Last night was the Stockport Clarion club hill-climb, on the infamous Cat and Fiddle road between Macclesfield and Buxton. I rode in this event last year, and had a good ride on a clear and dry day with a good tailwind. I had high hopes of bettering the 26:00 I did last year, but things didn't go exactly to plan.
There's a webcam attached to the side of the Cat and Fiddle pub, which looks over the finish of the course at the road summit. I had a look at it yesterday afternoon, and there wasn't much to see except cloud and massive wagons heading over to Buxton with their fog lights on. It didn't look like a lot of fun. Once I got home, I was having serious second thoughts about the whole enterprise as I got ready for the 18-mile ride to Macclesfield, with the rain rattling the windows in my flat. But I made myself head out, leaving in absolutely filthy weather and gnarly traffic for a fun rush-hour jaunt through Stockport. The weather gradually cleared up as I got towards Macclesfield, and I arrived with about ten minutes to spare before the 7pm start.
Unfortunately, the start had been put back to 7:30, so I ended up waiting around in the cold for 40 minutes. Will, the timekeeper, didn't make it until just before 7:30 because he had to pick someone up from the airport. So, dispensing with numbers, the four riders who had shown up got going as soon as possible. The weather was now dry, but cool and windy. I decided to ride with lights in case it was cloudy at the summit. I went off number 2, and it was one of those days when you know it's going to be rough as soon as you set off. I hadn't had enough of a warm-up, and my legs just didn't want to have any of it. I didn't really get settled in until I was past Walker Barn and had done the most difficult bit. By then, the two guys behind me had already gone past, but I had caught up with my minute man. Emerging into the open country beyond Walker Barn, the gale-force tailwind came into play, and the middle section of the course was very fast. I even had to touch the brakes on some of the corners. Then the last climb onto the top: I almost got blown off the road on a cross-wind section, and struggled past the timekeeper in 26:36, 36 seconds slower than last year. But, with the only other Stockport Clarion rider being my minute man, who I had passed about two and a half miles earlier, I was the club hill-climb champion. This is nice, especially as I was several times hill-climb champion at my former club, Birdwell Wheelers, but there's no pretending that I was particularly quick. Several riders in the club would have put minutes into me had they ridden, but like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. Jolan managed to capture a webcam image of us at the top: I'm the guy in the red shirt at left...
My reward was a long, windy ride home, mainly in darkness, but I got to see the sun go down over Fiddlers Ferry power station as I headed back down into Macclesfield.