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John Wilson
Dec 22, 2022
In Road
Love them or hate them, hills are a part of cycling. Some people actively seek them out whilst others avoid them at every turn. We all know the big old climbs hereabouts, the trophies to tick off or to be avoided depending on your outlook and how you are feeling. Cheddar Gorge, Burrington Coombe, Belmont Hill, and the relentless Draycott Steep might be a cruise one day or a crushing, never ending challenge the next. The reality is though, that these are easy in a way because you’ve chosen to do them, you will be to some degree mentally prepared so all you need to do is execute the task. I reckon there’s a different kind of climb though. They are much, much harder because they are hidden in full sight. You’ll look at the profile a club ride that’s been posted up for the weekend and your eye will be drawn to the killer hills prompting a reaction. “Game On! I’m right up for that” …. or: “You’re joking, I’ll do my own thing!!” Either way though, you will find yourself on a stretch of road or two between the killer hills or on your carefully planned flat ride that I call stealth slopes. Stealth slopes are those little stretches of uphill that you might have forgotten about, overlooked on the ride profile or simply find, unfathomably hard. Every single time you are on that stretch of road you remind yourself “I hate this bit”. Maybe you have just bested your previous time up Belmont Hill and then you almost come to a standstill going up that little pull up past the Failand Inn, a classic stealth slope that’s way up my “I hate this bit list”. These slopes often feel harder still by your pesky riding partner next to you who seems totally untroubled. Don’t be fooled by the poker face, there is just as much leg burn going on and you’d both be better off admitting “I hate this bit”. In my book, four classic stealth slope combinations exist: 1. The insignificant slope after a classic climb, like the Failand Inn climb after doing Belmont Hill. 2. The little slope after the café. A clear sign of poor route planning that needs to be called out everytime!! 3. Those little slopes that comes towards the end of a ride that you’d scoff at with fresh legs but it gets you every ride. 4. The climb that’s not a climb in the middle of a cruisy section. These guys are real momentum killers. That corkscrew section of the A369 at Pill - Haberfield Hill - is a classic example, especially coming from the Bristol direction. All four generate a reaction way, way beyond their supposed severity and are thus the Hardest Climbs in the World. I bet we’ve all got our own personal favourites so here goes with my Top Ten “I hate this bit” stealth climbs, in no particular order: 1. The climb past the Failand Inn. I really hate that bit!!. Type 1. 2. That little climb leaving Uphill going towards Bleadon. Especially hard after refuelling at Uphill Wharf café. Type 2. 3. Arriving back to Portishead after a hard ride. I hate that bit getting up past the graveyard. Type 3. 4. The hardest motorway bridge in the UK. On the Christon road heading towards Loxton. Type 4. 5. Climbing the never-ending slope past Yoxter Cadet Camp after you’ve given your all going up Cheddar. I don’t like that; it feels like its nearly finished but goes on for ages. Type 1. 6. Either of the 2 climbs that leave Bleadon. Type 2 Yuk 7. Frost Hill. A killer example of a type 3 climb – the rise in the road heading up to The Double Tree Hilton at Yatton coming from Cadbury Garden Centre direction. Never fails to bring on the burn. Surely no one like that bit?? Double Yuk. 8. Kewstoke Road. In the winter months this is The Coldest Road in the Northern Hemisphere. That final climb up to the New Castle Café in Kewstoke, after the cruise past the BMX track when you are on your way home from Weston. You can also have the climb up to the café from the beach. I don’t like that either! The climb from the beach is always a surprise whereas the other just builds to a sapping finale. Both are type 4 stinkers. 9. Lascot Hill leaving Wedmore after a coffee and cake stop at the smashing Pumpkin Café. A lovely road that’s always ruined by feeling so spent on a 100-meter (if that) climb! Type 2 10. The Avonmouth bridge from Shirehampton. The price you must pay for enjoying a lovely ride on the flatlands of Easter Compton, Oldbury on Severn, and Berkeley. I really, really don’t like that bit!! A separate category all on its own. I’m sure you will all have a few “I hate this bit” hills of your own so let me know where they are when I see you next or add them to the comments and share the fun! Cheers John
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John Wilson

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