I rode a hill climb yesterday. I use the verb loosely. Perhaps “attended” might be more accurate. It was the VC Walcot promotion on the Avenue in Bath. Over the past few years the event has grown in size and stature, to the point where it’s now one of the prestigious events in the West DC calendar. This has nothing to do with the climb and everything to do with the unstinting efforts of the club to get people riding, create an atmosphere and promote it in ever more exciting ways. Hats off indeed.
Make some noise (eat apple first)
I was excited, but several things conspired against me. On arrival one of my erstwhile clubmates asked jokingly “who’s this chubby man?”. It wasn’t the best start. At the weigh-in the night before i was 73kg. It’s about 5kg over my fighting weight. I chose to ride gears.
This was a lazy choice based on riding out to the event and not being bothered to change the sprockets on the back more than once. I got some stick from Rob Borek who is a proper fixed monkey, and his partner in crime, the young Warby.
On the start line my sprocket made a hideous crunching noise and the 17t exploded. The race was over before it started. I shifted it across and then rode off in one gear, the only problem being it was the 12t. I had to stop again and manually shift it back to the 23. It was a proper scheiße-show.
I got things moving and cranked it up a bit (after being overtaken by 3 or 4 riders whilst communing with my bike) in order to avoid the embarrassment of walking up the hill past the really big crowd with pots, pans, whistles, airhorns and cowbells, only to be balked by a huge 4×4 coming down the hill, so sat up and dribbled up to the finish. The timekeeper even asked me if I was really finishing. It was embarrassing. I carded a 5.09, a shade behind the winner’s 2.07, before it was later rounded down to a DNF.
The quest for a socially acceptable racing performance continues next week oop north, where I will be riding two events I planned to ride and one event I planned never to ride again, only to accidentally enter it this year after misreading the organising club and course.
Reviewing your season is an important element of bike racing. Like many other cyclists I set a series of goals at the start of the year, usually not that far into the off-season. It helps keep me focused on what I want to achieve.
At the end of last year i had PBs of 20.47, 52.15, 1.58 and 4.11.30 for the 10, 25, 50 and 100 respectively. I came 4th in the WTTA hardriders series with 705 points.
My targets for 2012 were as follows:
sub 20.19 for a 10 (club record) sub 51.30 for a 25 (club record is 50.53, might be out of reach, but we shall see) new PB in a 50 than this year sub 1.05.12 in a 30 (club record)
I was also aiming for an improvement in the WTTA series in terms of placings and times. In essence, i spent the first half of the season not really troubling these lofty ambitions, apart from the WTTA, where i seemed to be absolutely flying. These are events which are untroubled by the need for a fast day or course, they are hilly and challenging time trials in scenic areas of the countryside. I came 3rd at Chippenham in the most brutal conditions imaginable, then 2nd at Gillingham, 2nd at Severn, 2nd at Bath, 2nd at Cheltenham, I won at Westbury, came 2nd at Minehead and won at Burrington. In the first 6 events I found i was consistently around 2 minutes faster than a year ago. It was good enough for 717 points and second behind the evergreen Rob Pears. The Westbury win was a cracking weekend because I won the BSCC Open 10 the day before.
I then dabbled around doing a few different events and tried my best not to crash in road races. Doing a bit of massed start was not on the agenda at the start of the year, but it was worth a punt and I ended up getting my 3rd Cat licence pretty quickly and entirely down to the fact that one of the races had a team trial at the beginning so i sat on the front for most of it and we annihilated the opposition. The opening road stage was slightly different, i sat on the front for a bit and was annihilated by the opposition. I am undecided as to whether i will be taking the road races more seriously next year. If i do it will be hilly ones only.
In about August time things suddenly started to happen really quickly. I lined up a tilt at a few fast courses and tried to make sure I had the form to go with it. This meant travelling up north for the V718, a sheltered and quick strip of tarmac near Hull. It was one of those days where everything suddenly seemed to be in alignment and I bagged a 30mph ride. 4 weeks later i repeated the trick and turned in a 19.42, taking a minute off my PB and nearly a minute from the club record.
I also hit the U7b which is my favourite course but notoriously slow. i somehow managed to scrape under 21 minutes out in the graveyard (twice) with a 20.46 being about as fast as last year’s PB on any course. The same weekend I made the trek over to South Wales for a last crack at a quick 25 – my PB had been elusive all season. The conditions and the headwind were finally in the right place and I managed a 50.21, which was also good enough to shave 30 seconds from the club record. During the event I was passed by Michael Hutchinson who was en route to competition record of 45.46. Jeff Jones also managed a super fast 47.40.
