Unlike the TT season, the Hill climb season is a short one so there isnt much time to get used to the all out short efforts or the prolonged drags that we face once or twice a week end for two months before it's time to face the Nationals. Four plucky Sodbury riders took the trip down to Devon to join the West country army to battle the rest of the UK on Haytor.
We arrived in Devon in the evening of the before the race, it had rained a fare bit before we got there and the wind was blowing strong, at the car park at the park rangers hut free range horses nibbled at grass as GCN reporters talked bike with Dan Evans, we parked up and pulled out bikes for our recce but unfortunately one of the travelling support team had a puncture, so in the car park he stayed. The drop down to the start point was slippy and steep, making me feel better about swapping our my lightweight cork brake pads for something that worked.
Turning around we started the climb up, its not a leg breaking steep climb but it's steep enough and long, Jo informs me as you get close to the Hotel (on the day race HQ) it levels out and even has a slight down hill, "don't go to hard there its easy to overdo t before the last kick up to the finish" she warns. But to be honest all I was thinking about was the wish that the wind would stop over night as it's not much fun. Returning to the car park and joining our mobile fan club (Darren Pitman) we set of to find our digs, get some food and settle in for the night.
Race day and as per normal we Faff to much, a little bit latter than planned we arrive at HQ for sign on, the Junior race is already on, the weather is much better than the day before but the one thing that is still bothering me is the lack of a closed road to race on, it's something that's normally a given for a Nationals race but due to it being a busy road the local Council have not given permission for it to be shut.. Picking up our numbers we head down the road to a car park to set up turbo trainers. This place is getting busy and the CTT car park monitors are already barking instructions. Heidi Blunden is already here and not long after Jo and myself set up Matt Reynolds and another cheer leader Cath Taylor turn up. We set in to our warm up plan, Heidi is first Sodbury rider to go, followed by Jo and then Matt leaving me sat in te car park feeling nervous, im not going to win but you always want to put on a good show and do better than last year.
I roll out of the car park and up the road to the start line, the rider of before me is another Bristol rider Gordon Marcus, we shake hands and wish each other good luck, it's a great group of riders from the Bristol area, they share tips, advice, bike parts and are very supportive. My number is called , i line up and he count down begins, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, good luck. I try not to let the nerves get the better of me and keep my effort tempered from the start, I turn left on to the main climb and set in to tempo, there isn't much to look at apart from your front wheel on the road, the scenery is great but you can't take your mind of the effort to look at it, after a while I recognise that im getting close to race HQ and the road flattens out and what felt like a gentle slope down the day before seem steeper and I want to start winding it up, I go for some more gears but remembering the warning from the day before I keep my powder dry. This is when I come into traffic, not riders but cars that had come past me before are now slowing down and filling the road. I know I don't stand a chance of winning but it still annoys me and I get angry and a few choice word ring out in my head. Hopefully this dose not happen to the fast boys, a race at this level should not be determined my traffic.
Nether the less I still manage some extra speed and up the road in front of me I can see the finish line, as I climb hard the hill starts to bite and my breathing gets heavier, my legs feel like they cant give any more and my eye balls feel like they are going to pop out of my head, "go on Chris" someone shouts, and I kick again, finally crossing the line the ground can't come fast enough, it's soft and I need a lie down. Time to regroup my energy and get ready to cheer others in their own battle with the gradient.
Our finishing positions our as follows but are only secondary to the experience of such a great day. Matt Reynolds was 149th male, 40th Vet with 17:08.1 and I was 148th male,39th Vet with 16:55.8, Heidi Blunden was 39th woman and 22nd Senior with 20:39.5 and Jo Jago was 21st and 14th Senior with 17:33.7.