germain burton smashes it up!
Exclusive interview with teen cycling star
hill climb history
Max Leonard traces the history of uphill time trials
5 best london Climbs Simon Warren picks his top tough slopes
to the 2011 Urban Hill Climb on Swain’s Lane, a cycle race like no other. Our inaugural event last year, which was the first ‘closed road’ hill climb time trial in London, attracted more than 120 riders and a huge crowd of spectators. There were plenty of highlights – not least the amazing performance of boy cycling wonder Germain Burton, who features in this programme and who will no doubt be challenging for honours once more in today’s race. And who can forget the dog in the basket? We’re sure there will be just as many stand-out athletes and quirky happenings this time – with riders starting every minute and going all-out against the clock, the event promises full-on action for spectators. Plus, we’ve introduced a new element this year to test the best riders to their limits – those with the four fastest times at the end of the individual time trial stage will go head-to-head in semi-final heats, and the winners of each of those will have to race a third time in the final battle to decide the Urban Hill Climb 2012 champion. Lucky them. Have fun, and see you next year for the 2012 edition of the Urban Hill Climb. In the meantime, enjoy our special souvenir programme... and keep riding.
Paul Churchill & Caspar Hughes, Rollapaluza
Rollapaluza is best-known for leading the revival of the sport of ‘roller racing’, but the Urban Hill Climb shows we’re dedicated to bringing a diverse range of cycling events to the capital. Look out also for another major event on our calendar in the coming months: ‘Muddy Hell’ is a night-time cyclo-cross race that we organise at Herne Hill velodrome in south London every October.
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FOR SPEAK MEDIA Editor George Theohari Art director Russell Moorcroft Pictures Tom Oldham, Bernard Thompson Words Max Leonard, Simon Warren
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contents 4 HIGHER LOVE Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, on his five favourite London lumps – and his fastest times for them. Go on: get on your bike and try to beat him… we dare you
6 GERMAIN Burton We catch up with the teenage cycling star, who stormed onto the UK racing scene at last year’s inaugural Urban Hill Climb – beating many top senior riders to take second place. PLUS a look at the career of Germain’s father, Maurice Burton, who was himself a talented racer and Britain’s first black senior champion
10 PEAK PAIN Cycling writer Max Leonard traces the remarkable history of the hill climb race scene in the UK, and offers some dos and don’ts for anyone interested in having a go at this most masochistic of pursuits
12 CLASSIC CLIPS A special selection of stunning black-andwhite hill climb and time trial pictures from a collection by the late Bernard ‘snapper’ Thompson, the leading cycle sport photographer of his generation
15 START LIST 16 COURSE MAP 3
g i h
Swain’s Lane, Highgate N6 Swain’s Lane is my primary training hill as it’s the toughest climb I can fit into my hour’s commute to the office. I was overjoyed when I found it but there are plenty of days I wish I hadn’t, which is why I only tend to ride it between May and October. Outside these months I use the longer and gentler Highgate West Hill; if I rode Swain’s Lane all year round, I’d be a) a wreck and b) bored to death of it. I usually attack it on my old fixedwheel bike, which makes it a real grind, and I have a strict routine I stick to each time I go up. I stay in the saddle to the plateau outside the cemetery and then out of the saddle to the finish, which, unlike the official race distance, means going all the way to the brow.
Simon Warren, author of the best selling 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, takes us through his five favourite hills in and around London – and (for those who fancy testing themselves) reveals his 950m personal Length Height gain 71m Climbs rating 4/10 best times 100 Quickest time (over the Urban for each one Hill Climb race distance) 1m 42s
College Road, Dulwich SE21 The second of my London training hills is College Road in Dulwich. What makes this road special is the fact that it’s a toll road – there’s a booth with barriers at the base and cars have to pay £1 for the privilege of using it. This, of course, makes it much quieter than the other ways up to Crystal Palace and is, therefore, perfect for hill intervals. As with Swain’s Lane, I always ride it on my fixed-wheel bike. I start my watch at the first lamppost past the ticket booth, accelerate, and then sit back down. The slope is reasonably steep, but you’re rewarded with an easing after the station, where you can spin before the gradient bites again. Then it’s hard to the top, so I stay seated until the road bends left, and from here it’s out of the saddle and 100% to stop the watch at the roundabout. Anything under three minutes and I’m happy.
