Burrington Combe Hill Climb: Fix Up Look Sharp!

Last night i didn’t sleep fantastically well. It was classic case of ‘race eve nerves’. At one point I was literally dreaming about the Burrington Hill Climb. In my addled and sleep-deprived mind I dreamt that Tavis Walker obliterated the course record with a 6.21, slicing a mere 30 seconds from Tejvan’s mark in 2011. I was glad when morning came around. I ate some nutella on toast and then rode down to the Mendips.

In a roundabout sort of way I tend to target the Burrington Hill Climb (even in my dreams). I know that not having form for September and the 1st week of October is fine, as long as I can sense that it’s not far away. I’m sure it’s the same for most cyclists, but you tend to know when you’re heading in the right direction: things start to feel good and the weight stays at the right place. More so than that, riding uphill at a brisk tempo becomes relatively easy. Last weekend at Holme Moss and Jackson Bridge I felt as though I was getting there; i felt light and relatively quick, even if the time and placing told a slightly different story. I had an inkling that a few more training rides this week followed by a short taper – essentially 2 full days rest – would do the trick. If i time it right then it carries over into the last week of the season and the National Hill Climb, which is pretty much what happened last year.

The Burrington Hill Climb is my favourite event and it’s the one that means the most to me in cycling terms. 3 years ago, it was my first event and I came 5th. I’ve already said this in this blog, so apologies for repetition. Essentially it kickstarted everything else that you may have since read about. It led to a transformation from being a weekend leisure cyclist, if not too hungover, to becoming a fully fledged racing snake. Burrington is an absolute measure of progress in terms of placings. If I do well, then the season suddenly becomes much more successful than it might have seemed 8 minutes previously. It’s also a classic roadman’s climb – tough and challenging, but also long and without any evil pitches in gradient. This suits me down to the ground, you can just about ride it at threshold, a sort of TT pace but slightly above the 10 mile effort, without needing to go into the total paroxysm of oxygen death. With the exception of the sprint for the line, of course.

The event was fantastically well supported with the biggest number of spectators I’ve seen on the Combe road. The bend before the cattle grid was lined with eager spectators, gladiatorially cheering the combatants onward and upwards. I confess: i forewent a long warm-up and for the first half of the race I was also cheering before heading down to race, then sneaking back down after my ride to catch the last 10 or so. The atmosphere was fantastic, pots, pans and cowbells were ringing out along with shouts and cheers. Rich Lewton took some super pictures.

Marc Allen throws his gurn at the climb, i wave a cowbell and shout aggressively in his face to help matters along.

I had a minor degree of gear anxiety before this event. My sneaking suspicion was that it would be quicker on gears, but I’d opted for fixed, so that was that. I stuck a 16 tooth cog on the back (39 on front), aiming for about 64″ which should have been just right, but I feared might be a tiny bit light on some of the faster (flatter) sections. I knew that Tavis Walker was also riding fixed, along with some other riders further down the field, possibly one or two more.

Tavis on a particularly lush 27″ Rotrax Super Course.

A quick run up the climb confirmed that it would be fine. I always forget that essentially you’re not going to spin out a 64″ gear going uphill. 19mph requires a cadence of 100rpm, the race is won with a 16mph average speed. Competition at the top was ferocious, with Rob Gough fresh from his win at Catford, Glyndwr Griffiths alongside having won at Cardiff Byways and nailed 4th at both the Cat and Bec, and Tavis still pedalling in the same super smooth circles he turned in a season of successful elite road racing for Wilier.

Whilst warming up Tavis said he thought the climb ‘had my name on it’. I was a bit sheepish and doubted this. He then said (and I might be paraphrasing slightly, but this is very much the gist):

‘Sometimes you just have to turn up and smash it, and know you’re going to smash it, and then get out on the road and smash it’.

I definitely had managed the first bit; the ‘turning up’, but it was the second bit that I was a bit unsure about. I told him i would certainly try and smash it. In truth, I knew i’d throw the kitchen sink at the climb, because I know the climb and was fairly sure about how to pace it.

