I’m in the middle of a particularly savage batch of races; 6 Hardrider events on the bounce. Hopefully i’ll make it through the last one without a dns or some such. It started with Chippenham 24, which was hilly and rolling, and the field was absolutely stacked with stupidly fast people, including elite roadmen getting some form before their season kicked off. I managed 13th, and was pleased, given the company. The weekend after was Gillingham, which was quite a bit hillier and started on a horrible lump out of Bruton. it suited me more and i managed 7th place, which was grand. hot on the heels the following saturday was the Severn HR, a 23 mile slice of penury. I felt absolutely horrible from start to finish, somehow managing 9th place, but still two minutes up on last year’s time.
Which brings me to yesterday’s event, the Bath Hilly 24, in and around the small town of Mere which is part of the Westcountry Carnival Circuit, apparently. it features 1500 feet of climbing, which is not immense, but hurts a lot when you’re trying resolutely to keep on the rivet. I decided to try to not treat the hills as intervals/hillclimb efforts, and this helped me maintain a rhythm. I managed 5th place, which is my best in a time trial by some distance; it’s a 23.2 mph average speed. I honestly can’t say how that’s possible, but there you go.
thus far, it’s going well. i don’t want to put a hex on my progress; but i’m happy with things. hardriders are notoriously unpleasant and difficult events – it’s hard to fathom the attraction from the outside. i’d venture suggest a few things that keep a tight knot of masochistic bike riders coming back for more. firstly, it’s a series, with prizes for the points score for your best 6 events (6 minimum, out of 12) which means you keep coming back for more, in the hope that you might raise your score a little bit, replace the 110 points from Gillingham with a 115 from Swindon, for example. Secondly, these events are about as far away from out and back dual carriageway courses as you can hope to be. they are almost scenic, although you don’t get much of a chance to take it all in. i seem to remember riding Swindon last year and suddenly finding myself on a road through the stone sentinels of Avebury, a place i’d always wanted to visit, but somehow didn’t imagine that my visit would be astride a piece of alien technology with no time to stop and stare.
lastly, there is something more tangible and rewarding in a hilly course for someone of my build and physique. i look at the flat DC courses and sometimes see only a remorseless succession of absurdly strong powerlifters with misshapen thighs and buttocks bullying the tarmac into submission through power and science. i like to see them struggle and the pain etched into their faces on the relentless ups and downs of a rural hilly time trial. it levels the course.