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.

On Westclose, watched by Penelope

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’s a bit windy, but i sense it’s blowing up the hill; SMASH IT DAD!

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.

I got chased up the hill during my warm-up by a chap on an electric bike. it gave me the willies.
This chap was riding his second hill climb. He was throwing out high fives to the spectators. He may need to work on his race face.
Ben has had a super season. He’s now wearing his cap backwards; this secures his status as a bona fide hill climber.
Hill-blasting by crazy hill riders with no brains.
i bought the 17t with me just in case.
HAHAHAHHA! Dad bought the 17t with him! He can barely even turn the 18! This is going be an epic hill fail! GO DAD! IDIOT! GO DAD!

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.

Squeaky Bum Time

The start sheet for the National Hill Climb Championship is out. I appear to be the emaciated filling in an Elite roadman sandwich. I fear that the might Pete Tadros may well catch me on the climb if i dawdle for even a second. He came 7th in 2011 when i managed 24th, I was about 45 seconds back. Looking on the positive side, it’s by the far the latest I’ve started in a National which means I get to experience the full mind-melting madness of the final stages of the race, hurtling up through the crowds when the frenzy and excitement is at its peak.

No Rider Club Start Time N1 N2 N3
1
Angela Hibbs
Tyneside Vagabonds CC
12:01
32
W
2
Claire Munton
Vegetarian C & AC
12:02
36
W
3
Maryka Sennema
Kingston Wheelers CC
12:03
39
W
4
Sharon Clifford
Coventry RC
12:04
53
W
5
Karen Poole
gbcycles.co.uk
12:05
36
W
6
Jessica Roberts
Velo Club Melyd
12:06
34
W
7
Karen Ledger
12:07
41
W
8
Annabel Sill
Clay Cross RT
12:08
24
W
9
Isla Rush
Wyndymilla
12:09
14
JW
10
Dawn Sherrin
GS Metro
12:10
47
W
11
Eve Lyon
Leicestershire RC
12:11
14
JW
12
Eve Dixon
Champion System -Maxgear RT
12:12
19
W
13
Alice Cobb
Scott Contessa Epic RT
12:13
18
JW
14
Nicola Soden
Champion System -Maxgear RT
12:14
26
W
15
Helen Eborall
Born to Bike – Bridgtown Cycles
12:15
37
W
16
Joanne Blakeley
Champion System -Maxgear RT
12:16
26
W
17
Lou Collins
Beeston RC
12:17
32
W
18
Lynn Hamel
Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes.com
12:18
28
W
19
Jack Bryant
Thanet RC
12:19
16
J
20
Ivan Paul
Ashley Touring CC
12:20
16
J
21
Ryan Coulton
Salt Ayre Cogset Youth Cycling Club
12:21
15
J
22
Harry Craig
Activ Cycles – Corbridge
12:22
16
J
23
Joe Mann
Derwentside CC
12:23
16
J
24
Eugene Cross
Yorkshire Road Club
12:24
15
J
25
David Murphy
Liverpool Mercury Dolan CC
12:25
16
J
26
Michael Cox
Ashley Touring CC
12:26
16
J
27
Sam Wilson
Mike Vaughan Cycles
12:27
16
J
28
Lewis Hartley
Velocity WD-40
12:28
13
J
29
Calum Meikle
North Cotswolds CC
12:29
16
J
30
Oliver Dickson
Thanet RC
12:30
14
J
31
Max Robson
Richmond CC
12:31
16
J
32
Theo Jefferies
Ashley Touring CC
12:32
15
J
33
Kieran Savage
Seacroft Whs
12:33
16
J
34
Julian Varley
Harrogate Nova CC
12:34
17
J
35
James Risk
Sportcity Velo
12:35
16
J
36
Sebastian Dickson
Thanet RC
12:36
18
J
37
Ben Trippier
East Lancashire RC
12:37
17
J
38
Zak Corum-Haines
Brighton Excelsior CC
12:38
15
J
39
Luke Thomas
Ashley Touring CC
12:39
17
J
40
Tom Garnett
Ilkley CC
12:40
