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CTT awards dinner


The last time I got invited to a black tie dinner, I think we were in a different millennium. Actually the CTT event wasn’t strictly black tie. The dress code said ‘black tie or lounge suit’. I still had to look up ‘lounge suit’ on my modern friend – From what I could make out,  a ‘lounge suit’ is just a posh way of saying suit. Fortunately, I did have a suit – albeit with several  layers of dust; I’ve been toying with giving it to a charity shop for the past five years. I’m kind of glad I kept it now. At least it still fitted me – I suppose one advantage of being a hill climber is that you don’t have that nasty shock of not fitting into clothes that used to fit you 10 years ago.

Actually, when I say fitted me, it was really quite baggy – they just don’t make too many suits for 6 foot 3, 61 kg,  lanky hill climbers. I guess the market is pretty small.  Anyway I broke a habit of a lifetime and spent some money on smart clothes. I bought a skinny fit, £28 jacket, from Primark. It did the job and I felt regally dressed, even if my trousers didn’t match and I was wearing the same woolly socks I wore in the National hill climb championship back in October. No one noticed, fortunately.


I can’t say I was bubbling with anticipation at an awards ceremony. I love cycling and it’s nice to win. But, I’ve never been particularly  enamoured of the getting awards aspect.


3 hill climb champions.

In many ways, I rather like the cycling time trials tradition of winning a race and getting nothing more than a cup of tea just like all the other 120 competitors.  Nevertheless, I do appreciate the sport of time trials, and it was important to be part of the annual event. To use a cliché, it’s not every year you win a National Championship (unless you’re Michael Hutchinson, of course.) I thought it great that the MC for the prize ceremony was Michael Hutchinson. “And the winner of the National 10, er… well that was me again… Queue presenting himself the trophy! nice touch!” Michael did give a very nice introduction to the achievements of his competitor Matt Bottril, Matt had a very successful 2013, perhaps overtaking Hutchinson for the first time in his career. Continue Reading →


Highlights of 2013 and targets for 2014

This is the kind of thing you only have time for when you’re lying on your back with an injury. Well, I’m not quite lying on my back, but there’s only so much internet browsing you can do, before you lose the will to live. So this is a recap of results from 2013 and a look forward to 2014.


Before the hill climb season, a few things stood out.

  • Buxton Mt TT 1st and getting close to Stuart Dangerfield’s course record.
  • Taking 9 minutes off my personal best for 50 miles. At the start of the year it was 1.49. In July I reduced it to 1.45 (up in Yorkshire). Then on the super-fast B50/6, it reduced to 1.41. (and it may have been a 1.39, but for a wrong turning)
  • I also set a pb for 100 miles in the national 100, up in Lake District. It was a good honest course, and 5th sounds pretty good, even if some of the fast guys were chasing faster courses down south for the BBAR.
  • I also enjoyed doing the National 50 down in Wales, where I finished 9th. I think this is the first year, I’ve done 3 Nationals in the same year. I hope to do more next year.
  • I also set a pb at 10 miles, though it was a case of shaving off a few seconds (19.02) on the superfast V718- course, at the end of the M65.

For the hill climb season, obviously winning the national title, was probably the most significant achievement in 9 years of racing. But, the season leading up to hill climb was also good fun. Setting course records on Snake Pass, Cat & Fiddle, Leith Hill, Porlock, Mow Cop, Guise Edge and finally on the Stang. 12/13 1st places was good. But, it was hill climb number 13, which was really the one that counted. I wouldn’t say it’s the national or nothing because that diminishes the open events. But, I’m glad not to end up with the title of ‘person who won the most open hill climbs, without winning national title.’


I did a total of 10,570 miles during 2013. The biggest month was June – 1,263. The shortest distance was Feb – 412. There were 717 miles done in races.

I don’t want to calculate how many miles I did driving to races. I should just be grateful to my parents’ B&B up in Yorkshire.

Targets for 2014

The stand out target for 2014 is to retain the National hill climb title on Pea Royd Lane. I think it is possible, though perhaps a little more difficult than the Stang. Setting course records on Leith Hill (3.33) and Guise Edge (3.23) is encouraging in that I reckon the winning time in 2014 will be around that mark.  I would love to have another go at Horseshoe Pass, I was 13 seconds off the course record – that would be a special one to get.

The other big target for 2014 will be to have a go (injuries permitting) at the BBAR competition. This is a long standing competition which involves getting the best time and average speed at 50 miles, 100 miles, 12 hour. I enjoyed the 50 and 100 miles this year, and am really looking forward to (finally) having a go at a 12 hour. I will also try to do the National 50, National 100 and National 25. I think it’s quite possible to improve on last year’s positions. I was definitely getting faster towards the end of the season.

