It's nice to relax a bit now that my racing is over for the season. The last weekend of hillclimbs went pretty well - unfortunately my form, having peaked about a month ago, was on the way down, and I never felt really 'on' all weekend, but managed to salvage some results nevertheless. Saturday was the Brighton Mitre events - first a decent climb up the South downs from Steyning. I had parked half way up the course, and warmed up on the turbo there. But just as I was leaving to ride down to the start I slipped into idiot mode and locked the keys in the car! F*#k! Okay, forget about that for now, go race, then worry about it.... But it was a bit distracting. After getting back I had to call the RAC out to break in for me (which they did with worrying ease). Fortunately it was sunny and warm, so I didn't freeze hanging around. Then I got the results; I got whipped. I forget the name of the winner, but he put 7 seconds into me, though I led the rest in for second. Not quite as planned! Ah well, regroup and onto the next one. The afternoon climb was barely worthy of the name - to the point that I had actually decided to use the time trial bike for it - it had downhill sections for goodness sake! And being eight minutes long, really not my kind of thing. Still, I did a reasonable ride, though only good enough for third - the same guy again won, 11 seconds up on me, with second place only just behind him. But my second and third places were good enough for second overall, so I took home a decent amount of swag.
Onto Sunday. This was the famous Catford and Bec double where last year I had won both. The Catford is the bigger event, on a steeper hill, and the one I was really keen to win. But I was rather nervous after being beaten the day before. Another competitor came up to thank me for the gear advice - apparently I talked about it on this website last year. I had been wondering what gear I had used and didn't think to look here! Anyway, I did my 40 minute warm-up, then rolled down to take my start as last man off. The crowd at the top of the climb are incredible - it's like riding a tour stage, with people standing several deep either side and jumping out of the way as you come through. And the noise of their cheering is incredible, it really lifts you to the finish. To my great relief (that's the trouble with having won the event before, anything less than a win is disappointing) I won the race, though only by 0.5 second! I was a second slower than last year, and the only rider under two minutes, with 1:59. Onto the afternoon race, a similar length but not so steep. Here I actually went quicker than last year, in 1:56, but William Bell turned the tables from the morning and beat me by 1.6 seconds. But I didn't mind too much, happy to have got the win in the morning. Plus it meant I won the overall for all four events over the weekend, worth an additional £100, which, being broke, was much appreciated!
Today was my first hillclimb of the UK season, on Streatly hill that I last raced in 2001 - when I set the course record which has remained unbeaten the last two years, despite attempts by the likes of Jim Henderson and Danny Axford. I rode it a couple of times before I went to the States, and at two and a half minutes and steep it is definitely my type of climb. This year Danny was back again, with some other good riders in a small, but quality field. I went off really fast, and was absolutely empty as I dragged myself over the finish line, but it was just enough to both win - although with the top three within a second it was a bit close! - and to knock a single second off my course record. So a good start to my short season, we'll see if it can continue for the final races next week.
Well, I went almost a minute quicker up Mt Greylock than I ever have before. But failed to beat the 40 minute mark. And got stomped by ex-Williams-student-now-semi-pro Peter Hult. When you get comprehensively whipped by 1:45 there's not a lot you can do! I was fairly happy with my ride, though I popped halfway on the last steep bit and had to ease up to try and recover before the top section. Average heartrate 190bpm for 40:53! My legs still hurt today, so I definitely tried.... Back on home teritory next weekend and the much shorter UK climbs - I'll be trying to beat my own course record of 2:25 at Streatly, just hope the weather is as nice as it is here!