Photo credit and big thanks to both Cycling Photography Scotland – https://www.facebook.com/CyclePhotographyScotland/ and Ian Henderson – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ianmh247/
Sunday 14th October 2018, the Scottish Cycling National Hill Climb Champs hosted by Bioracer Project Go. This years climb was Crow Road in Lennoxtown with the HQ being situated at a super handy location on the climb itself at Campsie Golf Club.
This event was my only focus for 2018 seeing as I had only started cycling again in June after taking 11 months off the bike due to the arrival of Rory, moving house twice and starting a new job.
Hill climbs are traditionally held on very short, very steep climbs where it’s a case of going as hard as you can for 2-8 minutes and tackling ramps exceeding 20%. In those typical HC cases there is a big advantage to be had if you are skinny and mashing pedals on a very light bike. I tick one of those boxes in that I weigh around 59KG’s but I do fall short on the lightweight bike as my bike most definitely weighs no less than 7KG’s. However, the Crow Road climb we would be racing on this year only averaged 5% gradient with the steepest reported ramp being 10%. The total distance we would climb was 4.8KM also so this was not your traditional HC course, yet I was excited and happy at the course choice, it was right up my street!
Strava Info: https://www.strava.com/segments/19102386?filter=overall
* note the segment that was created ^ is slightly off and stops short of where the actual finish was.
Six weeks before this event I done my best to calculate what it would take to be at the sharp end of the results on this climb. The starting basis for this was to check out the KOM time on VeloViewer for the Official 100 climbs segment which is a good bit longer than the portion of the climb used in the race as it starts from the very bottom of the road in Lennoxtown itself. The quickest time up the entire hill was set by Michael Storer who rides at World Tour level for Team Sunweb and it is super quick – https://veloviewer.com/segment/8194858
Taking into account the HC is shorter than the Official 100 segment I based my calculations on 11:30 being a quality time and this resulted in the following:
VAM in simplistic form is a way of calculating upward velocity measured as metres per hour – “Velocita Ascensionale Media (average velocity of ascent, metres per hour)”. This was developed by a certain Dr. Michele Ferrari but this is simply a calculation and is something he came up with that doesn’t actually violate any rules nor result in you being a complete and utter cheat like some of the other stuff he came up with/got up to…. Useful calculator – https://www.cyclingpowerlab.com/VAM.aspx
The figures I input above ^ are taken from the climb data for start/finish altitude and then my height/weight to establish a very loose ballpark CdA value. As mentioned above, the 11:30 input at the top (target time) was from my checks of the KOM on the VeloViewer segment data. I had absolutely no idea what the wind/weather would be doing on the day of the event when I calculated this, so I left the Headwind/Tailwind field as 0 for neutrality sake.
The calculator output its estimations which you can see as 1362VAM being the magical number required to achieve an 11:30 on the Crow Road HC. More personally to me this would take 342watts/5.76W/KG to climb at 1362VAM. I believed the VAM figure to be good itself but I was sceptical of the W/KG figure for myself and thought it would require 6W/KG minimum. The happy medium for me was to therefore aim for 350watts which I now knew would achieve right around 1300VAM and the VAM figure is a much better one to work towards rather than working off previous riders watts for the segment. VAM is VAM, you can ignore the watts output, weight and size of other riders as these all differ massively.
Race Day – Scottish National Hill Climb 2018:
11:54 as my start time meant I had more time to spare in the morning so a later alarm clock, relaxed breakfast and a nice relaxing drive over to Lennoxtown with plenty of time to spare. My car was out of action, the journey to Johnstone the day before for the CTT Scottish HC had killed its power steering, so I was very fortunate that my family members had two cars and I could borrow one of them to get to the race and then also drive three hours North to home afterwards.
