There’s an insane climb in the final of the Mens’ Elite World Championships road race in Austria this year. It’s called the Höttinger Höll. The professionals’ race takes place on September 30th, but mere mortals like us can try out the ascent during a special hill-climb event on the day before, called the “Krone Ride to Höll”. You will have to seriously train (and sort out your gearing) for this one—there are sections as steep as 28% (!) in the ascent from Innsbruck to Gramartboden.
“This reminds me of a mountain bike climb!” said Vincenzo Nibali—the great Italian rider who has won the Giro d’Italia (twice), the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España—after doing a recce of the Höttinger Höll. This hill-climb event is limited to 2,018 participants. The climb is only 3.2km but, as you can see from the profile, it includes 291 metres of ascent.
Training for hill-climbing
Before packing your bags and heading for the Tirol, you’d better put in some specific training for climbing. Try and raise your Lactate Threshold (the level of intensity at which the body builds up lactate faster than it can get rid of it) by following specific interval sessions designed to do this.
It’s also a good idea to think about training to increase your cadence. However, if you want to pedal high cadence while climbing at 28%, you will have to seriously look at year gearing. Nibali’s mountainbike reference was not a joke, and many racing bikes that use a compact gearing system will not be able to accommodate a low-enough gear for this climb without serious adjustment. If you’re not used to working on your own bike, ask for advice at your LBS (Local Bike Shop).
Forcing yourself to go up a local climb in a higher gear than you are used to is a good way to train. These low-cadence-high-force drill help your climbing muscles get accustomed to high levels of effort, which you can put to good use when you use a more-ordinary climbing gear.
Once you’ve finished the Ride to Höll, you can then enjoy the men’s elite race the following day safe in the knowledge that you kind of know how it feels to go up this beast of a climb.