Tuesday, 28 October 2008

National hill climb championship 2008, the big day!

.........................................................................Photo 1. Looking back down Bank street, Matlock from about one third of the way up.
Photo 2. Looking up Bank street from the same spot.
Photos 3 and 4. Me, suffering like you wouldn't believe!
After pre riding the course the week before, and doing some research into the other riders, I was actually really looking forward to the race. I knew that I could get up the climb in reasonable time, as I'd kept a little back and done 3minutes 50 seconds the week before. I also knew that I wasn't going to come last. Not that there is any disgrace in finishing last in a national championship, it's just not a possition anyone really wants to see themselves in.

The day before the race I cleaned my bikes and sorted out what I was going to take with me. I was going to ride the hill on my fixed gear bike, but I was also going to take my standard road bike with me. This was mainly because it's easier to warm up on a bike with gears and a freewheel, and it also gave me the option of using it in the race should for whatever reason I couldn't use the fixed bike.

The drive up to Matlock was straight forward, and I arrived in time to drive up the hill. Mickey and Cassie had travelled up with me to offer me some much needed moral support, when they saw the hill, I don't think they fancied walking up it to watch, let alone cycle up it at maximum effort!

We parked up in a free car park, about one third of the way up the hill and went to find the headquarters. As I signed in and collected my new, unused numbers, Matt Clinton signed in straight after me. Matt was the hot favourite for the win, having gone about 11 hill climbs unbeaten in the run up to the event. He looked fairly nervous to me, I suppose he knew lots of people were expecting him to win it easily, but he knew it was never going to be that straight forward.

Everyone seemed to think Matt would win it, but who would join him on the podium? One thing was for certain, it wasn't going to be me! I thought David Clarke and Lewis Cowley would take some beating, others were saying Bill Bell or Jim Henderson, but nobody seemed to think the deffending champion, James Dobbin would make the top 5. I wasn't so sure, In a recent hill climb on a hill near to me, Dovers, Dobbin started a few minutes after me and when he finished he looked like he was just going for a short ride to the shops. I wondered if he was trying to take attention off himself for the big day.

After a quick walk round Matlock the road was closed to traffic and before we knew it the first rider was off, setting a time of 3 mins 49.6 seconds. I watched quite a number of riders go up the hill as my start number was 141 so I had plenty off time to kill. Watching the riders go up gave me a bit of a boost, quite a few seemed to be of a similar standard to me.. and one or two were clearly much faster! When Bill Bell went past us at about half way, he was flying! It looked as if he was sprinting for the line with half the hill still to go. As it turned out at half way Bill would be almost 5 seconds up on Matt Clinton.. But would he hold on?

I stayed and watched upto number 82, Xavier Disley, as he is about the same standard as me. He looked to be going ok. On the hill climb of Dovers he beat me by about 15 seconds in 5 minutes. I then went to the car park, put my road bike into my turbo trainer, and started my warm up.

Considering this was bar far the most important race I have ever been in, I wasn't nervous at all. I suppose I knew I wasn't going to win anything, and I wasn't going to look too out of my depth. I was much more nervous earlier in the year when I was entered in a local 25 mile time trial. I was trying to go under the hour for the first time, and my time would be there for all to see. As it happens I did 58minutes 51 seconds, but all the way round I was wondering if I would make it. Now I have done it once I think I should be able to go a bit quicker next year as I can afford to start a bit faster and if I blow up it doesn't really matter as I have a decent pb anyway.

Back to the hill climb, Before I knew it, it was time to get to the start. As I swapped bikes Simon Wilson, who used to ride for my club, Worcester st Johns, came over and wished me luck which was nice. Simon had done his ride and would finish in 40th place. I walked down the hill to the start and had about 10 minutes before I was off. I popped in for a last minute toilet stop and had a quick look at the times that had been recorded. Xavier had done 3 mins 30.8 seconds. That was 20 seconds faster than my practice run last week, but I felt quite good and thought I might just beat that.

After a short ride up and down an ajoining road, it was may turn.. As I waited I watched Matt Clinton start. He looked awesome! Fully committed and very fast! I quickly put this out of my mind and concentrated on my ride. My plan was to start within myself and to stay sat down for as long as possible. This was to last for about 100 yards...

