends and still sustain a workout, e-road bikes are available now and very popular alternatives. Available for rental too.

So trust me, as a someone who loves to ride in the mountains but is too busy (lazy) to put in the training, but gets out there to feel alive, and unlike Mick Jagger, I do get satisfaction (great song btw) from riding iconic European mountain passes, fit or unfit...then you can too!