Dover’s Hill Climb is a classic, it’s been used in the National Hill Climb Championships more times than any other than the now unused Winnats Pass with six Championships being decided on the climb. However since 2010, the climb has not been used, with Stratford CC taking up the reigns this year to pull in a class field.
The current course is slightly longer than the 1998 National version, Jim Henderson’s 3:25 is massively fast, but for this version, Dan Fleeman’s 3:41 still stands as the time to beat.
For the Strava segment, see here – Dover’s Hill, Strava
If there’s any climb which suits a fixed wheel, it’s Dover’s. A consistent gradient for 90% of the climb, it’s only the top section where you can come unstuck, but I’ll come to that later.
In both the National in 2010 and again for this year’s Stratford CC event, I opted for fixed with 42×20 gearing. That’s around 55.6″. Using a modified Trek Emonda SLR, I was able to run this with a Quarq Riken powermeter from Cyclepowermeters.com. (Remember, if you’re using a Quarq on a fixed – turn the auto-zero off or else your numbers will be screwed up.)
For the climb I rode a time of 3:57.2, that’s just under 10s slower than for my ride to place 2nd in the 2010 Nationals. On Sunday, Richard Bussell actually recorded exactly the same time as I did that year.
For the 3:57, I averaged 510w, (524w normalized), for the most part this was a fairly consistent effort. Coming out from the start, I was concious not to push too hard, knowing that the toughest part of the climb was in the middle.
The initial acceleration from the line had me hit 650w, before sitting down going into the first bend. Heading into the bend the speed increased to an average of 16mph for around 30s, with power peaking at 724w and an average of 640w for this short section. Carrying this speed was essential as the surface through the next bend was poor and as you hit the exit, the climb ramps up.
As the speed levelled off through the bend, my power dropped to 463w before putting the power back down due to the speed decreasing from 16mph down to 11mph. This next minute of the steepest part of the climb saw me average 535w, with the speed and power in a slow decline until I hit 8mph. Throughout this section, wheelspin was an issue for me, so next time I need to judge my tyre pressure carefully!
A slightly levelling allowed the speed to increase, giving me the momentum to get back on the gas and hitting a fairly consistent 505w for the next 90s, with the speed an average of 11mph.
Up to this point at 3:38, my power had been a healthy 528w, but as mentioned, the top section’s where a fixed comes unstuck. The road levels out to the finish line and although not flat, my cadence which had been 78rpm to this point rose to 96rpm for the final 30s. Normally this would be fine as I time-trial at 100rpm+, but at the end of a hill climb, it’s a tough ask. The speed also increased from 10mph to almost 17mph, with power dropping away as all I could do was let my legs spin with the pedals, this last section power averaging 433w. As the speed is relatively high at this point, it’s unlikely that I lost much time, with this drop in power, the fixed just lets you carry on regardless.
Overall I think it was a fairly well paced ride – within the realms of what’s capable on a fixed anyway. Wheelspin probably cost me a small amount of time and it also messes with the rhythm quite a bit, but that’s par for the course when a hill climb is concerned. The good thing is that in two-weeks I’ve increased this power duration by a minute, so it shows what some quality training at the top end can do.
It’s probably also worth noting that I spent maybe 80% of the climb standing, seated doesn’t really work too well on a hill climb fixed if you want to make the most out of it.
This ride also shows why heart-rate response isn’t a great tool for training for these climbs – within the first 30s I’d hit what was to be my average HR for the rest of the climb at 156bpm. A gradual increase to 164bpm at the line doesn’t represent the variations in power in response to the slope. This is where power is much more beneficial as a training tool.
A few shout outs;
VeloUK for the pics
And also Stratford CC for putting on the event!