Early season sprightliness on the A361 (FDW 10)

The first race of the season is probably the worst one of the lot. It’s the moment when all the pre-season fannying around is dispelled in a few short minutes and you find out in simple terms whether you’re going well or riding like a sack of potatoes. As such, there’s a hefty degree of race anxiety, even though no-one wants to turn up in peak form for the Frome and District Wheelers 10 mile time trial in early February. The best you can hope for is a sense of things being not as quick as you might have hoped, but not as slow as you perhaps feared. And so it goes.

Trotters warms up by getting into position for the ‘crane kick’ from the karate kid part 1

The weather was kind, if a tiny bit chilly. It didn’t cause any problems though and my armwarmer/kneewarmer/defeet glove combo was perfect. I was very cautious on all the roundabouts, scrubbing off all my speed and cornering gingerly, to say the least. There was some sort of time equation in my head; 10 seconds gained on the course could easily become 6 months lost after a heavy crash.

Ed and Rob were also riding in the red and gold, both on fixed. Rob opted for a healthy 97″ and Trotterz went big with a hundred and something, dialling in a long 23. I managed to ride 22 dead, 1 second slower than last year. I’ll settle for that. I was also up on a few other people which was comforting and took home £15 for 3rd place. Ben Anstie and Tejvan Pettinger were both a cut above, with Ben edging it by 3 seconds in 21.26. There were some other impressive rides, James Coleman blasted round on a road bike, making the most of his Ludgershall legs, Steve Potts put in a quick time, Richard Spink managed to complete the course in short order, even with one of his ski poles swinging all over the place.

I shall move on to the next event with a degree of confidence and the knowledge that I’ve put in a race effort – always the hardest thing to replicate in training. Apart from all of that, it was great to catch up with various people I only ever see at races, especially Tejvan who I somehow managed to miss last year. The social side of time trialling is perhaps overlooked. Today’s event had all the hallmarks of club life; a village hall, sturdy mugs of tea and hearty cake, lots of gentle banter between racing cyclists and a presentation of used banknotes in brown envelopes.

thanks to the host club

Hamilton Wheelers Easy Rider

As a club secretary I get lots of emails from cyclists looking to ride a bit more, perhaps join a club and maybe participate in the famous ‘club run’. The main source of anxiety people have is to whether they will be able to last the distance or hold the wheel. In reality, the pace is glacial and the cake stop halfway helps break up the mileage. However, until you’ve ridden 45 or 50 miles there is always an element of doubt in the back of your mind as to how you will cope. To a certain extent this continues as long as you continue cycling; i was anxious before doing a 100 mile time trial (although i probably should have been, it was an unholy shitshow) and yet i made it round. Long road races give me the willies, anything over 60 miles starts to make me worry; how is it possible to ride at 27mph for 70 miles when I can’t break 20mph for 50 in training?

This is where the Hamilton Wheelers Easy Rider comes in. They meet every Sunday, just about, at the Mud Dock Deli in Bristol for a 30 mile loop out into the countryside. It’s flat and mellow, building up the distance and helping newer cyclists gain confidence with their bike, with riding in a bunch and with bigger miles. I’d recommend it if you’re not sure about things and want to dip a toe in the water. Several people also use it as a chilled out Sunday ride, a break from the hectic base club madness and relentless training, which is exactly what I did this morning after a big week. It was also an opportunity to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen for a while and to talk bikes. There were lots of new people along; including two who for some reason didn’t make it past the cafe at the beginning, i’m not sure why. I hope they make it out again another time.

Easy Rider: A Photostory

The ‘meet up’ is at the Mud Dock Deli, overlooking the harbour and the tops of the cranes
I opted to ride fixed, a popular choice for the day. The Bob is very comfortable and a really lovely bike: steel is real.
Rob bought a huge bag with him containing several packets of Soreen in case of emergencies. Trotters was also on his Bob Jackson Vigorelli.
Tim Wilkey had some sort of HD GoPro. He looked quite stylish in his racing garms.
It was good to see that Sean Yates has found gainful activities to keep in busy in his retirement
At one point the sun came out, it was blissful.
Trotters went full ninja

It was great to meet new and old people and a lovely end to a week of fairly intense cycling.

Perspectives on the National Hill Climb Championship

There are a number of photo galleries online.

Velo UK have a comprehensive set.

Chorley CC have captured some frightening hill climb gurns.

There is also a video nasty on youtube:

There are various race reports and blogs:

Cycling Weekly.

Tejvan’s take on things. 

Hamilton Wheelers…

This image is from Velo UK. It encapsulates the climb: rider in complete agony, struggling to keep it together, spectators having a whale of a time, beaming from ear to ear.

Hell Climb

Dundry Hill sits silently on the outskirts of Bristol, luring unsuspecting cyclists to their doom. It offers up 4 different ascents of varying degrees of steepness. The climb up from Queens Road is the beast of the litter. It’s known simply as ‘the steepside’, but is also called ‘Broad Oak Hill’, and it pitches up alarmingly. East Dundry is reputedly even worse, with a scarred and pitted road surface and a savage gradient. I have fond memories of trying to ride up it on a 60″, but being unable to sit down because it was too steep, and unable to stand up because of the most ridiculous wheelspin. It didn’t help that the tyre tracks looked like they’d been carved by chariots and the road was smeared with cowshit. In stark contrast, the ‘easiest’ takes in Highdridge road and climbs gently for about a mile before throwing in three short, sharp ramps and a nasty bend. This last one was the setting for an atypical ‘guerilla’ hill climb this afternoon, laid on by the mighty Hamilton Wheelers.

