Long-standing readers of this blog, of which there are 4 family members and possibly one other random person, will know that the Burrington hill climb is the defining event of the West DC racing calendar. It brings the curtain down on the season, finishing off the hardriders trophy series and for most people acts as their last race before they head into a wilderness of winter base and ale raves™. This year we had a full field which is pretty much unheard of round these parts and certainly without precedent in a hill climb. It made for a spectacular day’s racing.
I rode out on a 68″; it’s not far from Bristol, a short incursion into the dark heart of the Mendips. On arriving I rode the climb, sneaking in amongst a couple of riders, to check on the ominous power of the headwind. The feather flags used by the club were pointing back down the climb and it did not bode well. The initial section past the rock of ages was a struggle into some blousy, full-frontal gusts. After that it seemed to lessen slightly and the top of the 2 mile climb was more manageable. I switched the cog on the back to a lighter 65″ and then settled down to watch the early starters.
At the alloted time I made my way down the Combe and lined up at the start. I had my picture taken by a bona fide World Champion whilst Roger did the honours.
The lower slopes were windier than a tripe-fed greyhound. I hunched low over the bars and dug in, getting into a rhythm and sitting on top of the gear. It seemed to work, I felt good and drove it on all the way up the climb. Cowbell corner was a spectacular feast for the eyes and ears; it makes such a huge difference to be cheered on by spectators.
I then headed up onto the steeper section and gave it everything I had. On the whole, I felt good, it was the kind of ride where I couldn’t have really done much more; i was at threshold and just kept going. I managed to go a second faster than last year in noticeably slower conditions. Once across the line I did a small bit of retching, thus earning my hill climber’s badge from the hill climbers scout troop.
It was a brilliant day. Ben Davis won with 7.33; Liam Glen 7.38, then me with 7.47. I just beat James Dobbin into 4th place by a second. Richard Cartland was 5th with 8.04. I was the only one in the top ten on a fixed wheel, but there were lots of other riders opting for the simplicity and joyousness of the single cog. At the start my minute man made a vaguely disparaging comment about my choice of bike; something along the lines of ‘that’s brave’. It seems to be fairly common for people to think it’s foolhardy to ride fixed in any sort of hillclimb, when the reality is that with a regular gradient a fixed wheel bike is the perfect machine for the task. It’s become the preserve of a hardy few but has grown again in popularity over recent years with the more general resurgence in fixed wheel bicycles. I’m quite disappointed that I won’t be racing on it again this season; I’m using gears for the National, but it will be my choice of bike for the winter miles. Anyhow, I overtook the aforementioned minuteman within about a minute.
On the way home I bullied my way up some other Mendip climbs; taking advantage of the tailwind to do some fairly hard efforts. I saw some really strange things… things you people wouldn’t believe…
I made it home alive. It’s been a brilliant weekend of hill climbs and I feel as though I’m getting some sense of form at just the right time. This was always the intention.
There is only one race left: The National Championship on the Stang. It’s the big one.