Denbies Duels 2016

When one eye-popping, lung-bursting, leg-wrecking hill climb effort isn’t enough for one weekend, do another one the next day.

That’s what I signed up for last weekend by following Saturday’s Urban Hill Climb up Swain’s Lane with the Denbies Duels on Sunday.

The setting is the total opposite of Swain’s, with the high brick walls and historic cemetery replaced by Britain’s biggest vineyard (Denbies) and the surrounding greenery of the Surrey Hills. The climb is also about twice the length, and half the gradient.

The course runs to around 1.6km with 80m of elevation gain at an average of 5%. Analysing the Strava profile pre-event proved misleading, with it indicating there was a steep 15%+ section early on and a flat finish. The reality is that it’s a constant grind from the off with gradients going from around 4% – 8% and no downhill as Strava thinks there is. I assume this is a data glitch from it being essentially a closed road without the usual volume of rider data to correct these things.

The format of this event is what makes it stand out from the rest, with head-to-head racing the order of the day. Sort of.

The 70 riders race round one in pairs, but it is the time that counts rather than if you beat your ‘opponent’, with the fastest 16 going through to the knockout stages.

I knew from the first few pedal strokes of my first round that the previous day’s effort had taken their toll on me as I struggled to get both my heart rate and my bike up to full speed and was left for dead by my opponent who qualified for the last 16. I struggled on up and found some rhythm at the end to finish with 5m05s and a mid-table position on the day.

It was quite a long way to go for 5 minutes of cycling, but equally my desire to do it all again was negligible by this point and the prospect of either a last-16 race or some kind of repechage racing for the rest of the riders was not particularly alluring.

Dorking and Redhill CC join forces to run and promote the event, and it’s a well run, friendly affair. The road is normally closed to cyclists (the second half at least) and it’s a good opportunity to ride a new road so near to the most popular climb on the planet, Box Hill, over the road. The more gradual profile may suit some riders better than the traditionally more steep hill climb events such as the Bec & Catford climbs.

Blue line on the profile is how I found it, grey is Strava’s opinion which I reckon is wrong…



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