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  1. #1
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    "Surge and recover" VS. long steady pace

    In previous years, I remember a couple of riders in my class that seemed to use a "Surge and recover" approach on a medium length constant grade hill (with plenty room for passing).

    So they start the hill with a strong surge, they get a bit ahead of me, then recover while falling a little behind me, then they surge again and go ahead of me and finish the hill a bit ahead with one final surge over the top. The whole time, I stay mostly at one pace.

    I imagine they are taking advantage of their high anaerobic capacities and ability to recover quickly.

    Anyone else use this surge and recover method? It's seems to be an inefficient way to approach a hill, but it seems to work for them.
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  2. #2
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    sort of. in the few times i'm in front of people and am feeling frisky, I really use it as a way to see who has legs and wants to play.

    Generally I'm more of diesel and going back to a pacing thread in this or maybe the endurance forum, you're playing it smart/safe going steady.

  3. #3
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    I have found after a bunch of trail tests this summer that for me the "surge and recover" method feels faster and is way more fun for fast sections yet overall costs me more time than keeping my riding in the highest safe zone the whole time. It works much better if you know there's a slow section or downhill after so you can recover without much time penalty.
    Maybe if I got out more then my recovery time after a burst would cut down enough to make it worthwhile.
    To me it's definitely a better workout and much more fun though.
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  4. #4
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    I was about to say something, but you said "medium length constant grade." I believe, rightly or wrongly, that I'm fastest up those at a constant pace. Maybe with a "magic shift" and a bit of a kick over the top.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    I was about to say something, but you said "medium length constant grade." I believe, rightly or wrongly, that I'm fastest up those at a constant pace. Maybe with a "magic shift" and a bit of a kick over the top.
    I'm thinking the same thing. But these two guys i was talking about do the surge and recover on a medium length hill, which I think is strange. But they are very experienced Cat 1 racers (they finish better than me), so I think they found something that works for them.
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  6. #6
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    Cycling is full of fact (key word) based cliches. How many times have you heard/read about red zones or having only so many matches to burn? Going hard works fine, until you do it one too many times.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mudge View Post
    Cycling is full of fact (key word) based cliches. How many times have you heard/read about red zones or having only so many matches to burn? Going hard works fine, until you do it one too many times.
    This and other big key is "do I know the course". If I don't know the course, I'm staying under threshold for sure and will keep that pace. If I know the course and the recovery points, H.A.M on.
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  8. #8
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    I would think this is a strategy to demoralize one's competitors, rather than a more efficient way to climb. And as one gets older, these "surges" take their toll, so for myself (I am 51), I prefer a more steady approach.
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  9. #9
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    I used to do that in my youth, at that I had a big "no go zone" between cruising speed and out of the pedals speed. Trying to ride up a hill at a hard constant effort would absolutely kill me, so I'd either have to ease it up the hill at walking speed and lose a ton of time or do the surge & recover trick (I recovered pretty fast in those days) to try & keep my losses down. Nowadays I don't recover from hard efforts nearly as well but I can ride a fair bit harder at a constant pace than I could back then, I'm definitely faster keeping a constant pace up the climb.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by serious View Post
    I would think this is a strategy to demoralize one's competitors, rather than a more efficient way to climb. And as one gets older, these "surges" take their toll, so for myself (I am 51), I prefer a more steady approach.
    I think "this", but also, some people work really well going just over threshold for x amount of time, then recovering, and doing it again, vs. holding just at for a longer period of time.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by miss rides a lot View Post
    but also, some people work really well going just over threshold for x amount of time, then recovering, and doing it again, vs. holding just at for a longer period of time.
    That's what I was thinking. One of the guys is over 50 and does this. He races 40+X occasionally, but mostly 50+ Open. That day he wasn't in my class (but maybe he got off on demoralizing a younger rider ) so I'm thinking that's just the way he likes to climb. That can't be good for your heart though.

    The other fellow is an excellent crit and cyclocross racer, so I'm thinking he uses that AC power to his advantage whenever possible.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    That's what I was thinking. One of the guys is over 50 and does this. He races 40+X occasionally, but mostly 50+ Open. That day he wasn't in my class (but maybe he got off on demoralizing a younger rider ) so I'm thinking that's just the way he likes to climb. That can't be good for your heart though.

    The other fellow is an excellent crit and cyclocross racer, so I'm thinking he uses that AC power to his advantage whenever possible.
    Why would it not be good for your heart?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tommyrod74 View Post
    Why would it not be good for your heart?
    It just seems that way to me. A riding style that pushes your heart rates to the max just seems more damaging to the heart than a riding style that keeps the heart rate lower and more level. I have a few friends who are currently riding with doctor-limited heart rates, but I can't make any conclusions on cause-effect of course.

    Plus studies like these produces some concerns:
    High-Intensity Exercise May Be Harmful To Heart Health

    But at the moment, I can't find enough studies to really make any definite conclusion. It's just a gut opinion.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    It just seems that way to me. A riding style that pushes your heart rates to the max just seems more damaging to the heart than a riding style that keeps the heart rate lower and more level. I have a few friends who are currently riding with doctor-limited heart rates, but I can't make any conclusions on cause-effect of course.

