Train to climb the Passo dello Stelvio
Ok, you are planning or considering to climb the Passo dello Stelvio. Is it your first time or wasn’t the last time a big success? The information below will help you not to fail (again). 10 minutes of reading can be the difference between success and failure!
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Did you ever wonder why the best climbers are small and thin? Of course, most of us cannot fight their genes. Yet, some efforts to lose weight can help a lot when fighting against the Passo dello Stelvio.
If you ride uphill for 24.300 km at an average gradient of 7.4 %, of course you fight against gravity. Not too weigh too much is the message. Obesity is bad for your health and is often associated with diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, hypertension and osteoarthritis.
Start by calculating your BMI (Body Mass Index). To calculate your BMI you need your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your length in meters.
You weigh 80 kilograms and are 1.80 meters:
80: (1.8 x 1.8) = 80: 24.7 kg = 3.24.
This is just within the normal weight range.
• 18.5 to 25: healthy BMI: normal, healthy weight
• 25-30: obesity. You are overweight, but obese does not lead to serious health risks yet.
• 30-40: obesity. Increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and back pain.
Weight loss goes (or is supposed to happen) gradually. Adjust your diet, exercise and lifestyle.
A difference of a few pounds can already mean a benefit of more than a few watts of power, as illustrated by the following calculations. If you didn't climb the yourself before, you can find the average time to climb the Passo dello Stelvio on this page.
Training, resting and supercompensation
The ultimate goal of training is getting better and stronger through training and exercising your body. This is possible through the physical mechanism of the supercompensation. Perhaps you've already heard about supercompensation. And you've probably already experienced it. Supercompensation is a term for the phenomenon that, after a training impulse, your body always tends to recover above the original baseline.
At a training stimulus you become fatigued and your physical capacities diminish. Recovery not only brings you back to the original level but slightly above. If, at that moment, you do not train again, you descend back to your original level.
You do not need to train every day during your preparation. On the contrary. Especially for the novice cyclist, it is advisable to alternate a training day with a rest day, not to "overtrain" yourself. While resting, you can also improve your fitness. And if you start training before you have recovered, your performance level will even decrease!
If, at the contrary, you always train at precisely the moment that you are on top of the supercompensation, you will continuously perform better. Keep this in mind with your workouts. A perfect interaction between exercise and rest is mandatory.
The big question is: when should I give the following training stimulus and how strong should it be to benefit? There are no real signs so your own experience and knowledge of your body should help you with this. You can also measure your morning heart rate; if it is too high, then you probably have not recovered from your last training. Through your morning heart rate, sleep, weight, training info you can check if you're doing well.
A good training schedule also requires a long term planning. Usually, it is based on a period of four weeks, with 3 weeks of building-up (in volume and intensity) followed by a week of recuperation. Next, this period may be repeated over and over again.
Aerobic and anaerobic threshold
Your energy reserves during an intensive effort (= high heart rate) get exhausted after 90 minutes. For heavy climbs like the Passo dello Stelvio, this may be insufficient for many.
The solution is to use a heart rate below your transfer pulse. You transfer pulse is the pulse that corresponds to the acidification threshold of your body. Below your transfer pulse, you will be able to sustain your effort much better and probably reach the summit of the Passo dello Stelvio. Above this rate; you burn energy too fast.
Your maximum heart rate:
• 220 minus your age (men)
• 230 minus your age (women)
Determining your aerobic threshold:
Your aerobic threshold is approximately 75% of your maximum heart rate, e.g.; a man aged 30 has a maximum heart rate of 190 bpm (beats per minute), so his aerobic threshold lies at a heart rate of 124-142 bpm (65%-75%). This often corresponds to the "talking border ". A more exact threshold can be determined via a lacate test. The aerobic treshold is determined where lactate reaches a concentration of 2 mmol/litre (in rest about 1 mmol/litre). The aerobic treshold lies at a heart rate of about 20-40 bpm below the anaerobic threshold.