As the time keepers counted down from 10 seconds, I concentrated on breathing deeply and I was completely focused on doing the best that I could. 3, 2, 1, GO! I always start with my left foot, I had noticed that Matt started with his right, but stick with what you know. As I pushed down and turned the first few peddle strokes I imediatly felt over geared. Oh, well I couldn't do anything about that now as I was on a single speed fixed gear bike. Besides, I knew my gearing was about right as I'd made the climb on the same ratio last week. I sat down and started to spin as best as I could. On the right hand side of the road was some metal fencing which I had planned to get at least half way along before I stood up on the peddles.

I was feeling ok at this stage and as I got up I felt in control, may pace was about right. Then I got into the Crowd.. I guessed the first person would shouted my name must be someone I knew but hadn't seen. Then when it happened again and again it dawned on me that all these people had programs and were happy to encourage anyone.

I stayed up on the peddles pushing out just off my maximum power, after about 300 yards of this I started to think I'd probably gone out to hard. I tried to sit down, not really to rest, just to regain control, but it was no good. The damage was done. I couldn't turn over my peddles while sat down so I had no choice but to get straight back up and try to hang on.

I got to half way and remember hearing Cassie shouting encouragement at me, I didn't see her or Mickey as I was pushing so hard all I could do was to look at the ground a few feet in front of me. I passed halfway in 1 minute, 24.2 seconds (I only know this from the results print outs, at the time I had no idea how long I had taken). Unfortunatley the second half of the climb was steeper and being tired was going to take everyone longer than the first half.

The crowd was at it's biggest from here to the final bend, every was cheering, it was great, but it did make me push even harder. By the time I got to the final bend I was suffering big time. I sat down as the climb became less steep, my legs were on fire and my arms had gone almost completely dead. I forced myself to stand up again and give it one final push for the line and as I crossed the finish my vision was starting to go very blurred. Two marshals ran along side me at the finish, to catch anyone who had overdone it and were about to pass out, but I was ok. Sort of..

I rode a few yards past the line and unclipped fom my peddles. As I put my foot on the ground my leg just gave way and I ended up sitting on the cross bar, which is where I stayed for about 5 minutes. When my heartrate and breathing returned to normal I begain to ride down to the headquarters. After about 100yards I noticed a rider stoped and slumped over his bike. It was Matt Clinton. I asked if he was ok, which in hindsight was a silly question. After he had finished being sick, he replied, "not really". I stayed with him for a minute or two, but when it was clear he was going to survive, I left him to recover on his own.

As it turned out Matt had just managed to win the event, after being 5 seconds down at half way he won by the narrowest of margins, 1.2 seconds, from Bill Bell, with 5 time winner Jim Henderson in 3rd, only 1.1seconds further back. Defending champion, James Dobbin could "only" manage 21st. Aparently he snapped a carbon crank arm whilst doing his warm up and had to borrow a bike from a team mate.

I'd managed to do a time of 3 minutes 25.3 seconds, 25 seconds faster than my trial run last week and good enough for 96th place out of 139 starters. At half way I was 76th so I probably did start out a bit too fast, but it's hard to say if I'd have got the time back if I'd have started slower. I'm pretty pleased with my ride, I can't say the ride itself was enjoyable, but the day was fantastic. Maybe next year with some specific training I might do a bit better... Maybe top 50?

As I type this on Tuesday night I'm feeling ok, my legs transported me by bike to work today and I'm pretty sure I've not done myself any lasting damage. My lungs still feel a little sore, I've never breathed as deeply before, its amazing what the human body will put up with.
All in all, it was agreat finish to my racing year. I've set some new personal bests, 10 mile tt 22minutes 2 seconds and 25 mile tt 58 minutes 51 seconds. I did a decent ride in the little mountain time trial and I managed to win the clubs time trial points series. It's going to be a tough year to follow!

Monday, 20 October 2008

National hill climb, dry run...

With only six days to go before I take part in (I was going to say compete in, but that might be pushing it a bit) the national hill climb championship I thought I better go up to Matlock and pre ride the course.

