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Photo credit and big thanks to Cycling Photography Scotland –

Saturday 13th October 2018 saw me ride the CTT Scottish District Hill Climb Championship hosted by GTR Return to Life. The hill climb would see us tackle Auchenlodment Road in Johnstone, near Paisley, with the HQ for the event being in the Johnstone Wheelers Club Rooms.

Climb Info:

Strava Info:

Recce & Warmup:

I was staying with my family in Fife for the weekend as to make the travel times involved a bit more forgiving. I arrived in Johnstone for 08:00 as my start time was at 09:29. The rain was hammering it down from the second I set off from Fife and it did not ease of at all until 18:30 that evening, so you can imagine just how wet the course/competitors/life was. But the fact remains, if it’s wet and horrible for you, then it is wet and horrible for everyone and you just have to get on with it.
Signing on to my first ever CTT event and collecting my number was a breeze and absolutely no hassle what so ever. I do not have my Transition Race Team kit yet as it is still in the process of being made for the team in Italy, but I had no reason to worry at a CTT event as there is no rules against racing in plain jersey/clothing even if you are primary registered to a team. Number in hand, I jumped back in the car and took a drive up the climb to get a feel for it…..
My worst fears were confirmed at this point as the only steep section of the climb was at the bottom but it was very short and covered in soaking wet Autumn leaves. The rest of the climb was very gradual rise with a downhill(!!) corner and flat sections. I quickly confirmed to myself that I would have done this event on my TT bike with a 53 chainring if I had known the area and climb better.
Parked half way up the climb in a busy dog walkers car park I started getting dressed and sorting my tyre pressures out. There was no point in gearing up to stay dry as it was not possible, so I just dressed what I would race in then chucked my “waterproof” jacket on top to warm up in. As expected, I was soaking wet by the time I got to the bottom of the climb and I was glad the soaking process was over and done with. Once you are soaked, you are soaked, and that’s when you can move on and get on with the job at hand….. A half hearted bounce up the climb just re-affirmed my thoughts from in the car so I descended back down very carefully in the wet and done a few efforts on the flatter road down in Johnstone before rolling to the start and chucking my sodden “waterproof” jacket in a bush.

Swimming Uphill:
I started off pretty well and chucked it onto the 53 ring as soon as I got away. I wanted to mash the slight hairpin on the steepest part of the climb to get the legs going proper for the rest but thought I could make a second or two on it for sure if I rounded it on the steepest part in a big gear. The devil then appeared and started shouting at me and chasing me up the road…. Despite the shocking weather, this awesome guy still got dressed up to give support (scare!) the riders up the hill and I actually really appreciated that and had a chuckle behind my pain face.
It was just a case of pushing as big a gear as I could manage and try to stay at no lower than 90RPM. After the short downhill section and onto the gradual rise I caught a quick glimpse of my HR which was only at 180BPM despite me going fairly deep so I knew the warmup had not been sufficient to get the most out of myself. I dug deep regardless and was confident I could finish with my target watts of 360w.
Crossing the finish line (which I doubted for a moment as the timekeeper was in their car keeping dry and the chequered flag was dreeped all over the flag pole with the rain) I wasn’t blown to pieces, so I knew it wasn’t a belter by any stretch of the imagination, but I was already focused on getting warmed down and dry/dressed as quickly as possible.

6:56.12 for 8th place:
The results were already up on a projector when I went to sign out at the HQ. I was properly impressed at how speedy it all was and even more so impressed with how efficiently a CTT event runs. It all just seemed a little less “formal” I guess compared to Scottish/British Cycling events but I say this not in a positive or negative way really. I am happy riding under either and will say both have their upsides and downsides in different areas but it was good to finally ride a CTT event.

David won off some impressive watts on a TT bike, so it confirmed my thoughts on using a TT bike on this course, but this takes absolutely nothing away. The course is the course and the smarter/stronger man wins the day deservedly so!

Home Time:
Of course, the car I just spent £300 fixing for an MOT a matter of weeks ago decided to have a power steering pump catastrophe in Johnstone. So it was anxious times but the car got me safely to my family in Fife and left me scratching my head for the Scottish/British Cycling Champs the following day. Blog report for that, will of course, follow…..