I used my Casio wristwatch as a timer. This means starting it when the timekeeper gets to ’10’. I always forget this and then think my ride is even slower than I thought it was. This can have a beneficial effect in that I then try a bit harder to rescue things. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a Garmin on the bike. The lower slopes were fine, i got into a rhythm but with a real sense of urgency, I kept asking myself if I could turn it a bit quicker, maybe go a bit faster. I didn’t want to lose any time or pace. Rounding the corner and onto the straight ahead of the bend I could see a line of people curving round and could hear the noise reverberating around the tree-lined walls, impelling me upwards.

James Chant passes the sea of colour and noise, chasing that elusive sub-9 minute ride
(pic Rich Lewton)

Once over the cattle grid I checked my watch and the time was surprisingly slow. I didn’t think I was having an off-day, but it was just ticking over at about 7 minutes. I distinctly remember thinking that Tejvan would have finished by now (going by last year’s staggeringly quick course record) and I still had about a minute to go. The dreamtime Ur-Tavis would have finished an hour ago. At this point you don’t tend to think, ‘oh it must be a slow day’, you just tend to think ‘i’m not going well or anywhere near quick enough, but I hope that it’s the same for everyone and maybe, just maybe it’s a slow day and I can be happy with a slow time’.

mendip murkery

At the top the fog was fairly dense and it made it very hard to see the finish. You had to trust your instincts and get it all out anyway. I was rasping like Keats in Rome,  but finally managed to see the rusty cars on the right and the bright timekeeper’s umbrella on the left which signalled the cessation of hostilities. The casio said i’d managed it in around 7.50 or so. I spun back down to the bend and cheered on the remaining racers. For about ten minutes i struggled with deep feelings of nausea. I overcame these by shouting at riders.

the end of the race, the onset of nausea

it’s always great to see other riders going up, and something you don’t always get the chance to do. I cheered on Rob Gough by doing an old fashioned TdF close-up shout and cheer.

4 times as long as the Cat or Bec…

It was great to see so many first-timers taking on the unrelenting but curiously addictive challenge of the hill climb. Dan Levrier rode fantastically well, taking 17th place and carding a 9.05. It would have certainly been sub 9 if he’d reversed the cap and ditched the wellies.

Dan Levrier, bag maker and coffee enthusiast, gives it some welly

And i also managed to witness a few other people trying to put down a marker in the most contested competition of the year: Faces of Pain, 2012…

Every sinew is at the limit. The nose runneth untempered.
Tom W closes his eyes and for a few stuttered moments glimpses Elysium
Afterwards, Tom Ilet said, ‘I rode the perfect 6 minute hillclimb’. This photo was taken at around the 7 minute mark. Tom is now a clear frontrunner in FOP 2012.
I hope that this slightly skewed grin is a primitive response to pain and not a sign that Mark is actually enjoying the experience.

I was still no nearer to knowing how i’d done. I bumped into Rob Gough on the way back to the HQ and he said he’d ridden a 7.51 and was lying second. I suspected this left me in first place, waiting on Tav’s time. This was confirmed when I saw the results board; i’d managed a 7.48.9 to Rob’s 7.51.4. Glyn had handed in a 7.52.9. It was suddenly squeaky bum time. After an eternity, the remaining times were delivered by hand. Tavis managed a 7.52.3.

I’ve won 4 open events this year. Each one has been pretty amazing, but I’ve not felt overwhelmed at any point. Today was entirely different. Of all the events I’ve ridden, this one singularly means more than the rest. To win the event was overwhelming. I felt emotional and elated; my peers were incredibly gracious in their praise. Even now, as I type this, I find it hard to believe that I’ve won against such stellar and impressive riders. I’m also thrilled to bits that i managed it on fixed wheel. This shouldn’t surprise any devotees of the sport, but in these days of super-light alien weaponry, riding a Bob Jackson with 631 Reynolds tubes is a slightly brave step. Possibly not as brave as riding a 1950 Rotrax, but on a par. Bristol South CC took the team prize, unsurprisingly, with 1st, 3rd and 4th (and 7th and 10th) and the fixed prize went to Malcolm Chave of Okehampton – the chap who sportingly rode up Haytor on a 64″ gear earlier this year. Lucy Walker took the ladies prize, just nudging ahead of Claire Greenfield and Christina Gyles – a sharp BSCC ladies’ team if ever there was one.