Length 1,320m Height gain 58m 100 Climbs rating 3/10 Quickest time (for my measured distance) 2m 51s
Avey Lane, High Beech, Essex This insignificant stretch of road is my ‘testing’ hill, and I’ve been coming here for more than six years to see how my body is working. It didn’t get a mention in 100 Climbs as it’s overshadowed by its more substantial neighbour, Mott Street. But it’s the perfect hill to get up to speed, hold that speed, but not really hurt yourself. I have a very precise starting point for my effort – half way up the hill, just after the junction with Pynest Green Lane – and I finish at the second speed bump following the narrowing at the top. My routine is: ride out for 45 minutes, head to the bottom, take my brain out and give it 110%, no mercy, no holding back. If it’s a good day I will sneak under the minute, if it’s not a good day I will spend 45 minutes riding home trying to work out what went wrong. Length 400m Height gain 37m 100 Climbs rating N/A Quickest time (for my measured distance) 56 seconds
Yorks Hill, Kent Strange that I should include this in my five favourite climbs close to London as I make the point of only riding it once a year, during the Catford CC hill climb. As soon as the leaves start to fall and the temperature drops, this is the hill I see when I close my eyes. I have no need to revisit it between events because every inch of its gnarled surface is etched on my brain, imprinted on my lungs and chiselled into my legs. It’s the best race to ride anywhere in the country as the last 100 metres of the course are lined four deep with spectators all screaming you on. For just a few fleeting moments, and in total agony, you get to live the dream, to feel what it’s like to be a pro’ heading up to the summit of an alpine pass.
Chalkpit Lane, Surrey My favourite climb in the South East; it was a tough call to leave this road out of the first 100 Climbs book but it was top of the list for the second volume (due out in May 2012). Unremarkable up to the tight, right-hand corner but from here on it’s brilliant; wrench your bike round the 25% bend and you’re faced with an achingly uniform 20% slog on the perfectly surfaced road. Dead straight, you’re offered no respite for more than 200 metres but it’s just a fraction under the point where it becomes impossible. Whenever I’m in this area I try and fit it into my ride. Although very steep, it’s deceptively easy to ride, maybe due to that beautiful surface so I always reach the top feeling good.
Length 647m Height gain 92m 100 Climbs rating 6/10 Quickest time 2m 8s
Length 1,630m Height gain 138m 100 Climbs rating 6/10 Quickest time Still working on it!
TACTICS INVOLVED as
Schoolboy Germain Burton must have frightened the life out of many competitors – and spectators – as he streaked up Swain’s Lane last year, beating elite riders and pros to take an eventual second place at the inaugural Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb. This year, Germain, now 16, has more experience under his belt and, having just sat his GCSEs, is focusing on his racing. We caught up with him before the event, to find out what he’s been up to. Portraits by TOM OLDHAM
“my dad is the only person i take coaching advice from”
I didn’t know what to expect at last year’s Urban Hill Climb. I knew I’d do fairly well, but when my time was standing for a while I started to believe I might 8
win it. Then it got knocked off in the last minute! But I was pretty pleased with being only a second off the winner. This year, we’ll see how it goes. When I won the Bec CC hill climb last year, I’d trained specifically for it – it’s at a time of year when there’s no other races. But with the Urban Hill Climb, I had to fit it into my racing programme. It was in the week leading up to the national youth circuit race championships, so I was race fit but I hadn’t done any specific hill training. The 2011 national champs are again right after the Urban Hill Climb.
