Friday, 1 June 2012

Crowcombe 1 - Fat idiot on bike...1/2 (well I made it up to the top)

A business meeting that I knew would finish quite late in the day gave me the opportunity to tackle Crowcombe. The time I got out of the meeting meant I would hit the climb very late in the day but as it has been so sunny and warm recently I was hoping it would mean the temperature would be slightly lower.

I decided to warm up for the climb by parking up on Quantock Common and riding along and then down to the start of the climb. I’d spent all day in meetings or in the car and it worked out to be a good plan.

Quantock Common itself is a lovely place and it looked fantastic in the early evening sun. There were even a couple of friendly horses grazing where I parked the car. The youngest of the two horses was especially friendly and found my handle bar tape to be very interesting and, quite possibly, a nice light snack. I had to very gently but firmly direct the horse in question back to the patch of grass it was munching before I'd turned up.

My experience with a bike eating horse over I started the descent of Crowcombe back to the start and was instantly hit by how steep the climb is. It is a 25% gradient for most of the way up and I achieved some pretty astonishing speeds on the way down. I lost count of the number of escape roads I went hurtling past. It didn’t bode well for my climb back up.

A quick turnaround at the base of the hill followed and I started what turned out to be a very painful grind up to the top. The first quarter of the climb isn’t too bad. It is steep but bearable and fairly shaded but you soon hit the 25% gradient section, which is most of it, the trees providing shade thin out and you find yourself on a stretch of road that just heads straight up. There are seemingly no changes in gradient or any significant corners to ease off on. I have to admit I struggled. Any gradient below 20% I have always found you can back off for a bit if the going gets tough before reapplying the power. With a 25% gradient there is no such luxury, you have to keep pressing on. If you stop you know you’ll have to expend a huge amount of effort to get going again. At one point I did stop, rather stupidly on a very narrow section of the road which made my zig zagging efforts to get going no doubt look rather comical. This climb is in the book as an 8/10 but I reckon it is up there with the likes of Porlock and Dunkery as it is just so relentless in the way it climbs up onto the Quantocks.

I can’t say I enjoyed Crowcombe. The surroundings are lovely but I have never been as pleased on one of these rides as I was when I saw the sign warning motorists of the cattle grid at the top which marks the end of the climb. Still, that’s 11 rides now in the bag, only 89 to go.

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