Monday, 20 February 2012

Red Bull Hill Chasers

If we could say that all the Mule Bar Girls’ disasters were contained into yesterday’s trip to Red Bull Hill Chasers in Bristol, then it was a day well spent. Debuting for my new team , the pressure was on at this high profile event which attracts cyclists from across the globe including a Liquigas pro, Ted King, who flew in especially, his next race being Paris Nice.

The idea behind Red Bull Hill Chasers is to find the quickest bike uphill. 16 elite riders plus the 16 fastest amateurs through the morning’s qualification, battle it out head to head up Bristol’s Park Street, 170m of pure hill, on any type of bike that can make it to the finish. Fixie against mountain bike, road against BMX, out through the hydraulic starting gates, up through the chicanes in the knowledge that ‘jostling is allowed’, with the fastest rider going through to the next round and all in front of 1000s of people. The only saving grace being that Red Bull had drawn the line at closed fists, although tell that to the two guys who jostled and met the ground.
It had all the ingredients of being a great night out which in the end it really was but there were a few slight catches to the day. I’d barely got out of the front door and my car wouldn’t start. Absolutely nothing in the battery, zilch, nada, niente and I certainly didn’t have time to cycle from London to Bristol. Not deterred, my boyfriend John pushed me the entire way to Kwik Fit who were absolutely amazing, battery changed in 10 minutes and no charge for labour! This all sounds like quite a smooth operation but hides the panic in between and the state of John after he’d finished hefting a car plus me down the street and then sprinting desperately after me when we got a bit of speed up down the hill. Nonetheless, undeterred and quite a bit late, John, V and I drove through the wind, torrential rain and glaring sun down the M4 to find Phoebe who was already there.

Once in Bristol I managed to lose my brand new team t-shirt, my jacket (complete with house keys) and then my phone. Luckily all items’ whereabouts eventually located although the phone is still having a holiday with V. Then to the actual racing, somehow there had been a slight miscalculation, 18 elites had signed on for 16 places and I was one of the two that wasn’t on the published start sheet. A lot of frenzied bartering between organisers and event managers ensued while I tried not to look too gutted that it seemed I might not to get a race. After some more frantic conversing and for me a chance to practice ride up the hill (I started off in way too bigger gear, it seems it’s all about the quick legs and those legs weren’t quick!) they came to a compromise, the other extra rider, John Pybus (GT), and I could race each other but wouldn’t be able to be in the actual competition. Having made the trip down there and seeing the atmosphere it was a shame I wasn’t going to be in the knock out rounds but it was a chance for a pretty unique experience all the same.

Lining up in the start gates was terrifying, all eyes turned in our direction and my front wheel jammed up against a metal grate that would fall unexpectedly without warning, signalling the moment to start pushing as you began rolling down the ramp. Except time ticked on and on… Five minutes later and we were still there getting colder and the road ahead getting longer. Standing up in the pedals, feet poised and ready to go but with nowhere to go. Finally we got to start and I immediately realised that yes, even this gear was too big and had to quickly change up. However, to my surprise before the first set of chicances I had overtaken John. I have no real recollection of anything from then apart from looking back just before the finish to make sure he was still behind me. Being one of the few girls there it was nice to win although John then told me he slipped his pedal just out of the blocks, but hey a win is a win! It was rubbish that I didn’t get to go through to the next round but it was fun to be a spectator and it’s made me all the more determined for next year. All I need to do is get back down to Park Street and work out what that gear should have been…

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