my friend jon is like many, in that he won’t ride hillclimbs out of principle, finding them to be awful, repulsive experiences. there’s even a thread on the TT forum populated by Testers gloating at the end of their season. but only for the muscular behemoths of the TT scene, not for the stick-like whippets! Bring on the Wall!
this weekend it kicks off in anger with two events. tomorrow is the MDCC Haytor Climb, a 3.2 mile ascent up from Bovey Tracey to the rocks. it’s one of the longer hillclimb events, with quite a substantial height gain, around 1000 feet. the field is about 30 strong; i’m seeded by the look of things, going off second to last. this is a dubious distinction, it means i’ll be the first to be caught by James Dobbin. I reckon if i can hold him off for around 7 or 8 minutes i’ll be doing well. we shall have to see. although in practice, if i do hold the beast at bay for that length of time, i probably won’t be the first rider he catches.
today i was trying to continue my taper, riding piano to work. however, up ahead on redhill i saw the blinking lights of a fellow rider, and before i knew it i was in hot pursuit. he wasn’t hanging around, so i had to really put a few digs in to get on terms. he also had good technique, a steady rhythm, good cadence, up and out of the saddle periodically, he certainly wasn’t a slouch, in fact, i doubt he’s caught that often on hills, especially redhill, which is a beast. i tore past at quite a pace, on a raleigh 531 7-speed, with a full carradice saddlebag and a brooks saddle, making a point of being courteous and saying hello as i overtook. he didn’t stay on my wheel. he was on a lightweight carbon-fibre wilier mortirolo.
it’s hard to tell what sort of form i have. i know my weight is about right, sort of hovering around the 69kg mark. at 6″1 this is fairly light. it’s as light as i tend to get, and takes a bit of effort – abstinence from all kinds of temptation. i have the odd lapse, i ate some chocolate coins today. there is still time to hold it though, and whilst the key thing is undoubtably finding that elusive power to weight ratio, having some form is pretty important. i’ve been riding fairly solidly all season, in fact since march, and have been tackling the intervals since mid august, around 5 weeks. there’s a further 5 weeks to go until the nationals. i’m not that scientific, i don’t have a heart-rate monitor or a powertap. i try to ride 14-16 hours a week, and when racing go by the one piece of advice given to me that seemed to work: ‘keep the pot simmering, don’t let it boil over’.
i don’t like the not knowing, i may have written that before. the uncertainty, the waiting. i want to do well. saturday’s event will hopefully offer up a top ten finish, but sunday’s is a different kettle of fish altogether. it’s a double hillclimb up first dovers, then saintbury, near weston sub edge. the start sheet is pretty much a list of who’s who in british hillclimbing – not surprising given it’s the setting for the national in 5 weeks time. riders include:
matt clinton, 2nd last year, previous national champion; neil blessit; v50 national champion; james dobbin, twice national champion; richard handley, mike cuming, team raleigh, top ten national riders, premier calendar; mark arnold, stalwart fixed gear monster, top 20 national last year and tejvan pettinger, zen-style gravity defyer, frequent top ten national rider, blogger supreme.
not to mention many other hardy and foolhardy riders, all seeking death or glory on the vicious ascent. i am on a 5. i’m not sure where this places me, but i’m happy with it, it’s generally a good seeding. i’ve had some good results. i shall know much more by sunday evening, and be either very happy, deliriously light-headed from pulsing endorphins, or frustrated and flat at perceived failings.