Riding Uphill Fast: GDW Open Hardrider

After last week’s cyclonic descent into hell, this week’s race was played out in beautiful conditions. There was some lingering mist across the tops of the hills, but it was warm enough to dispense with the kneewarmers and the heavy duty overshoes. it helped the scarring memory of last week to gently fade into the ether. Dennis and Paul are two of the timekeepers that appear regularly at district events, they are very friendly. i usually chat to them on the startline, it takes my mind off the torturous effort to follow. Dennis remarked that i would have nothing to write about on the blog – something like: ‘clement weather, riders happy, cycling done’. i was secretly flattered that he read my blog. in all the chit chat i forgot to set my garmin so ended up fiddling with it on the way up the climb.

very nasty start, very fast finish

There were a number of bristol south riders on the start sheet, 6 in total. Reinforcing our presence was the magisterial wonder of Allen Jane’s car with its custom BSCC paint job. It rounded out the picture beautifully. It was great to have so many clubmates, there is a solidarity amongst those of us brave enough climb onto the hilly time trial carousel (and an even more pronounced solidarity amongst the VOTCH – veterans of the chippenham hardrider – brigade).

Dan, Allen and the team car. there is a lot going on in this picture.

the gillingham course is relatively short, coming in at 19 miles. it starts with a 1.2 mile climb up and out of bruton which the organisers designated a ‘prime’, with a prize going to the fastest ascent. once over the top it’s relatively straightforward for a while, before hitting a series of morale-destroying false flats and 1/2% climbs. not unlike a night out at the Vauxhall Tavern: exhausting and beset by unnecessary and intense drag. these sections link together to form a sort of 6 mile ‘super drag’.

unnecessary super-drag
Gillingham Hardrider Course

once up and rolling i enjoyed most of it, except for the long and drawn out false flat. it hurt a lot and i felt that i wasn’t going fast enough. in my head i think i managed to convince myself that i was, and that everyone else would be experiencing similar issues. this sort of relativity is helpful and stops me worrying and getting ground down by the tougher sections of the course. A hill is always a hill, you expect it to take a toll, but a false flat into a headwind plays a deceptive and damaging game with your perception.

I managed a 46.36 last year, good enough for 7th and a really promising ride. This year i wanted to get as near to 45 minutes as i could. this meant i would have to do a 25mph ride on a really hilly course. i figured it was possible and i would have to manage it if i was going to get 2nd place which was my ‘A’ target. I try and avoid fatalism, but Rob Pears is really very fast indeed and unless the road climbs without end for the whole 19 miles it’s unlikely i’ll catch him.

the hillclimb threw a bit of excitement into the mix. i knew i’d go for it and wouldn’t really be able to not take up the challenge. it’s essentially my pride as a hillclimber that was at stake. There’s no point referring to yourself, however obliquely, as being ‘good at hills’ if you’re not then prepared to go out and make it happen. With this in mind i opted for a really simple strategy: go really hard at the beginning all the way up the climb to bag the prize then carry on all the way to the finish without stopping. I think it was a successful strategy because these things, these horrible hardrider things, are based on how much you can hurt yourself and how hard you can go for a set period of time. yesterday i went really hard and put in a huge effort all the way round. the result of this was a really quick time of 43.37, coming second to Rob by less than a minute. I made up all of my time on the ups and he stole it back on the last 5 miles, where he rode at a 33mph average to my 30mph. i managed to beat Dave and Derek, (like Derek and Clive, but in lycra) by a minute and a half and two minutes respectively. It was a very good day, made even better by just how close I got to Rob. He sportingly said that I ‘was getting dangerous’.

I won the hillclimb prime by around 15 seconds from the next rider. This is quite a lot over 4 minutes. It was an ‘unofficial’ prize because it hadn’t been sanctioned or recorded by a CTT timekeeper – club timekeepers don’t carry the same weight. I don’t value it any less and in fact, the surreptitious nature of it feels strangely daring. You’ve got to love the anachronisms of the CTT. It’s like the freemasons, but a bit cuddlier and without the special handshake, conspiracies and blackballing.

shhh!

Next week it’s the Severn Hardrider, then Bath after that. With a bit of luck and some ferocious pedalling i might have a decent points total by the end of the month. If you’re thinking of racing any of the events this year then i’d wholly recommend them as fantastic introductions to time trialling. The details are on the West DC website.

Hardrider Round 2

Tomorrow sees the second in the series, the Gillingham and District Open. They come thick and fast, after this it’s the Severn, then Bath.

I’m optimistic of a good ride, it’s roundabout this point last year that i started speeding up a bit and it’s certainly a course that suits. it starts off on a 1.2 mile climb with a hillclimb prize thrown in. I’ll be trying to grab the prime and yet trying also to ensure i don’t crack and then ruin the rest of the race; the finest of very fine lines. after that there’s a further massive drag before it plummets to the finish about 19 miles later.

i love hilly time trials. they are a real challenge and the constant undulations make the riding much more technical, challenging and interesting. riding in a district series also makes you more aware of the odd and esoteric camaraderie of the cyclists’ universe. anyway, i’m hoping to get some more good points and maybe, if the gods of cycling smile kindly, improve or equal my best placing in a hardrider thus far, the 3rd place i bagged last week and once last year.

beyond all of those lofty ambitions, i’ll be happy if the weather is nothing like last week. i’ve just about recovered after a really lousy training week of sluggishness. yesterday i went out for a training ride, aiming to take in some hills. i bonked spectacularly after about 7 miles and had to eat a banana energy gel just to get home. there is one caveat, i tend to listen to music when out training or commuting, so failed to notice that the mudguard bridge on my raceblade longs (still winning the ‘best mudguard solution for bikes without mudguard eyelets’ competition by a country mile) had slipped down when i washed the bike and was wearing heavily on the tyre. this may have contributed a little bit to my feeling of crapness on the bike. resistance training…

The Cycling Post

Lots of people tend to have lots to say about the comic, especially its tendency to favour sportives over the domestic racing scene. very few do anything about it other than vent their spleen on various cycling forums.

Which is why the cycling post, a new online cycling magazine, is such a good thing. it has race reports and other bits and pieces, ranging across the different disciplines of competitive road riding in the UK – with a bit of cyclo cross thrown in for good measure in the shape of a great interview with Helen Wyman.

Definitely worth a read….Chapeau to James and Giles for getting it off the ground.