15
J
41
Alex Trippier
East Lancashire RC
12:41
14
J
42
Tom Clarke
Red Rose Olympic
12:42
15
J
43
Patrick Smart
Matlock CC
12:43
17
J
44
Adam Hartley
Velocity WD-40
12:44
15
J
45
Tim Wilcock
Tyneside Vagabonds CC
12:45
17
J
46
Cameron Heritage
Holme Valley Whs
12:46
16
J
47
Wilf Sargeant
West Pennine RC
12:47
17
J
48
Max Spedding
Birkenhead North End CC
12:48
16
J
49
Ben Hetherington
Dirt Wheels Cycles
12:49
18
J
50
Ted Cross
Yorkshire Road Club
12:50
17
J
51
Josh Jardine
Kent Valley RC
12:51
17
J
52
James King
Colomba Cycle Club
12:52
18
J
53
Joey Walker
RST Racing Team
12:53
16
J
54
George Edwards
Lyme Racing Club
12:54
18
J
55
Daniel Alderton
Guernsey Velo Club
12:55
17
J
56
Jack O’Neill
Mike Vaughan Cycles
12:56
18
J
57
James Falconer
Ferryhill Whs/Mountain High
12:57
17
J
58
Luke Mullen
Hetton Hawks CC
12:58
18
J
59
Sam Mansfield
Buxton CC
12:59
18
J
60
James Knox
Champion System -Maxgear RT
13:00
17
J
61
Carl Mustil
Ferryhill Whs/Mountain High
13:01
45
62
Jonathan Poole
Ashley Touring CC
13:02
50
63
Martin Gibson
Adept Precision RT/N E Healthcare Solutions
13:03
47
64
Michael Mallen
GS Metro
13:04
38
65
Richard Sill
Wansbeck CC
13:05
58
66
David Trotter
Lancaster CC
13:06
34
67
Mark Sanders
Mid Devon CC
13:07
54
68
Kevin Dawson
Hambleton RC
13:08
38
69
Mark Harrison
Houghton CC
13:09
30
70
Craig Gath
York Cycleworks
13:10
37
71
Simon Dowson
Settle World Wide Wheelers
13:11
41
72
Stewart Bates
TFN Triathlon Club
13:12
37
73
Chris Danby
Drighlington BC
13:13
40
74
Paul Hague
Gosforth RC
13:14
46
75
Lee Cairns
Rossington Whs
13:15
39
76
Paul Thirling
Adept Precision RT/N E Healthcare Solutions
13:16
37
77
Martin Ford
Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes.com
13:17
39
78
John Keane
Coventry CC
13:18
24
79
Paul Bailey
Manchester Wheelers Club
13:19
36
80
Archie Cross
Yorkshire Road Club
13:20
18
81
Christian Hulme
Stretford Wheelers CC
13:21
34
82
Marc Allen
Swindon Road Club
13:22
47
83
Matty Cooper
The Achieve Club
13:23
32
84
Keith Henderson
Southborough & Dist. Whs
13:24
40
85
Andrew Askwith
Bridlington Cycling Club
13:25
49
86
Nick Decker
Congleton CC
13:26
31
87
Dave Archer
Bolsover & District CC
13:27
31
88
Dougi Hall
Border City Whs CC
13:28
50
89
Martyn Gordon
Harry Middleton Cycling Club
13:29
27
90
Richard Birkin
Nottingham Clarion CC
13:30
45
91
Philip Graves
York Triathlon Club
13:31
24
92
Jose Pinon-Shaw
Blackburn & District CTC
13:32
45
93
Paul Brierley
Huddersfield Road Club
13:33
47
94
Robert Hayes
Manchester Wheelers Club
13:34
26
95
Aiden Brown
Mapperley CC
13:35
23
96
Stuart Baker
Buxton CC
13:36
23
97
Aaron Tonks
Ribble Valley CRC
13:37
41
98
Mike Westmorland
Border City Whs CC
13:38
68
99
Paul Heggie
Birdwell Whs
13:39
60
100
Stuart Green
Oldham Century RC
13:40
44
101
Simon Baines
Buxton CC
13:41
53
102
Samuel Jackson
Cleveleys RC
13:42
37
103
Robert Pollen
Ashley Touring CC
13:43
35
104
Andy Gorton
East Lancashire RC
13:44
40
105
Chris Ledger
13:45
51
106
Rob Shields
GS Metro
13:46
25
107
Nicholas Burton
Newark Castle C C
13:47
38
108
Stuart Stirland
Edinburgh RC
13:48
29
109
Jahan Hunter
Ashley Touring CC
13:49
27
110
Jonathan Bayley
Gosforth RC
13:50
30
111
Jonathan Baines
Buxton CC
13:51
22
112
Paul Stubbs
Ferryhill Whs/Mountain High
13:52
52
113
Andrew Newey
Ribble Valley CRC
13:53
20
114
Matthew Cartlidge
