Hill climbs

Mow Cop Hill Climb 2015

Of all the hill climbs the Lyme RC Mow Cop hill climb is the firmest fixture in my race calendar. It’s not because I usually go well, in fact the contrary is true. I always seem to have my worst result here. It’s because of it’s locality to me being only down the road and the hill that started my hill climbing obsession. Why do I go so poorly here? I think there are three factors that put a puncture in my efforts.

It scared the shit out of me when I first started cycling

Firstly, when I began cycling a few years ago the first big challenge I set myself on the bike was the Cheshire Cat 100 mile sportive that goes up the killer mile. Those that knew me then will know that 28 years of inactivity excluding brief overzealous bursts of exercise abruptly ending in injury lead me to 15 stone of unhelpful blubber. Plus being a newbie everything was steep including the clipless pedal learning curve. The few months leading up to the sportive I knew I had to firstly get used to clipless pedals and conquer the killer mile on Mow Cop. It became a big deal. I would start most of my rides by heading up the ‘mile’ but turning left just before the 25% incline. Which incidentally is not that much shallower and even longer. The good news was I was getting fitter and lighter and soon it became only a mental barrier. But still visions of not being able to put my foot down in time should I come to a standstill were haunting me. Eventually I did it. It felt great.

Despite racing up steeper and more demanding climbs many, many times since, the mental battle I feel still has not been won. I only weigh 10st 5lbs now. My 5 minute power to weight is rated as elite! I need to get over this. Calling Steve Peters.

Practice does not make perfect

As my local hill I go up and down Mow Cop all the time most, often not the killer mile road specifically but when doing my VO2 reps they are usually done on the consistent grade between the two junctions on station road. These efforts are paced so that I consistenly complete 5-6 reps with 3min recoveries. I get a feeling that when I come to do any sort of effort on this road my brain engages interval mode and doesn’t allow my to really push outside of a rep effort. The over familiarity is not an advantage. In fact in the week leading up to Sunday’s race I purposely stayed as much away as possible to try and get some freshness back.

It’s too consistently steep

My strength seems to be the big effort followed by quick recovery climbs. When the gradient is consistent I seem to get bogged down. It’s perhaps trainable and something to work on. One thing I can’t train is my height and stature. I’d love to get down to the 9st guys but I can’t see any more fat to loose.

Those are the excuses, let’s ride

Sunday morning and I feel un usually relaxed. I felt good. Having spent a few hours in the week taking 276g of unnecessary weight from the bike I knew my equipment was the lightest I’ve ever ridden and was ready to give it some.

I decided for the first time to warm up on the turbo as there is little opportunity to warm up easy due to the HQ being on the side of the hill. Anyway forgetting to bring my turbo skewer meant that plan went out of the window and I ended up doing what I always do which is climb a little only to then get cold again rolling back down.

The race

I set off well and knew what time I’d like to see at the first junction. I saw the time 15 seconds quicker than last year! Great I’m on for a good one, “don’t blow up now”. Worst thing I could have thought. From that point on I was nursing my advantage up the hill trying not to blow it. On reaching the Cheshire View pub I selected a lower gear. I never do this. In experiments last year I figure out that I go a lot quicker with a bigger gear than trying to spin a small gear faster. The damage was done I twiddled out the saddle up the 25% legs move quick but the bike going nowhere. Eventually reached crest at the top and clicked up the gears and sprinted, in some fashion, to the line.

I stopped the clock on the same time as last year. 5:17 Not a great result. I’m capable of much more but for me the killer mile never sees my best.

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