Wednesday, 30 October 2013

National Hill Climb Musings - The Stang

First off, I can't believe how wet and miserable this hill climb season has been, I'm far more used to crisp frosty mornings and burning lungs at the top! I think half of the climbs I've done this year have been in the pouring rain, either that or I've been stuck on the motorway in horrendous traffic all weekend!

View from the B&B window
And there's one of the reasons I'm glad Becky and I traveled up to North Yorkshire for the National Hill Climb Championships on Friday - because it took 4.5hrs to do the supposedly 3hr journey!  Getting to Reeth in the dark and rain didn't really allow us to take in the view we had the next morning.

I'm not sure if I regret Friday night's meal or not.  The Kings Arms in Reeth served the best pub chilli con carne I've ever had and it was a HUGE portion.  Needless to say I polished it off fairly quickly!

Saturday morning saw us wander round Richmond for a little while before having lunch in Reeth and then meeting up with Jack for the ride out to recon the Stang.  Riding out of the village, I thought I was going to have a heart attack, even at 200w I felt like I'd never ridden a bike before! 4 miles later and we were cruising up the Stang, with a brisk tailwind helping us along as I knocked out a few short efforts to open up my legs.  Nothing spectacular with the first run in about 10.40 and the 2nd at 11.34.

It then turned out that we'd battered our way into a headwind on the way to the Stang and 10minutes later we'd flown back into Reeth for another visit to the cafe!

Obviously the night before the Nationals I'd choose the healthy option for dinner, sausage and mash! It was then an early night, even with an extra hour in bed!

Jack on his way up the Stang
Being off at nearly 3pm, turning up at 10am felt a little bit early, but it gave us plenty of time to battle the elements to get an awning up lashed between three cars (and still trying to blow away!) which kept most of the rain off for the day.  With Jack nearly two hours earlier than me, he got on with his preparation while I talked through how to try and ride this unusually tactical climb. I then got myself a little way up the climb to watch Jack spin away past me, looking very smooth and strong.

I had to wait for Jack to get back - I only had a 50t chainring on and had forgotten to bring any spares, with the roaring tailwind thankfully I'd got my 11 sprocket back in action but I intended to borrow Jack's Quarq Elsa powermeter to replace the Quarq Cannondale I had on my S-Works.  Stripping the cranks off Jack's left me scratching my head - there was no way I could get the Cannondale ones off mine with out a specific tool.  It would be easier to swap the chainrings.... then I realised I had a compact and not a standard.  After a short panic, I just decided to get on with the job at hand!

This season I've probably not warmed up for most events as well as I should have, it's been too wet most of the time!  Luckily being out of the rain I managed to get my legs going on Jack's CycleOps turbo - which is much better than mine!  I'd actually remembered some earphones, got olbas oil up my nose and enjoying a nice healthy can of coke!  My warm up itself probably wasn't the best, but it got the legs warm and before long it was time to go.

Perhaps I overcooked the start! Photo - Rob Shields
Thankfully the rain had abated slightly by the time I got to the start and there I was on the line ready to go.  The best pacing for such a strong tailwind looked to hit the first section hard where it was most sheltered and then hope to get blow up the rest of the climb.  Perhaps my judgement of hard was a little bit off in this instance as I did the first minute at 650w, two minutes I'd still average 570w and after 3minutes I was still at 530w!

As I rolled out over the cattle grid and on to the moor the road ramped up and I got the full force of the wind blowing me sideways across the road - this was where it was really going to hurt after that first 3 minutes.  It might have been at this section where I knew I had to push on and get some speed that I lost the race. This was tough going, it was at this point where you really didn't want to be on the bike!

With the road leveling, I went to put it into the 50t ring - and the front mech didn't budge.  I knew I just had to get on, so as I hit the descent the chain finally changed as I dropped through the rollers - hitting 36.7mph - and recovering slightly from the initial efforts.

