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Conquer Any Mountain: Climbing Tips For Triathletes From Maik Twelsiek

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Jul 11, 2014
Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer / Endurapix

Climbing tips from three-time Ironman champion Maik Twelsiek.

Maik Twelsiek, known among friends as the GCM (German Cycling Machine), coaches an annual spring training camp in Tucson along with wife and fellow pro Hillary Biscay. Several 2014 campers came from entirely flat locations with little to no experience ascending. Twelsiek patiently coached them with these tips that can help anyone struggling to get up that hill:

- Research beforehand. For long climbs, (e.g. the 20-plus-mile climb up Tucson’s Mount Lemmon), know what to expect—things like distance, water stops, steepness, traffic, sharp turns on the downhill, road surface and temperature at the top.

- Ride behind a coach, mentor or more experienced climber and follow his or her cues.

- Eat and drink when going up!

- Be patient, especially on climbs of 10-plus miles. A longer climb takes time—it’s not something you can push over with a little burst out of the saddle.

- Remember that you’ll be getting less oxygen as you go up in elevation, so modify your effort accordingly.

- Vary your position. “I personally like to mix it up between sitting and spinning or standing. The climb up Mount Lemmon is more than 20 miles long without any interruption, so it’s sometimes nice to take pressure out of the saddle and relax the back for a while. Also, every mile marker is well marked, so my coach often gives me a workout for the ride up. For example, ride one mile standing in a big gear with low cadence, the next mile recover sitting with easier watts, then again the next mile in a big gear and standing with higher watts. I have to admit I really like this. I do it five times and before I know it the first 10 miles are already done!”

RELATED: Descending Tips For Triathletes

Maik’s Mountains

Twelsiek shares his favorite Tucson-area rides, as well as his sentimental favorite in Germany.

Mount Lemmon
Tucson, Ariz.
20.5 miles

“I love this ride because it’s a nice, steady long climb, there are not too many cars and the street surface is good. Also in summer it’s a great option to get out of the heat in town—it’s way cooler up there! The climb is not too steep, but you can get a great workout and gain some strength.”

Kit Peak
Tucson, Ariz.
12 miles

“This is a little bit steeper and shorter than Mount Lemmon, also with a good road surface, and it’s a very solid ride there and back from town. It’s always exciting to ride there and see the mountain getting closer, then you crush the climb and are smashed when you reach the top, but unfortunately you still have to ride back to town—and pretty often the wind is against you. It takes something out of you!”

Madera Canyon
Tucson, Ariz.
13.5 miles

“It’s nice to add this climb onto the famous ‘Shoot Out’ group ride every Saturday morning. The first 10 miles you don’t notice that you are really going uphill, but the last four miles reminds you badly!”

Hermanns Denkmal
Detmold, Germany
2 miles

“This is my little hill back home where I always did my hill repeats and big-gear strength workouts. It’s not as long as what you find in Tucson but it has 170 meters of climbing over three kilometers. You can do a nice loop up, down the other side, around the flats and back up again—and there’s a German bakery on the course. There are a lot of rolling hills where I grew up but nothing long, so this is a highlight. Lots of suffering has happened there!”

RELATED: Why ‘Hard’ Courses Are Easier

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