Apart from that I will be doing any hilly races I can get to. Circuit of the Dales and Buxton hilly CC are top of the list. Also, I’m already salivating at the prospect of the Dursley Hardriders WTTA 28 mile time trial. According to sales pitch of organiser “Last year just three riders averaged better than 20 mph on a course including four severe climbs. Riders were typically 7-8mph slower than their pb for 25 mile times. This year the finish of the course includes a final climb up the awesome Stouts Hill! So that’s five climbs, three of which have been used as Dursley RC club hill climbs. One thing’s for sure, this CTT event will again have the “slowest” winning time of the year”

Apart from racing, I have very few goals, though I will continue to tick off any hard hill climbs in the 100 hill climb books, I have a trip to Great Dun Fell (Knock, Lake District) lined up. and I’ve even toyed with another trip down to Box Hill.

Continue Reading →


The simple joy of cycling into town

A week last Friday, I spent all day on my back, only struggling to the bathroom with the greatest difficulty. It’s not the most fun way to spend a day, and you do start to fear how long this incapacity might last.

But, fortunately the muscle seems to be healing quite well. After a few days of going crazy staying inside watching the ‘best’ of Christmas TV on BBC iPlayer, I was relieved to be able to get out of the house. This time, of course, taking very great care stepping out of the front door. Didn’t want to go rolling into the rose bushes for a 3rd fall of the week. Those kind of things are only funny when you watch them happening to other people on Youtube.


Quite slowly and carefully, I was able to cycle into town. It’s only 3 km or so, but it feels quite satisfying after just a few days of inaction.

My Portugal experience has been rather clouded by getting knocked off bike at 50km/h by rabid / crazy dog. But, the simple commute into Oxford did have me nostalgically looking back to those very quiet and wide roads of the Algarve.


I soon forgave Portugal all its crazy dogs after being reminded of what it’s like to cycle around Oxford.

There may be no dogs in Oxford, but I got passed (closely) by more double decker buses in 5 minutes of cycling around Oxford than I did in two weeks of ‘idyllic’ cycling around Portugal.

Perhaps, because I’ve just recently been brought crashing to earth, I’m a little more sensitive. But, it is was a stark reminder that Oxford is no cycling paradise. Too many big buses and cars for my liking. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed the simple sensation of cycling into town, viewing the beautiful spires and seeing the flooded plains. Continue Reading →


A Century Ride

It might be early December, but it’s always nice to get a century ride in. Cycling 100 miles in a day, is always a little bit of an achievement, even if you do race 25 times a year and ride 10,000 miles a year.

The last time I managed to cycle 100 miles in a day was the National 100 mile TT  back in July. It was up in the Lake District in the midst of a heatwave, I managed to complete the 100 miles in 3.46. I finished exhausted and dehydrated. Today, was just a bit slower (2.25 hour), and there was certainly no chance of heat stroke!

November and December are very unstructured in terms of training. Basically I go out cycling whenever I feel like it. That generally means cycling quite a lot. I tried to make myself have a break after the national hill climb championship at the end of October. I managed a quiet two weeks before I got an itch to get on the bike, and for want of a better phrase ‘get the miles in’. Despite trying to have a break, I still managed nearly 900 miles in November, with quite a few 80 mile + rides thrown in. I could have made a few centuries in November, but the light fades pretty fast. The biggest challenge to riding a century in deep mid winter is finding enough time in the day to complete the miles. You can’t dawdle for too long in the morning coffee shop if you want a 100 miles in December.


Bourton on the hill. Possible the most scenic village climb in England

A few weeks ago, I went out to Bourton on the Hill with a dismally slow 15.7 mph average speed. Over 6 hours for 95 miles. Any other time of the year, I might have done a 5 mile circuit, but it was already on the dark side when I got home.

At the moment, I’m not quite sure whether I’m training or just enjoying riding the bike. Even if I wasn’t doing any racing next year, I still think I’d be going out for a six hour bike ride. It’s a bit bonus if you can enjoy training for its own sake.

I’m never entirely sure of the benefits of six hour long slow distance rides when you’re a hill climb specialist. But, although I’ve no qualifications in cycle coaching, I assume it’s better than sitting on the couch stuffing my face with maltesers.

