Alpe Cermis versus Monte Zoncolan

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Ken Roberts
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Alpe Cermis versus Monte Zoncolan

Postby Ken Roberts » Thu Nov 20, 2008 5:31 pm

Who's stronger at climbing hills: pro ski racers or pro road bike racers?

Alpe Cermis?
Some of you may remember the big steep climb up Alpe Cermis in the Tour de Ski in northeast Italy a couple of years ago (with the video of strong ski racers collapsing together at the top). I think it's the steepest long climb that's ever been in a major international ski race.
    At the time I commented (on another forum) that doing a climb like that was a good way to show off how tough cross-country ski racers really are, since it was steeper than any of the climbs in the famous Tour de France bicycle race.
Monte Zoncolan?
It's the steepest long climb that's ever been included in a major international road bicycling race - (and happens to also be in northeast Italy, about three hours drive from Alpe Cermis). The average steepness for about 850 vertical meters is around 14.5-15% grade, which is more than 50% steeper than the notorious Alpe d’Huez climb in France. (Perhaps someone can calculate how much bigger + steeper it is than the Afton coulee).
    Somebody responded to my comment about Alpe Cermis by giving a link to an elevation profile of the Monte Zoncolan road up the west side from Liariis + Ovaro -- which did indeed impress me as roughly as steep as the Alpe Cermis ski climb. Even if Zoncolan isn’t anywhere near France, I can respect the Giro d’Italia race.
    What I did not know at that time was that the Zoncolan climb which had been included previously in the Giro was not that profile -- instead it had been up the “easier” east side of Monte Zoncolan (from Sutrio).
It was only after the Tour de Ski, that the Giro d'Italia in 2007 climbed Zoncolan from the harder west side -- perhaps to prove something about how tough road-bike racers really are.

So who's really tougher?

me non-pro non-bike-racer versus MtZ:
This year I pedaled up the Monte Zoncolan west side road on my heavy steel touring bike. Before I started I was expecting a glorious failure -- that somewhere in the middle I’d be off my bike walking. But I made all the way up still pedaling -- and I did not collapse at the top. I even kept on riding and finished this loop back to the start.
    ... which does not show that I'm tougher than XC ski racers. I think what it shows that really low gears really work - (and serious specific hill training works). And that MtZ did not have any sections as steep as shown on that profile - (see ridiculously detailed discussion of how the objectively publicly measurable data sequence of an elevation profile, referenced in the Wikipedia, could be wrong).
me non-pro infrequent-ski-racer versus AlpeC:
Never skated to the top. Never even been there.
But classic with the right klister I’m confident I could climb up Alpe Cermis on skis.

Ken

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Postby zeek » Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:28 am

Kudos to you. I labour after a couple of kilometers of bike climbing.When I go tele skiing to one of the lift service hills here in central Ontario I regularly climb once to the top sans lift. This drains me but also inspires me to all the racers on bikes and skiis who are so strong and fit. And when I get to the top I know in the past I have thought ,"I could never do that on my bike".

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Postby Ken Roberts » Mon Nov 24, 2008 6:22 am

zeek wrote:When I go tele skiing to one of the lift service hills here in central Ontario I regularly climb once to the top sans lift.

Nice to know a place that allows you to do that.

zeek wrote:when I get to the top I know in the past I have thought ,"I could never do that on my bike".


The climbs I was doing in late summer / early fall would seemed unimaginable to me a year-and-a-half ago. For me what worked was finding a variety of hills with different steepness and size, starting moderate and steadily trying climbs a bit steeper or a bit longer -- or more often the same hill but in one gear higher.

The other part was spending time finding out how slow I could climb and still maintain balance and control.
And using a bike with really low gears.

Ken

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Postby Cloxxki » Mon Nov 24, 2008 3:35 pm

Wasn't there an even steeper hill in the Vuelta once, where Heras won (stuffed with EPO)? Madeleine or something. Over 20% for a long time. Pros were on triple chainring bikes, or they were walking.

Road cycling is simply NOT where it's at for climbing toughness.
Try the Cristalp MTB marathon. The last hill is like 400hm, to be taken of foot, as it's one big pile of rocks. Bike on the neck, cycling shoes with all the inconvenient hiking properties, and up you go.

I've conquered hills upwards of 60% at times, without a run-up or anything. Admittedly, not for a very long time, although I could have, in the right gear, on a properly dimensioned bike. I love hills that are so steep that I am unsure whether I can clean them, before I took one or multiple tries.
There have been seferal instances where I road up a hill, and dared not return the same way.

