The common book of cycling prayer has a nice quote. It goes something like... 'a hill-climber's life is short and full of woe. He cometh up in a small gear and is cut down like a flower when the results are published'.... The shortest event in the cycling time trial calendar, hill climbing is probably only for the hard core. It's an adventure in anaerobic suffering. It might last 3 or 8 minutes but rarely longer.
Its naïve to think you can jump sports without putting in the hours, but as long as you don't take things too seriously, its possible to get involved without making a fool of yourself. Unlike the running world, where you can rock up to most events and enter on the day, the cycling powers of B have determined that you have to pre-enter this type of race. I've had to commit therefore to a number of events well in advance of knowing how good or otherwise things might go.
Last week was a short hill climb in Northumberland. It was a day after I had panned myself at a fell run and it went poorly I suppose. Today I found myself warming up on a mile climb south of West Auckland in County Durham. It was two stage hill climb time trial. The first hill was at 11am and a second climb of a different hill was scheduled for 1pm. Riders set off at one minute intervals.
I rode 3 miles down to the start with a lad from Manchester and had a good natter. As I was fourth off, I checked out the hill, riding up it once and then went back down and lined up. The objective was not to feel as bad as I felt last week. As the lactic builds and you force yourself up-gradient its an effort to keep a smooth rhythm. Its a battle between you and the hill and you have to conquer it without parking up and waiting for the bus or grabbing the next riders jersey for a tug as they fly by.
The first hill, Brussleton Bank, was a mile long with a steep incline in the middle. The tarmac surfacing was poor and it was twisty-turny. I grafted up and up and looked for an even cadence but to no avail and finished just under 6 minutes. As I sucked in the air, I wondered if I could have run it quicker. 'No' is the answer. I was lying 19th as the results were posted back at the Countryman pub, the HQ for the event in Bolam. I had a piece of flapjack and reclined in the car working out my strategy for Stage 2. It was easy... 'Go faster'.
The pub car park was beginning to fill up as I got back on the bike and rode down toward Ingleton village. Normal folk going for their roast. I felt hungry as the smell of hot food filled the air.
The second hill was long with a sharp climb about a quarter of the way up, but from then on, the gradients were forgiving with two long easy straights ahead. We also had a tailwind and the tarmac was smooth. I felt stronger and more confident as I wellied my way to the finish. My time for a similar distance was about the same and I finished 18th.
One of the side effects of this sort of exertion is a dry cough, not dissimilar to what you get when you run 200 or 400m, and there was plenty of it as the event drew to a close with the presentation from Ferryhill Wheelers. The season is short, but this sort of affair is a nice change from the usual pavement pounding.