To be fair, there was no shortage of cycling at London 2012. Road racing, time trials, BMX, mountain biking, not to mention the myriad of track events. It was great to see so many disciplines ridden to such an amazing standard (especially with the fantastic success of Team GB). To me though, there was one event that was missing – a peculiarly British event that the organisers could have snuck in there in much the same way that the Aussies brought us beach volleyball. Step forward the hill climb – that short and brutal race that tests riders like no other.
It was a week after the closing ceremony that I found myself on my first hill climb of the season, so the Olympics were fresh in my mind.
Cycling was enjoying a well publicised post-Games boom with new cyclists crowding the roads on shiny road bikes.
With this in mind, I was a little surprised to find just twelve riders taking on the race up Terrace Hill, near Belvoir castle. The only local hill to make it into Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, the event was organised by his old club – Newark Castle CC. Perhaps it was the time of year - hill climbs are supposed to take place in winter and this was one of the warmest days of the year.
The lack of riders was matched by an equally sparse crowd: only my wife, kids and the dog were there to cheer me up the steepest section. One of the great attractions of the hill climb is the raucous crowds they normally attract – one of the few chances we amateurs get to feel like a pro reaching the top of a famous Col.
Ho-hum, those cheers still helped a little as I pushed on to the top and that familiar surge of nausea.
I couldn’t help thinking that things would have been so different had hill climbing been contested in the Olympics. What an event that would have been! There’s even a suitable course – Swains Lane in Highgate, site of the hugely popular Urban Hill Climb organised by Rollapaluza. Imagine the world’s best climbers giving it everything for the 90 odd seconds they would need to reach the top. Froome, Contador, Schleck and Nibali – all going into what Simon Warren calls the “pain cave” as they battled past Highgate Cemetry gates. Now that would have brought the crowds out in London and maybe even a few more on Terrace Hill.