We’ve all been there: You look up at a road that appears as a wall in front of your bike and have to “paper boy” from side to side to reduce the gradient. Your legs feel more like you’re squatting weights than pushing pedals. Then, as you reach the top of the pedal stroke, you realise that you aren’t quite going to make it and have to unclip in ignominy.

Steep hills are one of the toughest parts of cycling, and many of us plan routes to avoid them. However, with some practice and proper technique, you can make it up climbs that look near-vertical to the untrained eye. We caught up with Hanna Muegge, the winner of this year's inaugural Red Bull Bay Climb in San Francisco, to get her tips on how to tackle steep hills. In the Bay Climb, fixed gear and freewheel racers conquer grades of up to 21%, and the winner of each heat progresses to the next round until a champion is crowned. 

Muegge got a lot of steep climbing practice in on her way to the win (she likely enjoyed rocketing back down those hills as well). Although she had a few tips that only apply to Bay Climb racers (like leaving her water bottles at the base of each hill) there is a lot we can all learn about steep climbing from one of the best in the business. Here are her tips:

Train on hills. Muegge prepared for the event with lunchtime hill intervals and used her local Strava segments, as well as hilly Northern California road races, to inject some variety and intensity. This allowed her to work the specific muscle groups and movements associated with climbing. Those who live in flat areas can train in larger gears, or on an indoor trainer like the Wahoo Kickr Climb, to simulate climbing. Muegge trains with a power meter; through experiences on similar climbs, she had a good idea of how many watts she'd be able to put out on race day.