It’s difficult to share any tactics for hill climbing. Just go for it – give everything off the start line and don’t hold anything back. Make sure you’re totally smashed when you cross the line. That’s all I can really say – there’s no tactics as such, just completely smash it! I’m racing two, three, possibly four times a week – which means that I don’t really have to go out training right now. Just a couple of spins to keep my legs turning.
Words: Max Leonard
like riding hill climbs because I’m quite good at them. I’m suited to short, steep hill climbs such as White Lane (the site of the Bec CC hill climb), and Swain’s Lane is similar – they’re short, hard efforts. The atmosphere’s always brilliant and it’s different to the average race. It gives you that extra bit of adrenaline.
This time last year I hadn’t been racing abroad. Since then, I’ve raced in Belgium
a few times. It’s pretty different over there, good for your development as a rider, whether you’re a youth, or a senior racing at a high level. It’s tough, it takes a few races to get used to, because it’s so aggressive. It’s a different style of racing: you have to be able to move through the bunch, and it can get difficult because some of the roads are narrow compared with the circuits I race here. I’ve just finished my GCSEs. I feel more relaxed about racing now – it was intense before, having to fit everything in, getting the work done and not disappointing people at school. It’s hard saying you’re training or racing all the time. But I worked hard and am confident about my exams. Now I’m concentrating on riding well as a junior [British Cycling’s age category for 16-18 year olds]. It matters more to do well as a junior. The distances are longer and the courses are more challenging, and there’s a better selection of riders at the finish so it’s harder to do well. In the next 12 months I’d like to do well at a national level and hopefully ride some
international races, to see what I can do. I rode the West Flanders Tour last year – featuring five stages including a team time trial prologue. This year’s competition is going to have an individual time trial, and then three stages. I’m going to do my best in the time trial and then see what I can do in the overall. We’ll see. My dad is the only person I take coaching advice from. It seems to be working pretty well so far! What inspires me about him is that it was so hard for him all those years ago, it puts things in perspective. It makes you want to make the most of what you have. Generally it was harder then, opportunities and funding weren’t there for young riders as they are now, and there’s more interest in the sport. Now you see British riders doing well on the World Tour, and breaking through into the professional ranks on a fairly regular basis. It inspires you, gives you more incentive – it could be there for the taking if you’ve got the talent and you put in the effort.
Germain’s dad, Maurice Burton, was, in his time, a professional cyclist with a long and distinguished career. Here are some of his highlights.
‘71 ‘73 ‘74
Wins the Herne Hill track league at 15, with twice as many points as the second rider. Wins the British National Junior Sprint title.
British Senior 20km Champion, beating the Commonwealth gold and silver medallists to win the title in his first year as an amateur.
‘75 ‘76 ‘78 ‘80 ‘84 ‘87
Helps the British team to a Team Pursuit record.
Moves to Belgium to compete in the six-day races, coming second in his first race.
Turns professional, racing against Eddy Merckx in the twilight of the great man’s career. Takes fourth in the Madison at the European Championships. A broken leg at age 28 ends professional career. Takes over De Ver Cycles in south London.
