A Pathe News video of Kent’s 37th Annual Hill climb championship on Brasted Hill.
Love the braces, woolly jumpers and billowing shirts. Some chaps really look like they are going so slow they are about to fall off. That’s a proper hill climb. The crowds are amazing. I suppose people didn’t have tv to watch or computers to stare at in those days.
Brasted Hill, 667 yards long. (average gradient 1-7)
The last weekend before the nationals is often Bristol South CC hill climb on Burrington Combe. 2.2 miles averaging 6%. A nice steady gradient, giving a different test to the shorter sharper climbs, like Bank Road. I’m not sure how long the event has been run for. I started riding in 2004, but I know it has been going for much longer.
113 riders were on the start sheet – another excellent turnout, showing once more the surprise rise in popularity of hill climbs in recent years. When I first rode in 2004, just 43 tested the time keeper.
In the past week, the weather has turned from late summer to autumnal. As we sat in the Burrington Combe cafe before hand, we could see a carpet of leaves falling. After a fashion, this could be south west England’s own “Race of the falling leaves”.
For those not doing the national HC, or moving onto the mud of cyclo-cross – this race is often the last of the season.
Despite doing well at Burrington Combe in recent years, I did consider dns, due to persistent injury. It is a bit tiresome, if for no other reason – it doesn’t make a great blog, when the primary purpose is giving updates on a slow moving injury. Anyway, I thought it’s only 2 miles so I can’t do too much harm.
I had quite a short warm up – on arrival I preferred to spend 20 minutes in a cafe with some friends who had cycled out from Bristol. With not much time left, I just warmed up on rollers. I usually go for a cycle around nearby roads, but it was quite a cold morning so I kept to the rollers. Though by the time I got to the time keeper, just after 11am, it was starting to warm up a little.
Today was the Otley CC hill climb on Guise Edge and Norwood Edge. The mens winner was Dan Evans (Team Elite) with a new CR on Guise Edge. The women’s winner was Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire RC)
The weather was pretty good for October, though a slight headwind on Norwood Edge made it a hard second leg.
Before this morning, I was a little undecided about whether to race. I’ve ridden properly just once since last week, and have to admit it’s hard to keep up the same enthusiasm when training is hampered and there is pain before the start of a hill climb. But, I saw a physio on Thurs and he seemed to think it is OK to keep riding. Hopefully exercises will sort it out just in time for the dark months of winter training…
Spread out over 22 years, it was my 11th Otley CC hill climb.
First up was Guise Edge just outside Pateley Bridge. I was optimistic I would be able to do OK on this climb. It’s only a short 3 minutes or so, and I’ve had a good track record in previous years. I rode up the steep bits quite well. I kept it in the same gear and didn’t lose any rhythm. Then in the middle it flattens out a little bit so you try and get up a bit of momentum for the last left hander. Once over this I had a look down at the computer. It said about 2.10, which I was quite surprised. It meant I would do a better time than expected. However, I regret looking at computer, I think it upset the intensity and focus of the previous 2 minutes. I looked a second time and I saw the 3sec power had fallen to 250 something. The kind of power you can do in a 100 mile TT. I think for a 3 minute climb, you really want to just ride on feel and not look at anything.
It was a long drag to the line – a bit further than I seem to remember. In the end I did a 3.23.1, which I was quite pleased with. Dan Evans set a new CR of 3.13. Kieran Savage (Team B38) a 3.17.
Interesting stat. There has been a new course record on Guise Edge for the past 7 consecutive years. I took four CR in a row, now Dan has taken two in a row. A lot of good riders have been up Guise Edge in the past six years including former champions Matt Clinton, Gunnar Gronlund and Jim Henderson. The lowering of record is indicative of the improving standards. Also, it was a good entry of 60 riders in todays event.
I used to do relatively better on the longer Norwood Edge climb, but I feared that a lack of training would be more noticeable on a longer climb, where aerobic fitness becomes more important. Also, if you’re not so well trained (or possibly advancing years) a second hill climb after a 3 hour gap is harder work. I never felt particularly good going up Norwood Edge, despite some enthusiastic cheering from spectators on the side of the road. I did a time of 5.14, which was my slowest time on Norwood edge since 1993, when I rode a steel 501 Reynolds frame up Norwood Edge in 6.55 or something suitably slow.
