27th September. Bigfoot CC Hill Climb – Exedown Road
Result= 9th (4th Vet)
Hill climbing is as easy as running a bath! Everyone knows that right? Perhaps I should explain…
Imagine that your legs are a bathtub. Somehow you lost the plug and the taps don’t run water, they run lactic acid at a rate controlled by how much power your legs are putting out. When you’re out for a gentle cruise, you’re not pushing much power so the taps run at a trickle which just disappears straight down the plug hole. Up the power to time trial pace (let’s call it threshold power) and the taps are on at fair old rate, dumping that lactate into your legs at just about the same rate as it can drain out of the plug. We’re good so far.
But uh, oh – you hit that drag and there’s a nasty headwind. You’re power goes up and those taps open start spewing lactic acid faster than it can drain away. Your bath starts filling up. If you keep this power output up, eventually your bath fills up, lactate spills over and at that point your legs just stop working and you have to stop or ease right off. How long this takes depends on how big your bath tub is (let’s call that your functional reserve capacity.
Now it gets interesting. If you’re going to pump out some serious sprint power, you need to replace those bath taps with some monster fire hose capacity lactate jets! At full sprint power you can fill that bath tub in around 10 seconds. Back those lactate jets off a bit and maybe it’ll take a minute to fill that bath. Ease them back another fraction and maybe, just maybe that bathtub can last two or three minutes to fill up.
And there you have it. That in essence is the skill in hill climbing. How long is it going to take you to get to the top? How much can you open those lactate jets up to let rip that sprint power? You need to open the taps up just enough so that your bathtub overflows as you hit the finish line. Taps on too much and you’ll die a hideous leg seizing, lung busting slow motion death. Taps on too slow and; well these open Hill Climbs are won and lost by fractions of a second. And they only come around once a year. Too slow? Too slow just doesn’t bear thinking about!
And so it was with thoughts of bathtubs that I started my first ever open hill climb, the Bigfoot Hill Climb on Exedown Road near Wrotham in Kent. I’d been out to take a look at the hill after a race a couple of weeks ago. On that occasion and with tired legs I managed to get up in 3 minutes 43 seconds. With fresh legs, race wheels etc I hoped to take a good chunk of time out of that – although the course record of 2 minutes 56 seconds looked a bit daunting. The hill itself has an average gradient of 7%, with a max of 16%. Gentler gradients at the start and the finish; pretty evenly steep in the middle and with just one hairpin to be negotiated. And the taps? Well assuming somewhere close to 3 minutes, on a good day I should be able to open them up to somewhere north of 400 watts. However, without a power meter on my race bike, this would need to be judged the old fashioned way – by feel.
I started my warm up nice and early and popped down the hill a little to see young Nick Martin sprinting up the final section of the hill for a very respectable time of 3:15 which would be good enough to take 2nd place youth. Nice one Nick!
My own effort was over in a bit of a blur. I held a bit back on the lower slopes and pushed it on the middle section. I started to tie up a bit around three-quarters distance, but managed to kept the gear rolling and even found a bit left in the to click up a few gear and effect a bit of an acceleration towards the finish as the gradient eased off.
And my time? 3:03. Just 6 seconds off the previous course record. I was pretty pleased with that. Pleased right up until the point that I noted some of the other times! Young racing whippet James Lowden smashed the previous course record to win with a time of 2:41. Bill Bell from the promoting Bigfoot Club blasted up in 2:43 to take 2nd place and just pip Pete Tadros (2:46) as fasted Vet.
Hmm, pretty quick these old testers! I’ve got a hat full of good excuses for road race results (bad positioning, team tactics, lucky breaks, etc, etc) but I find that I am sadly lacking in excuses for these Time Trials. “I wasn’t fast enough” seems to be the only one I can come up with. Which is as brutal a conclusion as it is inescapable. But I’ve been studying “King” Alf Engers and have a cunning plan for the Sussex CA Hill Climb next week. According to King Alf I just need to push harder on the pedals…
Also note – Nick did the Kingston Wheelers CC Hill Climb on Leith Hill yesterday clocking 4:24 to take 2nd Junior.
Full result (scroll to end of thread):
Some Dave Hayward pics – http://www.davehaywardphotos.com/Cycling/2015/BigFoot-CC-Hill-Climb-Exedown-/