Ride up a hill.
The Bristol South CC Hill Climb.
A hill climb was the chosen discipline for David Millar to end his pro career, a nod to the British cycling scene and its lesser known idiosyncrasies. There’s no real mystery as to the format of the event, merely a simple derivative of the dark art of time trialling. Sunday was Bristol South Cycling Club’s hill climb.
Aero is replaced by light weight. This means not only no bottle cages, but not even any bolts for bottle cages, just small squares of tape to keep the damp out of the frame. The prime example of the required obsession is Tejvan Pettinger, current UK hill climb champion, who has shaved the already svelt Trek Emonda by 900 grammes.
Whether it is the eye-catching glamour of the club kit, the iconic nature of Burrington Combe or a final struggle to resist the turning weather and make the most of the last of summer’s fitness, Bristol South easily manage to fill a field of 120 riders.
Local heroes, PJ and Rich Spink rub shoulders with the National Champion and hill climb legends such as Glyn Griffiths.
But it’s not all hungry looking, skinsuit clad madness, it’s also riders racing for a personal best, to struggle, year on year, against the dying of the light, and to eat cake at the cafe.
This gives the event a carnival atmosphere, Cow Bell Corner is crowded with family and friends beating saucepans, shouting encouragement and generally behaving like a properly-brought-up football crowd.
Unlike any other sporting event the start line of a time trial or hill climb does not have the building tension or the macho posturing. The count down, however, gives each rider a sense of the impending doom and the creeping shadow of the gasping, painful effort they will put in.
A winning time is sub 7 minutes, a good time is up to you, but times are not the measure of the rider. Like all cycling it’s about personal capability, the relative, matched by the effort, which is understood in the same way by everyone. This is what makes the hill climb the purest of the cycling disciplines.
Thank you to Bristol South for a great event (even if we didn’t get to ride it!).