National Hill Climb Championships 2020…. Part 1

Back in late October it was finally here, the final day, the big race, the National Hill Climb Championships. Only now has Becky really been able to reflect, to think, and to put into words how it has all felt.

It came in conjunction with the #climbhighertogether campaign which did better than she ever imagined it to. It opened doors to talk about women in cycling, to talk about cycling equality, and the issues surround racing, and it seems that the ball is only just starting to roll.

This blog is part of a short series where Becky will tell her story, and give a bit more context.

2020 – the lead up to nationals
When I think back through this year, the one thing that has been evident is how much structure my cycling has given to me, and how much support I have gained from the friends I have made through this sport. We have a Whatsapp group with the Specialized ambassador girls. We are similar in personalities, and a lot of us work within the NHS.

Will wear PPE in return for Tuesday night clapping

During lockdown, and whilst I was working on critical care, we were all chatting on here throughout the day. When things got bad, we were open and honest, probably more than to anybody else in our lives at that time. I don’t think I ever realised how much we shared, and how much daily support we all gave via this medium. From helping each other get our heads around the daily changes from the government, to making sense of why our patients were deteriorating before our eyes. I am sure there were many groups across the country doing the same thing.

In terms of my training, I’d started the year with some cycling ideas, and started lockdown with goals to ‘get fit on the bike’, but I didn’t have much structure, and I was definitely filling all my time with turboing. I was overexcited, new to Zwift, and trying to distract myself from work. I look back at my training diary now, and each week I was doing more and more because I didn’t know what else to do.

Picture from Zwift – Team Headset turbo sessions started early in lockdown…

Nat’s ‘Team Headset’ turbo sessions started during lockdown.The turbo sessions stopped me from doing too much, and they helped me really focus on what I wanted out of this year. After a month or so of turbo sessions I decided to ask Nat to coach me, and she was willing to take me on. From then onwards we had one goal in mind – top 15 at nationals. It gave me something to focus on, it helped me apply some specificity with my training, but I still remember thinking that I might be expecting too much of myself. I lack confidence in my cycling, perhaps because I don’t have the experience yet, like I do in my running. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t achieve this expectation, and that I’d bitten off more than I could chew – but, if a goal doesn’t scare you then it doesn’t challenge you – right?

Throughout the next few months things changed dramatically, lockdown ended, we all felt like we might get a full season (I’d even started looking at some crit races again!), hope was given – group rides were had. I was riding outside, the weather was better, and I was driving to local hills so that I could do my sessions outside again! I was feeling good! We felt like we might be getting back to normality. However, with this freedom came the bad news that cases were rising again, Covid cases climbed and climbed (ironically) right before the hill climb season. Suddenly the fear hit again, the underlying anxiety of what might happen, what if the races didn’t go ahead, all my hard work on the turbo might be taken away.

Bank Road Hill Climb, taking the win with great surprise! Photo by @mrgjmc

However, word on the street (and by this, I mean the online social media kind of street) was that because of the time trial format – Nationals was going to be saved! We got closer and closer, and there seemed to be hope that some of the other hill climb races might be okay too. Many were cancelled which was heartbreaking, with a limited number of timekeepers and local councils not wanting to have group events – these totally valid decisions were made, and we all understood that club committees really had no choice in doing this . It must have been so stressful for all the organisers, and when the races did go ahead it was such a different type of racing with no one stood at the sidelines spectating, no tea and cakes and post-race chats afterwards. This was a world away from the races I’d experienced last year, but at least we had something. I was delighted to get to race anything, the excitement was pouring out of me.

In the weeks leading up to Nationals I had some great races around the country and placed better than I’d anticipated, I think this was also down to some excellent tapering and resting enforced by Nat! During October I’d taken a few hours off work, and this seemed to help me get my head into gear too. I felt strong, I was riding the bike of my dreams, and it really felt like things were beginning to slot into place – we were coming to terms with our augmented reality.

I also had a little bit more time on my hands as I began to wind down for the final few weeks. I began to turn my thoughts to the race, and looking at the bigger picture of the women’s races. I wondered what I could do to help? The team at Reading CC had done a lot of work to get more women onto the start line than ever before, and the excitement was starting to rise!

In my next blog we’ll talk a little more about the campaigns that started, and how you can still get involved!

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