As the Hill Climb nationals approach i'm sure all the favourites are planning to take part in a TT the day before? No? Either way I really fancied giving the East London Velo Hill Climb event a shot. Held in deepest Essex on Mott Street, just on the edge of Epping Forest.
Mott Street, as featured in 100 Greatest Climbs book is indeed a good little climb, and one I've only ridden once before. Total length of 1.5 miles with an average at 4%, however the hill climb is held on the final section of the climb, totalling 0.6 miles at 7% average, with a few sections at 13% and the last ramp around 12%, it's certainly a climb with an ever changing gradient, and therefore one where getting into a rhythm is quite hard.
Registration from 9:15am with first rider off at 10am, so Lucinda and I made the 14 mile ride over from Finchley, conditions were not ideal, and the roads were quite damp. Legs seemed to feel fine though so all seemed well. We decided to ride up Mott Street before sign on, mainly because I really couldn't remember what the climb was like... being quite a minor road, with not much traffic the tarmac wasn't in great condition, and was fairly wet and muddy. Conditions which meant that a few psi out the tyres would probably be a good idea to aid with grip.
As the traditional que of riders lined up I managed to get an early spot and was 6th rider off (entry on day only) Number on and off to Mott Street to find a good heckling place for Lucinda to shout at me and do a rep or two to warm up. As it happens I only had time to ride up once more, however managed to assess the right lines and likely gears i'll need to be in at what points of the climb. After the first ramp of 13% there was a small section of flat (ish) this should give me a chance to build up some momentum for the final drag to the top, or at least this was the aim. Time wise I had no idea what I would do, I met Aaron at the top who did a 2:10 last year, and won a similar event on the same course held my Lee Valley CC, So I suspect a similar time around 2:15 would be doable, maybe...
Down at the bottom atmosphere was fairly relaxed and the first 5 riders sprinted off, to the sounds of cheering and cow bells ringing. I was off next and feeling good. 5,4,3,2,1... I sprint in the smaller front ring (39T) and far down the back cogs (closer ratios) managing to build up a good amount of speed, when I hit the first steep section, down a few gears, but the pace was still high, and I hadn't slipped on the wet yet, over the crest and it flattens off, I briefly sit down, aero position and build the cadence up before quickly getting out the saddle again for the final two steep sections, the first of which did catch me off guard, when I took the inside, slightly steeper and wetter line, an error on my part here, and my cadence dropped. Nevertheless a few gear clicks down again and I was back out the saddle and pulling on the bars, around the final corner I could see (and hear) Lucinda and the rest of the spectators shouting, the finish line was in sight. A last dig and I cross the line. Time on the Garmin showed 2:11, official time was 2:08.
As we watched the other riders come in, some looking a little too quick for my liking I studied the rider times I far far I appeared to be second behind Adam French! With Simon Warren off 100 Climbs fame the last rider on the course. he crossed the line in 2:12 and to my surprise that placed me 2nd. Looking back at my run, I think I could have tried harder, but then don't you always say that? Next time, if conditions are better I reckon a sub 2:05 is there for the taking, which was the winning time off the day, and the 4th victory for Adam in as many years, great riding! Overall around 45 riders signed up, so a fairly decent sized field.
Special thanks to East London Velo for hosting the event, the Marshalls, Lucinda for the shouting, Mott Street Church and the bakers for putting on some rather excellent cake of coffee facilities.