What did you say pride comes before?..
Hill-climb season is upon us and after a few promising club TT’s I decided to try my hand (or legs I suppose) at our traditional SDW season closer on Kidds Hill. Riders set off at 1 minute intervals up the 1611 feet of uphill known as The Wall. I lined up behind Rory waiting silently for the call – he disappeared into the dark tree-lined tunnel like he’d been fired from a gun. Thirty seconds later two horse riders went passed joking that they’d be at the top before the bikes – then the first of three cars followed them over the little singletrack bridge in front of me – fifteen second call and two runners come toward me whilst I can here another car behind!
5 seconds-4-3-2-1 – stand up on the pedals, clip in and push them as hard as possible. Within seconds I was overtaking the first car, over the bridge and past the second car – past the horses and up a couple of gears I had no time to consider the bigger picture through all the chaos, which probably helped me push the big ring all the way up the first third of the climb. Then it levels out slightly and I found that I was happily pushing the big ring still whilst obeying the paint on the road that reads, “DON’T…LOOK…UP”.
As the road steepens to 20% I was sucking in as much air as I could find and looking for the point to once again engage the big-dog. Finally out of the tree-line and as the sun hits your face you can finally see that chequered finish board drawing you home like a magnet. 4:53 was enough to win by a handful of seconds – my first club win! Really happy with that, but even more exciting was the vibe at the top. Pip had won the women’s race and everyone had put 110% in. After a gentle club ride across the forest we retired to our end of season BBQ. I’ve had some good times this summer, but that Sunday has to be one of the best.
- Glen Whittington 4:53:28
- Matt Kuwertz 4:56:09
- Neil Walters 4:56:64
- Rory Barrett 4:57:07
The following Sunday I was back to racing ‘cross at Herne Hill – one of my favourite rounds. I got one of the best starts I’ve ever had from the front row of the grid. Then I got pushed through some course tape, but no bother – it broke and we all kept going. The pace was really high and a few of us that had made good starts were keen to keep up in the fast group that was working well. James Flury was driving the pace, Craig [Joy] seemed to have a problem and stopped, but Russell, Wilf, Mike Ladbrook and I were keeping a strong pace going.
Lap by lap I was gaining confidence in just how hard I could push my front tyre – I tend to lose out a little on the fast powerful grassy sections but I make it all back in the tight twisty stuff which was what I concentrated on doing rather than using up too much energy. Looking up at the lap board and seeing 5 to go didn’t help but I told myself that if I was hurting then everyone else must be hurting too! In actually fact although I was pushing myself into the red everything felt good – my back was fine now I’m used to the new bike, I’d avoided the blisters that I got last year by using gloves and I knew I had something saved for the final lap.
I’d kept the pace up and stayed with the group I was in – Dan and Wilf were chasing hard but had now both dropped off enough to make me feel comfortable – the perfect start to the final lap. As the group of five overtook a backmarker they all went to his right, a few seconds after I followed. I normally call, “on your right please”, as I’d been doing all race, but I assumed it was obvious that I’d follow the group through on his right. As I came through he started to drift toward me, “right, right, right”, I yelped, but it was too late, our bars locked and we both went down – hard. I hit the ground all twisted up and on my side and then I think I rolled backwards. I spent a few seconds on all fours with the wind knocked out of me trying to breathe.
Here’s my get-down;
Looking over at the other rider he was up and okay and suddenly my mind was flooded with thoughts of keeping my position in the race – there can only be about a kilometre to go! My chain was still on and the bike seemed okay so I jumped back on wheezing as I rode the steps for the last time. I overtook a few more backmarkers and ran the final bank back into the arena. The lumpy grass really hurt and I was taking deep noisy breaths as I came home to secure my 16th place – well worth it in my opinion, but I did need a little sit down now.
I massively grateful to Mike Ladbrook for the lift home – he stopped me riding back to the station. I checked on the other rider who had a few bruises but is fine. I had a few x-rays and a check-over and all my important bits are fine – three broken ribs and a couple of cracked ones will heal up soon and I’ve just got to allow the muscle around the shoulder-blade and ribs to re-connect itself. I’m pissed off not to be able to race at Happy Valley as it was my best result last year, but I’ll focus on getting strong for the wetter muddy courses now and be back as soon as possible.
Cheers for all the kind messages #southerncross #morecowbell #wearecross #noshortcuts
- Michael Butler (Hargroves)
- Tom Eastley (Crawley)
- Jonathon Dennis (Control)
- Glen Whittington (SDW) +04:12
Cheers to Dean Kenwood, Ian Turner and Hazel Barnes Photography for the photos.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY.
Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – email@example.com.