There was a record 132 entrants for the third running of the Newbury RC open event on Walbury hill. With a closed road for the event, it attracted a lot of juniors, which was good to see. There were also quite a few riders, who are not hill climb regulars – perhaps attracted by a good promotion, closed roads and a hill that is not too ridiculously steep.
The hill is 1883 m long with a max gradient of 10%
The winner of mens event was Isaac Mundy (Oxford University CC). The women winner was Emma Grant (University of Bath Cycling Club
I’ve still some trouble with hip muscle, which has meant not starting Reading CC hill climb this weekend on Streatley and Goring Hill. I can still ride a bike, but it’s holding me back sufficiently to stop hill climb races; hill climbs are hard enough when you’re fully fit.
I tried to do a half-hearted hill interval the other day, and felt I had legs of jelly. It’s a long time, since I’ve felt so little power in the legs. I’m optimistic it might be on the mend, but the hill climb season can come and go – and before you know it the clocks go back and its all over. If I can get fit, it will be interesting to see the impact of 6-8 weeks of not training.
In 2014, when I was coached by Gordon Wright, he seemed to observe how little difference two months of training did to an improvement in my performance. I don’t know whether it works the other way, but it feels a long way to climb back up.
Why do you always get injured when the weather is unusually good? I’m sure when the Autumn rain, wind and cold comes I will be fighting fit.
With a bit more time on my hands I’ve been reading a book “Feet in the Clouds” A tale of fell running and obsession by Richard Askwith. I may review because, although not cycling, there seems considerable overlap with amateur cycling.
I’ve also written a post at Sri Chinmoy Races – Experiences of self-transcendence. A look at my previous sporting endeavours such as winning the 4 mile Menston Village Fun Run (under 7 category). I left out the fact I was once awarded “Menston Cricket Club under-13 fielder of the year”. But you don’t want to boast too much about these top-level sporting achievements.
Kirkstone pass is the highest major road (A592) in the Lake District. It reaches a height of 1,489 feet (454 m) and affords great views of the surrounding lakes. There are three different routes to the top of Kirkstone Pass, each offering there own challenges. The hardest is ‘The Struggle’ which takes the shortest route from Ambleside to Kirkstone Pass. It is the shortest in distance but the steepest and requires over 400 metres of climbing. The other two ways, on the main road (A592) are less steep, but make good long challenging climbs.
From Ambleside, the road soon becomes very steep around swooping corners. The road surface here is very smooth (it was recently replaced), but it doesn’t make it an easy ride. For a considerable distance, the gradient is between 18%-20%. It’s a real lung breaker.
Yesterday there was a huge surge in interest for Kirkstone Pass ‘The Struggle’ It was a great joy to see the professional peleton really struggle up the Struggle. In Belgium you may get many 20% climbs, but at 4km long, this really split apart the peleton.
Bradley Wiggins was captured ‘walking’ up the last part of the Struggle, perhaps a slightly mischievous nod to Froome’s running up Mont Ventoux in this years Tour, but Wiggins seemed to be giving the spectators a lot of joy!
When watching cycle races on tv, my mother always asks so where’s Bradley? I always say these days ‘he’ll be at the back having a laugh’ – It’s hard to explain how you can win the Tour de France, win an Olympic gold in world record time, but still be at the back of the peleton in the Tour of Britain.
It’s the start of the hill climb season, but, in the past few weeks, my main efforts at climbing have involved walking up two flights of stairs to a New York apartment. I’ve had a bad hip for several weeks. It’s one of those mild injuries you think must sort itself out in the morning, but has proved stubbornly persistent. In New York, I saw someone who massaged and gently stretched legs. It created a few reassuring clicks – the physical therapist thought some hip joint was slightly out of alignment. We will shall see if it is the solution.
Time is running out to get back on the bike. I was looking forward to the hill climb season – but without any training, I’m looking forward to the prospect a lot less. I suppose, you can do hill climbs on no training, but it is hard to have the same enthusiasm. On the positive side, I’ve been relatively injury free since 2010 – I’ve had a good run for the past six years riding in 76 opens since the start of 2010. If I had to be injured – there are worse years than 2016.
At this time of the year, I get the odd email from hill climbers asking for advice. A few articles cover most things:
Question: This year I’m entering as many hill climbs as I can, which means on one weekend I’ve got a race on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. I’ve raced Bec and Catford on the same day for the last couple of years, as well as some local events. These are a bit longer though, around 4 mins each. Do you think that hill climbers are able to put out the same wattage and performance multiple times over a couple of days?
