There will be photos later. For now, words. The Stang is a slim strip of road that carves up and across the beautiful and desolate Teesdale moorland. It climbs in several bursts, sometimes a hurtful 18%, at other points a comforting descent. Riders were aided and abetted by a criminally strong tailwind with gusts approaching what felt like 40 or 50mph. On a warm up ride, my first encounter with the climb, I felt sprightly and in control. I turned at the top and my eyelids were torn upwards, the visceral assault of the elements suddenly becoming obvious. Riding back down into hail and a horrendous blast of wind was very difficult, it was impossible to freewheel. I’ve never known it more difficult to descend than ascend.
When it rains, something goes missing. I find it really difficult to get ready. And it was really raining, real rain. Earlier on I’d watched some of the ladies and juniors put on their hills face gurns in balmy sunshine. Within an hour the sun was shuttered and the elements took hold. I sheltered in the hq and tried to stay warm. I chatted with survivors and watched the times go up – never the best idea before you’ve gone up the wall. At the allotted time I rode up and down the road then went to the start. It was very sparsely attended, much more than usual. This is probably because of the weather and the length of the climb, only the hardiest of crazy people made it alive to the top of the climb. Step forwards Tom and friend in the BSCC colours. The spectators probably had the rawer deal, heads craned into the spiky nail gun attack of the roaring breeze.
For the reasons above it could be argued that it was an epic running of the annual great get-together. The field was immensely strong, peppered liberally with professional roadmen and the stick-thin specialists. I had high hopes of my best ever finish. Disappointment comes in various shapes and sizes. On a climb that technically should have suited me, I ended up some way off the pace and in 34th place. This is the same as last year where the climb was anathema to my lanky frame. There is a pattern and i’m left wondering what position I will end up in for the next two editions. If I’d ridden to my potential I am sure I would have been a lot higher. That’s hill climbing. I’ll settle for half. It was a really tough and unpleasant day and I didn’t cope we’ll enough with the weather.
But enough mid-table introspection. The winner was Tejvan Pettinger. No one deserves it more; he has been erasing longstanding course records up and down the country for years and has finally achieved a just reward for his hard work and determination. I am really happy for him and happy that the championship has been won by a bona fide hill climb specialist. It’s important to the anachronistic history of the event.
Thanks to Ian and mum for supporting. After being stood on Stang Top for 3 hours Mum said she hadn’t had so much fun since her dad’s funeral. Ian said he felt inspired to never go out on his bike again. Ian managed to take photos of nearly every rider. His bravery is unsurpassed.