End of term report.

Damian has tried particularly hard over the last couple of weeks, attempting Tabata protocols approximately twice a week plus one other interval session as well. His ability to complete these interval sessions has improved, and he has subsequently noticed an increase in fitness and ability to operate at or near his maximal heart rate. Unfortunately, his planning and preparation skills significantly let him down this year.

For example,  36 hours before the Kingston Wheelers Hill Climb. He got lost in Surrey and ended up riding 120 kilometres in the dark and cold. Possibly not the best preparation for a sprint event.

This lack of preparation and foresight was demonstrated, again , this weekend at the Catford CC Hill Climb and the Bec Cycling Club Hill Climb. A weekend of effort he has previously shown some promise for his age and relative lack of experience.

Perhaps, riding out to Ide Hill from Crystal Palace in torrential rain (that link will only show the past 24 hours so, er, click it today 14/10/2013 if you want to see the observations from the Met Office)  was an ideal method of pre-race preparation that expert hill climbers have yet to discover?

In short, apt don’t you think, Damian failed to apply himself to the challenges he set himself in these events because of poor planning and preparation. His performances were piss poor.


In summary:

Woke up at 0700, look out of window. Air seems to be moving, ground is wet, put glasses on. It’s raining, well drizzling. Here, pick some words from here and here.

I made my porridge, pear and Lidl own brand cheerios today. Had a flapjack and some toast. As I was riding out and wouldn’t be eating anything.  I fielded a number of text messages wishing me luck, had a conversation with Alex to motivate myself to do the event. Arranged to meet spirito de gruppo winner Dan at Crystal Palace. Dan wasn’t racing, but was coming out because he wanted to give support. Personally, I think he’s mental after yesterday’s events. But still.

Before I left I realised I had my jersey with the ripped shoulder on. Quickly changed out of that, superstition and smartness were my reasons. Then I thought, “hmm. Perhaps I should embrocate“. I did some science thinking. Embrocation provides heat by irritation, blood at the surface of the leg, wet and cold, probably not a good idea I thought. But a barrier probably wouldn’t hurt.  Vaseline on lower back and on thighs then.

Out the door and off up the road to Crystal Palace. Quick test on Valleyfield, legs feel fine. That was good. As I was riding over I noticed my knee warmers were starting to expose the hole I acquired after crashing in January. Fortunately, I had time to stop at Cadence and swap them around so the hole was covered.

Dan arrived, we laughed. Oh how we laughed.

And then off we went. Off to Ide Hill via Elmers End, West Wickham, up Layhams, missing the descent down Beddlestead (it’s usually a bit gravelly and well, it was wet and I’m a terrible descender. Who wants to crash before a “race”?), continue up Beech Farm and onto Clarks and then onto to the Pilgrim’s Way.  Have you seen this? It’s very good.

Last year  I slowly rolled into a man on a moped as I turned into Pilgrim’s Way. This year, he wasn’t there, but the line I took into the turn was very very similar.

On the way up Beech Farm I got drenched by a car coming the other way as it drove into a puddle. That was tragedy.

A minute or so later I saw another car coming, I thought “I hope Dan gets past that puddle”. All I heard was “aaaaaargh” and “you cunt”.  That was comedy.

If I got a paper cut, that’s a tragedy. If you fell down an open manhole and died, that’s comedy. Mel Brooks.

You could do worse than watch this:

Apparently, Dan saw the driver, the driver saw Dan. And the driver accelerated into the puddle/lake/inland sea.

Slogging along the Pilgrim’s way I started to think “this isn’t so bad”. It was madness. There were puddles I could have drowned in. The rain was relentless. I was soaked. Dan was soaked. I saw walkers coming down Sundridge Hill. They looked wetter than me. I saw horses huddling under trees. They looked wetter and more miserable than me. I took no comfort in this.

There were rivers of water flowing down hill as we descended Sundridge. There was gravel and cow shit and all sorts of detritus. My gloves were saturated, if I made a fist water cascaded out of my gloves.

And then the ascent to Ide Hill started.  Water streamed down both sides of the road. At one point there was a manhole cover in the middle of the road  with water gushing out of it.


That’s not too far from the truth. My first thought was it was a fatberg.

We got to Yorks Hill. But not before I asked a cyclist coming down if the event had been cancelled. No such luck.