I arrived with plenty of time to spare and proceeded to sign on to collect my number. I was anxious as after waiting over three weeks British Cycling had still not sent me my race license in the post. Thankfully they were helpful enough to send me a temporary printable version of my race license in an email which they didn’t even question when I signed on. So with the first anxious moment dealt with I moved onto the next, which was finding the Chief Commissaire, so that I could ask nicely to ride in a plain coloured jersey seeing as our race team kit is still being made over in Italy. I had borrowed a plain red jersey from my good friend Chris (https://pbyb.co.uk) as the Scottish Cycling rules are very strict and state you MUST wear your primary club colours and if you cannot, you must wear a plain, non sponsored jersey/skinsuit which cannot be black in colour. I had already spoken with the event organiser who said he was OK with this and I even contacted Scottish Cycling who confirmed the rule to me but said I must notify the Chief Comm on the day of the event. I didn’t want to train for and target an event only to be DQ’d on the morning of it so I done everything I could to ensure it would be OK before the fact and thankfully it was not a problem and my jersey was checked and marked on the start sheet as being OK. Phew!
The weather was ideal. Barely any wind and any wind that was there was a cross come tail up the climb. Most importantly it was dry and that was a huge relief after the complete washout of the day before at the CTT event.
Knee warmers and a jacket for the warmup on top of what I planned to race in as the air was chilly. It is October in Scotland after all but the sun was showing some attempts at trying to break through the clouds as forecast.
Climb Recce & Warmup:
Crow Road is very well known and frequented by central belters but my recce of the climb was the first time I had ever been on it. David Ross from Falkirk BC was my minute man at the CTT event on the Saturday and I chatted to him on the way down the Johnstone course where he told me the Crow Road was a big ring climb so my recce was just to confirm that and see how steep the ramp was at the “Car Park in the Sky” which is a layby car park half way up the road with a stunning view over the area. The recce was useful and my legs felt good but I was surprised at how much low gradient sections were in the climb especially up nearer the top to the finish line. I knew from the climb data it was not a steep climb but still came away a bit surprised although still really looking forward to getting stuck into it. The one saving grace I had on this climb was the length of it and I knew I could run a big gear the whole way. The CTT Scottish climb was easier than Crow Road and was also much shorter, so the 4.8KM’s kept some hope in me that I could counter the lack of gradient.
Warming up with some efforts down on the flat roads in Lennoxtown I had the usual terrible Scottish road standards to contend with, which is nothing new, but I managed to whack the same massive crack twice on a section of road that left my left shifter rattling badly. The warmup went well though and I felt a different person heading to the start line than I did in the day previous purely because I had a decent warmup not hampered by being soaked and chilled to the bone.
Climbing the Crow:
The pusher off got me a belter on my start. The jersey Chris had loaned me had the letters “P N S” on the back of it which stands for Pas Normal Studios, a clothing brand from Denmark (great quality and nice fitting jersey by the way). He asked…. “here, they missed out the E and the I on your jersey” then proceeded to start laughing. I wasn’t actually feeling that nervous which is quite rare for me especially for an event I really have been targeting, but the joke and his reaction removed any little nervous feeling I had which was very welcomed, even if he did call me a penis!
I got off well in the 39 front chainring knowing I would move up to the 53 as soon as possible. This is where the rattling shifter from the warmup bit me in the arse….. I am running Shimano 105 5800 on the Cube Agree I was riding and this allows you half clicks with the shifter for the front derailleur. As I was riding in the big ring but using the large end of the 28-speed cassette I was running, it meant I wanted to be that half click down on the front derailleur so that I wouldn’t get any chain rub. When I tried to do the half click down after shifting up to the 53 chainring I noticed the small lever for shifting had remained in position and not moved back to it’s original as it typically does (spring loaded). So as I tried the half click down after getting into the big ring, I ended up shifting right back down into the little ring…. ARGH! I cured it by doing the same shift but just being a lot more careful with the shift and managed to get the half click and then I was on my way. The mis-shift certainly didn’t cost me the win or a medal of course, so does it really matter? I personally don’t think so but it definitely cost me a couple of seconds and I have a massive crack in the road in Lennoxtown to thank for it.
