Legendary Climbs: Palomar Mountain Classes with Christine D’Ercole

Legendary Climbs: Review of Christine’s Palomar Mountain Classes

Have you ever watched highlights from a bike race like the Tour de France and wondered how hard it would be to pedal up some of those steep mountains? Wonder no more. Now, you’ll get your chance to at least simulate one of those epic climbs thanks to Peloton’s Christine D’Ercole and her new Legendary Climbs collection of rides available on the Peloton Bike and Bike+. 

About Christine D’Ercole

Christine is one of the longest-tenured Peloton instructors. She is also a Masters World Champion and multiple time National Champion track cyclist. For this new collection of rides, Christine simulates some of her favorite outdoor rides across the country. First up in the collection is Christine’s ride up California’s Palomar Mountain, located just east of San Diego. Christine and her husband, Mr. Hicks, took on Palomar’s challenge this past March.

The Palomar Mountain Ride

Christine’s several-mile climb up Palomar Mountain included an elevation gain of approximately 4500 feet, which is roughly the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building three times. 

Christine’s Palomar Mountain Collection

Christine’s ride collection consists of the following rides:

  • 10 minute warm up ride
  • Three core 45 minute rides (simulating the actual climb up Mt. Palomar)
  • 10 minute cool down ride
  • 20 minute recovery ride

The warm up and cool down rides are similar to the other rides of the same genre in the Peloton library, and I would recommend taking them before and after each 45 minute ride if you’re doing the core rides on separate days. The recovery ride is a nice 20 minute effort at higher cadence, but low resistance. 

The Three Core Rides

As Christine states early on, the goal is to eventually work your fitness level up to complete all three 45 minute rides consecutively and then finish with the 20-minute recovery ride. This will explain her coaching cues throughout the three rides. It was my intention to stack all three rides consecutively in a single mega-endurance session. That thought lasted until about 20 minutes into the first ride when I realized I wasn’t nearly as well-rested as I needed to be to take on this challenge.

Instead, I completed the three core rides over a several days, with some Power Zone rides sprinkled in between the second and third Palomar rides. Speaking of Power Zones, I’ll add some perspective on how these rides can fit into your Power Zone training. 

Ride 1 – The Long Endurance Effort

The first Palomar Mountain ride begins with about 12 minutes of easy to moderate effort. The real “fun” begins after that with an eight minute stretch known as “The Ripper.”  On the actual mountain, this stretch begins with a steep and difficult 11.5% grade. In order to simulate difficulty, Christine cues resistance between 47-57 and cadence between 80-90. Believe me, your legs will absolutely feel this effort. 

After the eight-minute “Ripper,” there is a brief respite before starting the 24 minute “Horrible Highway,” a narrow stretch of road with four switchbacks. This is another long endurance effort so you’ll want to monitor your effort so you don’t overdo it, especially if you are stacking all three rides together. 

Here is my power graph from ride 1:

As you can see, I spent virtually all of this ride in the very manageable Zone 2 of power intensity. This likely won’t get you a PR on any ride, but it will help maintain your endurance if you are stacking these rides because the second and third rides kick up the intensity. 

Ride 2 – Ramping Up the Effort With Multiple Switchbacks

At the outset of this ride, Christine stresses the importance of climbing techniques and building core strength. The key is to focus on riding comfortably rather than adhering to outdated core strength advice such as holding your stomach in during a ride. Because the efforts will ramp up during this ride, Christine tells us to check our egos and resist the temptation to go all out during the ride. 

Christine uses resistance and cadence changes effectively to simulate the ride’s fourteen switchbacks. As you can see from my power graph, I spent more time in zone 3, and the 15-20 second bursts brought me to the upper levels of zone 4. 

My Ride 2 Graph:

Ride 3: Nineteen Switchbacks and Quitters Corner

The final Palomar Mountain ride is chock full of challenging switchbacks that require frequent cadence bursts to simulate the more difficult terrain. Christine’s coaching is wonderful as she encourages the class us to push harder and achieve more than we think might be possible. 

Christine’s motivational style really helps as the ride approaches Quitter’s Corner, a series of four difficult switchbacks (3.5 minutes of class time) during which the cadence cue is 90-100 with the resistance of 37-52 on the Peloton Bike. The final four switchbacks are even more challenging as Christine cues a cadence of 90-100 with resistance at 50-60.  As you can see from my power graph, I was in the upper level of the VO2 max zone 5 during these final segments of the ride.  

My Ride 3 Graph:

Final Thoughts:

Christine’s Palomar Mountain rides are a fantastic addition to the Peloton ride library. If climb rides are your thing, you’ll definitely want to check these out.  Each of the rides individually is challenging and Christine adds some excellent coaching tips along the way. If you’re feeling especially bold, try stacking all three together. Just make sure that you’re well-rested before you tackle this challenge. 

If you’re riding these with Power Zone training in mind, any of the individual rides can be tailored as any type of ride you like. If you’re going to stack them together, then you’d be well-advised to stick with Power Zone endurance if you want to make it to the end.

Have you taken any of Christine’s Palomar Mountain rides? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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