Monday, 8 October 2012

velo club walcot hill climb 2012

last year was the first time i experienced the lung bursting delights of a hill climb.  for those not frequented with the concept of the hill climb they are generally organised by cycling clubs to mark the end of a season and involve riders racing, one at a time usually with a space of a minute between each other, from start to finish up chosen hill as fast as they can with the fastest person winning, it is a simple as that.  i would argue it is a discipline more suited to the puncheur than the mountain goat since hill climbs are generally short steep affairs.

sadly i am neither a puncheur nor a mountain goat but nonetheless decided to again throw my hat in the ring and take part in velo club walcot's 2012 hill climb.  the route as always runs approximately 900 metres from claverton village up claverton hill in bath.  the first fifth of the route is the easiest with relatively gentle gradients.  the course then curves slightly to the right from which point the gradient builds to maybe 7 or 8% with the last stretch possibly ramping up to 9 or 10%.  i may be a little off here or there but it presents a reasonable picture.  gradients of 8, 9 10% are fairly doable for most cycling enthusiasts but pair up gradients like this with maximum effort levels and one might quickly start to feel ones legs turn to jelly.

there were 40 starters yesterday with the first going at 10am.  after completing a 30 minute warm up on the rollers in bath universities car park i cycled to the bottom of the course. cold mist hung low against the base of claverton hill where riders congregated waiting for their turn to race up the walcot wall.  some chatted casually, their smiles masking the anxiety of the effort levels they were about to exert.  others including myself cycled up and down short stretches of claverton village's pretty lanes trying to keep ourselves busy and warm.  as my time approached i tentatively rode to the starting position where laurie and the time keeper were starting riders off.  i would go at 10.25am and in less than 4 minutes it would be all over.  the time keeper counted me down as laurie held my bike frame, i clipped in to the pedals 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!

my strategy had been to spin hard in the saddle for the first section until the course curved to the right and the gradient steepened at which point i would switch to a mixture of sitting in the saddle and attempting to inject a little extra pace out of the saddle.  i executed the strategy to a certain extent although to less effect than i would have hoped.  i did indeed spin hard sat in the saddle into the first curve but as the gradient increased i remembered why hill climb tt's are so difficult.  although the distance is short the effort exerted is far greater than is ever usually experienced on a regular ride, well that is my experience anyway.

for the remainder of the climb i grimaced and pushed myself with all the will and strength i could muster.  very quickly my quads did indeed start to feel like jelly as i sucked the cold damp air deep into my lungs.  with just under half the course remaining i entered into its quietest most shaded section, nobody was around to cheer and i could easily have quit there and then.  realistically though there was no way that was ever going to happen.  i pushed on, peddling up the hill felt like peddling through treacle, those quick slick vittoria tyres i had fitted earlier did not feel quite so fast anymore.

as i closed in on the entrance to the american museum and then the last 100 metres or so to the finish line i could hear the crowds shouting and encouraging me on.  nearly there i pushed out of the saddle again until finally the line was in sight push, push, push, stop the clock. it was over in a time of 3.45.37 placing me 22nd overall from 39 starters.  i free wheeled over to the side of the road where jon was waiting to meet me with a welcome bottle of water and a well done.  i could not get much out in response as i was panted for breath like the amateur i am.  i had managed to knock six seconds off last years time.  incidentally the winner was a certain rob gough who finished in a blisteringly fast 2.46.42 and in doing so defended his title for a remarkable fourth year.

yesterdays hill climb proved to be the most popular event so far in the four years it has been running.  this is in no small part due to the hard work both velo club walcot members laurie chalk and jon arnold put into it so a big thanks goes to them.  a big shout out also goes to the sponsors, volunteer timekeepers and marshalls and finally thanks to all the riders and supporters who helped to create the great buzz and excitement on the day.  look out for information here and here for details on next years hill climb, around the same time, which we hope will be even bigger and better.  i for one will be entering and looking to chip some more off this years time.  it is back to cyclocross for me next with round 5 (my second cx race of the season) of the western league in stroud.

betty bhandari's full set of images from the hill climb can be viewed on flickr here.


Richard said...

Congrats Jason! six seconds better...

fantastic photos by Betty!

Jason said...

Thanks Richard it was a big effort but lots of fun at the same time. I wonder if the hill climb is a tradition of the UK of whether they happen all over the world?