Operation Hill Climb – Oliver Bridgewood – Cycling Weekly – Thursday 9th November 2017
Below is an extract from Oliver Bridgewood’s write up in Cycling Weekly as he tackled his very first hill-climb season with help from Clinterval Coaching. Oliver followed Clinterval’s hill-climb plan, click here to see all plans.
As a hill climb novice I enlisted the help of Mat Clinton of Clinterval Coaching. He’s a former national champion of the discipline and, given the depth of his hill-climbing knowledge, he would be, I hoped, the Yoda to my Luke Skywalker.
Clinton prescribed very specific training that was totally different to the time trial, road racing and long-distance training I was used to. Quality over quantity was the mantra he insisted on, setting me short sessions of around an hour with killer intervals, designed to build strength, burn fat and increase my VO2 max. Tabata intervals, riding 20 seconds flat-out followed by 10 seconds rest were a staple – eight of those often left me feeling sick.
The training followed a pattern of alternating hard days with easy days. On the easy days, I would generally just do an easy commute or cake-less café rides in Z2. This approach worked well for me and I found myself recovering well for the subsequent hard sessions. With work and other commitments, I inevitably missed the occasional session, but on the whole I stuck to the plan as best I could. One-hour quality sessions are much easier to fit in, compared to long endurance rides. Clinton was also able to help me with lots of other bits of wisdom related to warming up, gearing, tyre pressure and pacing on specific climbs.
I persevered, taking part in events every weekend through October. Clinton’s training was going well and each week I was seeing power PBs.
My final event of the season would be the Sussex Nomads HC up Ditchling Beacon on October 29. Prior to the hill-climb season I’d ridden up the Beacon full-gas to see what I could do. My best time then, weighing 72kg on a 7kg bike, was 5:17, with an average power of 395w and average heart rate of 182bpm. What could I do on a 4.8kg bike, having shed some body fat and trained specifically? I was about to find out.
A top-10 placing was my aim as I set off up the Beacon. After an initial burst out of the blocks, I quickly settled down to 450w and tried my best to hold it steady. My legs felt good and I was trying to be as aero as possible, staying seated on the flatter sections. Ditchling ramps up in a few places and I tried to push slightly harder, around 500w on these ramps, while focusing on maintaining momentum.
I was much smoother and more consistent in my pacing than on my earlier hill climbs. As I entered the last minute, a spectator shouted “Push lad! It’s just around that corner, keep pushing.” The encouragement spurred me on as I powered out of the saddle up the final ramp and right-hand turn. As I grovelled across the finish line, I’d no idea how I had done – just hoping it was enough for top-10.
On returning to the HQ I quickly uploaded my ride to Strava and was pleased with my time, 4:30, a 47-second improvement, with an averaged power of 452w. Irrespective of my placing, it represented a huge improvement for me. I was lighter, considerably more powerful and has smashed my previous time.
While demolishing what was a truly exquisite brownie, it became apparent that no-one had beaten my time. I was the winner. Having been thoroughly humbled by quality riders throughout the hill-climb season, this came as a genuine surprise – and I was of course delighted. That many of the best riders were missing because they were away at the Nationals didn’t matter. Having thrown myself into the hill-climb season, pouring heart and soul into my training and diet, it was great to cap it off with a win.
The hill climb season is a little bit mental.
Oliver followed Clinterval’s hill-climb plan, click here to see all plans.