Category: Pedaling

When Lance Armstrong surged ahead to drop Jan Ullrich on the final climb up the Alpe d’Huez in 2001, it wasn’t his highly-publicized cadence that gave him his herculean burst of speed. Well, not really anyway. To beat Ullrich up the hill, Lance just had to push more power relative to weight into his pedals than Ullrich did.

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Imagine a cyclist pushing straight down on a big gear as hard as he can. When he reaches the bottom of the pedal stroke, rather than swiping the pedal back, he continues pushing down. What happens? His butt pops off the seat and suddenly he’s standing up. Now imagine that he’s spinning an easier gear at a high cadence. He doesn’t have the muscle control to stop pushing at the bottom of the pedal stroke, his hips pop up, and his butt bounces all over the place. Spinning at a high cadence does not cause inefficient movements in the pedal stroke, it just highlights them. If a cyclist can’t spin in an easy gear at over 100 revolutions per minute (rpm) without looking like their butt is filled with Jiffy Pop, then they can get more benefit out of doing pedaling drills than hill repetitions.

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