Stone Wheelers CC
13:54
24
115
Peter Byrne
In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp
13:55
34
116
Cameron Turner
Darlington Cycling Club
13:56
44
117
Dave Francis
Sid Valley CC
13:57
66
118
Andrew Pearson
Huddersfield Star Whs
13:58
39
119
Ian Hutchinson
Cleveland Wheelers CC
13:59
58
120
Michael Broadwith
Arctic-SRAM RT
14:00
35
121
Simon Coates
Cleveland Wheelers CC
14:01
40
122
Peter Greenwood
Clayton Velo
14:02
62
123
Phil Barnes
Team Swift
14:03
58
124
Paul Ashcroft
Rapha Condor Cycling Club
14:04
36
125
William Belcher
Clayton Velo
14:05
53
126
Scott Smith
Barrow Central Wheelers
14:06
39
127
Aidan Holgate
North Lancs RC
14:07
20
128
Chris Dyke
Manchester Wheelers Club
14:08
30
129
Jonathan Cregeen
Biketreks Racing Team
14:09
20
130
Shaun Tyson
Adept Precision RT/N E Healthcare Solutions
14:10
42
131
Dan Harwood
In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp
14:11
40
132
Richard Lilleker
Cleveland Wheelers CC
14:12
25
133
Nick Calvert
Adept Precision RT/N E Healthcare Solutions
14:13
46
134
Stewart Gregory
Nottingham Clarion CC
14:14
48
135
RhysLloyd
Metaltek, Knights of Old
14:15
24
136
Ian Taylor
Ciclocostablanca.com
14:16
38
137
Simon Warren
Norwood Paragon CC
14:17
40
138
Michael Jones
Derwentside CC
14:18
34
139
Clive Upton
Hambleton RC
14:19
34
140
Chris Baines
Buxton CC
14:20
20
141
Alastair Kay
Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes.com
14:21
37
142
Daniel Patten
Team SmartStop P/B Mountain Khakis
14:22
27
143
Benjamin Davis
Bristol RC
14:23
22
144
Alex Jones
Clwb Rasio Mona
14:24
25
145
Kevin Gibbons
Border City Whs CC
14:25
56
146
Conall Yates
In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp
14:26
33
147
Rory Hopcraft
Abellio SFA Racing Team
14:27
22
148
Dan Evans
Velo Club Melyd
14:28
32
149
Alan Thynne
PMR @ Toachim House
14:29
34
150
Danny Axford
Arctic-SRAM RT
14:30
38
151
Adrian Lawson
Cadence RT
14:31
42
152
Michael Smith
Team Corley Cycles
14:32
25
153
Paul Roby
Coveryourcar.co.uk RT
14:33
40
154
Josh Teasdale
In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp
14:34
19
155
Adam Kenway
14:35
26
156
James Dobbin
Arctic-SRAM RT
14:36
35
157
Charles Coleman
Velo Club Walcot
14:37
22
158
James Gullen
Team Hope Factory Racing
14:38
24
159
Alexander Wilson
GVC Edmond de Rothschild Team
14:39
20
160
Steven Lawley
Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes.com
14:40
29
161
David Watson
Coventry RC
14:41
44
162
Nick English
AW Cycles.co.uk
14:42
34
163
Henry Farrell
Welwyn Whs
14:43
23
164
Hugh Carthy
Rapha Condor JTL
14:44
19
165
Chris Myhill
Peak Road Club
14:45
47
166
Richard Cartland
Team Echelon – Rotor
14:46
35
167
Nick Spencer
Gosforth RC
14:47
34
168
Mike Cuming
Rapha Condor JTL
14:48
22
169
David Crawley
Rock to Roll Cycles
14:49
24
170
Matthew Pilkington
Cleveleys RC
14:50
24
171
Paul Jones
Bristol South CC
14:51
37
172
Pete Tadros
In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp
14:52
43
173
Sam Ward
Dirt Wheels Cycles
14:53
34
174
Tejvan Pettinger
Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team
14:54
36
175
Karl Juan Denton
Newcastle Cheviot CC
14:55
42
176
Richard Handley
Rapha Condor JTL
14:56
23
177
Ben Lane
GS Metro
14:57
42
178
Matt Clinton
Mike Vaughan Cycles
14:58
28
179
Bhima Bowden
Buxton CC
14:59
25
180
Jack Pullar
Madison Genesis
15:00
23

