Last time I raced at Hog Hill, in March 2016, I was dropped like a stone after about 6 or 7 laps. The infamous Hoggenburg and a hungry pack of point-chasing 4th Cats had seen me off within 20 minutes of miserable racing.
But since March, I’d upped my game; trained hard through the spring and summer and raced the Haute Route Pyrenees competitively in August (you can read about that below). And a week earlier I had ridden strongly and placed 5th in the Hitchin Nomads RR (which you can also read about below). So whilst my last outing at Hog Hill hadn’t gone too well – in fact it had been nothing short of a disaster – I was quietly optimistic that I might be in the mix for points after 60 minutes of pain.
When run in the usual ACW direction, Hog Hill is a fairly technical circuit with a fast descent, a couple of tight bends, an exposed (and therefore usually windy) lower section and a short but sharp climb up to the start/finish line which offers a brutal slap in the face to anyone who’s given too much earlier in the lap. It’s short enough to be classed a “power climber’s climb” but you will soon get found out if you haven’t been doing your weekly intervals. Most survive the hill a few times, but it always has an attritional effect on the field and riders can usually be seen dropping like flies and pulling over with their tails between their legs in the latter stages.
I felt strong, and the race went well. No heroics, stayed out of trouble, and tried to force the pace at the front every now and then – particularly up and over the hill – with the aim of dropping some or all of the bigger guys who would likely eat me for breakfast in a sprint finish.
It seemed to work well. With 2 to go I was up towards the front, and could see the field was well stretched out behind us. I knew we just needed to keep the pace strong and I’d be there or thereabouts. With 400m to go, a couple of guys came round the outside and I thought it might be game over, time to concede to those bigger guys who had managed to stay in touch… but as we approached the steep part of the hill I sensed riders coming back towards me, continued to give it everything and passed a couple of guys in the final metres to cross the line 3rd.
7 points and 3rd Cat licence secured. Pleased with that, and chuffed for Alex too, who had picked up 5th and also bagged his 3rd Cat after a bit of a dry spell during the summer. I didn’t see him at all during the race, which is testament to his ability to keep his head down and make it count when it matters!