The shout out on our WhatsApp group seemed so ignorable at first “who’s going to do the Jebel Hafeet race with us” asked Brett. Not me I volunteered, no way Jose…. especially when I heard that race was one way up the hill, with no descent. It seemed utterly stupid to be equipped with none of the attributes to go up hill quickly (light weight, young with thighs of a God) and at least some that would have enabled a quick run downwards (weight).
The hill in question is for us amateur riders a bit of a monster, with a 11km climb that features constant gradients most of the way up that are north of 8% and quite a few long stretches of 10 to 11%, it is in one word relentless. One of the stages in the Abu Dhabi Tour, it even got the respect of the Pro’s. Here is a video from the lads at GCEN to give you an idea.
Peer pressure is a terrible thing and when a few others from our riding group signed up and Brett very subtly questioned my manhood, I caved and signed on the dotted line. Some doubt was raised by the organisers of the race the day before about the weather as the forecast was for very gusty conditions with thunderstorms. However the evening before the race the forecast was a little more benevolent with a prognosis of only 30kph winds to deal with.
Race day and Team RR fronted up at Wadi Adventures at the base of the hill for the start of the 2016 Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet Community Cycle Race, with the main race being 67km, of which 11km was to be the final climb up the Jebel. Most of us planned to do the full race, with the exception of Dawn who was nursing an injured shoulder, so she planned to only do the 50km flat (windy) section.
Team RR is wonderfully qualified for cycle racing with an average of less than two years road cycling experience and the male portion of the team erring towards the well-nourished side of the spectrum. But what we lose out in the physiological stakes, we make up in sheer good looks, thanks mostly to the girls.
And so the race started, with the usual fight to find a good group to weather the gusty conditions, Brett and Steve managed to jump onto the lead group, while I was relegated to the second group. The first 55km went past in a blur of fighting to hang on to the accelerations out of the roundabouts and saving as much energy as possible for the big climb, even with the wind after 55km my group averaged a little over 37kph.
Once we hit the hill, my own personal strategy was to take my time and just grind it out and once we hit the gradual baby slopes I waved goodbye to the more natural climbers. Baby slopes turned into 10% almost immediately and yet again I found myself wishing for better gear ratios, I knew I should have put that 34 tooth front chain ring on. The next hour and 11kms or so went by grinding it out, passing a few, being passed by more. The camaraderie on the climb was really good; I guess shared effort and pain does that.
About 80% of the way up the slope Sara came past me (what took her so long!!) cruising up the slopes a whole 2kph faster, on her way to taking Second in the Female class, really top effort.
Needless to say Steve and Brett having the advantage of youth on their side put in great efforts and finished fairly far up the field, with very decent climbs.
Steve in spite of his desire to have the draggiest (or is that daggiest) headgear of the day, managed to steal the honours for fastest Team RR member.
Gareth finished a lonely TRR 5th place, having missed out on catching a good group in the first half of the race
Noble efforts were put in by Megan and Chris, who all made it up the hill without too much drama, Even though Chris just had to beat Megan across the line, it should be pointed out that Megan’s race time was a full 2 minutes quicker.
Full Strava debriefs followed at Brunch, with my only real bragging rights being another epic suffer score, really it’s not how fast you are that matters, it’s how much you suffer!
All in a great day out, with a lot of fun had by all, would I do it again, hmmmmm.