In a sense, my season is done. It’s changed from being a pretty surprising and successful year to being something else entirely – a year that I’ll probably look back on with a mixture of awe and amazement and will be proud of in future. After getting a bit of a kicking on a few different climbs, along with a great ride on Haytor, it all came together at the right moment. I’m proud to have won this event for Bristol South CC and for John Kempe.

Constancy of purpose is the secret of success…

Death on the (Black) Mountain

There are good days, when even a headwind can’t stop the feeling that it’s a good day, and the pedalling is good, and legs feel good, and the pain feels almost good, and the bike feels amazing. And there are unspeakably horrible days, when everything feels utterly abhorrent and every fibre of every muscle and internal organ complains miserably about the paroxysm of effort.

Today was an unspeakably horrible day. It was the Welsh Championship Hill Climb on the Black Mountain in Brecon. It’s right in the heartland of post-industrial Wales and it is an incredibly beautiful part of the world, especially when visibility stretches beyond 30 metres.

the ‘view’ from the top of the Mountain

The towns and villages are full of Welsh Episcopalian chapels with rich Welsh words running around the fascias and in little plaques, harking back to a more pious and god-fearing era than the current secular world of instant gratification and fame as a goal in itself. Not that it’s any better or worse, just different. Incidentally, hill climbing and bike racing in general is the polar opposite of any notion of instant gratification. it requires intense effort over a long period of time, for scant reward and a huge dollop of unpleasantness.

Capel yn Portadawe

The Black Mountain is a wild and desolately beautiful place. The road sketches out a 4 mile climb without any major steep sections, but still rises to a finish at around 1400 feet. It’s high, but mercifully alpine in nature. On a given day, with the sun in the sky and the birds tweeting, it would be a pleasurable experience. Today, with rain slicing down in sheets of thick of drizzle and the wind whipping across the mountainside, it was most unpleasant. A car went up with kit before but i only had one jacket and it was 3 miles to the start and the warm-up so i was faced with a tough decision: die of cold before or carry stuff up the hill with me during the race. i had to stick my non-packdown waterproof gilet in my pocket so that when i came back down i didn’t die on the mountain, a sort of inverse simpson. i didn’t really care, i would be alive even if my legs were in pieces and my mind was gone.

The green scar above is the road, continuing up (and up, and up)

On the way to the start i suddenly felt the incipient pangs of hunger. i’d misjudged the timings, having eaten at 7am with a start time of 10.30. I quaffed a gel and hoped that would save the day. The climb was steady and unrelenting. I struggled from the very beginning, right to the very top. The headwind was an invisible hand of doom, pushing me back down the hill and at various points i was absolutely crawling along, chewing the bars and stem to pieces. My minuteman was making stealthy progress up the climb, like a deer-stalker following in the hoof-marks of a wounded beast, waiting to make a clean shot and end the contest with an act of benign clemency.

i struggled round the final hairpin and limped over the line, turned round and headed straight back down again. i got lost on the way to the HQ before finally getting in and then out of my wet garments. Dan Evans unleashed a proper blitzkrieg for 1st place. He is stocky and very strong and mullered the climb and his opponents into submission. Jon Shubert came 2nd and John Findley 3rd. I think i may have squeaked into the top 10, if lucky, coming in a long way down on riders i would normally beat by a margin. That’s hill climbing…

MDCC Haytor Open Hill Climb: More Pain Vicar?

The Mid-Devon Cycling Club’s annual open hillclimb is a real snorter. It rises up out of Bovey Tracey, starting near the Edgemoor Hotel in an canopied culvert, before climbing for a little over 3 miles, finishing to the left of the rock outcrop. It’s one of the classic hill climbs in the South West and were it not for its slight geographical issues would be a bigger fixture in the season. It’s a long way to schlep from Bristol, so isn’t really an event for the northern hordes.

