Birdwell and Thurcroft Hillcimbs - Sat/Sun 4th/5th Oct 08 (photos)

Thu 23 Oct 2008

Birdwell Wheelers Hill Climb, 4th October 2008

photos at end

A week before this event I had had one of my best ever time trial results in the Cat and Fiddle hill climb, finishing in the top 25% of the field.  I am training hard at the moment in order to have a good go at the triple hill climb challenge that Richard Somerset took on last year (now named the Somerset Triple Challenge), so this race came in the middle of a block of hard training which I thought could leave me a bit tired for the event.  Despite this my confidence was quite high – as Richard would put it, my ‘hope pea’ was quite large. 

The climb was Curber Edge – deep in the Peak District – which is 1796 yards and climbs at an average gradient of about 1 in 7.  Although not the steepest hill it is long enough to be classed as ‘very tough’ and it has quite a reputation – it has been used as the course for the British Universities Hill Climb Championships almost every year for the past decade.  I rode it once in my first year at university, clocking 8.16, and then again in my final year, improving to 7.01.  My first aim was therefore to break 7 minutes and prove that I was fitter than I had been whilst at university.  I thought I would do this quite easily as back in my university days I was riding quite a heavy steel bike, and I currently feel on better form than ever. 

Unfortunately most things were against me:  the wind, the rain, the gradient, the distance, the small and high-class field, and most importantly my legs.  Torrents of rain had left the road extremely slippery.  I climb out of my saddle most of the time and my back wheel barely made one revolution where it didn’t slip uncontrollably.  This left me demoralised even after only a couple of minutes when I realised that I wasn’t getting anywhere near as much power as I should have been.  Towards the top of the climb the road opens up, unprotected by trees, and the wind buffeted me from one side of the road to another.  I looked at my heart rate monitor and realised I was not trying hard enough but I just couldn’t rouse myself.  In the end I crossed the line and was promptly caught by the catchers on hand.  My speedo told me I had done 6.57, thus I had broken 7 minutes but I was still unhappy with my ride.  The time wasn’t too bad considering the conditions, but my position of 16th out of 26 was pretty disappointing after my result the previous week, and I had been over a minute down on the winner, the Premier Calendar rider Kit Gilham.  My hope pea had disintegrated significantly.

Result here:

Thurcroft CC Hill Climb, 5th October 2008

After my disappointment the day before I was determined to get a better result at this race, where a number of the same riders were competing again.  The climb was up Pea Royd Lane, a short sharp climb of just over half a mile, which according to a review in Cycling Weekly begins at 1 in 4 before dropping to 1 in 5 for the second half of the course.  It had been raining over night so the roads were damp again and up such a steep incline slippage was inevitable.  However taking a bit of air out of my back tyre helped a little with this.  I set off hard and maintained my form quite well, only faltering for 30 seconds or so mid-race where the gradient got unbearably steep and I had to lean low over the handle bars to stop my front wheel from coming up.  At the finish I wasn’t satisfied that I had measured my effort perfectly, but I definitely felt that I had given it a much better go than the previous day.  This was reflected by the results – my time of 3.15.8 put my in 8th place (out of 16), 29 seconds behind Kit Gilham who won by 0.8 seconds in front of multiple national champion Jim Henderson. 

An extended version of the Pea Royd climb (pictured below – note I didn’t take or edit the photo, but apparently the road is haunted) is going to be used for the national championships in 2009, and I must say it was a very well organised event considering the low number of entries.  Ben Swift and the local Mayor awarded the prizes, of which there was almost one for every finisher (I was one of the unlucky middle-markers who left empty-handed).  It’s a very good climb and the scenery at the top looking out across the northern Peak District and across to Holme Firth is fantastic.  It was so good that I rode the climb five more times after the prize-giving as part of my training for the famous Somerset Triple Challenge!  Although the event re-inflated my hope pea slightly, I remain convinced that in hill climbs with relatively small fields beating a significant proportion of riders is extremely hard as riders only compete if they’re pretty good climbers.  The sensible riders carrying a bit of weight stay at home!

Results here:





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