This weekend is a relatively quiet one with no open events. I shall have a dig and put in the last couple of big efforts before beginning the taper for Burrington and the National.

Bowden and Claverton

I tried a new climb yesterday, the Chippenham and District Wheelers promotion on Bowden Hill. It starts on the film set of Harry Potter before climbing up through an episode of Cranford, then finishes at the top by the granite and wrought-iron gates of Northanger Abbey. Such are the delights of the beyond picturesque village of Lacock. I’ve heard tell that the whole village is owned by the National Trust – in the traditional sense of the word, rather than ‘you just got pwned by the NT, all your heritage buildings are belong to them.’ Either way, it all sounds a bit Midwich Cuckooey.

The climb is a real challenge; it starts off with a few hundred metres of shallow and fast ascent before rearing up like a frightened donkey; scaring the bejeezus out of the cyclists who moments ago were enjoying a nice rhythm and cadence. I gave it full gas all the way up. I did my usual trick of trying to find a bit to sit down but the climb had other ideas. It hurt quite a lot. I managed 4th place behind the resurgent VC Walcot outfit.

Today i dusted off the fixed wheel for the first time this year to have a go at the VC Walcot event on Claverton Hill. It’s one of my favourite races because it’s really well-supported; the crowd form a bit of a tunnel and make huge amounts of noise. This all takes place by the entrance to the American Museum. At one point a blazered chump came out on some sort of golf trolley to berate us for blocking the driveway and preventing cars from accessing the Museum. He threatened to call the police. I think he must have confused us with people who actually gave a shit about his no-mark museum. I think he also underestimated the amount of bureaucratic organisation required to set up a hill climb, including police permission. He got pwned.

I cheered on most of the riders; generally trying to shout at people and take pictures at the same time. Watching hill climbs is infinitely more enjoyable than riding them. After about 30 minutes I hotfooted it down to the bottom, turned round and charged back up again. It was good to be on fixed, no choice, no issues, no options, just me and a 57″ gear. I suspect it might be faster on gears, but that would spoil the fun of riding fixed. In the end, Rob Gough took the win from a rapid Charles Coleman, currently in the form of his life. Glyn, Richard Cartland and few others scrapped it out for the minor placings and I think I came 7th, a couple of seconds quicker than last year. I won a nice t-shirt and £10 for my efforts.

Hats off to Laurie Chalk and John Arnold of VC Walcot for creating a brilliant event, publicising it relentlessly and making sure the club turns out to watch. VC Walcot are a bit of a galvanising force, they have been involved in the Odd Down Circuit and do great things in getting young people riding and racing bicycles. For this they have my utmost respect.

Some innovative road art
A rider from the host club
Richard Cartland in full flow
Glyn goes into debt. He collapsed at the top. We laughed at him a little bit.

 

I got quite close to take this picture.

The Bath University CC put together a super video of the event:

Next weekend is a bit of a break; most people are heading to Catford, I’ll be staying here and doing a few different things, mainly trying to hone my form for Burrington the week after.

 

 

Horror on Haytor, Pain at Porlock

There’s something unspeakably vile about the first hill climb proper of the season. It’s to do with the hitherto unreached level of exertion, involving horrible lactic acid build up, steady respiratory collapse, oxygen deficit and overwhelming nausea. There’s no practical way to prepare the body for the ragged assault of riding uphill fast. Usually I manage to get in a few warm-up events before the nasty stuff happens, but this year I broke the seal on Haytor Vale (or as the annoying commentator on ITV4 kept calling it, “Hayderhill”) which may or may not have been a bad idea.

