Second-year Cat 4 here, tired of getting schooled on those steep short muddy hills that the better guys can ride up but I can't. I'm talking about the kind of hill that you can't carry speed into (eg., there's a steep turn at the start, or a barrier that slows you). What's the best technique?
Also wondering how you decide whether to ride up part way, then run. Or just run all the way?
Not to be facetious etc. This is why you should show at a cross race at least 2 hours before your race. Depending on how serious you are
If you have a chance walk the course. Amazing what you can learn
Ride the course as many times as possible under different circumstances. This is when you should consider tire pressure gearing and type of tires etc. Look at areas on the course that you think will give you difficulties. The guys who are passing you on difficult sections have done their homework and are prepared.
Example: LAst year at USGP Fort Collins. (it is a hilly course) I pre rode the course Fri PM and discovered that a 36T was too big. I set up both bikes with 34 Teeth front chain ring. All the difference in the world.
When you pre ride try to think what it will be like under race conditions.
Practice makes almost perfect. I have been doing this for years and I am still learning whether I go to a local race or Nationals
Have the right tires, have them at the right pressure, keep your weight back, and keep your application of power as even as possible. On the last point, if you can generate enough power sitting, sit (I'm assuming we're talking a really slippery hill). If you have to stand, keep your butt over the saddle and don't rock the bike. If you do it right you don't lose much traction standing, but it feels a lot different than climbing on the road. Lower gearing also helps smooth out the power, so as someone said above, shift before you hit the hill.
As also mentioned above, if you're going to have to get off the bike, it's almost always faster to do it before you have lost momentum.
Bunch of great advice given. The one I concur with the most is pre-riding the course. I ride a stupid heavy bike with compact crankset and only own one set of wheels/tyres. But I almost always arrive 90-120 minutes ahead of time and aim for minimum 2 laps of the course before my race. Then I id any concerning areas and give a few extra minutes to those areas. If you do travel with extra components then you have the opportunity to swap out tyres, chainrings, etc as you see fit. But getting a feel for how you flow on the course is critical.
Also if you can find some place close to you where you can simulate such a climb. May require some set-up work but often helps to practice weakness areas over and over. One of these days I am going to learn how to quickly get back into my pedals!
Keep on trucking!
Thanks all for this good advice. I applied it to my race on Sunday and was able to pretty much handle those steep slippery climbs, except for the very last lap when the surface was just pure peanut butter. At which time, a teammate running up behind me gave me a push (don't tell the officials, okay?).