Tim Wilkey of the Hamilton Wheelers. The bins in bishopsworth are wifi enabled.

It attracted around 45 riders, divided into 3 categories: pros, bros and girls. To qualify for the pros you had to have ridden either a CTT or BC race at some point. It’s a loose interpretation of the word ‘pro’, but with my palmares (audible chortle) I was happy to ride with the other ringers. It was essentially a hillclimb with riders off at minute intervals. There were some added bonuses, including some hand-ups along the way.

Hand ups. Bank of Hell.

 

This is a great idea and tends to be something you see more at cyclo-race races. The Muddy Hell event at Herne Hill has a shortcut which includes the enforced imbibing of a shot of tequila. Incidentally, Muddy Hell was responsible for some of the most inspired and impressive fancy dress bike handling ever seen.

I was off near the end with the other pseudopros (sounds like something taken as part of a TUE). The weather was lovely, in fact it’s been a particularly lush weekend to be out on the bike. Despite yesterday’s races, or perhaps in spite of, I felt really good and the legs were working well. I went out fairly steadily on the first bit where there isn’t much of a gradient, there’s only so much you can do with a 65″ gear before the bike transforms into torture device. I waited until the left turn for strawberry lane, maybe a bit before, then i went full gas. I grabbed a dollar and felt really pleased with myself for doing so, then carried on up to the finish where a stonking great crowd had amassed to watch the riders. There was a surge of noise and it was all over in about 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

Mark kept his race face on. Not for him the indignity of racing for socks.
No such issue for me. I wanted that dollar. And those socks.

Lucy Walker absolutely blasted up to take the girls’ prize with a savage 7 minutes something. She will go well on Burrington. Dan Alford took the bros’ category with a pre-meditated assault on the climb and a time which would have got second in the pros, coming in with a 6.45 or thereabouts.

BSCC chairman Dave Braidley looking resplendent in his ‘Hell Climb’ jersey

It was a fantastic end to the weekend and great fun. Events like these, run slightly surreptitiously and open to anyone, represent the first steps in competitive cycling for many people and it was clear that some people were getting the bug. In fact, my first race of sorts was a hilly alley cat three stage thing in Bath. Having had some completely unexpected success i figured i may as well enter CTT hill climb. I then had a further bout of completely unexpected success. I have had three years since where competitive cycling has been a defining feature of my life and a constant source of happiness and wonderment.

Just when you’re thinking about hitting up Wiggle for a winter gilet, you win this badass piece of technical fabric. BEST PRIZE EVER.

 

The Hell Climb is grass-roots and community based, not because that’s necessarily what Tim, Ed and Christian set out to do, but just because it is. Above all, it’s hugely enjoyable and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Right now, with a miasma of deceit, lies and denial swirling around the professional sport in all its forms, grass-roots and amateur cycling is where it’s at. A huge pile of real-life kudos to everyone who rode today.

Hup, Hup, Hup.

 

 

Marginal Gains

I’ve missed a few races lately for a variety of reasons. Each one seems to have been a float day with people turning in bristling times, scorching across the road surface and whispering convivially afterwards at just how ridiculously fast it was out there. At the weekend, whilst I was in Wales (albeit enjoying myself with the Strada boys) my fellow testers had a grand day out in Cirencester. Over a third of the field set a new personal best, most by at least a minute.

This week i’ve been trying to recover, but also keep things ticking over. I was exhausted yesterday and could barely turn the pedals, grinding my way up Whiteladies Road and being overtaken by Grannies not even using their granny ring (don’t let this innocent statement conjure up unwholesome images). This evening I opted at the last minute to take a trip out to the Graveyard to have a bit of a thrash at the Dursley10. I like the U7B, it’s my local course, it’s just not particularly nice. It is hilly from the turn and nearly always windy. I went because i thought it might be a little bit floaty and didn’t want to miss another floatilicious bonanza to tell the Grandchildren about in years to come. That fabled night on the a38 near Falfield, oh yes.

The lay-by for the sign-on has been undergoing some changes of late. There is a large building being erected. Tonight an enormous juggernaut was parked up. It had huge cowhorns on the top and as i walked past the cab it was blaring out ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton. There were also several pages of a bongo magazine lying on the road. It was all a bit Shane Meadows.

I didn’t do too much of a warm-up, opting instead to ride around and see if my legs were working. I took it relatively steady from the push, rather than my usual hell-for-leather, guns blazing charge for the turn. It didn’t feel that slow, but i noticed i was having trouble catching Ed Trotman, my minuteman. He was on a bit of a pearler as well, and knocked about a minute off his PB. Once around the turn, i measured it over the climbs then just tried to annihilate myself for the last three miles. It seemed to do the trick, i crossed the line for a 20.55, just inside the magical 21 minute mark which is seldom beaten on this course. The key difference is that the speed never really dropped, i hit a steady 28.5mph and generally held it at or around that figure. It’s my best and most satisfying ride of the season.