This weekend was my second race in an intensive month of hill climbing. It is my first season of racing hill climbs in a quest to gain the experience to hopefully become somewhat competitive next season. Fortunately, with a lack of experience comes a lack of pressure and I arrived at the HQ to this weekend’s race feeling free of any real targets or aims other than to try and improve on the stuff I didn’t get right the previous week.
The Severn Road Club Hill Climb is fairly similar in length and gradient to the previous weekend’s VC Walcott race. Both half a mile, with the Severn climb being a slightly lesser average gradient of 9%. This difference is mostly due to the Severn climb flattening out near the top, some useful knowledge I could have done with prior to the race. I had only ridden this hill once before while touring on my steel frame with rack and panniers, so I had no real sense of how to approach it.
Rather than ride to the race as a warm up, I drove there and warmed up in the car park on my turbo trainer. Very un-BikeVCar! After a 20 minute steady warm up, I did a few intensive efforts and then packed up the turbo and headed to the start line. I was aiming to arrive at the start five minutes early but was more like 10 minutes ahead of time. Fortunately it was quite a mild day so I didn’t cool down too much but this is definitely something to work on.
My start was a complete hash. The timekeeper was distracted chatting to someone and the guy holding me was leaning me over at such an angle that I ended up sticking out a knee and elbow to try and counter-balance my skew. Just to add to the drama I started having an existential crisis about whether I should lead with my left or right foot. It was a mess and felt like it resulted in a slow first few metres.
The first minute of the ride is a bendy ascent through a shaded woodland, the gradient ranging from 8 – 15%. Unlike the previous weekend’s race, I stood up on the pedals for the steeper sections to try and generate a bit more power and speed before sitting back in the saddle once the gradient reduced to try and spread the pain around my legs. It was a fairly instinctive approach but I felt like I was riding at 100% without going too far into the red.
The race ended earlier than I was expecting. The road flattened out near the top and by the time I’d changed into a more suitable gear I was across the finishing line feeling like I’d missed an opportunity to attack. I think the proper tactics are to empty the tank in the final 30 seconds so I may have lost a little time at the finish as well as at the start. Nonetheless, I still felt the overall satisfaction of having ridden the main body of the race at full gas.
I finished a more respectable 19th position this week with a time of 2:19.5, and was 22 seconds behind the winner so definitely some tactical improvements on last week. On to the next one…
Severn Road Club 2017 Results (Top 3):
- Charles Coleman (DRK Racing ) – 1:57.5
- Andrew Kirby (University of Bristol CC) – 1:57.7
- Russell Peace (Dursley RC) / Glyn Griffiths (73 Degrees CC) – both 2:01.1