Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels: preparing for the hill climb season

It’s been a while since I last posted, just as it’s been a while since i felt like I had something to say.

Lockdown has been a life changing experience for many and I am no exception, hopefully good change. I expected to miss a spring and summer of interminable Audax adventures, the buzz of cycling a long way through day and night, through remote parts of the country… but I didn’t. I instead discovered the joy of owning a power meter and obsessing about stats. Working from home allowed me to replace short commutes and long weekend rides with more intense daily workouts of one to two hours.

When the training mentality kicks in, the rest follows: I gave up alcohol for good, I stopped grazing on biscuits and cake and as a result I lost about a stone by the time shops and cafes began to reopen in May. It has been easy, surprisingly straightforward, once I got back in control of my own time and could plan when and what to eat and when to ride my bike. 

But you can’t train without a goal and I’ve always laughed at friends who spent hours training for no particular reason. Training is the prelude to racing, it can’t be any other way. By April I had figured out that my best bet was getting into time trials. I worked out the solitary nature of the endeavour, makes them ideal candidates for competing in a socially distant scenario. The slight spanner in the works is that I’ve never been good at time trialling: it requires meticulous attention to details and more importantly it has become a sport that requires consistent monetary investment. Realistically, without the right equipment, you are giving away a couple of minutes in a 10 mile race, which can be the difference between finishing 10th or 40th. I don’t like spending money, I am very tight by nature, so flat TT is not for me.

That said, with the autumn comes the hill climb season. Hill climbing is right up my alley: training is less structured, as you are looking at improving anaerobic capacity, which is more of a dark art than working on FTP, and everyone seems to have their own way of doing things. Moreover, whilst investing five grand on a sub 6kg bike might help, it is not essential and one can shave weight in other ways (see above). On a 4 minute climb, my 8kg bike is probably losing 5 seconds to the lightest machines out there. I can live with losing 5 seconds: it’s not the difference between 10th and 40th… more like 15th or 20th.

I haven’t completely neglected flat time trials and I have enjoyed doing a few club events organised by Banbury Star CC and I’ve even raced in an Open 10 at Mallory Park, which was great fun. I managed a long 25 minutes over the distance, which for my standard is pretty decent. I still finished 40th!

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Banbury Star 20km TT. Photo courtesy of Paul Dean

But now that summer is drawing to a close, hill climbs are at the door: I’ve got a club event in early September and then three shots in Open events, trying to claim a spot for the National Championship in late October. I don’t particularly like Streatley hill, it’s short, steep and the surface is horrible, but it’s about the atmosphere of a Championship, being there, even in a socially distant scenario, even without the tunnel of spectators at the top… just being there and feeling all the pain of those three minutes.

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