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!
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!