Burrington Combe Hill Climb (South Bristol CC) 2015

Dave J is missing from that pic - maybe he was the one taking it? Anyhow, two most inspiring things for me about this event were the fact that 5 from the Sri Chinmoy CT took part and the fact that it was another first for me - first ever Cycling Hill Climb. Tejvan, former National Champion, of course went on to win in a time below 7 minutes. I had my sights set on the more modest goal of breaking 10 minutes for the climb - I'd based that on nothing more scientific than a glance over the results from previous years and a hopeful optimism that I might be able to mix it with the proper cyclists in an event where low bodyweight is a plus. My preparation for the event had started just after September's Bala Triathlon when I switched from endurance rides to hills, diverting over Dundry for a climb or two either twice or three times a week on the way to work. This meant most of those climbs had been done with a backpack and not totally flat out, but in the event it proved just enough.

Dave was the first of our quintet to head off in this time-trial format race. He has a light enough bike (my old Trek) and he's a decent athlete but training in Cambridge makes it hard to get hill work into your programme! He still managed ten-something so I'm sure he was pleased with that. I was next, roughly mid way through the event. I'd warmed up by riding a rolling twenty minutes along the Chew Valley to the gorgeous village of Rickford and back, but at the start I really had no idea how to play it in terms of effort/pain versus endurance. I think on the whole I got it about right, starting conservatively and only easing out of the saddle a couple of times on this climb of roughly two miles.

Half way up I got a boost from the cacophany at Cow Bell Corner - the layby packed with fellow cyclists urging everyone on - and a glance at my watch - around 6 minutes - made me realise I was a little behind schedule. I pushed hard for the sharper climb after the layby and as I got on to the slightly flatter approach to the checkered flag, I passed a club cyclist who was either a better climber than me or had been taking it easy. He wasn't part of the event and I guess he isn't familiar with the rules of these races as he came back past me and started to ride alongside, urging me on. Well meaning I'm sure but I had to explain this "pacing" to the race organiser later who kindly didn't disqualify me! Lucky escape really as although I hadn't even known this guy, being paced for the last couple of hundred metres does make a difference. I guess I was let off on the grounds that I simply couldn't have done anything to stop it - I was flat out, breathless, unable to speak or even make a gesture to put a stop to it.

Once over the line I checked my watch and realised I'd got under the target of 10 mins by around 10 secs - official time was 9.49, fifty somethingth out of eighty something riders. I was well pleased with that, as Dave and Vilas, both stronger riders than me, were both over ten and the difference could only have been the hill work I'd put in on the way to the office in the mornings - those brief episodes of discomfort and nausea had paid me back with up to a minute on race day. Once again though it was a reminder that I'm better as a runner than a cyclist - with decent preparation in a hill race I'd expect top half of the results especially if I keep my weight below 10 stone which I'd managed to do on this occasion (9.11 on race day).

Coming down I caught sight of Aryavan on the way up, looking like a torpedo of intense concentration and clearly giving it everything he had. I was then back at the start in time to see Vilas start and later Tejvan set off, last rider to start, in his bid for victory.

All in all I had a great day, really enjoyed myself, loved being part of the Sri Chinmoy CT team on the day and even hit my rather random target of 10 mins. Maybe I'll do more prep next year and shave some time off? Thanks to South Bristol CC for a very welcoming and well organised event!

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