Wednesday 15 September 2021

Photo of the day - 15: Crystal Palace Hills

It's getting to that time of year again when hill climbs take place. People travel long distances to race all of a couple of minutes up a very steep hill. It's a different kind of race that only seems to exist in the UK. I have heard of similar sorts of races abroad. In Italy they are known as cronoscalata, and they do them in France too. But in those events people are racing up proper mountain passes where good amateur racers could still be riding for an hour. They normally happen on iconic climbs like Alpe d'Huez, France or Madonna del Ghisallo, Italy. But in this country we have a season full of these races, meaning that although some venues are famous such as Cat and Fiddle, Box Hill or Winnats Pass (the venue for this year's national championships), many hills are unknown to all but those local to the area and hill climb aficionados. 

My quirky side got the better of me last year, and I did some hill climb races last year. I got the bug and I am doing some again this year. I am pretty slow compared to the rest of the field, but I do find that these sorts of hills do improve my own riding and hill climbing ability, so that's why I am happy to stick with it. I also enjoy those few minutes where you really push yourself so hard and everyone is there shouting and cheering for you. At the bigger events it's just like what you see on TV when the racers go up a mountain pass and massive crowds are shouting "Allez allez" at the riders.

As part of my preparation I ride the hills near where I live. We are lucky to have a choice of hills in the Crystal Palace area, so I can regularly get in a small hilly loop either at lunchtime, or in the case of today, just after work and before my clarinet class. In the 14.5km ride (9 miles approx) I managed to get in six hills and 280m (850ft approx) of climbing. The loop includes what I call the dreaded trio of Westwood Park, Canonbie Road, and Eliot Bank.  I always get apprehensive about these climbs before I ride them, but in a strange way I also feel that I have to ride them because I live in hope that in time I will learn to like them, and I will get stronger.

This is a typical quick loop that I do. To get more hills in I can also add in the ones that come up from Dulwich, and the ones in the conservation area of Crystal Palace. 

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