Hill climb season wasn’t in my aims because i felt the Rake didn’t suit me. I rode it anyway, and managed 35th place. I should probably have made it a goal and tried harder, or ridden a smaller gear. I’m not sure I could have tried harder, unless i went as far as Jack Pullar who spent 25 minutes puking violently into a bucket after his effort. The real goal was Burrington, and despite it being a slower day I managed to win the event. It was my 5th open win of the season, along with the Westbury Hilly, Severn 10, BSCC 10 and the Haytor HC.
And that’s it. Since last Sunday I’ve eaten an significant amount of Cadbury’s Chocolate.
It’s been an extraordinarily successful season on a personal level. I made progress i didn’t imagine was possible. I also got married in March, which outdoes even a short 19 in terms of amazingness. I have no idea what happens next season. I am going to give it some thought over the next few weeks and then come up with some aims. Having just said that I have no idea what happens next season, i do know a couple of things: the Stang will be featuring quite heavily in my end of year plans, it climbs 800 feet in a little over 2 miles; and it’s likely that my early season may be preoccupied with an exciting new arrival that unusually doesn’t come from the local bike shop.
I went out on the hill climb weapon this morning for a last session prior to Sunday’s race. It involved several repetitions of short and steep hills in and around Bristol. I did Constitution Hill 3 times and Clifton Vale/Hensmans Hill 3 times.
I then rode through Ashton Court which was still and quiet in the damp autumnal weather. There were some scary looking stags making horrible and angry noises in some kind of lascivious deersex way.
I’m going to give the Rake the once over on Saturday, but that’s it until the race on Sunday… only 3 minutes left.
The National Hill Climb this year takes place on Rawson’s Rake in Ramsbottom. It’s known simply as ‘The Rake’ and takes anything upwards of about 2 minutes and 20 seconds. If i can get under 3 minutes i’ll be pleased.
The contenders have been honing their form in events all over the place, with some eschewing the longer stuff in favour of the sharp and nasty lumps, hoping this will give them the legs and lungs for a crack at the biggest prize of them all. Tejvan Pettinger is avoiding Burrington this year and has been seen far from his usual hunting ground, hurting himself on the molehills of Reading in an attempt to galvanise those fast-twitch muscles into life. Rob Gough has been his usual imperious self at Catford, and Matt Clinton has suddenly found some course-record bagging form. The scratch rider is Gunnar Gronlund, last year’s winner. Second seed is Jack Pullar who scalped almost everyone at Monsal Head, including the Downing brothers. Lynn Hamel is looking good for another victory in the women’s event, but it’s also good to see previous champion Ann Bowditch back on the startsheet.
I’m off at 77. It’s a nice number. I am happy with this. I am not seeded and have very few expectations. It’s not a climb that suits me so I will be pleased if I don’t disgrace myself. I intend to do what i did last year, albeit at a distance some 3 and half miles shorter, and ride as hard as I can. I would also settle for 24th, but suspect I will be coming in some way down the field. I will also be riding the orange hillkiller with a 57″ gear. I am looking forward to seeing the massed ranks of the Blackburn CTC, including messrs Stott, Helliwell (x2) and Edmondson. They are good value.
Above all, it promises to be a real corker of an event. With Peter Graham at the helm it can’t really fail to be anything else other than spectacular. If you are near Ramsbottom in about ten days time, come along and watch. It takes place on a closed road and the atmosphere is unlike anything else in cycle sport. At the very least you will be a vicarious witness to the privations of each rider as they struggle with the gradient, the bicycle and themselves.
Today’s slice of unrelenting masochism took in Providence Lane in Long Ashton. It’s about 1300 yards long and it rises steeply over the first 400 yards, before easing slightly. it then pitches up again, eases, with a final ramp over the top. It’s technical and difficult to get right, which makes it good to train on. When riding fixed on a climb there are times when you’re undergeared and times when you’re overgeared; managing this is the key to success. I put an 18t cog on the back to give me a 60″ ratio. It was tall initially, but once over the horrible first bit it becomes more sensible. All in, it was 1200ft of climbing in 5 miles. Very quickly.
I rode up and down it four times, hitting it hard each time. I even took my helmet off and turned my cap around, that’s how serious i was. I felt vaguely nauseous for about 45 minutes afterwards. And i don’t think i really really went for it. I tried to, but i didn’t manage to absolutely muller it. I think it was close, my breathing was ragged and i was hurting. The 2nd and 3rd repetitions were the hardest, the legs were full of lactic and there was no end in sight. I was spotted by members of the Clevedon who were driving down the hill in their team bus just as i was pausing for breath prior to the 4th assault.
Tomorrow i’m riding the Dursely Club event on Stout’s Hill. I shall ride fixed, but it’s not really the right bike for the course by dint of the first 200 metres being flat. After that i’m off to yorkshire to do a 10 mile time trial, where all the 5s and 10s have ridden quicker than 20 minutes this year. I am on a 10. The event closed on a 21.25. Crazy. I shall also be factoring some reconnaissance on Jackson Bridge, Holme Moss and The Rake.