I set off from Bristol early on Saturday in high spirits, eager to raise the heartrate and enjoy the view from the top… of the bars, whilst looking down at the ground and trying not to be sick. Somewhere near Exeter the skies darkened and biblical rain poured forth. It did not relent.The competitors huddled together in the village hall at Bovey Tracey, whilst the organisers decided to shorten the climb substantially on account of not being able to see the road higher up on the Moor. When it’s really really wet, like at the Rake last year, I find it almost impossible to get motivated, warmed up or in any kind of fit state to ride. Essentially, I stay cold. I could have done with a personal lackey with an umbrella and towel. Ben Davis, the superhuman Bristol Road Club hill and road maestro, had a full support team with him, keeping his teak-carved limbs out of the incessant rain. Or it may have been his Mum and Dad.

In between hiding from the rain and running back and forth to the car, I managed a hillclimb. I was acutely conscious all the way up that I wasn’t really riding hard enough, but couldn’t do anything much about it. I charged across the finish line at about 8mph and was confused enough to carry on for a bit, not sure if it really was the finish. By all accounts James Dobbin nearly did the whole climb before he realised he’d finished a mile ago. It was that kind of day. I scraped 6th place behind Ben, the Dobbin, Andrew Feather and 2/3 of the Walcott mega-team. I also mistimed my caffeinated energy gel and was a gibbering, gurning wreck for some time after the event. I felt happy with the outcome, apart from the unceasing rain, mist, fog, long journey, lack of effort, substantial time gap, pain in my left lung, taste of blood, epic roller warm-up failure and numb, cold legs. At least I stayed upright on the cattle grid, which is more than I can say for the poor lady off ahead of me. It didn’t instill much confidence.

The next part of the weekend’s super-long double header took in a visit to Porlock. It’s incredibly beautiful and the climb was a 4.1 mile ascent up the toll road. In that rarest of treats, the road was entirely closed to traffic. There was also a hefty prize fund, with nearly 100 riders competing for honours, including a couple of Tour Series riders, an Olympic Silver Medallist and any number of hardcore hill whippets.

I managed to take a few photos on account of it not being utterly pissing down with rain for hours on end.

Chatting with Bridget at the start
Dan takes in the amazing view across the Bristol Channel
The view above one of the hairpins, looking down at the climb
I pay road tax

 

Tavis gets his big-ring face on

After a quick recce of the climb before hand I resolved to ride it in the big ring all the way. Tavis (see above) also said he was going to stick it in the big ring and shake it around a bit. At least a small part of my motivation was that i didn’t want to be changing gear halfway up the climb. However, whilst waiting at the start I saw that even the mighty Tejvan was opting for the small ring so I had a change of heart. It was entirely appropriate. The small ring felt fine all the way up and i whacked it across once out on the moorland with a tasty tailwind. At this point, unfortunately, my legs were a bit palsied and I struggled to get any semblance of pace going. I felt ill at the top and was a bit sick. It’s quite exciting when this happens, you feel like a bad-ass hill climber. I snuck in just under 15 minutes and bagged my second 6th place of the weekend, taking home a whopping cheque for £70 in the process. I also narrowed the gap with the other riders who beat me the day before, coming two seconds behind Tavis and about 15 seconds behind the mighty Dobbin. Tejvan beat everyone else by over a minute. It’s quite chastening. The only thing i can say is that his arms appear to be thinner than his handlebars.

This coming weekend I have 4 hill climbs to tackle; all fairly local. I may dust off the old fixed weapon for two of them. It’s good to be racing again.

stupid o’ clock

A small part of me thinks I’m really determined and driven in order to get up at stupid o clock every day and do an hour or more on the bike incorporating several nasty hills before the working day. The rest of me thinks I’m entirely deranged.

This is what Bristol looked like this morning:

I have three hill climbs lined up this weekend. I was most perturbed by the course description for the climb out of Widdecombe (said the bishop to the rotund politician).

