Westclose Hill

Today’s slab of unremitting nastiness featured Westclose Hill, the contours wobble together in tight parallels of pain.

this one was clearly so impossibly nasty that hardly anyone dared enter. it was a very small, but highly select field. i decided to further fan the flames of the geared vs fixed debate currently raging in my addled mind by riding fixed. i opted for a 57″ gear – which is the equivalent to riding 39:18, or about 5 cogs off the bottom of a standard 12-25 cassette. it’s as light as i can go without changing the front ring. and i don’t have another front ring.

neil blessitt (v50 national champion) was in attendance, as was luke dunbar, a very handy young rider from team qoroz. it boiled down to a straight fight between the three of us for the prize. i wasn’t overly concerned, i felt that luke would win – he walloped me at burrington last year. with this in mind, i decided to try and treat it as a training ride, go deep, but focus on pacing and effort, let the race take care of itself, enjoy it.

i rode the hill beforehand and mapped out the contours in my subconscious; deciding when to stay seated, keep it in check, and when to force the issue, get out of the saddle and push the cadence. i decided, partly after reading jim henderson’s blog, but also after assessing the most damaging sections, that i would stay calm and tempo for as long as possible, before unleashing everything on the final third past the quarry. at the time i felt this was a really good idea.

i adhered to my plan – even insofar as not pushing too hard on the softer gradients, trying to soften my breathing. the only flaw in this scheme emerged when i reached the quarry – the gradient seemed that much steeper when ridden at race-pace; the gear became suddenly and improbably tall and all i could do was attempt to force my pain-ravaged legs through a stubbornly resistant cadence. all of which would have been fine, if it wasn’t for the grasping talons of a full headwind rearing over the crest of the climb and clawing at my straining limbs. i launched into a classic hillclimb finish, chewing the bar tape and trying desperately to eke out a few more rpm in a perverse lunge for the line.

it was good enough for second place, my best yet, and i think some cash prize money – although we shall see. more importantly, i was only 8 seconds down on the winner, which bodes well for the upcoming events.

it’s the club hillclimb next week; a long draggy one up burrington coombe. i’m hoping for a tailwind, a time under 8 minutes and a top 6 placing. there is a fixed wheel prize, i am torn as to whether to ride the gears or not. i shall have to do some reconnaissance this week. i genuinely don’t know. last year i did it fixed and came 5th, riding 65″, i’ll almost certainly ride a lighter gear this year. the other option is the lighter planet-x – in which case there will be no prize but there might be a fast time.

amidst a sea of indecision, i’ve learnt one thing this week –  a 57″ gear for jim henderson is not the same as a 57″ gear for me.

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