So after a 2 hour drive I parked up and road my standard road bike around to find the start. I parked a couple of miles before Matlock so this acted as a decent warm up.

The climb of bank road turned out to be very similar to my local hill climb course of Ankerdine. The gradient and distance are about the same, although the road surface is much much better up Bank road.
Bank road starts as it continues, on a hill! Mentally it's quite a tough hill too. It's very straight for about three quarters of its distance so it will be best not to focus too far up the hill as it will seem like you're getting nowhere.
It's about 14% gradient average and has a maximum of about 20%...
My plan is to start sitting down, and to stay down for as long as I can. For me the hill is just that bit too long to sprint, standing up all the way. Although I'm not going to be winning anything myself, it's fair to say nobody has ever won a hill climb in the first 100 yards, although I'm sure somebody will have gone out to fast and lost one in the first 100 yards..
I aim to stay sitting down for about 30 - 50 seconds. This doesn't sound like much but the hill is so steep that once you have got out of the saddle you are going to have to stay there and the steepest section is about two thirds of the way up, so you have got to be able to stay out of the saddle to get over this part.
The only corner comes after about three quarters distance and is one of the steepest sections, by this time it's really just about survival, but once round the corner the last 50yards or so are a little flatter than the rest of the hill, so I'll probably sit down for a very short while before giving it everything when the finishing line is in sight. When I say in sight, that's assuming I can still see at that point... Hill climbing at maximum effort does strange things to your body..
The photo is a graph comparing the two hills, ankerdine is the slightly longer line. The other photo is of me on my hill climb bike, on my way up Ankerdine in the clubs hill climb a few weeks ago.

After riding up Bank road on my standard bike I returned to the car and changed over to the fixed gear bike. After a slow ride to the bottom of the hill I started my stop watch and started to suffer.. I did the climb in about 3 mins 50 seconds. I was trying quite hard but held a bit back for the big day. The last 100 yards or so I sat down and just rode to the top, and I would think on the day I may be able to go 20 seconds or so faster.

That's going to keep me from finishing last, but I'll be nowhere near the top. A time of about 2 mins 30 seconds will win it... I might just get into the top 100, which I'd be happy with.

So I now have no excuses, I have a light bike, I know the course, and my gearing felt about right at 39 / 20 (51.8"). Talking of gearing, Matt Clinton said, on the cycling weekly web site, that he thought he would be using 42 / 20 (55.8"). I think I could just about turn that over on the last section that is a bit flatter, but I'd really struggle on the steeper parts. That's probably why he is the favourite and I'm just one of the many making the numbers up!
People who I'll be cheering on.. (if I'm able to / not warming up etc)
No. 39 Adrian Bird. past member of Worcester st Johns cc. now rides for a local bike shop, echelon... where most of my bike stuff comes from. http://www.echelon-cycles.co.uk/index.shtml
No. 125 Tejvan Pettinger. Fellow cycling blogger. http://cyclinginfo.co.uk/blog/
No. 126 Alexandra Zebedee. If your knee holds out that is..
No. 135 Jim Henderson. Hill climbing legend! http://website.lineone.net/~jim.henderson/cycling/hc/hc.html
And everyone else mad enough to take on a hill climb!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

National hill climb championship

Well, it looks like I'm in! Here's the start sheet.. http://cj.orpheusweb.co.uk/cycling/01clubev/clbev08/ss.html
The photos are of my training rides.. 25% hills on the penny should make the national seem easy! The other bike is my lovely daily ride, nothing too flash but everything works and nothing ever goes wrong with it.

Back to the national hill climb championship...
I start number 141, one minute behind Matt Clinton, who was today named by cycling weekly as the hot favourite! It will be interesting to see how fast he attacks the hill. I'll take a good look as he leaves the line, as that's the last I am going to see of him!

I'm no expert, but I'm not sure he will have things all his own way. In the recent hill climbs I did up Dovers and saintbury I started a few minutes in front of the 2007 champion James Dobbin. I was able to watch him finish at the top of each climb, and to be honest, he came over the line looking like he wasn't even trying. OK, so Matt Clinton beat him in both climbs, but not by much, and Dobbin looked to me to have something in reserve.

