The East London club for all kinds of sports cycling

National Hill Climb 2005

Scarlett Parker reports on his impressive performance at this year's National Hill Climb championships, in the Peak District.

Thanks to the generosity of the club, I got the chance to compete at this year's national hillclimb championships on the infamous 'Rake' course in Ramsbottom. It's about 950 yards, averages 11%, but has a nasty final few hundred yards of 25%.

On Saturday 29th October, me, my wife Faith, my mate James (a friend of ex-Lea Valley member Jay Woolaston), Dervila and Les met at John's house ready for the 5 hour journey to our B&B in Bolton. John had valiantly volunteered to do all the driving and he wasted no time in getting us to our first pit stop somewhere off the A1 about 30 miles south of Sheffield. Me and Faith tucked into our sandwiches while everyone else succumbed to the lure of Burger King's meal deals. Then we took a scenic route across some of the Peak District before John had to 'reinterpret' the speed limit to get us to our B&B in time for the landlady to get to a friend's wedding! Navigation went out the window a bit once we got to Bolton, despite the fact that James was born there - although to be fair, he moved away when he was 5.

Having settled in, we went for a stroll in the local park, and checked out the town centre which was in a limbo between the end of the weekend shoppers and the Saturday night revellers. Hunger caught up with us (again) so we plumped for an Italian restaurant only to be turned away because they were fully booked; so we went to a tapas place instead where James could impress us with his Spanish pronunciation (having dated a Spanish woman for a few years), but it fell on deaf ears because the waitress was from Bolton. After the meal, we got a bit lost (again) but eventually made it back to the B&B… where James realized he'd left his bag at the restaurant, so him and John and Les went back into town, and weren't seen again till morning.

After breakfast (where Dervila's request for a vegetarian breakfast seemed to disorientate the landlady for a second) we smuggled the bike out of my room – Les had sneaked it in on Saturday evening – and set off for Ramsbottom just in time for the pissing rain. When we got there, I went for a quick spin up the course and discovered it was like a steeper version of Mott Street - our club hillclimb course in Epping Forest: the same false flat in the middle, and a similar vicious kick on the final section, although double the gradient in this instance. Then I joined the others in the Rose & Crown, half way up the climb, for a coffee.

Due to the miserable weather, I went and sat in the car for an hour or so while the others went to spectate (first rider off 11.30am, last rider off 2pm), and I also caught up with a few of the other riders from the South who'd made the journey to Ramsbottom. At about 1.15pm I started to warm-up, and within 5 minutes was almost knocked off by some twat pulling out of a side street. I thought the adrenalin might help to negate the effects of my cold, and by the time I rolled up to the start line – 1 minute after the hot favourite, Jim Henderson – I felt relaxed and ready to suffer; in fact, 'prepare to suffer' was written on a banner in huge letters above the start!

I felt good on the first 12-15% section, not going too hard, but standing tall and perhaps even smiling as a turned the first corner where John was ready to pounce with his camera. Then I sat down for the false flat, ready to keep my 38x20 ticking over, and yet again, just like in my other climbs this year, it all started to go wrong. The support thinned out on this section of the course, apart from the occasional old codger who didn't so much offer support as voice mild disapproval - not quite the atmosphere of the Catford & Bec! But then it was time to stand up again and lift things for the final torturous section. The crowd were a bit 'cheered out' having just seen Jim Henderson go by, but there was still plenty of shouting from my supporters which was fantastic considering they'd been camped out on the hill for so long. I couldn't really up the pace – illness and academic distractions had put pay to chances of grimpeur grandeur – but I managed to keep going, only aware of Jamie Newall from Evans Cycles shouting, "Keep goin', Scarlett – do it fer Laaahndaaahn!!!"

I crossed the line, realized I'd made it up in under 3 minutes, and waved away the 'catcher' that was moving in my direction. Being on a fixed gear, I was a bit concerned that I'd crack his shin with one of my cranks. Then I rolled down the hill on the other side, trying to stay conscious and avoid swerving into the traffic. My achilles tendons felt like the were ready to snap, and I was somewhere down that long dark tunnel which always crops up after particularly hard climbs. Then I realized that I'd need John's keys to get my spare number and bottle from the car, so I rode up the course again. When I got to the bottom and tried to find an official to take my number, there was no-one there, so I grabbed the numbers from the Evans lads who were saying they'd post theirs back to the organizer, and made my way up the course one last time… good training for the Lea Valley hillclimb the following week!

The presentations went on for ever, but eventually we all headed back to the car, and then tried to find somewhere that served vegetarian food for Me, Faith and Dervila. We ended up back in the Rose & Crown for chips and onion rings and about a million micro-sachets of ketchup and mayonnaise; and a pint of course: Thwaites Thoroughbred - very nice!

After another sterling driving session from John (and a quick stop at the Watford Gap services for coffee and chocolate) we got back to London around 11pm. Me and Faith cracked open a fresh bottle of Aberlour and reflected on a very nice club outing where the atmosphere and camaraderie more than made up for lack of form and a mediocre performance. What follows are the key results - the top 10, James Ward who just pipped me in the ECCA, Me, and another bloke who's meant to be quite handy on flatter courses

1 Ben Greenwood 2:26.5
2 Jim Henderson Southport CC 2:26.8
3 David Clarke Rayon D'Argent 2:31.9
4 Rob English 21st Century Airports CT 2:33.9
5 Matt Clinton Team Specialized 2:34.2
6 Jonathan Dayus Arctic Shorter Rochford RT 2:34.8
7 James Dobbin Arctic Shorter Rochford RT 2:35.0
8 Peter Bissell Arctic Shorter Rochford RT 2:36.5
9 William Bell Gemini BC 2:37.2
10 Alex Coutts Flanders/Peebles CC 2:38.0
28 James Ward Cambridge CC 2:47.9
48 Scarlett Parker Lea Valley CC 2:58.3
101 Michael Hutchinson API Metrow 3:24.8