I tried to sign on.  I signed on. I got my numbers. My fingers didn’t work. I got help. I tried to drink a cup of tea. That went everywhere. I was shaking like a dog shitting snowballs.

We met Laurence and Elin, from Brighton Mitre.  Laurence had gone up in the vets earlier, Elin was going for the big weekend of hill climbs (2 at Brighton, then Catford and Bec).  I was still shaking, Laurence offered the use of his turbo.  And I’ve just pieced something together….

I stayed warm, and then went to dump stuff off. I saw Dan holding all sorts of bits of kit and attempting to stay dry. I negotiated the slopes and crowds and got down to the bottom. I had a pre race wee.

I started letting air out of my front wheel. More on that later. A number of riders asked how much I was letting out. I replied “I don’t know, a bit?”


Then I noticed my rear tyre. It was totally shredded. There were huge rips to the rubber, and how I didn’t puncture I’ll never know.  And this is where I say how mental people can be and how amazing they are when you’re part of their tribe.

Martin/Matthew from club to be determined, was in a car near the bottom (white Merc, very nice). And he noticed me looking forlornly at my wheel.

“puncture? do you want to borrow my wheel?”

I initially said no, and then changed my mind. I was still shivering at this point and was about to come up on my gel. I couldn’t get my wheel out and his, amazingly bling deepsection tub, on. He took over, whacked the wheel in, checked the changes and off I went to the start. Then I had a look at my front wheel. Oh. I’d taken it from ~90 PSI to ~35. Hmm. No pump at the line and my minute man was off up the road. F U C K. My as well try eh?

I explained to my holder I couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t wobble as I was shivering. Every time I do the Catford I’m amazed and impressed at how solidly I’m held and how little I move. It’s very very calming.

“3 2 1 go. Go on Damian!”

It all felt ok, for a bit. I was going smoothly, then the first bit of incline slowed me, my head started to wobble, I started to lose motivation (which is odd for me on Yorks, but totally understandable to more normal people I suppose). I got at least two boosts in confidence by someone shouting “go on”. Then I saw a small family, they cheered me on with “allez” and “go go”. I wasn’t very happy here as it was at the first turn I think. I may have thought bad things.

Someone shouted “let the gear do the work, don’t fight it”.

There was a “good going!”.

Then I got to the bit everyone talks about, the last ramp, with the crowds and the narrowness and the cheering and the lift this gives you. Unfortunately, I needed to go down a gear.

M I S T A K E.


A different wheel, with different ratios and different alignments. My rear mech no longer wanted to be part of this event. And told me so. The chain went. No tension. I unclipped. Foot down. Race over.  There was a huge groan.

I have never been so petulant and so penitent at the same time. I wanted to throw my bike around, I can’t have been more than 50m from the top. I tried to throw my bike around. I did some swearing. I realised how bad this looked. I heard “rider up”.  I saw rider 129 (Ewan from Catford CC) hurtling up the hill. I cheered him on.

I trudged up the hill. I handed my number in for a hot drink, ate my raisin and biscuit yorkie. Got Dan a cup of tea. Got my shit together, got my wheel back.

In this time, I missed Matt Pilkington winning the event. I saw Robert Gough shaking his head at the end.


We rode to Sevenoaks. Got the train home. The heating was on in the train. This was the best bit of my morning.

I sacked off the Bec.  I think I missed a treat, one of the riders went up in armbands and goggles.


From what I can piece together, I shredded my tyre on the turbo trainer and going down the hill. My homemade heelpad of Sugru held up well.

I went to the pub after. I had a burger on a brioche roll, it was a bit too much. I had three pints. I didn’t get edgy. I think. I got home. I rubbed fruit crumble and ice cream, and then fruit crumble and greek yoghurt, into my face.

I didn’t sleep until 1 am.

Lessons learned:

I will never ride to a hill climb again, it’s hire a car and throw a turbo in the back from now on.  Although I’m too old to place seriously well, I’m not too old to take this seriously (to some extent) and I still get something from it.

I thought I was mental. There are more mental people out there.  Climbers, yes. But spectators, you is mental. Serious.

I can even fall off a bike going up hill.

That’s it for a bit, cross racing starts (for me) in a couple of weeks. Expect mud. And falling off.


End of term report.

One thought on “End of term report.

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