Saturday was a double hill climb near Aldbourne, Snap Hill, organised by Swindon R.C.
It was a small but select field. Quite a mix of riders from a few old timers to some young road racers looking for a qualifying time for the National Championships at the Rake later in the year.
The first hill was a long, shallow effort. It was 2.2 miles averaging 3%; at it’s steepest it was 5%, and there was a section of downhill. The weather was sunny, but there was a stiff headwind. I learned from last year that with a 3% gradient into a headwind, your best choice is a time trial bike, or at least road bike with tribars on. I might have used my road bike, but I couldn’t fit my tribars because they are for oversize, and I’ve just bought some new lightweight smaller size handlebars (it’s always complicated this light weight bike stuff).
Anyway, the time trial bike felt good cutting through the wind which was as challenging as the relatively mild gradient. The climb was fast and I managed to win in a time of 8.32 – which took 4 seconds off the course record set be Pete Tadros (8.36) last year.
After the first climb, the plan was to cycle back down to Aldbourne, get road bike and then cycle back up first hill climb and then down to the other side of the hill. The problem is half way back, I started to panic. Was it 40 minutes to start of second hill climb or 30 minutes? If it was 30 minutes I would miss my start time. Should I risk cycling back for road bike or risk missing start time? Unfortunately, I have a bad track record of missing aeroplane flights (e.g. turning up at the arrival time in Dublin for plane’s departure from heathrow. Then there was the time in the Dominican Republic..)
I thought better to lose a few seconds rather than risk missing start so I cycled over to the second hill on time trial bike, and felt a bit sheepish warming up for a 17% climb on a low pro time trial bike.
As it happens, I would have had more than enough time to get real hill climb bike. But, by then I was stuck with low pro.
The second climb was quite different. Firstly there was a strong tailwind so the first section was quite fast. But, then around a corner the gradient lifts sharply to 17%. Here the time trial bike did start to feel a little heavy and awkward as I was pulling on the tribars. At the top, the climb flattened out and I finished sprinting on my time trial bars.
The worrying thing was that I didn’t quite make as much effort as I would like for a 2 minute 30 seconds climb. You can tell how you feel after the race. It was a big effort, but I wasn’t dying and feeling light headed, like I will have to later in the year. Perhaps it was harder after just doing another hill climb, 40 minutes previously.
I finished in a time of 2.30.44. I had missed the course record by 2 seconds (2.28 set by Robert Gough in 2011)
However, I won the race by the smallest of possible margins. The second place rider did a time of 2.30.77 (three 100ths of a second!) at least that kind of winning margin justifies spending £XXX on a 350gram front wheel.
I haven’t seen the official results, but I think James Wilson of Supernova Cycles was second, with Richard Cartland of Team Corley cycles also very close at 2.32.
On the first hill, I was 1 minute ahead of James Wilson. On the second hill we were effectively the same. That shows the difference that bike choice can make. But, it also shows how different hills favour different kind of riders.
It was a great day, and good fun.