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Thread: Coaching Switchbacks in Spin Class

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Default Coaching Switchbacks in Spin Class

    I was all flustered about where to put this thread, there's so many dang sub-topics anymore!! (Which IMO limits the potential audience of your thread 'cuz who has time to peruse all the sub-topics)? So I chose Spinning because dangit, I'm a Spinning instructor and Spinning MI! Hopefully the powers that be will keep it here... Non "Spinning" instructors always come here to peek and can also benefit from this post.

    This subject came from a request after Patricks post in the profiles section regarding his 2-hour class. But since this is not a profile, it's a coaching suggestion, I elected not to keep it in the profile section.

    Anyways, to the point, Jennifer!

    I was talking to Patrick about coaching switchbacks via PM, and he liked my answer so much he wanted me to post it for you all. I have posted tips on switchbacks several times in the past, but now I have some new insight to add to past suggestions.

    As many of you know, I ride every year in France and Italy, including many famous cols with a lot of switchbacks, and I love to do them in my classes. I just got back from France on one of my bicycle tours in the Alpes, and I got a chance to climb ADH a few days before my clients arrived ('cuz I knew the day they got to ride it i would be supporting them in the van). As I was going up, I was thinking about swtichbacks in Spinning and how I teach them.

    Typically, in my classes I coach to get out of the saddle as we go around the switchback, increasing the resistance from slightly to quite a bit. The "switchback" can last anywhere from 15 - 60 seconds. Standing up at this point is mostly out of convention and with the intent on keeping the class design simple. Also, it helps break up the ride, and if desired, you can count the # of switchbacks to simulate ADH (21 sb) or another ride (say, 10 sb).

    In the real world, sometimes the switchback is actually easier than the straightaway part and sometimes it isn't. But in general, my students don't know or care about that, so it's easier to have designated periodic times when we stand up, and those times are when we go around the corner. The students just know that sometimes it's harder and sometimes it's easier.

    But here's the Real Deal:
    I paid close attention to the makeup of the switchbacks when I climbed ADH 2 weeks ago. Many of the tightest hairpin switchbacks actually almost flatten out for about 10 meters or so as it turns and then gets steeper as it straightens out. Even in a car, after the turn you have to gear down to get up the straight part (my van sometimes even had to go into 1st gear!). In this case, when climbing, the SB is kind of a respite, and I found myself standing up more on the steepest straightaways. BUT, this wasn't always the case and changed on different swtichbacks. Remember, man built these roads around the way Mother Nature designed her mountains, and they are all different and don't follow any set rules.

    Also, keep in mind that if you are turning to the right and are on the inside, it's steeper, but a shorter distance. Or you can take it wide (provided no cars are coming) to reach the "flatter" part of the turn. If you are turning left, you are already on the flatter part (especially if you stay way to the outside), but if you were in a hurry and going for a PR on the climb, you might cut to the inside of the turn and stand up and power it through the much steeper part. This is why it’s nice to do a climb like this before the Tour passes through, as the road is closed off to traffic, so no worry about vehicles (nevertheless, there’s a worry about fans – a whole other story)!

    So I was thinking, in your classes, if desired, you can coach this as an "option" to your students. Take the inside steepest side and stand up, or take the wide angle and stay seated and enjoy the lesser effort.

    On the first of the two photos below, you can see one of my riders, Anne, on a sweeping switchback of ADH. She's taking the flatter approach, and you can see it get steeper after the turn. On the second photo (on the Col de Glandon, and a point about 10%), you can see how it actually gets steeper during the SB and not really getting easier (unless you took it way to the outside). For something like this, if I took the inside line, i'd probably stand up for about 10 seconds or so.

    The third photo is a SB on the Cormet de Roselend (stage 8) - a few days before the Tour. It's deceiving in the photo, but it actually is quite steep on the inside of the turn, and much flatter on the outside.

    Photo 4, can you get an idea of how steep it is coming into and out of the turn? Not the the switchback is "easy" but it's easier. BTW, that's a woman on the upper portion, who smoked the two men on this climb! And finally, photo # 5 only partially shows how friggin steep the Glandon is - about 12% at this point. Photos can't adequately depict the grade of a hill!

