Climbing with Pantani

Ever wonder how fast you can climb compared to the best? Bruce Hildenbrand of Bicycling magazine looked at the final mountain stage in the '98 Giro d'Italia stage race to give us some insight into what this is all about.

The Giro's Plan di Montecampione ascends 4,900 feet in about 12 miles for an average grade of 7.7%. Italian climber Marco Pantani won the stage in 49 minutes for an average climbing rate of 100 feet per minute. (Realize this is 14.7 mph, uphill, for 12 miles!)

Pantani, by the way, is 122 pounds and 5 feet 7 inches in height. He is now recovered from a near fatal crash with a sport-utility vehicle resulting in multiple leg fractures that some doctors felt would be career-ending.

How incredible is this really?

To compare yourself to Pantani (who went on to win the stage and the race), think of one of your favorite local climbs that's roughly a 5 to 10% grade. Divide the number of vertical feet climbed by 100 to get an equivalent "Pantani" time and compare.

Pantani could ride up your favorite 1,200 foot climb four times in a row, without stopping, and average 12 minutes for each ascent.

The last 13 miles of the Assault on Mount Mitchell Parkway climb, for example, climbs about 6,500 feet in its last 27 miles and is somewhat comparable in grade. I averaged about 6.5 mph - Pantoni goes about 15! Or do the climb to Caesar's Head twice for about 13 miles and do it in less than an hour.

Or climb the backside of Altamont Road 5 times.

This climbs 809 feet from the Furman side and my best ever time is around 16 minutes and I consider myself a decent climber. Pantani would do it in about 8 minutes.

But remember, Pantani averaged that pace for 4,900 vertical feet.

But that's not all! Pantani's time in the Giro

1) came at the end of a 150 mile stage with 17,000 total feet of climbing;

2) was on the third day in a row of tough mountain stages; and

3) took place at the end of the third week of the stage race.

So, what do all these numbers mean? Simple: Keep your day job.


adapted from Bruce Hildenbrand, Bicycling, October, 1998. Page 27. Scott's notes in italics.



Scott Simmerman feeling smooth and fast after a long climb!




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