While all of the big names are doing as many hill climbs as possible to get fit, I am just riding to work and back. It's not even a hilly route, so on my way home I am sprinting in as big a gear as I can pull, for as long as I can do it for. I did go on a hilly trainning ride yesterday which covered most of the Little mountain time trial route that I did earlier in the year. The toughest sections are Stamford bank and Ankerdine, made even harder by my heavy winter bike!

I guess we will find out whos the best climber soon enough. As for me, I'm going to be giving it everything and if I make the top 100 I'll be over the moon.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Hill climbs..

I survived the two stage hill climb, and with the weather the way it was survival was the name of the game.. The picture is of my warm up for the second event.. It rainned all morning which made warming up difficult. I rode the climbs on my fixed gear Specialized Langster, but took my winter bike to warm up on. Even with mud gaurds I got pretty wet.. As I understand it, the shorter the event the longer your warm up should be. Well I figured 30 minutes in the pouring rain was enough, I then swapped bikes, took off my waterproofs and leggings and rode to the start.

The first hill was Dovers hill. This has been used for the national hill climb championship in the past, and I think it may be the venue again in 2010. Anyway, earlier in the year I did a club time trial up it, organised by Evesham wheelers. It was the day after my clubs hill climb up Ankerdine where I had tried really hard. On Ankerdine I did 3mins 33seconds which was a pb for me. I'd ridden up Dovers on my standard road bike before but never raced so I had no idea how I would go. I managed 5mins 13 seconds and felt ok most of the way, so I thought 5 mins might be possible on a good day.

The day of the hill climb was not a good day though! I also messed up and sat up about 200yards before the finish thinking I was at the end... I realised almost straight away but it's hard to get going again. Even so I did 5mins 13sec, the same time as I had done before!

The next climb was up Stainbury hill and I had almost 2hours to prepair. I spent this time wisely, sitting in the car with the climate control on maximum, trying to dry my clothes! My warm up for the second hill was the grand total of the 5minutes it took me to ride to the start. I was properly cold and still wet, not nice. Even so I felt like I went better up the slightly longer and more varied gradient of Stainbury. my time was 7mins 57sec. I'd only riden up this hill once before on my fixed bike and did 8mins 15sec so I was quite pleased with my time.

My total time was just over 13 minutes, I had hoped to get just under 13, but as it was such a horrid day a few seconds outside was ok. The problem with bad weather is that some people don't turn up to ride. Unfortunatly the ones who don't turn up are usually the only ones that I can beat, the quick guy still race, so my overall position wasn't up to much, but at least I was there.

The winner, Matt Clinton managed 10mins 7 seconds! and beat national hill climb champion, James Dobbin into 2nd place. Also riding was a guy called Tejvan Pettinger, who also knows how to ride a bike up a hill.. The day before the race I googled Dovers Hill and found his web site. It's really very good.. much better than this blog! If your into cycling, check it out. http://cyclinginfo.co.uk/blog/

Anyway, I really enjoyed the event and as a result I have done something really stupid... I've sent an entry off for the national hill climb championships! 150 of the best climbers in the country going up a big hill at one minute gaps, against the clock. I doubt if I'll get in as they obviously pick the fastest riders first, but I figured I may as well enter as I would have gone to watch anyway.. If I do get in my aim is not to come last, a top 100 place would be fantastic.....

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

My week off work

I've just had a week off work, and had a pretty good time. The first weekend was spent at the bmf bike rally, which is always good.
Then I spent a few days with Kat in Wales on our penny farthings. We covered about 70 miles and had a good time. The b&b we stayed in even had an old duke box with vinyl records, cool!
I seem to be having a bit of trouble uploading pictures on here, so take a look here for more... http://www.flickr.com/photos/10804338@N06/
My final few days off were spent at the Motocross of Nations, which was awesome. Although I did have my money stolen from my tent while I was sleeping in it, which wasn't nice. Some people will do anything except go to work to get money... Although they are not mine, there are some great photos of the motocross here.. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jj-pix/sets/72157607595237992/
My next cycling event is on a fixed gear bike, but not the penny. I'm in a two stage hill climb on sunday. Also in the event is a guy called James Dobbin, who just happens to be 2007 national hill climb champion!