Team Tor 2000 resurrected the Westclose Hill Climb in the Mendips this weekend. It attracted a small but ridiculously strong field. The hill has a variable gradient which would seem to rule out using fixed. However, Jim Henderson set the course record on fixed and when the road pitches up it stays within some fairly narrow parameters, probably between about 9 and 12 percent. The only issue is a couple of flatter sections near the bottom of the climb; these are about 150 metres in length. I gave it quite a bit of thought yesterday evening and decided that i had to go for it. A phrase used by my Dad springs to mind: ‘Shit or bust, son, shit or bust‘. He had a point, although I’m not entirely sure he had the undulating gradient of Westclose Hill on his mind at the time. In the end I reasoned that a fixed wheel may actually be quicker because the climb is longer; it’s not going to be won at the bottom but at the top; riding a 57″ gear would dose the effort perfectly and make it a steady and well-judged ride. I wasn’t riding for the win, more for the time and to try and close the gap with the faster chaps – Ben Davis, Charles Coleman and Richard Cartland.
Pen came out to see the race today; it’s the first hill climb she’s seen. She rang the cowbell with gusto.
It worked out pretty much exactly as I thought it would. At halfway Ben had 27 seconds on me but I halved the time gap by the finish, completing the later section of the course quicker than him. Of course, I didn’t win, but i wouldn’t have won either if I’d ridden gears, but probably would have been slower. In fact, this was nearly 10 seconds quicker than my previous best time on this hill, ridden on gears. Ben took the win – chapeau – with a 5.43 or thereabouts; followed by Charles Coleman with a 5.47ish, then Richard Cartland in 5.52, then me in 5.53. I’ll settle for the closeness; it’s not an awful lot and i’ve narrowed the gap from earlier in the season.
Tomorrow sees a return to Burrington. I’m excited. I’m also going to be riding fixed again. I really enjoy riding fixed in hill climbs; it’s definitely preferable to gears. It’s more of an experience. There is a full field of 120 riders; this is unprecedented. It’s chock full of fast people; including James Dobbin, twice national champion. It should be fun.