START: on B3387 just past the last house on the left (Mill House) when leaving the village (east bound), at the first tree on the left by the farm gate and just short of the 20% gradient sign

Sounds utterly disgusting. The field is also unreasonably strong. Specialist hill climbers are emerging out of the woodwork all over the place. They’re a particular and peculiar breed with untold powers of gravity defiance. Tejvan took the course record set by Mark Lovatt at the Cat and Fiddle last weekend, averaging 22mph for the climb. Mark Lovatt rode the world championships and won the premier calendar races. Tejvan is imperious on longer, 6-8% climbs. And most other climbs. He is at Porlock this Sunday where there is £300 on offer for the winner. In my own warped, self-esteem boosting, comparative world of madness, I noticed Ryan Mullen came 7th at the u23 World Championship Time Trial yesterday. He only beat me by .8 of a second on the Rake last year. The year before I beat him by 5 seconds. That kind of makes me a top 7 u23 world championship rider. Incidentally, I beat Mark Lovatt on the Horseshoe Pass, coming 4th behind Richard Handley who came 16th at the Tour of Britain this year. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Hup, Hup, Hup.

 

 

 

 

The Mighty Garbutt Speaks

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<curmudgeon>

I’m a subscriber to the Comic. Like most subscribers to the Comic i complain loudly and vociferously about the marginalisation of many of the traditional elements of cycling, especially club life and the UK time trial and hill climb scene. I also complain about the absence of race coverage of any depth and the paucity of results in favour of relentless self-promotion of their sportive series.

It was interesting to see Garbutt’s editorial this week bemoaning the standards of riding out in the sticks near Croydon or wherever the CW lodgings are.

“the rise of the rubbish rider is a step too far… ”

His solution is an interesting one:

“There’s much to be said for being a member of a traditional cycling club. So many of today’s newbie riders would certainly benefit from the experience”

All sitting comfortably next to the index:

Turn to page 22 for “CW’s latest sportive triumph”.

If CW had perhaps spent more time supporting the grass roots of cycling and club life and less time chasing the sportive dollar, Garbutt’s specious comments might make sense. The last Gran Bloato sportive I stumbled across didn’t have a club jersey in sight, no-one said a word to anyone else and I had to weave around the zigzag wanderers. Such is the egocentrism of the current bike boom; all digitised high score tables, massively expensive bikes and extortionately priced bike rides. The Comic is at the heart of the desperate race for bike boom quids, selling their past and readership for a few cheap energy gels and a some loose marketing copy pebbledashed with the words ‘epic legendary sufferfest’.

[/curmudgeon]

on the deep-seated trauma associated with the prospect of a hill interval session

It’s generally accepted that if you want to go quicker, you need to train hard. When I’m beaten by very quick people I tend to frame it within a certain context – their rapidity is a product of the amount of time and effort expended in training. I know how much time and effort I have available, and when coupled with a fluctuating amount of willpower find that it precludes any rewriting of the cycling record books. 

It’s also accepted that if you want to go quicker up hill, you need to train hard on hills. the key to all of this skullduggery is the nasty world of the interval session. I can’t think of anything less enticing than the prospect of a savage bout of interval training, but it is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap.

There’s not much point in going into the specific details of the sessions; you can do pyramids, reverse pyramids, 10×20, whatever tickles your fancy. Gordon Wright was the master coach of this particular dark art. The important part is making sure you are rested prior to doing a savage and unpleasant session.

I rode across the Downs and took things slowly, a gnawing sense of trepidation in the back of my mind. I was distracted for a short while by a flying cetacean and an enormous airborne tiger attacking some small children.

The sky was dotted with surreal creatures.

After the interlude – which included riding tubular tyres at 150psi across open grassland – i headed to a nearby incline to do battle. I managed 5 repetitions of a horrid loop; heading up a climb at full gas, riding across and back down and then doing it again. It was vile. Before each one I felt as though I couldn’t do another, but on starting you somehow push yourself over and above each time. There’s nothing enjoyable about it. It was made more strange by the presence of a couple walking up the hill who saw me come past 5 times.

Many years ago I used to laugh at a colleague who did ‘hill reps’. He was fitter and stronger than I was and would leave me in the dust when riding in Kent, particularly on the steep side of Toys. Things have changed, but it’s still worth laughing at people who are doing intervals or hill reps. Riding uphill is satisfying and a challenge; doing it several times in short succession and full speed is rank idiocy. They have no purpose outside of competitive bike riding. I can’t imagine that I’ll look back on my life in years to come with a wistful sigh, wishing that I’d done more hill interval sessions.

