Saturday 25 March 2017

Mark and Nairo Go Hill Climbing (In Suffolk) (LGD -414 Days)
Saturday 25 March, 53 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

Two texts and a phone call were all it took for us to arrange a rendezvous at the Maglia Rosso just outside of Bury St Edmunds. The Maglia Rosso is a rather fine establishment. It used to be a nice village pub – The Metcalf Arms – which sadly succumbed to harsh economic realities and a roof fire, before it closed in 2012. Barry and Matt Denny, both keen cyclists, bought the property and in April 2014 opened it as a cycle shop and café. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and has become a destination of choice for cyclists all over East Anglia – the club jersey’s hanging in the café give some clues where riders have come from.

So we decided to start and finish our ride here. The ‘we’ today was me (obviously) and Daren (Nairo) Morgan who is gradually emerging from his winter hibernation i.e. turbo trainer + Tacx. Resisting the temptation to linger we were soon riding away. Daren, as he usually does, set off at a fast pace. I had hoped that the small rise out of Hawstead might check is speed a tad but I was out of luck. I was still riding on my Tannus winter tyres which are a lot slower. Eventually Daren realised this and eased up, but not without passing comment: “Spring’s almost here, Mark. Those Tannus tyres should be hanging up in your garage now.” Yes, Daren!”

Anyway, enough of this blether. I had planned the route to take in two of Suffolk’s ‘notable’ climbs (the only two?). Together with a brisk wind which seemed to be in our faces throughout the ride I expected this to give our legs a good workout. We made steady progress gradually heading to our first climbing challenge – Watson’s Hill which is at Semer between Bildeston and Hadleigh. Watson’s Hill is the only climb in Suffolk to feature in Simon Warren’s Greatest Cycling Climbs (Volume 2). The stats are: length 560 metres, height gain 32 metres, maximum gradient 11% approx. Warren’s target time is given as 3 minutes which must surely be a misprint.

Nairo collects his KoM Points
Anyway with no messing about we turned off the main road and were soon onto the climb. The plan was to get to the top and stop for a photo to record the occasion. Daren’s alter ego Nairo quickly appeared and he was off and climbing. I followed at a more sedate Tannus pace. Reaching the top Nairo stopped to wait for me (he didn’t have to stand about for long) and we propped our Bianchi’s up against the gradient sign to take the required photos and selfies. I subsequently discovered that my time today for the ascent was 16:15 (equivalent to 1.4 mph). Was Warren’s 3 minutes that far adrift? Yes. The King of the Mountains time is 1:08. My 16:15 can only mean that I must have stopped for those photos before reaching the official finish. But no matter, I was only 2 seconds down on Nairo who did it in 16:13!

Having now reaches the dizzy heights of south Suffolk we followed a lumpy route west to Long Melford. Rarely was the road flat – it undulated across the folds of the countryside. We made the most of the wind – it wasn’t in our faces for a change – and with the sun threatening to break through the riding was really enjoyable. Reaching Long Melford, Daren mentioned that Nairo would quite like to refuel before tackling the final uphill leg which would also be straight into the wind. So after a can of pop and a choccy biscuit we set off again for the final ten miles.

I must have lingered too long because I found it quite hard to get back up to Tannus cruising speed. Daren/Nairo had shot off up the road, despite claiming he was struggling, and I was soon well off the back. A downhill stretch before the turn to Glemsford helped me to close the gap slightly but ahead of me I could see my riding ‘companion’ setting a good pace.

That arrowhead usually means 'steep'
We regrouped before turning north onto the road to Glemsford. This isn’t steep but is quite long and with today’s headwind it was a case of finding a low gear and grinding my way up to the top. From Glemsford it was a largely gentle uphill pull to Hartest and the second of the day’s objectives – Hartest Hill. This is a cyclists favourite in these parts and I often wonder why it hasn’t made Warren’s book (it must rank above Watson’s Hill). The main stats are: length: 322 metres, height gain 37 metres, maximum gradient 17%. The record currently stands at 51 seconds; I made it in 2:11 and Nairo clocked in at 2:01.

The other claim to fame that Hartest Hill has is that I’m fairly certain it’s the only road in Suffolk with one of those Ordnance Survey chevrons marked on the map! But readers, do prove me wrong. Go on, I dare you!!

Having completed the hill climbing we meandered our way the final few miles back to Hawstead and the Maglia Rosso. We celebrated our achievements with coffee and yummy cake, sitting outside in the sunshine. And guess what? Tomorrow is the first day of spring so the Tannus tyres will be hung. Bring it on!!

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