There’s a great freedom to this time of the year. In the race season, I tend to ride the same routes. I don’t want to be thinking about where to go. When interval training, I tend to go South East towards the Chilterns. It’s either flat or a very good long hill; excellent territory for interval sessions. But, interval sessions feel a different lifetime at this time of the year. So for a change, I love to go towards the Cotswolds and enjoy the quiet country lanes and picture postcard villages. Some are so beautiful, you think you’ve gone back in a time warp to the 1930s (well, at least until that Audi driver comes flying around the corners whilst speaking into his iPhone…)

Continue Reading →


Riding with Oxford University Cycling club

After many long Sunday club runs with the Otley CC, (see: traditional British club run) it was time to graduate to a more race oriented club. Arriving at Oxford University was an exciting time; as a Fresher you are confronted with an unending range of social and extra-curricular choices. I dabbled in everything from student politics to amateur dramatics (or were they the same thing?). But, cycling was my main interest. In the first year, I spent quite a lot of time riding into the Oxfordshire countryside (mostly on my own) it was a welcome break from lectures and the insular world of an Oxford college. I got pretty fit in those days, though for some reason didn’t do much racing.

My first time trial was a  OUCC 10 mile TT event at Stadhampton in October. It was ‘cuppers’ an inter-collegiate time trial run by the OUCC. I was representing Lady Margaret Hall, though I think the only one, so we had no chance of winning. I turned up on my old reliable, red Raleigh with steel 501 frame. I can’t remember my time, but I remember coming about 3rd. I beat a guy (Steve Morse) who was riding a proper time trial bike. I think he was perhaps a little peaked and intrigued at this skinny guy who had turned up on a real clanger of a road bike and beaten him. But, Steve was quite generous and a good friend at OUCC. (It is also possible with advancing years, I have misremembered events, perhaps I didn’t beat him. But, it always makes a good story to say you turned up on a road bike and beat established testers!)

On the way out to the time trial, I felt a bit of an outsider, but after beating a guy on a time trial bike I felt like a proper rider now!

OUCC team photo from 1998. Click to enlarge

OUCC team photo from 1998. Click to enlarge – spot the two hill climbers – clue look for the hair.


Italian elegance, I didn’t have.

There was a good social scene with the OUCC – we would often meet at Magdalen College bar, which was a great place to meet. The backbone of the club seemed to be primarily the ‘eternal’ physics post-graduates. Riders like Tom James, who seemed to have been around since alpaca tights and time trials with dead-turns. It meant club runs were pretty well organised going through a maze of Oxfordshire lanes, usually to places like Cirencester and Stow on the World. I was probably half expecting club runs to be the same as Otley. But, they were faster and only one tea shop stop, as opposed to the positively heady tea drinking of Yorkshire. Oxford University CC was definitely a bit faster moving than the more sedate world of the traditional British club run. One good rider, David Ryan was known to push the pace on Sunday club runs to be able to be back in time for his rowing training on a Sunday afternoon.

Jim Henderson was a modest chap, but sometimes on the autumn club runs, he would occasionally shoot up a hill as if he was a sprinter going on the flat. I remember one short steep hill near Stow on the Wold and Jim disappeared up the hill at top speed. I remember thinking ‘it would be great to be able to do that.’

Despite being quite fit, it never really occurred to enter races. I thought you might as well wait until your are ‘better’ But, the club was keen on entering the student team time trial and of course the Varsity 25 in May. This was something to aim for, and we started our Wednesday morning team time trial training, 9am sharp. This was great fun, 3 hours – 60 miles at a decent pace around the flatter roads towards Thame. I was in the ‘B’ team. The ‘A’ team was quite strong. Despite training through the winter, I got injured or something a week before the big event, so in the end didn’t go and race.

It was a similar experience in May, I was supposed to race the Varsity 25 mile TT, but some injury prevented me racing. To compensate, I did get to stand on a roundabout near Kingston Bagpuize and marshall the event we were promoting. I have quite vivid memories of marshalling on this roundabout for some reason. Whenever I race on the A420, I usually think of the time I was standing on that roundabout. The Varsity was a bit of a downer in those days, despite having a super hill climb team, this young tester called Michael Hutchinson had an irritating habit of turning up and putting 5 minutes into everyone else. I think it meant Oxford had a real draught and several years passed with Cambridge dominating the Varsity 25 mile time trial.

But, if Oxford University Cycling Club wasn’t dominant on the flat, we did have a pretty decent hill climb team. In 1996, Jim Henderson came third in the National hill climb championship. In 1997, Jim went one better and finished 2nd behind Stuart Dangerfield.


Jim in 1998 after winning national title. – With OUCC support crew dressed as badgers. I think that is on Nick Pashely left.

In 1998, Jim, riding for Oxford University Cycling Club, won the National hill climb for the first time on Dover’s Hill (Jim’s blog). Continue Reading →


Just missing out on the medals

I’ve been looking back through my cycling logs to have a look at previous seasons. I must admit I did think quite a bit about what happened in previous national championships and why I was just outside the podium on several occasions. This is a potted history of the past 9 national championships.