It was used for the National Hill Climb in 1979, where Jeff Williams set the course record of 12.44 on an unusually still and clear day. Dave Pitman of Somerset Road Club was second and Armitage third, both coming in over 13 minutes. Andy Hitchens of the host club recalled Williams’ startling ride:

 “Williams looked like he’d been on starvation rations for months — he was built like a sparrow. Some people assume that there was a howling tailwind that day, but there wasn’t. It was sunny, but cool. I remember it well, because I was in third place at one of the checkpoints, but then I managed to mash my gears and ended finishing 19th. Near the end you look up at that top car park and it feels like you’re trying to touch a rainbow.”

The event is one of the monuments of Hill Climbing. It has featured in the Tour of Britain and was lined with crowds last year as John Tiernan-Locke rode away from the pack and into the lead in the mountains classification. JTL started out with the Mid-Devon before making his way into the professional ranks.

JTL in the MDCC days

The club has an illustrious list of ex-alumni; Colin Lewis, Yanto Barker and Jeremy Hunt. It’s really impressive and is probably at least partly to do with the challenging topography. I tried to find a picture of Jeremy Hunt in MDCC kit but google kept bringing up images of a simpering corrupt fuckwit politician instead, so i gave up.

The climb of Haytor Vale is a real beast for a number of reasons. It’s long, making it very difficult to pace. The gradient varies constantly; just when you’ve got into a rhythm of sorts it kicks up or eases off a bit. I think i used nearly all the sprockets and both chainrings today at some point. I tried to hold back initially then find the right pace, it worked reasonably well but the headwind wreaked havoc on my progress. I tried to ride through it but it was just that bit too hard to stay on top of the gear so i found myself changing down a few too many times. My minute-man went off like a scalded cat, out of the saddle, charging up the lower inclines. I caught him fairly quickly and he paid a heavy price for his exertions: near the top he was sick all over the front of his bike. it was quite spectacular.

haytor + fixed wheel. brave/foolhardy chap.

I clung on in and was unable to raise a sprint for the line, i was completely spent. I didn’t fall off the bike but i did think i was going to decorate the grass verge with my breakfast. I also had a nasty pursuiter’s cough that rasped and tickled and made me feel ill. It wasn’t nice. I had no idea of what time i had done, i was riding without a Garmin. I just felt i’d gone slowly and i was experiencing an unceasing hurtness.

It was slower than last year by about 30 seconds. Each year i think i’m going to go faster on this course, but it never happens – i’m getting progressively slower and slower and the weather is getting windier and windier. Despite the lack of impetus, I won. This is my first open hill climb win, making it feel particularly nice.

The afternoon saw a second race on Mamhead, near Starcross. It’s a steady gradient for about 2.2 miles, taking between 9 and 10 minutes. I was cooked, but tried to give it some welly. There were two super quick riders who pitched up having avoided the morning’s savagery. With fresh legs they took 1st and 2nd. I think i may have been able to get close to the second place rider, but the winner, Richard Oram, was class outfit. he was also wearing a class outfit, a Cipollini-esque skinsuit in the colours of Primal RT, a tour series team. I don’t think i’d have been anywhere near.

thieving cipo

In all, a good day’s riding in South Devon: 1st, 3rd and 1st overall. Tomorrow is the Black Mountain. I last rode there in 2010 and came 4th. Darran Carpenter was my minute man and he slowly stalked me up the mountain, not quite making the catch. In an oddly serendipitous bit of field placement he’s my minuteman again. We shall see what happens.

“The Dundry Drubber”

as a part of bristol cycling festival i thought this looked like a good idea, and worth a punt:

I was attracted by the words ‘a proper hillclimb up a proper hill’. less enamoured by the phrase ‘climb the fearsome local hill from all four sides’, but what the heck, I signed up for a slice of masochistic horridness. it’s not really like me to do a sportive, not that i consider them beneath me, but like mountain bikes, morris dancing and incest, they’re not really my thing.

this one seemed more like a linked series of 4 hillclimbs, so i put aside my reservations in the name of ‘bristol cycle festival’ and joined my fellow nodders cycling comrades in a savage celebration of all things bike.

