Jason N wrote:
I don't know the Chattanooga course but 4000' of gain in 112 miles doesn't sound very hilly to me. At least not implying that there are a lot of extended climbs over 10% where you may be forced to go below your ideal cadence. If most of the hills are in the 3-6% range, then just make sure you have adequate gearing given your power and weight. You should be able to spin up those types of hills in the aerobars at your preferred cadence. Or if you prefer to climb out of the aerobars, then just do portions of your training rides while on the horns to ensure that position is comfortable enough for you.
I agree. If the hills are not too steep for your gearing, you can ride them at your normal cadence -- so low cadence work isn't necessary. What is different about uphill is that you do not have as much momentum to help you get your pedals over your dead spots -- the lower your cadence, the more apparent this becomes. So if you normally ride at a low cadence, uphill will feel a lot different. To me the best way to simulate this is to ride on a dumb trainer that does not have much (or any) of a flywheel -- get into a gear big enough to make you work at the cadence you expect to ride and get used to it.
The main thing is to be conservative on your gearing. If you have 1 mile uphill and one mile downhill on a course and you lose 1 mph (7 mph instead of 8) going uphill because you do not have an easy enough gear, you will lose over a minute. If going downhill you run out of gears and have to glide at 35 mph instead of pedaling at 40 mph, you lose only 17 seconds. Plus, the too high/low of gear is a gift that keeps giving/punishing afterward. You will burn some matches grinding the high gear going up that will cost you later; having (?) to rest when you don't have a steep enough gear going down will let you make up a little bit of the 17 seconds when the road flattens out.
So get your setup (e.g., compact up front and at least a 28 or 30 in back) and find the closest place you can drive to that has a hill of about the same steepness and duration as the hardest hill for your race and see how it feels. If you have a power meter, ride your normal power. If you use HR, ride your normal HR. If you ride RPE, ride your normal RPE (careful here judging your RPE near the bottom of the hill because part of your brain will be trying to override your sensations because you will be going slower than normal). OK, do you have enough gear ratio to maintain both your normal cadence and your normal power/HR/RPE? Do you have a good margin of error (because in your race you will need to riding at a lower % of FTP than you can on a training day and because you may hit a hill during a bad stretch)? If yes and yes, you're good. Otherwise go back and adjust. In either case, you can go to your race with confidence.