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.