1993 – My 1st hill climb at Otley CC (placing unknown, close to last)

2004 – My 1st season racing. My first open was a Cardiff Byways triple hill climb. (3 hill climbs in one day. I finished 2nd out of 11 – a good experience, though I’ve never been back!). I also came second in Burrington Combe (Bristol South CC), with a time of 7.10. I haven’t often beaten that initial time. In retrospect it’s a shame I didn’t go up to  north east for National champs it was won by Jonathan Dayus  just ahead of James Dobbin on Winter’s Gibbet a fairly long climb.

2005 12th (2.39.1) – Rake  – 8 seconds behind 3rd, 12 secs behind 1st. My first national championship was at the Rake. A great experience, I finished 12th. I didn’t quite know what to expect. But, it was great crowd and atmosphere. I rode it pretty well, though I had very bad wheel slip at the steepest climb. (I was still Richard Pettinger in those days. Report at | 2005

2006 – 7th (5.18) Peak Hill – 11 seconds behind 3rd, 36 secs behind 1st Devon. I did little racing in 2006. I few slow 10 mile TTs.  so I was pleased to finish 7th, only a few seconds off the podium. I thought if I can keep improving at this rate, I could get on the podium quite soon. James Dobbin was a standout winner from David Clarke. Peak hill was a great hill, flat at the bottom getting steeper and steeper. I remember it was a beautiful warm sunny day. Blog on 2006 national hill climb.

20077th (7.14) Cheddar Gorge –  6 seconds behind 3rd, 23 secs behind 1st Another season of little racing. I only did 2 hill climbs in the lead up to the national championship. My Guru, Sri Chinmoy passed away October 11th and I went to New  York for a week. Hill climbing took a back seat that season. Despite racing only once, I turned up to national championship and finished 7th, just a few seconds behind 3rd place. I was pleased. If I’d had more racing, I could easily have got a few more seconds. But, it didn’t feel important in 2007. It’s a great climb Cheddar Gorge. Steep at the bottom then a long drag to the top. James Dobbin retained his title from David Clarke. A young Alex Dowsett finished 18th.  Results at CTT


Bank road Matlock

2008. 14th (2:42) Bank Road, Matlock, Derbyshire. 16 seconds behind 3rd, 18 secs behind 1st – A short and spectacular hill climb through the town of Matlock. Again a light season of racing, and a climb that didn’t really suit me. I remember setting off really fast and being light-headed by half way up. I slowed down utterly exhausted. At least I’d given it everything. I remember being quite taken by experience.  The winner was Matt Clinton ahead of Bill Bell and Jim Henderson. (blog of 2008) | Bank Road Continue Reading →


Loading up the training

The general theory of cycle training is going through periods of high load – where you stretch your efforts, then allowing a period of recovery to allow the training stress to translate into improved performance. I can’t claim any particular strong record in knowing how to peak for a particular event. But, I assume the general principle is to train hard  and then allow a tapering period in the last two weeks. It means these first two weeks of October are pretty high intensity. I’ve been trying to get a lot of intervals in this week. Plus the training effect of races at the weekend. The last two weeks of October will then begin a gradual decline in duration of training, though still keeping some high intensity efforts.


This weekend is another hill climb double. Firstly on Saturday, it’s back to my old club Otley CC for their double hill climb header on Guise Hill (Pateley Bridge) and Norwood Edge.  I first did this hill climb over 20 years ago. But, in those days I was more interested in the Sunday club runs than efforts of 5 mins. In fact my first couple of hill climb entries, managed to put me off hill climbs for the next 13 years…

On Sunday, it’s a new hill climb for me – Horseshoe pass, organised by Wrexham CC. I’ve never seen the climb before. But, 3 miles at a constant average gradient of 5.5% ticks quite a few boxes for me. With a course record of just over 9 minutes (set by James Dobbin), it is very similar in length and duration to this year’s national championship on the Stang.

The competition is strong with Richard Handley, Rapha CC (fresh from a top 15 placing in the Tour of Britain), and former national champions – Matt Clinton and James Dobbin on the 120 strong startsheet.

As much as you can for a hill climb, I’m kind of looking forward to them.


My early bikes

The last post on the traditional British club run made me want to look for a photo of the old Reynolds 501 I used to ride. In digging through photo albums, I found a few of my early bikes and my introduction into cycling


Apparantely, this is me, aged 3 (I guess it’s all downhill from age 3) I don’t remember this bike at all. I think I once rode this bike down the stairs by mistake. Fortunately, I don’t remember that incident either; though my mother seems to think it is amusing to share that story with everyone who comes to visit.

My next bike was a bmx, though I can’t find a photo. I think it was on a bmx I learnt to ride a bike. Funnily enough as a young child I didn’t like cycling at all. I remember at school having an opportunity to get my cycling proficiency badge. But, I said I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t cycle. I think I was about the only one in the whole school who never passed their cycling proficiency test! Continue Reading →