Climbing steep on a bike is easy though. I say: if bikes hae gears, they may as well have gears to ride up the steepest hills you physically can without tumbling back over (my actual limiter). Road bikes are very much built to climb very badly when it gets steep. Then, bikes are rarely thought out geometrically, but merely based on last year's, or the other guy's design, so things evolve slowly, if at all.

I bet, if you give a road cyclist a nice patch of cool snow right after a summer's summit finish, he'll make a dive for it too.
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Postby Mik » Tue Nov 25, 2008 8:02 am

climb in the Vuelta is the Angliru used in Stage 13 of the Vuelta this year and has been used in the past as well...pros using triples and chainrings of 30 or 32 teeth and rear sprockets of 25 or more.

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Postby Cloxxki » Tue Nov 25, 2008 4:43 pm

Mik wrote:climb in the Vuelta is the Angliru used in Stage 13 of the Vuelta this year and has been used in the past as well...pros using triples and chainrings of 30 or 32 teeth and rear sprockets of 25 or more.

Thank you.

Perhaps we could try and find out which sporting mode gets one the most vertical meters over a climb longer than x minutes. Pro cyclists tend to use the exact same bike settings for extreme hills as for 40mph crit finishes, so I wonder how that effects the outcome. (Roller)skiers have the extra poles. Runners have the option of poles, and always the reduced weight with excellent freedom of movement, yet lack any kind of roll, and thus need steepness to get vertical.
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Postby Biffbradford » Tue Nov 25, 2008 4:52 pm

You can't really compare them, can you?

I mean, you can measure their max. power on an erg, or their VO2 max, but how do you measure 'toughness' ?

SKiers collapse at the end of a race, but I don't think you'd want to do that at the end of a Pro road race. The Tour lasts three weeks, but there is no event like that in skiing.

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Postby Ken Roberts » Fri Nov 28, 2008 9:27 pm

Mik wrote:climb in the Vuelta is the Angliru used in Stage 13 of the Vuelta this year and has been used in the past as well...pros using triples and chainrings of 30 or 32 teeth and rear sprockets of 25 or more.


From the elevation profiles I've seen for Angliru, it does have a short section which is steeper than Zoncolan, but that section it's nowhere near as long as the 850 vertical meters (2800 vertical feet) on Monte Zoncolan whose steepness averages around 14.5-15% grade.

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Postby Ken Roberts » Fri Nov 28, 2008 9:42 pm

Cloxxki wrote:I've conquered hills upwards of 60% at times, without a run-up or anything.

How do you know that any of those hills had a 60% grade?

60% grade is 31-degree angle slope (using tangent definition of "grade" -- which I prefer), or 37-degree angle (using sine definition of "grade" - which motor vehicle departments prefer).
31 degrees is pretty near the coefficent of static friction of rubber on asphalt -- even apart from any considerations of balance or steering control -- or falling over backwards.
    Hint: If you were able to do any meaningful steering with the front wheel, you weren't on anything close to 60% grade.
As for mountain bike trails being steeper than roads: Yes if you consider trails that require walking. But once you allow walking instead of pedaling, there's lots of other things which humans climb which are much steeper than mountain bike trails.

Since the coefficient of friction for rubber on asphalt is larger than the coefficient of friction for rubber on dirt, seems clear to me that for pedaling, you should be able to climb a steeper hill on asphalt than on dirt.

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Postby kuan » Sat Nov 29, 2008 6:52 am

Maybe he bunny hopped them.

Seriously 60% grade? I thought 1% was 0.9 degrees. But even a 30 degree is pretty steep.

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Postby Cloxxki » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:16 am

The percents go progressively faster than the degrees, therefor 60% is not so rare.
Sure the front was hard to keep down, but I was riding it up, and breaving hard.
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Postby Ken Roberts » Sun Nov 30, 2008 7:57 pm

Cloxxki wrote:60% is not so rare.

OK so name three roads or bike trails which somebody has pedaled up which are at least 60% grade. For each one give a link to documentation which says that it's at least 60% and who it is who claims to have ever pedaled up it.

Or just give us one link with some sort of credible documentation of somebody who pedaled a mountain bike up a 60% grade slope of at least 20 vertical meters.

Or even how about a link to credible documentation of someone who has driven a car or motorcycle up a 60% slope of 20 vertical meters -- without a running start.

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