Race Hinode Hill Climb Meeting - October 25th

Sibreen

Maximum Pace
Jul 23, 2010
564
242
63
Hanno, Saitama
#1
I had been reading @andywood and @GrantT's race reports this year with great interest but wasn't sure I was cut out for racing. Then, while climbing Umenoki Pass a couple of weeks ago, I saw a poster stating that roads would be closed on the 25th for a race. I felt the urge to give it a crack. The application deadline had passed, but I sent the organizer an email and he was happy for me to enter.
So, this is the race report from my first ever race. I enjoyed it very much.
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The course is 8.4km long, but divides easily into two distinct sections: the first 5.4km or so are rolling with an average gradient of 3%; then the climb proper begins, with the last 3km at 10%+.

I line up in the second of two waves, about eight places from the front. I’m not really sure what to do. I suspect that the first wave has the big hitters in, so I dash off at the start hoping to ride a strong first section. My legs are feeling funny, though, a little numb - I glance down and see I am riding at 37kmh, an unsustainable pace fuelled by the excitement of race day. Sure enough, I soon tire, and a chain gang of riders sweep past me. I manage to latch on to the back of the pack, and end up in about eighth place again.

The leading riders settle into a steady rhythm, and I catch my breath behind them. But they are going slowly (I am still sure that the first wave has the faster riders). So, rather foolishly, I drive my way to the front and push the pace once more. The pack snakes behind me for a minute or so, whereupon I move over to let the next person take up the pace (I just assume this is normal - it is, after all, in all of our best interests to go as fast as possible). I move to the right, but the rider in second place moves to the right, and everyone behind him follows. So I move to the left, but the rider in second place moves to the left, and everyone behind him follows. And so it happens that I lead the pack up to about the 4.5km mark. I am pretty knackered by this point (though I should be prominent in a number of official photos), and a group of perhaps 25 riders breeze past as the incline starts to rise.

Entering the second section, the gradient jumps immediately to 12% for a couple of hundred metres before levelling off slightly. Lots of riders struggle here; I spin steadily past them (in fact, no one passes me on the second section). The toughest section of the climb begins 1.9km into the second section - a three hundred metre stretch of maybe 20%. Riders are veering all over the road. Some (well, one) are screaming to themselves. Others try to stand but, lacking the strength, hunch back over their handlebars. I reclaim a few more places. For the final 500m or so, the climb again levels off. There are two riders about 20m ahead, just in sight, and, as we speed up for the finish, I begin to close in. But before I can pass, the finish line is upon us.

I come 9th in the second wave, and 35th out of 157 overall. I'm a little disappointed. I had expected to be about 25th. Strava shows that the first wave reached the 4km mark 40 seconds quicker than the second wave. So, I was right to try and push it. On the other hand, if I’d been in the first wave, perhaps I’d have been about 30 seconds quicker overall. That's just the way it goes, I suppose.

I was a long, long way off first place. But the gap to third place in my age group (and a prize) was a minute. With more focused training, and perhaps a lighter bike, it seems a reasonable target for me to at least challenge for a prize in minor events like this next year.