.........................................................................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!