No two climbs are the same, with length, gradient and road conditions combining to create a unique ascent – but there’s one thing you can be sure of. Go too hard, too early, on a climb and you will pay the price.
“It’s important to get into your own rhythm,” says Swift, who often uses a power meter to judge his effort, but acknowledges that it’s just as important to know your body and ride according to ‘feel’. “You don’t want to go into the red too early on.”
The temptation when starting any climb in a group, whether it be on the club run, at a sportive, or in a race, is to go hell for leather to stay with that group – but, Swift says, it’s vital to stay relaxed and to ride within your limits if you are to get to the top of the climb in the quickest possible time. Go into the red and it’s hard to recover.
“If you are in a group, try and stay relaxed,” he says. “You can try and use the group to set the pace and see if you can remain with them, but don’t go too deep and if they are riding away then be prepared to slip back. The worst thing on a climb is to go into the red too early, and then you end up taking more time than if you had just set your own tempo.”
That’s particularly important on a long climb – Swift says his limit is a climb approximately six kilometres in length if he wants to stay with the front group in a race – and on short, steep climbs, like many of those found in the UK, it’s often a case of digging deep to maintain the momentum required to get to the top.
“Anything short and steep, then you’ve often just got to get up it as quickly as you can, but on a steadier gradient like Box Hill then you can pace yourself more,” he says.