yesterday i went back to Dursley for the second of their season-ending assaults on Stout’s Hill. It’s hard to believe it was the same course, the weather was the polar opposite of last week’s precocious winter rain. i arrived early and lay on the grass bank under a monolithic yew tree, pondering nature and stealing some seconds of calm, but all the while considering how tired i was after being back at work for a few days and thinking up the various excuses that i might need to justify a poor performance.
i rode the planet-x this week – it’s part of a calculated approach to those climbs i’m riding more than once in club or open events; ride geared one week, then fixed the next, in order to see which is more suited. i rode burrington last year on a 65″ gear and did very well, it surprised me, but it was partly through a lack of choice, it was by far my lightest bike, even with a heavy and cheap wheelset. this year i’ve stripped it right down and it weighs far less. i doubt though that it approaches the 7.3kg the planet-x topped the scales at last night. the frame is terrifyingly lightweight; i fear for potential damage, there will be no rideable ding; i may as well (in the words of the amazing ron cooper) reach for the dustpan and brush.
i went off very hard for the opening flat section, then had to fight all the way up, breathing very heavily; right on the limit. when it hurts this much it’s a fine line between abject, total failure, and a really really good time, and it can be very tricky to know which is which. i had the same rider off ahead of me and passed him at the same spot. having a ‘sighter’ is brilliant, for the simple reason that you stop thinking about you’re feeling, and start thinking about the catch, the chase, and it can take some time. anything that takes your mind off the dreadful feeling in the legs, the ominous rattling of the lungs and the shortness of breath, is a very good thing.
at the top, cresting the corner, i gave it absolutely everything, sat in the saddle, rolling all over the bike like a crab, and not in control of my breathing at all. i had to ride on for quite a while to arrest the feeling of over-exertion and be able to hold a conversation – this is the norm for the kind of savage effort involve in hillclimbs, and it’s quite difficult to spur your body to reach this point, it requires a real mental fortitude – or some kind of unhinged determination to push past the point where you would normally stop, far beyond, into a red zone of finite returns and infinite suffering – but for a mercifully brief period of time. last week i was checking my progress, this week it was too late for that, i just had to keep going, pushing all the way.
the end result was second place; the highest yet – i think, although i have had a few top fives. james dobbin again took first, which is to be expected, he is a better rider and he trains hard and rides a lot. however, i got within 26 seconds over the 5 and a half minutes, which is a victory of sorts. i’m really pleased, and at least partially because i know i couldn’t have done anything else – it’s the closest i’ve come to requiring a catcher. with any luck i will find and sustain some form and have a reasonable season, although i’m not one to tempt fate, i have modest ambitions. and i really like riding up hills – although riding home from work today, piano, was not enjoyable.
in other news, derek from dursley told me that the national hillclimb is on Dover’s Hill near Weston Sub Edge. this is where i thought it was. this is very good news. it does have a 14% section though. i have blogged about it here.