    Climb on!

    Jennifer Sage

    ps. I didn't break any records on AdH this year. 2 years ago I did it in 1'28", and was really in a lot of pain the last few km as I powered my way up. This time I did it in 1'36", still faster than Sheryl Crow! It wasn't easy by any means, but I didn't hurt as much. I had one very strong rider on my tour (he's been racing less than a year) who did it in just over an hour, and then decided to go back the next day and do it more intelligently (he said he went too hard at the beginning) and this time he did it in 58 min!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    Prescott, AZ - At 5400' in the Ponderosa Pines and Home of the World's Oldest Rodeo (yeehaa!)
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    Default

    Awesome sage insight, JennAFair!

    Thanks for posting the pics...I am going to give a pre-ride handout to the riders before they come so they can examine the technique behind the switchbacks and will know what they are choosing when I give them that option on my ADH ride.

    Thanks for expanding the info as well!

    PS
    Spinning In Prescott, AZ

    Patrick Schutte
    MDA Star Level 3 Certified Nutcase
    RealRyder Certified

    www.SpinningInPrescott.com

    My blog: http://blog.prescott-area-foreclosures.com

  3. #3

    Default Welcome Home!

    Welcome home Jennifer! It's great to have you back and with your infamous wisdom to boot! I will definitely apply this as we're closing our 3 week TDF event on Sunday with a 2 hr. ride, slide show and closing ceremony party! I'm actually going to include a 20 min. climb (shortened ADH with switchbacks) and this will be perfect to help me coach the switchbacks that will lead us to the top!!
    Thank you and I'll let you know how the finale ride goes!!
    JR
    "Nothing Great Was Ever Achieved Without Enthusiasm!!"

  4. #4
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    Default

    BTW, these are tiny low res pics, but if anyone wants higher res photos of these switchbacks, email me and I'll send them on.
    jennifer@vivatravels.com (email is better than a PM. My PM box is getting full - I haven't had time to empty it lately!)

    js

  5. #5
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    Well put, Jennifer, and it saves from answering Patrick separately! (Sorry, P, I haven't been able to reply sooner to your post)

    I'll just add one thing, for those who want to treat ADH as a time trial, i.e. no resting on switchback. Generally, the pattern was:

    1 - road flattens out at turn,
    2 - stay in saddle and keep same gear but faster cadence,
    3 - keep momentum going in the saddle for straight climbing road,
    4 - keep pushing until cadence drops back down again
    5 - out of the saddle climb to next switchback.

    Repeat until near the top, when the road flattens out so much that you can (well, I did!) change up into a 53x17, speed past the café and shops, head under the bridge, then keep same gear but use the momentum to sprint uphill to finish line at 30kph.

    Oooooo, just writing that makes me want to fly over and do it again!
    See me on the blog - Spinning profiles, training tips, thoughts on life, and anything else I can think of sharing!

  6. #6
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    Going downhill on ADH was a fantastic rush. I stayed in a 53x11 and I was passing cyclists, cars, vans, accelerating between switchbacks and averaging 75kph to Bourg d'Oisans (and nearly came unstuck at those roadworks)

    No way to replicate that in a class, unfortunately
    See me on the blog - Spinning profiles, training tips, thoughts on life, and anything else I can think of sharing!

  7. #7

    Default

    Awesome Robert & Jennifer!

    Copy/Paste/Print!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert View Post
    Well put, Jennifer, and it saves from answering Patrick separately! (Sorry, P, I haven't been able to reply sooner to your post)

    I'll just add one thing, for those who want to treat ADH as a time trial, i.e. no resting on switchback. Generally, the pattern was:

    1 - road flattens out at turn,
    2 - stay in saddle and keep same gear but faster cadence,
    3 - keep momentum going in the saddle for straight climbing road,
    4 - keep pushing until cadence drops back down again
    5 - out of the saddle climb to next switchback.

    Repeat until near the top, when the road flattens out so much that you can (well, I did!) change up into a 53x17, speed past the café and shops, head under the bridge, then keep same gear but use the momentum to sprint uphill to finish line at 30kph.

