Holme Moss is a bit of a humdinger. It’s one of those long and gradual (some might say Alpine, they’d be a bit wrong though) northern inclines which are almost entirely pleasurable to ride up in the right conditions, but almost entirely revolting to race up in any weather. However, the Hill Climb gods were smiling down benevolently at the hardy competitors and apart from the inchoate chill of late autumn, it was a lovely day.
I recce’d Holme Moss beforehand, using a 64″ cog. It felt tall. In fact, i doubted my ability to race it up there, so i geared down to a 60.5″. On the way up in the race I remember thanking the Lord that I’d made the switch. Bad things would have happened if I’d tried to turn the bigger gear over. 65″ is for winter base miles, it’s not for a hillclimb up the side of Holme Moss.
Since i’ve put the geared bike away i’ve really enjoyed my hillclimbs. Although i use the word “enjoy” cautiously, insofar as there is any enjoyment to be found in the lung-ripping splendour of a time trial uphill. I like riding the Bob Jackson, it feels lovely. I like not having gear anxiety – but only once i’ve got it rolling. Opting for the correct cog beforehand is a bit like trying to choose a cake from a particularly well-presented trolley; you only get one shot and if you choose the wrong one the experience is somehow tainted. You still get through it, just, but with a gnawing sense of regret that things could have been so much better if you’d gone with the one you first picked up, rather than getting sidetracked and tempted by a racy little number served up on a frilly doily.
Today’s events both had a strong field. Matt Clinton was riding. I suspect he fancies his chances this year at the Rake, and with good reason. He was on form. Also on the startsheet was Josh Teasdale, last year’s junior National Champion, currently riding for Omega Pharma Lotto and doing his training rides in classics country with Tom Boonen. That’s cheating. He was a very nice chap though.
There were also a whole hatful of northern hill people, including Sam Ward of the Otley and some other chaps. They were all ferociously fast and stick thin. It made for a real bunfight on Holme Moss. Well, behind Clinton anyway. Teasdale came in a second under 7 minutes, Ward was 7.03 and I managed 4th in 7.13. I was pleased with this, and also happy with the gear choice.
My main reason for riding up North this weekend is because the second event was the “Granville Sydney Memorial” race. It’s held in honour of the 6 time national champion who died in 1973. My reasons are largely sentimental, as was my decision to ride fixed. I’ve been fully immersed in the history of the National Championship for quite a while now, researching and interviewing various people, and the Star Wheelers are a really important part of that landscape. I was lucky enough to meet Graham Sydney earlier this year and his name is the first etched on the trophy that honours his brother’s contribution to the sport. Andrew Pearson is doing an amazing job in running this event and attracting a decent field. He promotes it actively and the club were out in force to support.
Jackson Bridge is a real armripper of a climb. I opted for a 57″ gear. Conditions were great and i think i paced it well. However, there were 5 seconds between 3rd and 8th, and i ended up 6th, so have a vague sense of what could have been. I was out of the saddle pretty much the whole distance and stopped the timekeeper’s watch at 4.50. The gear felt absolutely perfect and as much as it hurt i really enjoyed this climb. The height gain is quite pronounced with a fantastic view out across the valley and to Holme Moss and it’s definitely snuck into my secret list of top ten climbs.
Ian took some fantastic photos, in particular the one below which wins the prize (so far) for best hillclimb face of 2012. It is up there with Luke Smith’s epic ouchface from last year’s National.
Next weekend sees the Burrington Classic. I’m now calling it a ‘classic’ in a shameless piece of club promotion and mythmaking. It’s worthy of the name though, this year there are more than 70 riders heading to the Coombe in the pursuit of glory. That makes it a very big field, second only to the big league of events like Catford, The Horseshoe Pass and Monsal Head. On a side note, there are a staggering 28 Bristol South CC members on the startsheet. This is fantastic, Bristol South is an active and exciting club.