When I was told that there was to be a race up Catherine Hill in Frome a few weeks ago I got a little excited. This sort of event is perfect for me and I was really confident about it. Luckily Rich from Live2Ride kept asking about entry as I probably wouldn't have ever sorted it out!
At the last minute I volunteered to marshall for the event and went along to a familiarisation session with the other volunteers who consisted of members, friends and family of the BlackCanonCollective (big thanks to you all, without you, this event would have just been a pipe dream). I was surprised to see a few people practising going up the hill. I was quite jealous and wished I had a bike to give the hill a bash. Rumours were bandied around about 39 seconds this, 29 seconds that. All these times seemed fast and anybody who's ever walked up Catherine Hill will realise just how quick that was. I decided not to have a go and wait till the big day to give it some.
Sadly on the Wednesday I finished work late and so did my future Queen. We had arrived a little late to help marshall, there was already loads and they were doing an admirable job.
There were people lining the course, I couldn't get past. Cheers and beers were the order of the evening. Flags, bells, and clackers assaulted the senses.
I was glad to see so many differing cycle enthusiasts tackling the hill. Especially the kids riding, they were amazing! Credit has to go out to the one kid who gave it all on a highly geared bike, he was barely moving when he decided to get off. He will go all the way next year for sure.
20 or so riders through my stomach was full of butterflies. I was checking out the different bikes and working out what was best. Road bikes with hard tyres were skipping and sliding everywhere (waaay too much lycra at times), the folding bikes were bending and a flexing. As for the guy in the 3 wheel recumbent thing, you are crazy!
The best bikes seemed to be mountain bikes with slicks and fastest looking was Damian Mead was on his 24” race bmx cruiser. I was contemplating getting my race bmx but stuck with the road bike.
Lots of people were going for warm ups and sweating before it all started, I wish I had too but I was having too much fun clapping and cheering. I had one sprint up Bath Street and pedalled back down. Time for my run.
My bike was held (by a very brave Caroline) so I could clip into my pedals, my gears already selected, all I had to do was go after the count down.
3, 2, 1, go... I held my breath and I started lifting and pushing on the pedals, minimising bouncing up and down to keep traction on the cobbles. The first corner came up real fast and my plans to stay right of the drain didn't work. As I was turning, the bike was drifting a little so I just kept pedalling and aimed for drain and tape. Wow, that was close and fortunately I kept all my speed and just picked up more cranking harder and harder. The crowd was nuts, my concentration was on the gradients and keeping my upper body still. I thought I saw the finish line and hung up a little but then I saw the line further in the distance so got back on to the pedals and gave it some. Coming up to the line I was moving real fast and people had stopped cheering. I realised at this point that there were too many people standing just behind the line and I wasn't going to stop so had to back down a little and swap my hands to the brakes and grab the anchors.
Time to breath again and breath hard I did for 10 minutes after. Marjory from the Club came running over and kissed me and told me I was King now. I wanted to know how much under 27 seconds I was so I had to check. 23.54 seconds, nearly 4 seconds faster. I was confident that in the remaining 30 minutes nobody would get me off the throne. Taking my crown and sitting in the throne I ended up chatting to the Tour director and was kissed by the naturally beautiful Tour girls. Amazing!
I then had to go into the main arena for the presentation with the Mayor of Frome. What a top bloke and he was talking about doing the same thing next year. That's all I remember talking about as I was giddy from all the excitement! The presentation was on a ramp in front of hundreds, I was back with the Tour chicks but no kisses this time and was presented with the best trophy ever for a cycle enthusiast; a mini bike frame made by Curtis bikes embedded in local stone.
Time now to collect my girlfriend to watch the fireworks and then head off with the BlackCanonCollective members to The Griffin for a large round of Cobble Wobble ale. After all, I am the King of the Cobbles.
Ingredients for 23.54 seconds:
57cm Trek ALU road bike
Clip in pedals
50 x 23 gear selection (for the geeks) with no changes
25c rear tyre at 80psi
2 x Helen's Millionaires Slice
1 bottle of water
1650W of leg power (had a go on a WattBike a few months ago)
Thanks to all those who marshalled, the BlackCanonCollective, Live2Ride, Frome council members for being so cycle friendly, all the crowds and finally my lovely lady Helen.