In my own experience, you do start to see a decline in wattage – even for 2 minute events. It depends how much recovery time you get. If I did a 100% effort in training and then repeated 10 minutes later – I might see a 20% fall in power. If there was a recovery of 2-3 hours, it might be more like 2-5%. But, that is a guess. I often do two events in a day and have done 3-4 events in a weekend. It is definitely possible.
It was interesting watching the Olympics and how the team pursuiters could knock out faster times in the final than in the semi-final a few hours earlier. They don’t just train to be fast once a day, but also to be able to repeat the effort a few hours later.
Do you have any tips on how to keep the legs ticking over or specific recovery steps to take between or right after events?
Not really. Some spinning on rollers after event to help warm down. Protein recovery. Stay warm and avoid standing up. Maintain energy levels, but don’t eat too much solid food (one bad experience at an event where I thought gap was three hours, but it turned out to be two hours!)
The North York Moors is a national park in North East Yorkshire. It has the largest expanse of heather moorland in the UK, but in cycling terms is more famed for the abundance of very steep climbs, with plenty of 25% gradient signs, and the odd 1 in 3 – if you’re lucky!
The North York Moors is only 40 miles from Menston, but I’ve never been before. It’s just out of range, and with the Yorkshire Dales nearby, there’s always other hills to do. But, I’ve been reading about some of the climbs like Boltby Bank and Rosedale Chimney and so finally made it over.
I drove to Sutton Bank and saw many signs welcoming the Tour de Yorkshire on the 1st May. I think the race route goes down Sutton Bank, but to many people’s disappointment it avoids any of the really epic 25% climbs. Perhaps a decision made not for benefit of cyclists, but for the calvacade of cars, which could get stuck on the hairpins of Rosedale Chimney.
First up was Boltby Bank. A one mile climb with a significant 25% gradient at the end. It looks imposing from the distance as you descend into Boltby. Don’t go off too hard, as it gets tougher near the top.
Clee Hill is the highest A road in Shropshire. A long climb, offering (weather permitted) great views of the surrounding Shropshire countryside and beyond. If you take a left turn off the main road, you can also go all the way to Clee Hill summit proper which, at over 500m, makes a pretty decent climb of nearly 4 miles, averaging 5%. In fact, the quiet single track road heading towards a golf ball on the summit, reminded me somewhat of Great Dun Fell. The climb is quite similar to Great Dun Fell – just half the distance and half the average gradient.
I was staying in Bromyard for the weekend, so I looked at surrounding maps for the highest point to aim for. Clee Hill stands out, though there is quite a choice of hills around this part. I recognised some of the surrounding roads from previous time trials starting in Great Whitley.
I have been doing quite a big block of endurance training, not really doing too many hills, so it was nice to do a few hills for a change. Still a long way from hill climb season though.
With the mercury rising to a heady 38 F 4 C, I went out for the first ‘interval’ session of the year. The curious thing is that 4 degrees felt relatively warm, compared to the previous days of 2 degrees. Usually 4 degrees would be unbearably cold, but its all about expectations. Low expectations is the secret.
I went to Watlington, and was going to do some of the hills heading into Chilterns. However, there seemed to be a headwind, so I went over the top and tried to find some climbs from the south direction with the wind behind. If you’re going to do the first intervals of the year, you want to make it as easy as possible.
The first interval was eight minutes into the wind up Howe Hill. It was OK, but on the lower slopes into the wind, I was struggling to keep the power ticking over 300 watts, which is the kind of a power I’m supposed to be able to maintain for close to two hours.
Features of the first interval session of the year.
You spend most of the session trying to work out how much top end speed you’ve managed to lose over the past three months
It can be an effort to keep your power above your FTP (300 watts) unless the hill gets really steep.
You remember how much more relaxing it is to ride without a power meter for the past three months.
Half way through, you start to think maybe it’s too early in the year for intervals.
Tentative plans to race in February are put back to March.
Despite a degree of complaining, you also enjoy it. Rather than complaining about the weather, it makes a nice change to be complaining about the bodies response to high efforts.
Rather than do five minute efforts, I choose eight minutes effort. There’s no particular logic to this, except the hills I chose took me eight minutes to cycle up. The fourth hill took five minutes, which was fine because the interval was already petering out into an effort better described as “a little bit more effort than usual”
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