Thursday 30 October 2014

Tackling Willunga Hill

 Steve Cunningham - Pro cyclist on Amy's Ride SA

We ask pro-cyclist Steve Cunningham for some last minute tips on tackling Willunga Hill at this weekend's Amy's Ride SA - Sunday 2 November

Some people will be tackling Wilunga Hill for the first time - what’s your strategy for tackling a big hill?

The first thing you have to do is take the word ‘tackle’ out of your mind. If you try to fight a climb, it will fight back at you! The harder or longer the climb is, the more you have to respect it. Do this by starting a climb really slow and in a nice easy gear, don’t push hard and try to relax your upper body and focus on controlling your breathing. Willunga Hill is a tricky climb, it seems to kick you where it hurts for the first 2km’s and it’s here that if you push too hard, you’ll struggle for the rest. Take it nice and easy, then as the climb starts to flatten a little more, then find a nice rhythm and push a little more. Also remember it’s a long way before you reach the bottom Willunga Hill, so be sure not to ‘burn your matches’ beforehand!

Any advice for last minute preparation for a ride? What do you eat? Do you train hard the week before the ride?

It does depend a little on how fit you are leading up to this ride. I know a lot of people use Amy’s Ride as a means to help kick start their summer riding season, so if you’re a little light on the training leading up to this, don’t head out for too many big rides beforehand. Try to gain some consistency now, by stringing together 3 to 4 rides each week, of low to medium intensity and nothing over 80km. If you are currently quite fit, and are looking to test yourself on the day, then it’s a good idea to try and replicate the distance the weekend before. Then consider doing a couple of rides mid-week, with a long climb involved with each one, high cadence and good coffee! A few days recovery will then see you in great shape.  What I eat leading up to an event like this would involve lots of vitamins / minerals, high protein, iron, zinc among other things and then closer to the event, further increasing my carbohydrate intake. Good hydration before the event is also critical, so the day before the ride, be sure you are completely hydrated. Waiting for the day itself is too late!

 Any other tips from a pro like yourself for people aiming for more than 100kms?  

If you’re raring to go, try not to get too excited on the Southern Express Way - by all means, have a great time and enjoy being swept along, but if you’re looking to do the long distance, try to keep your heart rate in check and in control. If you think you are spending a few biscuits in the first hour just to hang on, you may not make the finish, or certainly not make it the way you had hoped! So keep your heart rate under 80% of your maximum for the first hour, then only let it lift to 90% on the climbs. A good breakfast before the ride is also really important and start grazing away within 30 minutes from the ride starting. Chew on something every 30 minutes, it doesn’t need to be much, but throwing coals into the burning fire is what will keep the engine nice and bright! Drink a large bidon an hour, especially if it’s a hot day. Most importantly enjoy the ride, stay safe and always avoid riding too close to the rider in front of you (overlapping wheels etc). If you do find yourself in a little peloton, I always like to remind riders not to just look at the person in front, but try to look ahead of the pelon itself and that way you will never have a bingle with others.

Tell us a bit about yourself, what you do, and your Scody 3 Peaks Claim to Fame.

Steve Cunningham
Steve Cunningham
My wife and I own and operate a cycling tour business called We run a number of tours throughout Europe, including tours during the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, La Vuelta as well as trips away from races through regions like the Italian Dolmites, French Alps and Pyrenees. Many years ago I raced professionally in Germany, as well as with a number of teams in Australia. I then went about creating my own team, Savings & Loans,  which was the first registered UCI Continental Team in Australia and we took it around Asia, United States, New Zealand and of course Australia. I was also lucky enough to ride for Team UniSA at the Santos Tour Down Under between (2001 - 2005), picked up a couple of Most Aggressive Riders Jerseys (that was my thing..) as well as being part of the winning team in 2004. I really enjoy endurance riding, the mental and physical challenge appeals, and hence I have ridden events like the Scody 3 Peaks. They’re not races, but personal challenges and great days on the bike - much like Amy’s Ride in a couple of weeks time. That said, I do like to ride to my best ability and happened to receive Line Honours for the past 2 years - this year sharing the achievement with another which I’ll remember for a long time.

~ Steve Cunningham

1 comment:

  1. Useful tips but the photo looks like Crafers Bikeway above the Eagle, not Willunga Hill.