in truth, it was more than a bit unpleasant. it’s essentially a 25 mile trial. easy peasy. apart from the 3000 feet of climbing. even then, it’s a bit of a blast, and with a some luck on the descents shouldn’t be too much bother. all of this was rapidly undone: in a fit of masochistic manliness i opted to ride it on fixed wheel. i geared down to around a 62″. this was intended to give me something – anything – to play with on the descents, whilst allowing me to ride up the climbs without coming to a standstill.

i smoked the first climb, dropped everyone (it wasn’t a race) and then just twiddled the gear on the descent and waited for everyone to come past. it was quite funny. 3 people came past, then i got on with my ride, in sort of sillitoe-esque pained solitude. a couple of other people caught me later on, i guess i finished somewhere around 7th.

where others were charging down limeburn hill at around 40mph, i maxed out at about 22mph, and that was way too fast, my hips and legs were swivelling and spinning like a teenage Mod dancing at the wigan casino on a fistful of purple hearts. i wrestled with the bike, the gradient, and the contact point where rider meets saddle. going up was also uncompromising, the hills were steep and long, with one particular ascent sticking in the mind; surprisingly it was one i hadn’t tackled before. it comes up the east of the escarpment, narrows considerably and kicks to around 20%. this made it tough. it was rendered almost impossible by the wet, muddy road surface which reduced traction considerably. i had to stand up in order to turn the pedals, but couldn’t do so because the rear wheel spun out alarmingly. in the end i sat down and forced the gear over, probably at about 10rpm. it was sheer brute force and leg strength that got me up without bailing out.

the organiser also managed to squeeze in chew hill, a steep and nasty brute that isn’t a part of dundry at all. cheeky. still, it was good to nail it on fixed. a few chums were there, along with a some clubmates. Glyn and Neil, who rode at yesterday’s Swindon Hillclimb, rode off the front once they’d caught me on the first descent proper, but were awe-struck by my choice of machine. i think they were also awe-struck at my rank stupidity and the hubris of the whole endeavour, but i’ll settle for either.

it was a great training ride, and i won some coffee – a whole tub of special coffee from mud-dock. i had a choice of prizes (everyone got a prize, but the earlier you finished the better the better the choice of prize), but went for the arabica. i may even do the loop again this week, but on gears, i don’t particularly fancy dealing with the ensuing double hernia should i try to repeat today’s foolhardy adventure.

in other news, yesterday’s double hillclimb at swindon was ok. it wasn’t amazing. i thought i might be quicker than i actually was. pete tadros royally put everyone to the sword on the long climb, nearly a minute up on my time. i think i was sixth, less than 5 seconds behind rob gough (it wasn’t a distance that suited him, but i’ll settle for that) with around 9 minutes and 30. it was long and shallow. on the shorter one i did less well, and was probably beaten before i started.  i should have been more aggressive and less of a wuss. instead i started in the small ring and tried to manage the pain on the way up. it takes a few events to get into the uncompromising hillclimb mindset. i should have it down by the end of next weekend – i’ve got 2 double stages. that’s four hillclimbs. rank idiocy.

Shap Fell Hill Climb

Yesterday I made the epic trek to the lake district to take part in the Kent Valley Road Club hillclimb. It’s 9 miles long and finishes at around 1400 feet. It’s never really steep, and there are several sections of slight downhill. the last 2 miles could probably qualify as a nasty hillclimb though, it’s steeper and quite daunting.

i rode my condor acciao, which is considerably heavier than my old hillclimb bike, probably an extra 2.5 kilos. The wheelset was a set of zipp 340s, and they were lovely. however, i can’t help but feel that i lost some time on the ascent due to the extra weight. some other riders used time trial bikes, and the winner, tejvan pettinger, rode with tribars. it’s one of those thorny ones where there’s no clear benefit to either.

i managed third place with 30 minutes dead. I am pleased with this, it was a windy day, again, and i held off the scary challenge of a legion of Scottish racing cyclists – their national junior team was on the way home from an Isle of Man stage race and broke the journey with a quick bit of hillclimbing. One of them – Tom Arnstein, was riding at Revolution when I spectated in January. Quite a strange experience to be riding in the same race.