he British predilection for the hill climb – as a sub-discipline of the time trial – probably stems from the peculiar roots of road racing in the UK. Due to an unfortunate incident involving two racing cyclists, a Victorian lady on horseback and a ditch, mass-start racing (of the kind made famous by the Tour de France and other ‘stage’ races) was outlawed. This seems unfair, given that it wasn’t even the lady who ended up in the ditch; but, as Freud (who once lived close to Swain’s Lane) said, when something is repressed, it always returns, disguised yet
recognisable. And so, more than 100 years ago, British stage racing withered and the timetrialling culture was born. Hill climbing (of the cycling variety) is not just a British activity, of course, and naturally the Americans do it bigger. The Cycle to the Sun climbs 36 miles up a Hawaiian volcano and, since 1962, the Mount Evans hill climb in Colorado has started where most mountains tail off, taking participants from 7,555ft to 14,130ft in 27 miles. The record of 1hr 41 mins is held by GarminCervélo’s Tom Danielson. But does bigger mean better? “The alpinist’s will
isn’t prompted by the mountain,” Tim Krabbé writes in his meditation on cycling, The Rider. “The alpinist’s will is not so petty that it needs something as random as the shape of the Earth’s crust in order to exist.” Extreme, perhaps, but the sentiment holds true. The determination shown by hill climb contenders – the pure will to go upwards as fast as possible – is somehow more impressive on British hills. We don’t need a 3,000m-high volcano: we have the oldest continuously held race in the world – in the shape of the Catford Hill Climb – and we have intensity. Short yards that feel like
Image: Bernard Thompson
Max Leonard casts an eye over the British hill climbing tradition, and tries to fathom what it takes to perform well
miles, hour-long minutes, gradients that tip over 25% then ease off for a second only to ramp sadistically back up: there is a killer competitiveness to it. But it is a competitiveness cloaked in homeliness – with thermoses of tea, warm overcoats and rollers on the edge of leaf-mulch lanes, and little guys with big legs looking intent and trying to keep warm. It’s a fix Fixed riders, it should be noted, still often place high in the discipline. Le Anh Luong, the current custodian and organiser of the Catford CC race, comments that many ride a fixed-wheel bike for a certain tactical simplicity, despite the fact that the weight advantage they give is, in the days of carbon fibre, drastically reduced. In Chris Boardman’s day, fixed was almost de rigueur: “There was the psychological aspect,” he says. “All you had to worry about was your own effort, and measuring that over the distance remaining. You took away a lot of risks. You couldn’t slip a gear, didn’t have to think about changing. It was just perfect for hill climbs. They were beautiful events.” As an end-of-season ritual, the hill climb invites
riders to have a go, to push their peak form to the limit. And it encourages specialism, bordering on obsession – some train especially and exclusively for it. The hill climb is perhaps the only event in which pros regularly lose to amateurs. Looking back at the palmarès of previous winners of the British National Hill Climb Championships, certain names occur again and again. Vic Clark just after the war; Granville Sydney winning six years out of 11 between ’63 and ’73. Four in a row for Darryl Webster and Chris Boardman… Waugh, Dangerfield, Henderson, Fleeman. Even the names of the hills – the Nationals move venue every year – are evocative: Nick O’ Pendle, Winter’s Gibbet, Rosedale Chimney… These courses do vary: there are the very short and very steep, such as the Rake in Lancashire or Streatley Hill, and the notso-short and still-quitesteep, such as Cheddar Gorge and Burrington Combe – and favour different types of riders. Yet in the end it all comes down to a simple equation: (more power + less weight) x (superhuman ability to work anaerobically + sky-high pain threshold)
= victory. And maybe that’s all there is to it. Training, effort, will. Let’s leave the last word to Tom Ballhatchet, the highest-placed Rollapaluza CC rider at last year’s inaugural Urban Hill Climb: “I always imagine a hill climb as being like crashlanding a plane: it’ll never be pretty and you can only practice it to a certain limited extent.” Max Leonard is the author of Fixed: Global Fixed-Gear Bike Culture
five hill-climb dos & don’ts
take deep breaths for a minute or more before starting, to expel dead air from the lungs and oygenate the blood
go too hard at the gun – you’ll carry the oxygen debt all the way to the end
push harder when the edges of your vision close in and turn black
stand as straight as possible when out of the saddle, to keep the power through the pedals and stop the back wheel spinning
worry about anything past the finish line: there’ll be someone to catch you, a strong cup of tea – or something stronger – and the St John’s Ambulance on hand 11
classic clips George Theohari, author of The Cyclistâ€™s Companion, selects his personal highlights from the Bernard Thompson collection
(clockwise from top left) Early start: Time trialling on a crisp morn. Faces of pain: Granville Sydney, the great hill climb champ of the 1960s and 1970s. Carried away: A rider who gave it his all. Peak interest: Winnats Pass, Derbyshire, scene of the 1977 National Hill Climb Champs.