Determining your anaerobic threshold:
Your anaerobic threshold is the maximum heart rate you can sustain for long periods without acidification. When, during your exercise, the production of wastes through your muscles becomes bigger than their discharge, anaerobic metabolism kicks in. When the preferable aerobic system can no longer keep up with the demand for energy, the lactate cycle starts to provide the needed additional energy, burning stored sugars for fuel, and producing lactic acid as a by-product. When lactic acid builds up in our bodies, it causes discomfort like cramping and general distress.
Your anaerobic threshold is the heartbeat whereby the source and drain are exactly in balance.
Warm up with changing gears. Next, drive a race for 10 minutes at your maximum pace. Your average heart rate during your trial is normally just below the transfer pulse. Of course there are more scientific of ways to calculate your transfer pulse more precisely such as the lactic acid test, but the above will give you a good indication.
Recovery work is done under your aerobic threshold. Endurance training you do between your aerobic and anaerobic threshold. Resistance Training you do above your anaerobic threshold.
Food and Drinks
Foods and drink are a must, because you need food and drinks for cycling and climbing! In addition to training, nutrition and hydration are the most important elements for excellence. It is not only important 'what' and 'how' we eat and drink, but also 'when' we do this.
Important to know is that if you get off your bike after a workout or trip, the first half hour is the most important to take in foods (recovery drink with carbohydrates and amino acids and sufficient moisture). A good energy drink contains the amino acids, carbohydrates and also antioxidants. Especially in combination with proteins, your body can process carbohydrates faster:
Examples of proteins: egg - yogurt - low fat cheese
carbohydrates: cereals, peoples products, fresh vegetables (vitamins, minerals and fiber)
Avoid: fast sugars
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Both are broken down into glucose which generates energy in your muscles.
Complex carbohydrates give away their energy slowly and are therefore ideal for activities such as climbing where a sustained supply of energy is required. Simple carbohydrates release their energy more rapidly but are also faster exhausted.
Your bike and accessories
When cycling uphill, of course, your gear is essential. To mount a col like the Passo dello Stelvio climb it can, especially for novice cyclists, be recommended to opt for a "triple". A triple is a bike with 3 sprockets in front. Make sure the chain runs always in a fairly straight line between the front and rear sprockets.
A triple can go as far as 1 to 1. That is to say that the number of front and rear tooths are equal (e.g. 30/30) and your wheel does exactly one tour per crankshaft revolution (for a racing bike usually 2096 mm). If you want to go even smaller, you better buy a mountain bike with mountain bike gear.
It is important to find a good cadence. For most climbers, a good cadence is between the 70 and 80 revolutions per minute. Better climbers (cyclists) tend to have a higher cadence rather then a higher gear. Climbing is controlling your heart beat and cadence!
Choose a bike with a bicycle frame that fits your size. To tell you the size of your bike frame you can use the following method:
racing bike: inseam x 0.665
mountain bike (hard tail): 0.226 x inseam
The inseam is the length of the ground to your scrotum (without shoes).
Make sure your brakes work properly, because an ascent is usually followed by a descent. Make sure to have a helmet, also not unnecessary uphill. And cycling shoes are also essential. Make sure the plates under your shoes match your pedals, because there are different systems (Look, Shimano, Time ...).
A bike computer and heart rate are helpful during your preparation and on some (e.g. the Garmin Edge series) you can post climbing routes. Download them via climbbybike!
Your training schedule
It may be clear by now. If you want to train to climb Passo dello Stelvio, a good planning is essential. You cannot build up your condition in a few weeks. It is important to know your body. Experienced cyclists know how far they can go and usually already have a basic condition that allows them to build up faster.
Try to make a schedule following the rules described above (alternate training, periods of 3 +1 week).
Count back from the moment you will do the climb in periods of 4 weeks.
If you have a cycling computer or smartphone, you can perfectly keep track of your workout data via e.g. Strava.
All data on the Passo dello Stelvio
On climbbybike.com you can find all the necessary information and profile of the Passo dello Stelvio. Read also what fellow bikers experienced when climbing the Passo dello Stelvio.
Hopefully, we did not frighten you and this information will help you to conquer the Passo dello Stelvio. Good luck!
The climbbybike team