Peter Greenwood came second, he is a racing snake in his 50s, who set the course record some time ago. pretty impressive.

this is the steepest  descent you can see, with the cyclists in the foreground starting the battle with the last two miles:

prior to the M6, Shap Fell used to be a fearsome route over the high ground…

Frome Cobble Wobble

Tomorrow is the Frome Cobble Wobble. it’s a savage and very short hillclimb up a cobbled street in Frome. It should be a really fun day out, there are a lot of riders signed up. I’ve entered in the fixed/ss category and will be using the bob jackson vigorelli. i have no idea what will happen; it’s probably too short for me, and the powerful men may well be able to go off hard and cling on. i shall give it some welly and hope i don’t get an injury.

after this, it’s hillclimbs all the way, 6 weeks of brutality. next weekend is haytor, and then a national warm-up/dry-run on dovers hill, with a two stage hillclimb. i’ve been seeded on a 5 – as high as i’ve ever been placed, this adds pressure, but also makes me feel secretly pleased. the big names are riding this one, lots of very very quick riders, including a gaggle of previous national champions. i like the events, i like riding, i guess i like competing – but i don’t like the ‘not-knowingness’ of it all. or maybe i do, because without the sense of the abyss, there would be no sense of achievement. this bit is hard to explain. i think i may need to take some time to try to write about the competitive element that makes racing so odd, how it shakes my brain and rattles my psyche.

hill climb season

the short and brutish hill-climb season is all but here; and as i’ve loudly made it my season’s aim, it means i have to start working a lot harder and racing much more than i have been. this entails lots of hilly rides, seeking out savage climbs and riding them at pace, frequently above what might be comfortable. i kicked off my training proper (after a delightful enforced absence with belle in italy, eating pizza and ice cream) with a couple of rides into and around the mendips; these hurt a lot. it can be hard to find the motivation when other things are happening, but also when the weather is absolutely vile, as it has been for some time. i threw caution to the wind and went out in all conditions.

some of my favourite climbs near here are:

dundry – from both sides, although i prefer the longer, more subtle climb; it’s now right on  my doorstep which is a cause for much rejoicing.

blagdon – up through the village, straight on, around, and up to the top of the mendips. essentially, it climbs from the lake at the bottom, but i see the start of the climb as being the junction of the high street and the main road. this one is a total stinker, about 14%, if not more, and long.

burrington – the location for the BSCC hillclimb; it’s not overly steep but it is long and requires very careful pacing; i like this one a lot, but feel pressure when riding it because i know it’s a race hill.

wrington hill – a sort of hidden gem, it’s a wall, a complete beast, but thankfully quite short.

there are others, the mendips are littered with climbs edging up and down the escarpments; deer leap, draycott, brockley, red hill, cheddar gorge… it’s relatively easy to go out on a road ride and find you’ve done over 400o feet of climbing in an afternoon, much of it very steep; this is no mean feet, and matches the kind of height gain you’d find ascending ventoux. my friend chris has a ride he does once a year called ‘every climb in the mendips’, and unfortunately the title is literal, it takes around 8 hours.

so yes, hill climb season is pretty much here – and mine started last night with the dursley club hill climb, up stouts hill in the cotswolds. this is a short and sharp climb into a state of penury and wobbly legs, and this hill and I have a bit of previous – it featured as the last climb in the Dursley Hardriders back in April; i seem to remember limping up it in the granny ring on my way to seventh place. it was a very different experience last night; i took the fixed wheel and ran about 65″, which may have been a trifle too tall. i was hoping for a good placing – possibly even a win; being a club event it could have turned out to be a fish and chipper, especially considering the damp and miserable conditions. but really, the main aim was to wear the race number and experience the training benefits that subsequently occur.

a bit more about the conditions before i go on – riding in the rain is a tricky thing – it’s not that pleasant; but it is manageable on a winter bike with full guards. riding a lightweight hillclimb bike means a genuine soaking is on the cards; on the way back from the race i had to wait at the train station for half an hour, getting very cold indeed and feeling not unlike ian stannard. well, sort of.