    Plus studies like these produces some concerns:
    High-Intensity Exercise May Be Harmful To Heart Health

    But at the moment, I can't find enough studies to really make any definite conclusion. It's just a gut opinion.
    That might not be a great study to draw conclusions from re: high intensity mountain biking. The subjects were marathon runners, and even though the poorly-translated text refers to that type of exercise as "high-intensity", marathon runners don't regularly go anaerobic during training or racing.

    Cycling is a bit unique among endurance sports in that it's possible to go significantly into anaerobic work levels repeatedly and still recover while riding (due to the ability to coast to recover, as well as not having to support bodyweight while propelling the body foreward, unlike running). Do that a few times in a running race and you will be walking to recover, eventually.

    A better analog night be XC skiers or runners. Possibly speed skaters as well.

    In any case, I too have a friend who's recently had cardiac issues during races (a-fib). Scary stuff.

  15. #15
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    Mudge,

    Nice profile pic.

    Poncharelli:

    In a road race, the smoother it is, the faster it is. A breakaway fails when the pace drops and picks up, over and over again. Just like the chase. Obviously some of the variables are different, but I have to imagine that energy regulation in MTB racing would have similar results.

    Blowing up half way through and slowing down significantly, only to reaccelerate a short time later seems like it would be slower than a climb done right at the max sustainable effort to get you to the top, and started on the descent.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Mudge,

    Nice profile pic.

    Poncharelli:

    In a road race, the smoother it is, the faster it is. A breakaway fails when the pace drops and picks up, over and over again. Just like the chase. Obviously some of the variables are different, but I have to imagine that energy regulation in MTB racing would have similar results.

    Blowing up half way through and slowing down significantly, only to reaccelerate a short time later seems like it would be slower than a climb done right at the max sustainable effort to get you to the top, and started on the descent.
    The only thing to remember (and I know you and Poncharelli both know this, from experience) is that XC racing isn't an individual TT, and what you do is affected directly by what your competitors are doing (and vice versa).

    Sometimes, on a long climb with one or more close competitors, it's worth it to intentionally go above redline a few times to drop someone, or to force them to go anaerobic and recover (especially if you are confident in your superior ability to do so). Obviously this requires a good knowledge of what you can expect to recover from.

  17. #17
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    I've never thought of marathons as 'high intensity', I always thought that for 95% of the racers they are low to mid intensity endurance events. Too bad the study doesn't show what the researchers found the heart rates to be during training and racing for those runners. The marathoners I have known seem to drone out the mileage more than hit high intensities. I can believe that keeping your heart rate elevated for hours and hours without a recovery could be detrimental, I would also think that the recoveries in bike racing would have a beneficial effect, even cyclocross (which is high intensity) has very short recoveries, very-very short.
    Like tommyrod said, you would need to have a very good feel for how hard to push, and what sort of recovery would be needed, along with a very good knowledge of the trails you're riding on.

  18. #18
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    I am steady pace kind of guy. I like to find a good cadence/leg effort level and stay there and grind away. Even on casual fun rides I hate to ride fast and then stop. I prefer to just maintain a solid strong pace. In a race I don't worry if the next guy is rocketing away. I have caught penalty of people by riding my pace and letting them drop off. At least for me the "recovery" makes it harder to get back on the power again. The exception is where I know the terrain allows for a recovery period. If I know one is coming I may push knowing that I can recover at a certain point. I do feel like if I ride a certain level I can sustain that "all day long", but if I push the pace I am running down the battery and will have a limited time until I am forced to recover. I can see how certain bursts of speed can help in race if you need to pass or want gap another rider as it can mentally cause the other guy to back off since they have been beat. It takes a strong mind to allow yourself to be dropped at the start of a climb and to fight back with a steady pace to take it at the end.
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  19. #19
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    With the courses around here in S. Calif, there are "forced" surges for everyone. We have a ton of up and down shorter steep punchy 1 min or less climbs. You really have no option sometimes....it's either hammer up it or hike it. Sometimes there are multiple sections within one longer climb. Ouch.

    I am sure others from other parts of the country can relate too.

    So, when an opportunity to get into a groove with a slower steady pace presents itself, I will always choose to do so while staying just under threshold if I can.

    Essentially, I am saving up for the next forced surge(s).

    I do have a hard time letting someone hammer past me though....dang ego! For me, once someone is out of my line of site it is harder to push myself, so I do my best to keep them within site without blowing up.

  20. #20
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    on my ss its balls to the walls the whole time passing the geared bikes. on my geared bike i find myself taking an easier gear and going slower falling further behind.
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  21. #21
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    "Surge and recover" VS. long steady pace

    Interesting that some riders physiology is more geared(to make a bad pun) to SS over geared racing.

    I for one may be cut out for SS, though I spend my time on both.
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