I had number 1 on my back and was set to be the last rider on the climb. For the first time (well, since I started riding bikes), the National Hill Climb Championships was on my doorstep. A wickedly steep 2.5 kilometer climb up Kilmashogue Lane just 4 kilometers from my doorstep. The climb starts steady, then hits a long steep section for a couple of minutes, flattens out to an 'easy' 5.5% for a few minutes and then we turn onto the final wall with a 350 meter section averaging 17%. A tough testing climb – the fastest man or woman up the climb would be a very deserving winner.
To say that it was one of my favorite climbs in the area would be a lie – I rode the climb a few times before I knew it would be the Nationals course but I never trained on it – it is just so steep in sections. It is really not like anything I have seen in any road races I've taken part in – mountain biking, yes, road racing, no and when I train for steep stuff, I tend to be on the mountain bike so away from the tarmac. The surface had been recently redone so rolled beautifully and the view back of Dublin remains spectacular.
In the day or two leading up to the race I was a little on edge – the result of taking a couple of easier days and the (self imposed?) pressure of retaining a title meant I had a lot of nervous energy. I bounced around trying to be productive from a working sense but yet resting up as much as possible (I would also be racing two more long races over the same weekend – more on those in another post).
Race evening arrived. With 45 minutes to my start time I started my well rehearsed warmup on my rollers – over the last couple of months I have been trying various things for warming up to see what works for me – I think I have finally found a protocol that I like and I arrived at my 8pm start time ready to roll.
The race was rather straightforward – try to keep myself controlled (as in, don't go out too hard) for the first three or four minutes and then push to the line making sure I have emptied the tank on the course. I mostly did that – the hardest part of the race was keeping the power up in the 'flatter' sections but by the time I hit the steep final ramp, my legs were pretty cooked. Usually I can up the pace a little for the final part but looking at the power data afterwards, despite feeling like I was pushing harder, I kept a really steady output over the steep sections. I crossed the line in 7:18 – my Garmin flashed 485W (average) at me as I collapsed into a fetal position. I was fast, but not fast enough – the other local climbing goat, Mark Dowling beat me. I finished 2nd.
I'm no longer the Hill Climb Champion – I won't go into next years race with the number 1 on my back or get to ride in the Champs kit at hill climbs. Rumors are that due to the success of this years event next years race could be on the same course. Climbing is about your power to weight ratio... 485W over that length of time is pretty good for someone my weight (72-73kg) but I'm still 14kg heavier than the winner – that killed me on the super steep ramps! Maybe another kg or two and a few more Watts and I'll be riding with the number 1 on my back again next year.
Results are available here and I must also thank Gary McIlroy and Usher Road Cycling club for running this first class race. Also, many thanks to all the supporters who came out on “Dutch Corner” - it was a real wall of sound that we passed through – thank you so much!