- Francis and James’ Hill Climbs, Week 1/4:
The British Hill Climb season occurs annually throughout October. Hill climb races are essentially time trials up hills where riders race to reach the top in the fastest time possible. To be a good hill climber, you should be light whilst having strong leg muscles and good core strength. However, you do not need to be like that to have a go at one! They are great fun and very friendly, social events, as well as painful and competitive. If you want, there are still some nearby where registration remains open, so head to the CTT websitenow to take part. Watching these events is equally fun, seeing some riders in agony sprinting to the top on super light and ‘hacked up’ bikes.
Hill climbs are organised on the Cycling Time Trials website by independent cycling clubs. The fact that they are raced under CTT regulations means that competitors can ignore a lot of the rules of the UCI and British Cycling. Riders can race without helmet and weight regulations, which means that competitors can choose to ride without helmets on bikes under the weight of 6.9 kilos! However, as a junior I had to wear a helmet under the younger riders’ regulations.
For the first weekend(29th/30thSeptember) I had signed up to ride the ESCA and Blazing Saddles hill climbs. On Saturday, I raced the ESCA at Steyning Bostal. I signed on in a little village hall in Bramber, warmed up and set off at 10:14, with James Gilmore setting off before me at 10:11. The hill is a difficult climb to pace, with an initial steep section, followed by a large flat plateau and then a long, steep ramp to the finish, with gradients of up to 17% (about 1:6). I have previously found the climb difficult to pace correctly but come race day, I found that I paced the climb pretty well and finished with a time of 4:38, finishing 4th/19th overall whilst being the only junior rider competing. James is still just about in the category below me, but finished in an equally good time of 4:44, 5thoverall. We were both really happy with these times, with James beating his previous years’ time by about a minute! We were both about 20 seconds down on the winning rider, which made us feel good for the following hill climbs.
On SundayI competed in the Blazing Saddles Hill climb over at Knight’s Hill near Goodwood racing circuit. James didn’t enter this hill climb but this time I was competing against two other junior riders from Portsmouth. I’d never ridden the hill before yet had researched it on Strava before the day of the climb. The hill started off fairly steep at around 10-12% (1:10) before gradually levelling off towards the finish line. On race day, I set off at 14:15. I found that the climb was strange to pace correctly, as it was a lot flatter than I’d imagined (as I’d never ridden it before) and finished in a time of 3:38, 6 seconds down on the fastest junior rider but still 7th/25thoverall. The effort was rewarding with free cake and kit waiting at the top of the climb.