I was going really well up the gradual drag, power good and heart rate was steady sitting above 182BPM so I knew here that I warmed up and was going better than I did on Saturday. I could see the car park on the corner up ahead on the side of the climb and wanted to keep steady to this point as it was the steepest ramp but there was a slight tail wind awaiting me after rounding the bend. It would be the steepest ramp at the car park to the sound of cowbell’s where I would catch my minute man and get an adrenaline buzz that gave me the perception that I was cool with putting out 480w…. Just calm down you total nugget.
With a tailwind and out of steep gradient now I wish I was on the TT bike. Even a disc wheel here would have been a proper sail in this wind which was at a scarily perfect angle. I focused on keeping a big gear but not to dip below 90RPM and maintained a good cadence as I blasted past a few riders who were out on their Sunday rides. Bright orange paint on the road said 2KM to go, then 1KM to go…. There was a 250m to go one as well but I certainly didn’t see it! Tasting blood now and swimming in lactic acid I crossed the line and stopped the Garmin without even looking at my time. I was too busy draped over the front of my bars and doing a few roars to myself as I gasped for air totally uncontrollably. I’ve seen it on the Internet, apparently this is where you stop your bike and get off to have a roll about the floor like something on Emmerdale? Nah, you’re alright. Light pedalling for a mile only to turn around and freeze ones arse off going back down the hill it is!
11:47.60 for another 8th Place:
I had no idea but I was in the lead for 25 minutes before I got a thrashing by the big hitters. As I was 4th senior male away on the startsheet I had plenty of time for a cooldown so I got back to HQ and wrapped up before heading to Strathblane and back as my cooldown. I got changed and handed my number back after my cooldown and waited around for the presentations. In hindsight I should have looked at my Garmin because when they were reading out the times of the podium finishers I had absolutely no idea how far off the mark I was.
Looking at the data I was quite pleased with how close I was with my calculations as referred to above for VAM and could see my scepticism to the W/KG needed for an 11:30 was right also.
I had a 185BPM heart rate for 10mins during the climb which is the highest I have achieved for just over two years. The ticker appears to be as strong as ever.
I achieved my 1300VAM target but fell short by 7watts on my power target. 350w and no mis-shift may have seen me even achieve my 11:30 target but I was happy with my ride and it was a fine day all round to close off the 2018 season on the roads.
Full results in place order I still have not seen unfortunately so I cannot link/show them here. Like I said in the CTT Scottish HC post, the placings were on a screen at HQ instantly but for SC events it is never like this. Bioracer Project Go did have individual times on their Facebook page as the presentations were being done so that was superb on top of a extremely well run event by them. Scottish Cycling writeup courtesy of The Press Room published here – https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/scotland/article/20181015-scottish-cycling-news-Scottish-Cycling-National-Hill-Climb-Championship–Race-Report-0
1st. Grant Ferguson – CST American Eagle = 11:00.15
2nd. Kyle Gordon – RT23 = 11:23.61
3rd. David Griffiths – Bioracer Project Go = 11:30.25
The standard was so high at this event. An 11:00 is just insane, massive kudos to Grant, that’s just on another level completely.
Kyle can climb with the best?!? Incredibly strong and what a season he has had. He’d put heaps of time into anybody over anything from 10 to 100 miles but to get a silver medal at the National HC? Superb ride. I don’t even want to know the watts averaged Kyle!
David was on his TT bike again and I think riding a 40 tooth chain ring both days. After the top section of the course I was sure he would be on the TT bike again with a disc and I have to say he is a clever cookie again. Not his day to retain the title but a bronze behind the 1st & 2nd times was still a mega ride.
A weekend of mixed fortunes with bad weather, dodgy cars followed by a cracking day on Sunday and *almost* achieving what I thought myself capable of. The three hour drive back up to the Highland Tundra was actually a pleasant one but I was happy to see it behind me and get back to my lass and little dude.
I made a nice friend in David Ross from Falkirk BC and look forward to hooking up with him/his club in future trips to the Central Belt.
All positive vibes to walk away with and close off the 2018 road season.