National Hill Climb – the toughest yet?
The National Hill Climb Championships returned to Bank Road in Matlock this weekend, with its first appearance being in 2008. 240 riders meant this was the biggest ever National HC and perhaps the highest quality field ever too.
Both myself and Jack O’Neill (B38/Underpin Racing) have had a full season of hill climbs, with Jack beating me twice last weekend his form has certainly come on a lot.
I’m not sure where to begin with this report though, as I was hoping to redeem myself after last year’s 7th place when I was ill, by moving back up the field again. Unfortunately I slid the other way.
Firstly, the atmosphere was the best I’ve ever seen in a National HC, the crowds were amazing. (If you haven’t watched Courtney Blockley-Campton’s video, then I urge you to do so). They certainly spurred each and every rider on as they tackled the 20% sections of Bank Road.
From a coaching perspective, I’ve come to find that being a good time-trial rider does not equal a good hill climber! This is something that I have found more apparent over the years, my best ever season was when I did a full year of road racing and just look at the top riders in this years results. Roadmen by and large. Riding at 100-105% of FTP all day doesn’t mean that you can easily go out and ride at 160-170% for two minutes and get away with it. The last couple of years I’ve really struggled with the intensity of training and being able to do these efforts repeatedly.
That however might all just be rubbish and I’m just getting old! Thirteen National HC Champs does take its toll after all.
It’s rather interesting how all of the “old guard” didn’t make it near the top this year. Kenway has been knocking on the door for the last couple of years, and I’m happy he’s finally made it with a great win. Of the four former National Champs in the field, we were spread between 7th and 41st. Not since Fleeman in 2009/10 has anyone managed to retain, or even regain a title. The quality at the top end has increased so dramatically, there’s lots of young riders stepping up and doing some amazing rides.
Jack really impressed me this year, he’s come on a lot, both road racing and time-trialling. He managed my age-old trick of peaking for the Nationals, despite a cold in the week. The last three climbs he’s convincingly beaten me, equalling his 14th place from last year, but with a much tighter, tougher competition in Matlock. His listened, learnt and applied, I can only see better things to come from him.
I wouldn’t be so lucky going sideways about 3/4 of the way up, which perhaps cost me a top-15 placing, but I can’t do anything about that now. After 11 years of finishing in the top 7, it’s a bit of a shock after all of that experience to be back where I started in 2004, in 19th place.
For those of you hoping for an power analysis of the ride, I’m going to have to disappoint, I didn’t run my Quarq, or even my Garmin. I’d guess the power was knocking on 600w for the 2:32, that’s probably around 8.8w/kg (yes, I am 68kg).
Whether I’ll be back next year is yet to be seen, but for now, thanks for the hill climb support.
If anyone’s interested in getting into hill climbs next year, you can always email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I also offer a hill-climb plan which you can find on my training plans page.
Thanks once again to:
Mike Vaughan Cycles, Trek Bikes, Cyclepowermeters, Science in Sport.