The National Hill Climb 2015 was today on Jackson Bridge near Holmfirth. I’ve been looking forward to today and was determined not to get stressed over it, absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the experience. I was also determined to do my best performance of the season. Unfortunately I failed on one of those objectives.
I arrived early enough to get a warm up. I opted for the spectator car park field so that I could use a turbo. I shouldn’t have bothered. The damp ground made it a bit of a stressful experience crossing the sheep crap filled field to get to the road. As it happened I ended up warming up on the road going to the HQ and back. I did sit on the turbo for a bit to justify its existence. It was then a panic swap of the wheels a stowing of the now mud covered turbo.
An elderly gentleman came over to chat. After a couple of questions about my current form he asked me if I was Tejvan Pettinger. I must be looking very lean at the moment 😉 I must be at optimal hill climb weight.
Jackson Bridge is my kind of climb, rampy. I love climbs that allow you to crest and recover. This is one of them. The downside to JB for me is that it is steep at 11% and at my power to weight this is an issue. I fair better around 6% where the aerodynamic component to the climb is higher. Despite liking rampy climbs one downside is that they require practice and I was short on that. I only managed to get a across to the hill once before and did just two runs up it. I did however watch Matt Clintons YouTube video of his ascent many times http://youtu.be/bW3lVugpazE
With Matt Clinton’s video visualised I set off at the speed I had become accustomed. I crested the first set of twisty bends well and I felt good. Now there is a easing of the gradient and I returned to the saddle. The gradient begins to rise gradually back up to 15%. As I rise from the saddle for the second time something alarming dawns, I don’t have the legs underneath me from the video. Nothing is more detrimental to a time trialists performance than self doubt about pacing. My legs began to become heavy as the grade steepens. Should I slow and allow some recovery or do I wait for it to be enforced upon me.
The supporters are now becoming thicker with an intimacy that a time trialist typically isn’t accustomed nor comfortable. Faces come closer and louder. “Come on Ben!” they know my name, how? Do I know them? ah the programme. Focus! you’re racing.
The gradient eases slightly time to sit? I slump down mashing the pedals down but it doesn’t feel fast enough. The commentator is now calling my name, his remarks adding doubt and over analysis, “he’s going at a steady pace in the saddle.” A steady pace! That means slow or is steady good? In a moment of crisis I leap out of the saddle in a too small gear “he’s out of the saddle now”, legs now without resistance I fall back to the saddle “oh no he’s back in the saddle.” My hapless technique obvious the voice from the speaker ushers onlookers to now look away “Anyway moving on we have…”
The commentators voice now becoming fainter and I’m back to standing on the pedals I start to recognise the course and to my horror it’s almost the finish. I’m not done, I’ve got more left, this wasn’t all I have! I change to a bigger gear it’s a bad shift making a lady exclaim “oof”. I make the crest and coast down the dip and around the tight right hand bend. I’m now stamping hard in a burst of power to the finish, it must be right here, no it’s right here. I finally see the line on the road in the distance. I feel over geared but will not let it beat me, the supporters are leaping at me “push, PUSH”. I’m pushing it feels so slow but the line is close. I finally lunge to the line.
To my confusion I hear “Come on”, it’s coming from my catcher, but I’ve finished? I’ve recently had over zealous catchers who have leapt on my bike whilst I’m still pushing hard on the pedals, this guy wants me to chase him. To my horror, there’s a second line, I see the finishing flag still ahead. Dammit. A final leap on the pedals and I cross the clandestine line. I remonstrate, which I shouldn’t have, I forget to stop the Garmin which is out of character. A calm voice tells me “it’s ok everyone’s doing that”. Slightly relieved not to be the only one I begin to roll down the other side of the hill to retrieve my jersey from the start.
What the National Hill Climb field are Packing
So how many watts per kilogram do you need to be national hill climb champion? I’ve estimated that today the winner, Richard Bussell put out around 7 w/kg, this includes his bike and clothing. The advantage of going faster is that it moves you up the power duration curve. In other words a 4 minute effort allows more power to be outputted than a 5 minute effort. The more watts you put out the less time you’ll need to hold it.
The most common power range is between 5-6 watts per kilogram. Again this is including equipment so this is a lower number than the riders use a key metric when measuring performance.
The national experience
As an experience it was a great event. The bigger crowds do spur you on. I’ll be better ready for the intimacy of it next time around. I don’t think it will be a distraction. I also enjoyed turning supporter after my race which was a fun turn of the tables as I began to yell “come on push” furiously at the competitors. Particularly to those I had put a fiver on.
I was sad to see how many of the guys I was rooting for unhappy with their rides this year. By all accounts it was a very competitive year with few gaps in the field, meaning many places can be lost in a second or two. Let’s start the prep for 2016 and smash it.
So my time 5:20 was slower than I hoped and I was a bit disappointed with my placing. Power was substantially less than my best, so I know more is in the tank. But many lessons learned and looking onwards now to 2016.
For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a break and a part of me was looking forward to the competitive season to finish. Today I feel pumped up and excited about planning my training and coming back stronger for next year.