|TELEGRAM & GAZETTE |
July 22, 2001
Cyclists share their slant on hillsBy Lynne Tolman
There's no avoiding hills around here, but there are ways to
avoid being defeated by them. We asked several cyclists who like the
challenge of climbing how to make the best of it when the road
Worcester software engineer and triathlete Sam
Levitin, 30, was succinct: "Spin, spin, spin." Spinning means using a low
gear and pedaling at a high cadence, at least 70 rpms. Turning the cranks
in smooth circles requires concentrating on the pulling-up part of the
pedal stroke, as if scraping mud off your shoe, which is why clip-in
cleats work better than toe straps.
performance (in Stage 10 of the Tour de France) wasn't an endorsement for
high revolutions in low gear, I don't know what is," said filmmaker John
Stimpson, 40, of Princeton. "He spun up L'Alpe d'Huez like it was the
It takes judicious shifting to avoid getting
bogged down when going up. Knowing when to make the move to an easier gear
can only be learned by practicing. Ride same hill again and again, and
before long you'll know instinctively which gear allows you to spin
comfortably on that grade.
"You're supposed to shift
before you get to a hill," acknowledged Zach Polucha of Whitinsville, at
age 15 already a veteran of long-distance tours with Tenth Gear Christian Youth Cyclists.
"But I usually end up going fast and shifting on the hill." His training
rides usually include Quarry Hill in Northbridge.
Whitney, a stay-at-home father in New Braintree and former bike mechanic,
also likes to "accelerate before the hill to carry momentum into it and,
hopefully, over it." But he warns against waiting too long to downshift:
"Anticipate the shift to an easier gear and you will reduce wear on the
drive train and also the chance for a mis-shift or dropped chain."
When climbing, it helps to "scoot back in your saddle, and keep
your hands high up on the handlebars," said Joe Rano, 41, a steelworker
from Millbury who won the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic in the
masters division this year. Sitting up, "you get more precious air in your
Rano finds the most challenging hill in the area
is Mile Hill Road in Princeton, from the Wachusett Mountain ski lodge to
the visitors center. "I'd like to see them turn the (Longsjo) race around
to go up that hill instead of down it," he said.
I've done a good job on a hill if when I'm near the top I can shift up and
go a little faster," said Renee Gregoire, 42, of New Braintree, office
manager at Buck Hill Veterinary Service in Spencer. "Then I can continue
my ride with some speed instead of feeling like I have to start all
Some cyclists advise staying seated while
climbing, while others like to stand up on the pedals at times. It depends
on the length and grade of the hill. Standing can give a brief boost in
acceleration, and it "gives your lower back a rest and uses some different
muscles," Rano said. But it takes more energy.
stand I always click up a gear," said Mike Josephson of Clinton, who works
in sales at Compaq and has biked up Mount
Washington, an eight-mile stretch that he called "the most humbling
experience in the Northeast." Stand and shift up as you crest a hill, he
said, "and power over the top and start into your descent with a push.
Most people back off the pace as they get to the top, missing a big chance
to take a few seconds out of someone, whether you're racing or testing a
buddy on the climb."
"A lot of climbing to me is mental,"
said Jack Dolmat of Princeton, who rides up Mount Wachusett regularly.
"Many people shut down mentally during climbs, or dread them, which
absolutely doesn't help. The body hears what the mind is thinking, and if
you can stay positive, you can climb better.
interim points to work towards during the climb rather than thinking about
getting to the top -- that gives me something within eyesight to work
towards and also lots of little 'wins.' "
that the challenge of a hill can be as much psychological as physical.
"You are asking yourself to do something, to make an effort, and if you're
having a whining day -- 'Oh no, I still have this hill to do, and that
hill to do' -- if you're going to be that way, then you might as well stay
at home and sit on the trainer.
"I love that quote from
(Greg) LeMond: 'It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster.' "
But what does get easier, as the legs and lungs get stronger,
is keeping a healthy attitude, Gregoire said. One of her favorite long
climbs is Barre Road in Hardwick, from the Clover Hill farm stand on Route
32 to Hardwick Common. The hill can still put the hurt on her, she said,
but now she and her riding pal can say, "Remember when we hated this
TIP OF THE HELMET to the 24
young riders with Tenth Gear who
biked from Whitinsville to Salem, N.H., and back, earlier this month. The
cyclists, ages 10 to 13, biked 170 miles in four riding days, staying at
churches and preparing their own meals. They had a free day at Canobie
Lake Park in Salem. The riders were Brandon Hall, Nicholas Pratt, Amy
Gunness and Daniel Peter of Sutton; Neil Polucha, Katy Polucha, Nate
Grondin, Bobby Kittredge, Thomas Krarup, Christian Wise, Maura Benton and
Jenn Reichert of Northbridge; Aaron Phoebe, Michael Lussier, Danny
Martinelli, Eric Feeley, Andy Leighton, Dave Perron, Joe MacDougal, Geoff
Barlow and Jarred Smith of Uxbridge; Sean McQuilkin of Linwood; and Andrew
Lentz of State College, Pa.
Another Tenth Gear group,
ages 15 to 18, will bike 510 miles from Niagara Falls, N.Y., to
Whitinsville next month. The youths held a car wash and other fund-raisers
to help pay for their trips. Tenth Gear, established in 1994, is
affiliated with Village Congregational Church in Whitinsville and the Boy
Scouts of America.
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