The Hill Climb season is brief but intense, the past five weeks have revolved around short week day training rides, each with multiple visits to the pain cave then a single excruciating race effort on the Sunday. Results have been satisfactory, I have performed pretty much the same as last year and the year before that. I made one Veteran’s podium and I am content that I have again stalled the aging process for another year. With the best bike stripped down for racing and with me ‘in theory’ in the best shape of the year it makes sense to spend the rest of the week trying to bag as many KOM’s as I can. I need to train hard, I need to make the efforts, the bike and body are prepared so if it stays dry and mild, now is the time to go hunting.
Each target is scrutinised the night before, I plan no more than three or four per ride, it’s the quality I am looking for not the quantity this time of year. Each route is no more than two hours long and each time I roll out of the city I have the same fixed glare, the same focus, my mind cleared of everything apart from my execution of the plan. The first interval usually bears the best fruit so this should be reserved for the primary target, the one I REALLY want, and I had a few key targets.
Since early summer I have been trying to bag a small local climb dubbed the ‘Muur van HubVelo’, after the excellent bike shop in Clapton (They use it on their club runs, and duly named it). My first attempt bagged me 5th place and I knew I had a bit more in the tank so I had to go back, however before I did return some young talent went and moved the bar. My best of 1 minute 19 seconds would now have to be lowered to 1 minute 7 seconds if I wanted the gold crown. This was a huge jump but I love a challenge, so I tried again, and again and again. I choose different approaches, I waited for better wind, I even dumped my bottles on one occasion to save weight but try as I might I could only get down to 1.12. That 1.12 felt fast, but that was all I had and I knew then that this hill was beyond me. I had plenty of success elsewhere but sometimes you just have to accept that you are not going to be the fastest everywhere, all you can do is give it your best.
This intensity is not sustainable though, neither physically or mentally and it’s now time to kick back for a while, time to end the KOM season and relax, I will miss the preparation and single-mindedness of it all but be happy to just go out pedalling again with no pressure or planning.
So it’s goodbye to the hill climb season for another 11 months.
It’s goodbye to going out dressed for 30 degrees when it’s actually just 10 to avoid wearing heavy and restrictive clothing.
It’s goodbye to planning every ride around the wind direction to aid your KOM efforts.
It’s goodbye to gulping down caffeine gels and blinkered concentration.
It’s goodbye to 100% efforts that make your eyes feel like they will pop out of your head and turn your arms and legs to jelly.
It’s goodbye to pumping the tyres up to 120psi and feeling every single imperfection on the road.
It’s goodbye to tying the shoes so tight they cut into your feet and make your toes bulge.
It’s goodbye to bare metal handle bars because I took the tape off to save weight.
It’s goodbye to with just two mouthfuls of liquid in your water bottle, again, to save weight.
It’s goodbye to that damn uncomfortable carbon saddle.
It’s goodbye to self enforced sobriety and starvation.
It’s goodbye to discipline and focus and hello to crisps, and almond croissants, and burgers dripping with cheese, and breaking the two beer limit. It’s now time to loose focus, to pack the best bike and summer clothes away in the loft and dig the thermal tights out. Time to service the winter bike so it’s ready for a season of abuse in awful weather and look forward to new adventures on two wheels, oh and winter track league.