Dovers/Saintbury

Dovers Hill is one of the more famous hillclimbs in the sport. it’s been used as a national course on numerous occasions, including last year when i finished 24th. Saintbury has also been used as a National on many occasions, ridden by Brian Robinson and other luminaries of the sport. I prefer Saintbury, it’s longer and once you get over the initial ramp it sticks at a decent gradient that encourages rhythm and cadence. in short, i prefer it because it suits me. it took me a while to get going this morning, possibly after yesterday’s exertions, it’s hard to tell. i limped up in 6.38, which put me in around 5th place on the climb, just beaten by some other chap by one second to 5th. as usual, i got to ruminating about how i might have found that extra second. i’m not sure, probably on the bottom section. there was a healthy crowd at the top, at least 3 deep for around 2 metres either side of the road. this gathering of the tifosi was augmented by Mike, father of Belle, and his team of hardy long distance (they regularly eat 100 mile rides for breakfast, LeJog has been ticked off, Mike recently tackled some impressive italian cols on a seriously weighty sit-up-and-beg hire bike) cyclists who made the detour to check out the pain and existential quagmire of self-doubt and suffering that is ‘the hillclimb’. this morning over breakfast mike mentioned that his snazzy new(ish) polaris jacket was ‘beyond bright’. i can confirm that the polaris jacket is indeed the brightest on the block. i could see it halfway up the incline, a flaming beacon of orange. it brightened my soul and as i went for my second catch (nearly, on the line, caught a hold of the second minute man) i could see and hear the encouragement. it was much appreciated.

the two hour gap between climbs when doing a double is probably the toughest part. you need to eat, but not too much, and stay warm and supple. it’s hard work. i also saw that there were around 3 seconds between me, Rob Yeatman and another chap in the battle for 4th, 5th or 6th. Rob’s a fantastic athlete; he’s 18 years old (junior) and he’s frighteningly quick. in the event, i trounced the other guy (i forget his name) but got well and truly walloped by Rob who rode a 4. 21, beating the mighty Dobbin in the process. Chapeau. I’m pleased with 5th, i got a medal (straight in the trophy cabinet), and despite the slower times (about 3 seconds slower on each than last year) the headwind for the second day running probably saw to that. i hope so anyway. when i set out the results i’m more happy. it looks better on paper than it does just saying ‘5th’.

1. Tejvan Pettinger (4th last year’s national, super strong this year)

2. Matt Clinton (National Champion, 2008)

3. James Dobbin (National Champion, 2006, 2007)

4. Rob Yeatman (Super quick junior riding for Mick Ives team, national paracyling champion)

5. Me.

next week i am making the schlep northwards for the Fibrax Wrexham event on the Horseshoe Pass. it’s long, long, long, for which i am grateful. it’s also quite a prestigious event. current course record is possessed by James Dobbin, who took it from Chris Boardman, who you might have heard of. he holds the record for the fastest tour de france prologue ever.

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