This was an interesting one. It was essentially a bunch start hill climb up Haytor Vale, a three mile race organised by Mid Devon Cycling Club!
4 of The South attended, including bang in form Sam Larkham, on the verge of moving to second cat. Tom gave me and Mark a lift down there as Sam was making a day of it in his old camper van.
Setting of for a race at 5 on a Saturday had me totally out of kilter. I did not know what to eat when, I also did not get my bag ready the night before. This, coupled with the fact that in my mind I was doing a hill climb meant I forgot my helmet. I was fairly comfortable that as this was coupled with a sportive the day after (a pretty beastly one) I would be able to borrow a helmet.
About that sportive, the start list email said ‘sign on in the event village’, this was mad. We had to queue to get into the car park which was full of cars with snazzy bikes on top. Once in the village we were greeted with a lot of stands, including a pop up masage parlour and live music. Martin Johnson was spotted outside the Specialized tent. A bit grander than the usual village hall. There is certainly plenty of money in these things. In the sign on tent after asking a few people we finally got directed to the race sign on. There were 2800 people entered into the sportive (75K turnover by my maths!), hence the traffic at the carpark and a total of about 35 people in the BC race across all categories……
We signed on, I had a conversation with a chap that went as follows; Me; ‘is there a helmet I could borrow, I stupidly left mine in Bristol’. The guy I asked eyes lit up; ‘what size’, Me; ‘About a medium/large’, Guy; ‘I have just the thing’, the following was presented to me;
Low amount of vents, check. Fluoro colour, check. That is the current trend for helmets right?
After my fellow team mates had laughed a lot we headed out to warm up. Stumbling upon a suitable hill after following a lady from Zappis (who went on to win the women’s race). That was pretty lucky. We then headed back for the briefing which meant we warmed down, but then warmed up again as we rolled 4 or so miles neutralised to the bottom of the climb. We subsequently warmed down again as we waited about 10 minutes to start. I also did about 6 pisses before we started, this seems to happen from time to time.
From the off the pace shot straight up, courtesy of aformentioned Mr Larkham. The young kid in front of me had trouble clipping in so me and Tom scrambled round him. We were already strung out in a long line. I tried to get into a rhythm as quickly as possible, in my mind I had already decided to ride at my own pace if it went off. A group of about 6 broke up the road as the elastic snapped after only half a mile. My heart rate was already high so I just kept it that way, settled into a nice cadence and started to pass the 5 or so people in front of me that had tried in vein to hang on to the group of 6. One other guy came with me and quickly came past me. He was making ferocious breathing noises, this convinced me to just pick my time to move past him as he popped.
The middle section of Haytor is pretty vile, it has a nasty kick that broke a few people for sure, to bad for me they were all behind me. I looked back and there was a decent sized gap to the next man on the road.
As we entered the downhill section the person in front of me really pushed on, reinforcing in my mind that he would pop on the finishing section which kicks up again, I kept it under control. Keeping in mind what resident BSCC hill climb expert PJ had said about what was to follow; ‘It has a downhill. You’ll be reaching for the big ring – I guarantee it. You must not break your rhythm or overcook it, in fact, you have to bear in mind that as soon as you pass the car park on the left the road pitches up again for another really steep bit, and it’s horrible because you can see the finish. The last section, around 500 metres or so, is absolutely revolting, not because it’s unduly steep, but because it comes at the end of some serious effort. If you’re riding with someone at this point and you’ve got something left in the tank you can kill it.’
He was right on all counts. I wasn’t riding with anyone but my man still out in front was on a piece of elastic, I closed the gap but he didnt come back fully. I crested the top in 8th place. Pleased to be in amongst the points. It hurt quite a bit, I borked a lot. Tom was slumped over his bars on the verge of being sick. I am still convinced I can hurt myself more when it comes to the cunch.
Completing a strong showing for BSCC Tom had finished in 5th and Sam in 4th. Mark narrowly missed out on his first pointed, being pipped to 10th by around 2 inches after a rider worked him over to come round at the finish. Strangely, we were all spaced by about 30 seconds. Project Cat 2 was complete for Sam, congratulations mate!
The weather was coming in at the top so we headed down as quickly as possible, kindly directed back to the HQ by a MDCC who was tonking along. When you descend hills, it really brings home how long they are, and we were assisted by gravity for a fair while.
To top off the successful day I was allowed to keep the helmet, chuffed to bits! If you are the guy that gave me this, you cannot comprehend how happy this has made me, as well as everyone else who has laid eyes on it since.
Finally I must apologise for writing a thousand word essay on a three mile race, maybe I remembered more because it was shorter than usual?