A farmer from Minehead Cycling Club has shared the story of his CTT National Hill Climb effort, complete with 2am start and the ingenious decision to remove his false teeth in pursuit of marginal gains.
Farmer Geoff Ware came 157th on the day, in a stacked field of 181 starters, ascending the Peak District's Winnats Pass in 4minutes 42 seconds.
However, neither his placing nor his time belies the effort Ware put into the event: moving four electric fences in the early hours of the morning, distributing barley and straw, before washing down a lard fuelled fry up with a pint of milk and embaraking upon a four-hour drive to the HQ.
In his account of the event, published in a public Strava update, Ware describes a race morning that would send most amateur competitors hurtling back to the comfort of the sheets, writing: "I jump on the quad bike, set off to move four electric fences to give the cows a fresh cut of grass, it's a few hours early but they seem to get the idea. Back to the barns and I give the steers a bag of barley and chuck a bit of straw about for bedding."
Ware made it to the HQ by 7am, a casual 5 hours after waking. His first win, it seems, was his superior parking ability. "[The marshall told me I] was the only person who had been able to park properly... well, if I wasn't going to be on the podium for the HC, at least I could park a car," he muses.
Whilst many competitors will opt for an aero skinsuit for their race, Ware chose to ride the event in his baggy shorts and shirt, his numbers taped to his sleeves. He didn't forgo all marginal gains, however: "there was only one thing left to do," he notes, "take my false teeth out and place them in the glove box (I may pass this marginal gain on to Dave Brailsford)!! I put my Waterproofs back on and rode across to the start."
The vet rider writes of his final efforts: "I could feel the rain bouncing on my back as the finish line came into view. The road narrowed as the crowd inched forward. Now only 3 or 4 foot wide. One final last effort to the finish line where I was caught and manhandled by another burly bloke and moved to the verge."
Fanfare is common on the slopes of a National Hill Climb, though Ware was disappointed at the lack of "a middle-aged, balding bloke with a beer belly wearing a mankini."
After this heroic effort, it seems rather a shame to read that Ware's Minehead support crew arrived in time to "see number 78 set off", with the shirt-clad climber having worn number 76.
However, unique as Ware's story is, his experience speaks to most amateur racers, who have finished a race "slumped over the handlebars and tried not to collapse", or indeed, guffawed with glee at their only prize success: in Ware's case, a lucky raffle ticket and a "book on the independent shops of Sheffield." We're sure he has been avidly perusing the delicacies available a casual 476 mile round trip from his home ever since.
Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.
When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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