Written by Matthew Burton, Waller Pain 2015 Mens Winner
Photo Credit, Sarah Wynn Cycling Weekly
The Waller Pain Hill Climb was the first chance this year to test myself against a strong field on the sort of climb that I shall be targeting throughout the year. After training hard over the months leading up to the event I expected to be competitive but to win it was a little unexpected and it has given me a lot of motivation leading in to the rest of the season.
I started training specifically for this kind of event at the end of march, spending hours doing hill repeats on the many short but steep hills dotted around Rutland, the county I live in. I am a self-confessed ‘Strava Warrior’ and hunting for KOMs is always a good way to keep motivated during training rides. I often plan rides which go over numerous segments for me to have a crack at, a few segments in a ride acts as intervals although not very scientific. The weekend before the event I went out to recce the Waller Lane climb. I made 2 attempts at the segment both in a time 1:15 which amazingly was exactly the same time I achieved in the event itself.
For the event I made a few modifications to the bike in order to make it as light as possible. This involved removing the big ring, fitting a bare carbon saddle, super light brakes and changing to some superlight tubular tyres. I also removed the headset bung and cap but this caused my headset to come lose two thirds of the way up the climb! I’ll have to rethink that one!
I arrived in Caterham nice and early on race day to give myself plenty of time to get ready for the event. Upon arrival the first thing I did was walk up the climb to jog my memory and more importantly to check how damp the road was. As the road was a little damp I decided to drop the pressure in the rear tyre to 50psi in order to get a bit more grip. I then hopped on the turbo for half hour to warm up before making my way to the start with about 5 mins to spare. I had no tactic other than to go 100% from the gun and carry as much momentum as I could into the flat (er) section at the end. I don’t remember much about the climb itself apart from my rear wheel slipping a lot and hearing the commentator count down the rider 1 minute behind me which gave me an idea of how I was doing.Soon after crossing the line I was told my time although as i started early I had no idea how competitive it was. I knew James Lowden was probably going to be the man to beat so when he came over the line slower I knew I was in for a shout. Starting early meant I had the chance to see the rest of the riders tackle the climb. It was a privilege to see so many riders of all ages take part and the welcoming nature of the event to anyone and everyone was great to see. Seeing youngsters as young as 5 tackle the climb was incredible as was the effort of their parents chasing them up on foot. I don’t know what I was doing at 5 years old but I certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to tackle the climb let alone in front of all those people.
It seems like the event is growing year on year thanks to the sponsors and this year will take some beating but I’m sure it can be done. It was an honour to win the Waller Pain and I’ll certainly be back next year to defend my title, try and go a bit quicker and maybe even try getting that course record!