The road less travelled: A lone rider crests a hill, perfectly framed by trees on an empty country lane.
These photos were taken by the late Bernard Thompson between 1960 and 1985. A CD containing 280 images from the photographerâ€™s collection is available to buy for ÂŁ10. For details, email: email@example.com
(clockwise from top) This way up: A rider stays focused as boys yell their encouragement. Push to the line: Sinews strain as the crowd urges a rider to the top. Forget it: Trying to erase memories of a tough event? Going for glory: 1980s champ Darryl Webster on Horseshoe Pass, Llangollen
start list Race Start Unseeded Number Time Senior Males
Race Start Veteran Male Number Time
1 18:30 Tom McEvoy 2 18:31 Doug Cowie 3 18:32 Damian Marlee 4 18:33 Bruce Hart 5 18:34 Luke Woolfson 6 18:35 Nick Wood 7 18:36 Robert Cooke 8 18:37 Ian Gray 9 18:38 William Irwin 10 18:39 Richard St Pierre 11 18:40 Hing Hung 12 18:41 Ross Hawkins 13 18:42 Rob Nicholas 14 18:43 Edmar Gwiazda 15 18:44 Peter Horrell 16 18:45 John Jardine 17 18:46 Wayne Crombie 18 18:47 Joel Harrison 19 18:48 Vik Chaudhuri 20 18:49 Jonathan Rees 21 18:50 Leo Tong 22 18:51 Michael Williams 23 18:52 David Tait 24 18:53 Conrad Calitz 25 18:54 Vlad Mereuta 26 18:55 Ed Osborne 27 18:56 roger stillman 28 18:57 marcus shields 29 18:58 Dan Drillsma 30 18:59 David Rose 31 19:00 Nicolas Hutchings 32 19:01 RORY XAVIER NOLAN 33 19:02 James Hampshire 34 19:03 Ben Pook Race Start Youth Number Time
Rollapaluza CC TroisV CS Grupetto
66 19:35 Stephen Murphy 67 19:36 Alan McKenzie 68 19:37 Stephen Dodson 69 19:38 Ludwig Brunagel 70 19:39 Ben Shaw 71 19:40 Alex Cohen 72 19:41 Paul Gathercole 73 19:42 Julian ‘Crusher’ Cunnington 74 19:43 Paul O’ Sullivan 75 19:44 Harry Moore 76 19:45 Rick Hewett 77 19:46 Livio Nannetti 78 19:47 Richard Pearce 79 19:48 Clive Wellings 80 19:49 Mark Jary 81 19:50 Ben Miller 82 19:51 paul burgoine 83 19:52 Michael Price 84 19:53 Gertie 85 19:54 Neil Manning 86 19:55 John Storms 87 19:56 Matthew Levett 88 19:57 Rob Windsor 89 19:58 Don Wiley Race Start Seeded Number Time Senior Males
35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45
East London Velo VC Dulwich College VC Dulwich College VC Dulwich College VC Dulwich College VC Dulwich College Woolwich CC Rollapaluza CC 5th floor Hackney CC De Ver Cycles
19:04 beatrice windsor 19:05 Tijan N’Jai-Sealy 19:06 Joe Kidson 19:07 Sam Woods 19:08 Stephen Harrison 19:09 Patrick Parke 19:10 Alex COZENS 19:11 Calvin Cheung 19:12 Daniel Mateus 19:13 Alex Peters 19:14 Germain Burton
Race Start Women Number Time
Barcap Cycling Weekly Brixton CC Brompton CS Grupetto London Skaters Speed Team Pedal Power RT East london Velo Rollapaluza CC PM London Dynamo Flying Pigs CC Dulwich Paragon CC La Fuga Sigma Sport Dulwich Paragon Addiscombe Brereton Wheelers Ayr Roads CC Dulwich Paragon CS Grupetto University of Manchester CC xcracer.com/Trek Exposure Lights/ Accelerade Under The River Club/Team/Sponsors
