Burrington Combe Hill Climb 2013: (sotto voce) “not too fast mind”

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.

I took the opportunity to wave a cowbell aggressively in the face of several riders. This is a part of the hill climb experience.
Ed regaled us all with the epic ‘tale of the broken spoke’. It was awesome and not at all boring.
When i tired of the cowbell I decided to wave my bicycle in people’s faces instead. It’s a new motivational technique.
famous designer Ade Ridley opted for the more traditional ‘pan and spoon’ noisemaker.
Dad, Ed’s doing the robot hill climber dance. Kieran is about to join in. I’m not sure about this. Make them stop please. 

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.

For those about to rock (bit more upright please Roger)

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.

dig in, drive drive drive
Heading for the steep bits

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…

Near Winsford. Put the wind up me, I can tell you.
this is what happens to strangers who outstay their welcome in the farmstead of Winsford. let it be a warning to all. 

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.

11 thoughts on “Burrington Combe Hill Climb 2013: (sotto voce) “not too fast mind”

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  1. Great blog Paul and great ride in testing conditions, I found the headwind very hard. When I saw the chequered flag I decided to sprint, I was in abit of a mess after I crossed the finishing line, but it had to be done. as I was still down on my PB time by 57 secs (my PB of 8min 20 sec was set in 2011 with a slight tailwind), this season it was done in a strong headwind, ouch!!!! But I did come 10th out of the 44 Vets. Thanks for the shout on cowbell corner, it all helps.
    Ride safe
    Marc (Swindon Road Club)

  2. Hey, I read your blog each time you leave a post, but then I am due another appointment with my psych………. anyway, well done on 3rd place and it seem like you all had a great day, long may it continue. Good luck next weekend.

  3. Good blog and a good event, well done on the podium. Think your doing yourself a slight injustice on your opinion of the number of readers you have.

  4. Dude! with regards to the national one of our juniors is determined to ride it on fixed! He is called Ivan and is only 16! He has ridden the whole hill climb season on a 1960’s Falcon Ernie Clements i’ve lent him! He even rode the Cat & Fiddle on it – he did 24.16 on a 65″ gear. On the rake he managed 3.14 on a 42 x 22. If he can get up the first bit we reckon he’ll be ok on a 42 x17? Any advice mucho appreciated. Cheers Jon

    1. Well, if he’s determined to do it fixed, then chapeau. the big problem will be the changes in gradient. I’m not sure what 42:17 works out at, but he’ll probably need to run the biggest gear he can use and still get up the steep bit in order to make the most of the gentler sections.

      1. About a 65″ gear – he’s used to spinning and hurtled down the Wizard in Alderley Edge on a 42×20! I think the steepest bit is 1:6? near the start – so if he can get over that he’ll be fine. The Ashley were aiming for the unsponsored team prize this year – but there doesn’t appear to be one? Our top dude is J.Boy – he came 21st out of 130 at Monsal Head this year. He was thinking of sticking with fixed as well, but we’ll all get there on the Saturday to work things out. Pea Royd Lane will be a definite for fixed next year! Good luck for Sunday fella!

  5. excellent pictures …. shame family commitments got in the way or I’d have been
    there cheering you all on 🙂

  6. Great blog as ever and looking forward to your report from the Nationals. I was aiming to come and spectate at Burrington Combe but the lure of the clubrun was too tempting. Good luck in Yorkshire.
    Your random reader.

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