however, riding up the hill, through the mist and fine rain, underneath an ever-darkening canopy of ancient deciduous woodland was an emotive and curiously uplifting experience; the sort of thing that you don’t get to do because it seems like a silly idea. on the climb the pervasive gloom bought out a genuine and unexpected ethereal beauty. i was chasing my minuteman, and he steadily emerged out of the darkness, gradually acquiring a distinct outline to distinguish him from the murk beyond, like a crespuscular being fighting a private elemental battle with the incline.  later, when on the way back through Uley i saw a flock of circling crows cast as blackened, twitching Vs against a blanket of grey fog; as distinct as stars in the cloth of night.

it was an informal affair at the startline, as befits a club event, signing on at the back of a car and so on. at first i took the wrong number, but survived my error. i knew derek from dursley would be racing, and he was the one to aim for – but then the situation changed somewhat when James Dobbin turned up. He’s a former national hillclimb champion and rider of some repute. and that was that really; thoughts of the win disappeared in the time it took him to extract his team-issue bike from the back of the car. he flew up the mile long climb, which has sections of 14%, and meanders at around 10-12%. his speed was breathtaking, and chastening. he broke the course record with a time of 4.59, derek took second in 5.45 and i got third in 5.47. doing it fixed was an experience, and a good one – but i think i lost time at the beginning where the first 200 metres are pretty flat; i was spinning out at this point. there’s another one next week and i shall try it on the gears to see if there is any difference. the weather may well be sunny – i certainly hope so, but the memory of the inclement conditions will linger for the right reasons.

The Hardest Ride of All

today was the Dursley Hardriders WTTA 28 mile time trial.

i say ‘time trial’ in the loosest possible sense of the word; it’s more a savage assault, with each rider being brutalised by 5 filthy, evil climbs in the cotswolds. the race even starts on a steep ascent, the pusher cackles audibly and off you go – and with a ‘note to self’ i must remember if i ever do this parcours again to not start in the big ring.

this was the sales pitch from the organiser:

“Last year just three riders averaged better than 20 mph on a course including four severe climbs. Riders were typically 7-8mph slower than their Line 2 times. This year the finish of the course includes a final climb up the awesome Stouts Hill! So that’s five climbs, three of which have been used as Dursley RC club hill climbs. One thing’s for sure, this CTT event will again have the “slowest” winning time of the year”

this pretty much sums it up; hill climbs are designed to destroy all but the most psychotic of riders. they are events that employ catchers.

and this event had three hill-climb courses, and two other hills that are worthy of hill-climb courses. in other words, perfect! hurrah for hills! i have been anticipating this event for weeks, in the hope that i might be able to get a good result here, but telling myself not to get too excited, to dampen down any expectation. this became more important after last week, when i thought i rode well but managed a paltry 18th place at the Swindon event. (Although i did manage a 22.54 ten mile TT the day before, which was a bonus. anyway, back to Dursley). Steve and James, fellow BSCC riders were also riding, and they are both strong. Steve in particular royally kicked my ass up and down the slopes of Ventoux for 4 days, and James had the measure of me in the flat events of late. no pressure. i secretly harboured hopes that we might be in with a shout for the team place, with the likelihood of three fairly consistent times.

i went off hard (in the big ring, like a klutz) and sighted my minute man before the top of the climb, this gave me a boost because i knew him to be a quick rider. i had to let him go for this very reason, choosing to wait until the climbs and not try to catch him on the flat and thus blow a proverbial gasket. i took him on the next climb, he got me on the descent, until the 4th climb, whereupon i dropped him and he never got back on terms, which was pleasing; and i felt i was going well. it hurt, but i found a rhythm on each climb, using a 12-25 on the back and 53:39, i regularly found myself three cogs up, roughly in the 22 or so, apart from the last one, which really did hurt.

end result was my best placing yet, a totally thrilling (for me) 7th place, 5 minutes down on Derek Smetham who produced an astounding ride to win, but only 2 minutes down on David Kiddell in 3rd. Other firebrands included robert gough and luke dunbar, two prodigiously talented riders; Rob came 9th in last year’s National HillClimb and is a course record holder up and down the land. frightening stuff.

further success – BSCC took the team prize, which is really satisfying, with James in 9th and Steve in 13th. All in all, a fantastic day.

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