    Oooooo, just writing that makes me want to fly over and do it again!
    So Robert - what's your PR?!

    It's a little frustrating in AdH these days if you're trying for a time that you can compare apples to apples. They've added an Arrivée sign in the village itself, which is not the official Arrivée of past Tours. I guess it's good for those thousands of cyclists who come for the experience of climbing it, and who were frustrated for having to ride past the village (by that time, you're ready for it to be over) - and the old one wasn't easy to find. But you can't compare times if that matters to you*. The official Arrivée is about 1km past the village, under that bridge, through two roundabouts and uphill about 100m. It can be very frustrating to find, and especially now, since they've taken down the old sign because of construction of an underground parking lot!

    * and I am assuming Sheryl Crow's time was to the old official Arrivée, and all my riders (and myself) use that as the time to beat! It's easy to beat if you use the village, but that last little bit....ugh! It's truly a sprint when you're already hurting!

  9. #9
    Gecko Guest

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    This was so awesome Jennifer. Thanks so much! Honestly, I never get off my saddle during a switch back. Only on the straight part. I guess sometimes, it's a matter of preference and sometimes psychological!
    Thanks again for sharing your experience and photo's.

    G

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Funhog View Post
    So Robert - what's your PR?!

    It's a little frustrating in AdH these days if you're trying for a time that you can compare apples to apples. They've added an Arrivée sign in the village itself, which is not the official Arrivée of past Tours. I guess it's good for those thousands of cyclists who come for the experience of climbing it, and who were frustrated for having to ride past the village (by that time, you're ready for it to be over) - and the old one wasn't easy to find. But you can't compare times if that matters to you*. The official Arrivée is about 1km past the village, under that bridge, through two roundabouts and uphill about 100m. It can be very frustrating to find, and especially now, since they've taken down the old sign because of construction of an underground parking lot!

    * and I am assuming Sheryl Crow's time was to the old official Arrivée, and all my riders (and myself) use that as the time to beat! It's easy to beat if you use the village, but that last little bit....ugh! It's truly a sprint when you're already hurting!
    We got lucky, as a bunch of Dutch riders chose that day to have their annual race, so I finished in full glory, sprinting through the roundabouts, racing to the finish line just past the village (no 100m uphill, though, as it was closed off) and crossed to a round of applause!

    Managed it in 1 hour 10 mins although, looking at my HR stats for the climb, I reckon I can do the climb in under an hour with the right gearing, one that allowed me to keep a high cadence. I'll be back!
    See me on the blog - Spinning profiles, training tips, thoughts on life, and anything else I can think of sharing!

  11. #11
    annegraff Guest

    Default ADH Time

    001cy2-300x300
    Quote Originally Posted by Funhog View Post
    So Robert - what's your PR?!

    It's a little frustrating in AdH these days if you're trying for a time that you can compare apples to apples. They've added an Arrivée sign in the village itself, which is not the official Arrivée of past Tours. I guess it's good for those thousands of cyclists who come for the experience of climbing it, and who were frustrated for having to ride past the village (by that time, you're ready for it to be over) - and the old one wasn't easy to find. But you can't compare times if that matters to you*. The official Arrivée is about 1km past the village, under that bridge, through two roundabouts and uphill about 100m. It can be very frustrating to find, and especially now, since they've taken down the old sign because of construction of an underground parking lot!

    * and I am assuming Sheryl Crow's time was to the old official Arrivée, and all my riders (and myself) use that as the time to beat! It's easy to beat if you use the village, but that last little bit....ugh! It's truly a sprint when you're already hurting!
    Hi Jennifer! Did we ever decide if I can cut my time in half since I was riding for two? Great trip and great description of ADH. Just want to stress how slow the cadance was. Usually when I ride am hit by bugs (like the front of a car), riding ADH I had flies flying in front of me! 4mph!

    Anyway, next time Mark will carry the baby and I'll get to go for my PR! I just signed on again and am looking for some new profiles.

    Talk to ya soon! Anne

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