It was the first year that the annual Cleveland Wheelers Hill Climb was hosted on Clay Bank, moving away from its long established home of Carlton Bank.
In the lead up to the event there was speculation whether we had chosen the best course, but after hearing rumours of the local ‘big hitters’ devising their own strategies of how to conquer the inaugral 1.5m stretch of road and doing secret night time training sessions I think everyone decided to reserve judgement. It did seem that the event was what everyone was talking about for a month beforehand.
This year we had over 50 entrants from a range of clubs and riders from afar afield as Newcastle, and looking back, twice as many spectators. I must say that the start sheet made for interesting reading as it was made up from a selection of hill climb specialists, strong men and others who just want wanted to try their luck and conquer the climb in one of the last events of the season. Riders to look out for this year were Harry Tanfield, Josh Teasdale, Rob Carter and Richard Lilleker. I’m also pleased to say that a fair few of our own members even took part in the hope that they might be in the running for the Cleveland Wheelers’ trophy and wrestle it out the hands of Richard who has been the owner for the past couple of years. Two people in particular, who were looking for good times; myself and Dave Kirton. It’s a well know fact to most club members that whatever we do it’s a competition and this was no different. Earlier in the year he had beaten me to the overall win in the club’s Evening Series Time Trial event, so secretly I was thinking that this was time for payback.
Finally, I’d just like to mention Bryan Bevis. To everyone’s delight he even gave it a go, sporting classic toe straps and a retro club strip, showing that age is just a number and you’re as old as you feel. Well done Bryan.
It was a perfect autumn morning apart from a slight breeze and I remember while riding from the HQ to the bottom of Clay Bank that there were going to be some good times. I pulled over to have a chat with Rob Carter; he was giving short replies while warming up on his trainer. Typical Rob, he played down his chances but you could see that he meant business. At that moment I didn’t know to what degree but we soon found out later!
Other people hanging around were Josh Teasdale, Harry and Charlie Tanfield. Josh was rubbing in leg balm and being quiet, while Harry commented, “you wearing your helmet Josh?” With a reply coming back of “Na, Just my Shades!” Which I think got a slight surprised reaction from Harry. Later while watching him crest the hill he also had gone for tradition and was sporting a cloth cap. Chapeau, Mr Tanfield.
I pulled up to the line with four riders to go. Shaun Tyson was chatting, recalling how he had ridden and in what gear, whilst the riders yet to go off were nodding in agreement but with signs of “hmmm” when he mentioned that he’d used a 53×23 gear. I was also going to use a similar gear but sporting a compact chainset. I hadn’t heard any times as yet but I was next to go off. I made sure that I was in the right gear and that everything was correct.
Now the next five minutes are a bit of a blur but I shall try and recall them to the best of my ability. 5, 4,3,2,1, go!! That was it. I remember sprinting to get up to speed thinking that I need to get to the fence at the half mile segment in under 1:40; I just about managed it with my heart rate about 170, bang on. I kept going and tried to get a rhythm going, my strategy was to climb out of the saddle as much as I could. Everything was going OK, but then I started to struggle in the mid section. I thought, “Go on, keep going”.
I rode past Ben Honeysett looking like Borat, he was stripped down to just his bib tights, and waving a water bottle and shouting. Now I suppose one should never let their mind wander while doing something so demanding but I couldn’t help thinking. ‘What the heck.’ As I passed two thirds distance I could see the crowds at the top waving and cheering, nearly there I thought. I was sitting down at this point but with two corners I needed to give a bit more so I clicked up a gear, stood up and started to sprint for the line. Dave, Rob, Shaun Joughin and a few others were stood at the finish with a clip board and camera in hand. Finished!! I rolled over the finish line and crawled into the car park exhausted but pleased with my effort. As I was now a spectator myself, I could see the growing crowds waiting in trepidation to see the pain and suffering on each of the riders faces which were left to come. Rob had already finished, but I knew that he had done a good time, now we just had to wait.
I can’t remember in what order they came up but it was time to watch the pre-event favourites which were Harry, Richard and Josh Teasdale. Richard came up giving it everything and he looked good then Harry came into view sporting his fluid pedalling stroke and spinning a 39 x 23, finally Josh came up turning what looked like a massive gear for his size, lurching back and forth he crossed the line. That was it, now we had to wait for the times. I was stood with Mike Cole at the time and after a quick calculation we had a winner. To everyone’s surprise Rob Carter took the win in a time of 5:50. Now I say a surprise. That may have been the case for some as it was his first hill climb, but for those of us who know him it wasn’t so. We had him down as the dark horse and although it was always going to be close between the top three, I would have put £5 on him. Second and third went to Josh and Harry respectively with only a handful of seconds separating them.
In the club competition, Richard took the win again beating me into 2nd place also by a small margin. I was a little annoyed but I did beat my arch nemesis, aka Mr Dave Kirton, by nine seconds. Harmony can now be restored once again, and we can both relax until next year when I’m sure our little competition will resume.
After everyone had recovered we all trundled back down to the headquarters to fill our boots with cakes, pies and many a beverage. Non-alcoholic I may add. The results were finalised and the winner was presented to the crowd and applause was given. Rob also got his photo taken allowing him to stake his claim as the winner of the ‘new’ Cleveland Wheelers Hill Climb.
Thanks to everyone who took part, whether riding helping to organise the event, doing time keeping or just baking some lovely cakes.
Bring on next year.
Graeme Tate – October 2013