Home > Feature

4 climbing tips from Antoine Duchesne for non-climbers

Do you want to improve your climbing this season? Paris-Nice KOM winner Antoine Duchesne shared a few tips you can use with us.

Antoine Duchesne

Recently we caught up with Antoine Duchesne of Team Direct Energie who won the king of the mountains classification at Paris-Nice. While Duchesne does not consider himself a world-class climber, he went into Paris-Nice fit, lean and ready to excel on the fast, steady climbs of southern France. The goal was to win a stage, but after three days in the break he was rewarded with the KOM jersey. So how does a rider who does not characterizes himself as a climber win the KOM classification of a WorldTour stage race?

Here are the four pieces of climbing advice Duchesne has for non-climbers:

1. Good positioning within the group

Whether it’s on the group ride or in the finale of the race, being well positioned before the climb can make all the difference between going out the back and staying with the group. “With a stretched peloton, if you are at the front, you don’t feel it,” said Duchense who noticed a huge difference this season being well-positioned during his second appearance at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. When the peloton hit the Taaienberg, instead of going out the back as he did last year when the group got strung out , Duchense was positioned in the top-eight riders alongside teammate Sylvain Chavanel. Duchesne emphasized that keeping a steady pace is much easier than dealing with the surges experienced at the back as the group strings out. So next time you are approaching a climb on your group ride, get well positioned, bring as much speed into it as possible and maintain a steady effort. You may drop back within the bunch, but you’ll still be in contact with your fellow riders.

2. Don’t worry too much about your pedal stroke

Duchesne said finding a comfortable climbing pedal stroke and position on the bike can come quickly in training. “A week in climbing will help you find back your pedal stroke,” says Duchesne. He believes you will naturally make the necessary adjustments to get comfortable in longer climbs.

3. Pick rides that are suitable for your training needs

Duchesne emphasized the need to enjoy your training in order to benefit the most from the hours you spent in the saddle. Constantly doing gruelling intervals demands a great deal of discipline and structure. To keep things interesting, Duchesne recommends you just go out, choose a route that is suitable for your training purposes and have fun. If you want to do short punchy efforts, instead of setting strict intervals with target watts, Duchesne likes to go out around his home in France and take advantage of the local terrain. In Saint-Restitut, roughly 140 km north of Marseille, Duchesne takes advantage of the short and longer climbs the region has to offer to get in a variety of training efforts. Here in Canada, where you may be more limited by the local relief, try riding into a headwind if you are looking for a longer sustained effort or find a punchy hill in your neighbourhood to do some harder efforts on.

Duchesne says that his former teammate Pierre Rolland (Cannondale Pro Cycling) lives in a flat area south of Paris but, as one of the world’s best climbers, is able to put in the necessary training efforts to excel in the high mountains. So don’t think that it’s the local terrain around where you live that is stopping you from becoming stronger on the climbs.

4. Accumulate strength over time

Becoming a good climber doesn’t happen overnight. According to Duchesne, it doesn’t even depend that much on doing a lot of climbing. Even having won a KOM jersey, Duchesne admits, “I’m not a better climber. I just have more strength after all the years of riding hard and pushing myself not to get dropped.” He emphasized it is important not to get discouraged because improvements have to come from every aspect of your riding. Having a good healthy weight and being fit were also essential to Duchesne’s performance at Paris-Nice.

“If you put me in Nice where I could climb everyday, I don’t think I would be a better climber,” he said.. So if you don’t live close to a legendary climb, take heart: Duchesne is confident you too can build the strength to become a better climber. “You can train for the climbs in the flats. It’s basically holding on to a pace that is uncomfortable for long periods of time.” This can be done in most terrains, so get out and take advantage of that flat stretch of road that always has a stiff headwind or pull your weekend training group around and improve your climbing this spring.