46 19:15 Gina Heiss Rollapaluza CC 47 19:16 Eleanor Harvie 48 19:17 Caroline Hodge Rollapaluza CC 49 19:18 Kirsten Halliday London Dynamo 50 19:19 Alexandra Marzec London Dynamo 51 19:20 Astrid Wingler London Phoenix CC 52 19:21 Katy Baldwin 53 19:22 Lucy Fry 54 19:23 clare Elms Redmon CC 55 19:24 Sue Cooper 56 19:25 Gem Atkinson Rapha Condor Club 57 19:26 Tanya Gibson LSST 58 19:27 Amy Koerbel 59 19:28 Alexie Shaw Dulwich Paragon 60 19:29 Louise Moriarty Look Mum No Hands! 61 19:30 Lydia Boylan Look Mum No Hands! 62 19:31 Sarah-Anne Keenan MBRO35 63 19:32 Kate Hewett Mule Bar Girls/Oakley 64 19:33 Carolyn Hewett Team Wiggle 65 19:34 Claire Beaumont Rapha Condor/Condor Cycles
Fireflies CC/Leuka Rapha Condor CC Rollapaluza CC Finsbury Park CC Rollapaluza CC Condor Cycles London Phoenix Cycling Club Hackney London Heathside EAGLE ROAD CLUB Hertfordshire Wheelers VC Londres
Rollapaluza CC Condor Cycles Brixton CC East London Velo Mosquito Club/Team/Sponsors
90 19:59 Simon Warren Norwood Paragon 91 20:00 Mark Mayo Rollapaluza CC 92 20:01 Rudy Melo 5th Floor/Leader Bike USA 93 20:02 Rory Wilkinson Dulwich Paragon 94 20:03 Bernard Mckernan 95 20:04 Lee Wood www.v-sprint.com 96 20:05 Matthew Belsham Two Wheels Good 97 20:06 Ben Spurrier Rapha Condor CC/ Mule Bar 98 20:07 Andrew Snowball VC Londres 99 20:08 Sylvain Garde Addiscombe CC 100 20:09 Luke Wallis La Fuga-Sigma Sport 101 20:10 Ben Moores Norwood Paragon 102 20:11 Iain Cook Velo Club de Londres 103 20:12 Richard Spencer Brompton Bicycle 104 20:13 Nick Calverey Finchley RT/Paul Simon Homes 105 20:14 Dominic Joyner CS Grupetto 106 20:15 Thomas Dean Royal Sutton CC 107 20:16 Christopher Scott 108 20:17 Edwin Burden London Pheonix 109 20:18 Nick White East London Velo 110 20:19 Mark Hopkins 111 20:20 Andrew Edwards Rollapaluza CC 112 20:21 Steve Parker 113 20:22 Matthew Theobalds CS Grupetto 114 20:23 James Solly Velo Club de Londres 115 20:24 Richard Cartland Team Corley Cycles/ Cervelo/Mavic 116 20:25 Keith Henderson Condor Cycles 117 20:26 Dan Sullivan 118 20:27 Michael Smith Team Corley Cycles 119 20:28 Yanto Barker Lecol/Pendragon 120 20:29 Chris Metcalfe Charge Bikes 121 20:30 Symon Lewis Edwardes Elite 122 20:31 Daniel Duguid Sigma Sport – Specialized 123 20:32 Cameron Fraser La Fuga-Sigma Sport 124 20:33 Thomas Rollapaluza CC Ballhatchet 125 20:34 TBC 126 20:35 TBC 127 20:36 TBC 128 20:37 TBC 129 20:38 TBC
Senior Male Semi-final 1 Senior Male Semi-final 2 Senior Male Minor Final Senior Male FINAL
20.50 20.53 21.07 21.10
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