Over the rollers I just caught my minute man Ben Lane and I tried to keep it in the big ring and make full effect of the tailwind by standing up.  I just didn't have it in me, so there I was back in the small ring, just wishing for the line to be in sight!  It would be a big-ring finish, but as I got out of the saddle with 200m to go, the acceleration caused me to wheelspin just as a gust of wind caught me - I thought I was joining the sheep on the moorside!

I was glad to be here! Photo - Trevor Gornall
I'd definitely had enough by now!  Crossing the line I looked down at my time - 8.08 and I knew that this wouldn't be enough for the win. Another glance at the Garmin while I pulled some warm kit on showed average power of 429w and normalized at 460w - by far the best values I'd put out this year. I knew that this would hold me in good stead, but with the quality of field assembled I feared to be off the podium - somewhere I've not been since 2006!

After the horrific descent back down (it was slower than the climb back up!) I was soon back in the car getting warm and changed.  Becky soon came running over, "You got third!" I was in a bit of disbelief at this - I had to ask several times if this was correct!  I'd not held myself as a favourite for this climb, I knew I had potential to win, but I also knew I'd been below par for the whole season; I've not been able to dig as deep and I'd not won a single climb.  Yet this 3rd place was worth a win on any other climb, it would mean seven consecutive years on the podium - no-one else has ever achieved this! Of my 10 National Championships now ridden, only once, in 2004, have I finished outside the top 6 - being 19th. 

It was to be no surprise that Tejvan Pettinger had won - he's been flying this year and despite upping my game for the Nationals, it wasn't enough.  James Gullen also did a stunning ride to just miss out on the win.  It's just a shame I didn't pace myself a bit better to push these to even harder!

So now to forget about trialing for a while and just enjoy riding. Next year's Nationals is on Pea Royd Lane in Stocksbridge once again, I was 2nd here in 2009 and I have a feeling I can go one better in 2014!

A big thanks to all those who supported me this season - Mike Vaughan Cycles as ever and Bob at Cyclepowermeters who have both helped me with equipment and training.

My trusty supporters, just before drowning out the PA!
Becky, my parents, sister, uncle, aunty, cousin, Brian, Jack's parents & brother were all there to support me on the day - a thank you has to go out to them as they always keep me in check on the day and do a good job of drowning out the PA!

Here's the ride on Strava for those of you who have made it this far!

Full results

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Gearing up for hill climbs!

Kenilworth's Matt Clinton and Westwood Heath's Jack O'Neill competed in two events this weekend in their build up to the National Hill Climb Championships.

The Mike Vaughan Cycles duo would first take to Coventry Road Club's 10-mile time-trial around the popular Princethorpe circuit. An experienced time-trialist, Matt had ridden this course many times, passing tips on to 18-year old Jack, his first time on the course.

Good, but perhaps not the most favourable conditions would see Jack come home in a time of 23.01 – incredible considering he used a standard road bike and it was only his second ever time trial! This would be good enough for Jack to comfortably take the Junior prize. Favourite Matt lived up to expectations, riding to his second fastest time ever round the course in a time of 19.48 – well over 30mph average to take the win by 47s and 1.30 over 3rd place!

Sunday would see them slightly further afield competing in the Horseshoe Pass Hill Climb organised by Fibrax Wrexham CC in Llangollen, Wales. A bight but blustery morning for this longer than normal hill climb, but in a perfect length to prepare for this year's National Champs course. A full field of 120 riders took to the slopes of the pass, with Jack's promising climbing potential coming into show by finishing in 7th overall in a time of 10.34 and claiming the Junior prize for the 2nd time of the weekend.

Former National Champion Matt would be slightly off his usual form, taking 3rd place overall in a time of 9.38, some 23s down on winner Tejvan Pettinger. As the National are only 3 weeks away the event gave a good indication of coming form.

This coming weekend sees the two in full hill climb preparation competing in climbs both in Yorkshire and Cheshire.

Strava data thanks to