 

On not knowing where your bike has been and on being stung on the head by a striped beastie

I rode to Cheltenham yesterday and I rode back today. It was a slightly circuitous route and several strange things occurred. In the badlands near Kingswood I was stung on the head by a wasp. 

It flew into the vents in my helmet, buzzed around then unleashed hell. I felt like it had punctured my brain and stopped at the side of the road. Televisual visions flooded my mind and checked my breathing carefully lest I experience some kind of anaphylactic catastrophe. I waited for the shock to wear off then took to wondering what Charly Wegelius would do. firstly, he’d sell his jersey for £2.5k to a bunch of win-hungry italians, but secondly, he’d get the hell back on his bike and drag the bunch back up the leaders. I followed his example (the latter one). I recommend Wegelius’ book, Domestique. It’s better than most cycling books. 

It was a hot day so I stopped at Sainsbury’s in Stroud to buy some jungle juice and replenish my bottle. This was part of my pre-ride strategy, I only had one bottle on the bike because the other cage is used for a spare tubular tyre. 

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A One Act Play

A country road. A supermarket. 

The entrance area of the supermarket is broad and capacious. The double doors are located to the left, approximately 3 metres from the ‘food to go’ section and lottery kiosk. The front of the shop is all but empty, 2 or 3 shoppers loiter near the baskets. A large and misshapen security guard leans to the right, propped up against the ‘information’ point, attempting unsuccessfully to curry favour with the lady behind the desk. 

A cyclist walks in with his bicycle and stops at the chilled drinks cabinet, trying to choose a suitable refreshment. He looks as though he has just ridden a considerable distance. The security guard approaches. He looks as though he hasn’t ridden more than 2 miles in 20 years.

Guard: I’m sorry Sir, and I can see that it’s an expensive bike, but you can’t bring it in here. You’ll have to leave. 

Cyclist: Why is that? 

Guard: Because it’s policy. 

Cyclist: Can I see the policy please? 

Guard: We don’t have to have everything written down you know. We’re not obliged to write policies. 

Cyclist: So is it a policy or isn’t it a policy? 

Guard: It’s our policy. 

Cyclist: I thought your policy might be to allow a thirsty cyclist to wheel his bicycle across six feet of floor into the shop to spend his money and buy a drink to replenish his thirst. 

Guard: I don’t want to argue, it’s our policy. 

Cyclist: I’m not arguing. You’re trying to frame this discussion as an argument to suit your lack of an argument. There is no argument. My question is, why is it the policy to not allow bikes in the front of the store? 

Guard: Because we don’t know where they might have been. 

Cyclist: Well, I can help you with that. This bike has been along the road from Bristol to here. It’s also been to France several times. It frequently rides uphill. On rest days it sleeps in the spare room with some other bicycles. What about your trolleys? Where have they been? 

Guard: We know where our trolleys have been. They’ve been in the car park. 

Cyclist: I have concerns about them resting outside in all weathers with the peoples of Stroud being able to touch them and do things. What about the prams and pushchairs? And shoes? Can you vouch for their provenance? 

Guard: If you want to argue then I’m going to have to ask you to leave. 

Cyclist: We’re not having an argument and you’ve already asked me to leave. 

At this point the cyclist replaces the bottle of chilled pop on the shelf and leaves the store. 

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The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. On the return leg I got lost looking for Birdlip Hill (which i’d descended the day before) and rode up a curious climb called ‘Dog Lane’, which goes all the way up the escarpment then all the way down. I found Birdlip, it has been resurfaced which makes it marginally less painful going up and quite a lot quicker going down. I managed to break 50mph for the first time in quite a while. I have unpleasant memories of riding up Birdlip in the thick of winter on a 68″ gear. I will never do this again. 

I managed an average speed of 18.5mph for the 50 miles from Bristol to Cheltenham. I took in three big climbs; Wotton, Crawley, and Slad Valley, topping out at 3,500 feet of ascent. On the return my legs complained and I got lost in Stroud (punishment for arguing with the security man), as well as getting lost looking for Birdlip. My average speed was 16.5mph with a similar amount of climbing. It has been two good days of cycling. I’m not sure i’ll have the legs for tomorrow’s hillclimb at Frocester, so may rest and save my energies for the weekend. If I had sufficient room in my pockets I would have brought home some good muck. 

 

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