Wednesday, July 28, 2021
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David Griffiths – Scottish Hill Climb Champion 2016

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Unfortunately, VeloVeritas editor, Martin and I got out priorities wrong and instead of freezing on Purrinden for the Scottish Hill Climb Champs we were in warmer climes.

But fear not, we tracked down the new champion, David Griffiths (Pro Vision) and here’s what he had to say…

David Griffiths
David Griffiths. Photo©Martin Williamson

Would you class this as your best-ever result?

“Hi guys – great to finally speak to you – I’ve been aiming for one of these interviews for six years, you’ve not ‘made it’ in Scotland until featured in VeloVeritas!

“Yes; I’d say this is definitely my best individual result.”

Tell us how you trained for it.

“I rode my bike more! I’d been averaging around five hours riding per week this year, only exceeding it if I managed to finish a road race.

“I ramped that up significantly after September – I finally have a placement that’s cycle friendly. I’m working in a GP practice four days a week at the moment.

“I went off to Pamplona with team mate Jason Roberts, his wife and friends. After a week with 24 hours of mountainous riding I surprisingly felt incredible!

“After that I tried to commute to work (17 miles away) most days. I put a rack on my hill climb bike so I could get used to the position and targeted a few select Strava KOMs.

“I also did a few hill reps at the weekends including a tortuous training ride staring at the back of John Archibald’s rear wheel as it soared up the hardest climbs north of Glasgow – that boy is World Tour strong.”

David Griffiths
David keeps the aero tuck during the hilly Tour of the Meldons. Photo©Martin Williamson

I believe you consciously lost weight for the race?

“Yes, I’ve always been noticeably chunkier than my hill climb rivals but had never had the motivation to do anything about it until now.

“The switch flipped after embarrassingly being one of the first riders to slip off the back on the climb of Snaefell in the Manx International in April. The scales showed north of 76kg and that wasn’t acceptable. It was actually remarkably easy to lose the weight – I stopped eating!

“That is to say I stopped eating a ‘sharing bag’ of crisps and drinking a litre of milkshake every evening. I lost four kg in a month which was a little silly and I was rewarded for it with pneumonia.

“Things remained relatively stable until the final push after Pamplona which involved salad and fasted morning commutes and took me down to a lean 68kg.

“Surprisingly I have only become stronger – my six minute power is 50w higher than April and I’m eight kg lighter!”

David Griffiths
David during the Tour des Trossachs a couple of years ago. Photo©Martin Williamson

Tell us about the bike and what gears you rode – any ‘trick’ stuff to tell us about?

“My bike is an old Canyon Ultimate CF Slx with Sram Red 10 speed. The smallest gear was 34×28 and anyone that knows me will know I used it!

“The frame was snapped in half in a horrific 45mph crash in the Tour of the North 2015. I couldn’t bring myself to bin it so it was repaired and relegated to winter bike deluxe. It’s one kg lighter sans wheels than my Aeroad so I figured would be faster on a steep climb. I also rode it last year and it went pretty fast then too…

“Now, to shoot myself in the foot; the real secret is the wheels. If I’d used my ‘hill climb’ set which are 400g lighter it’s quite possible I’d have lost. I trialled a five minute climb at 420w with lightweight tubulars vs tubeless rims and the tubeless were 8s faster…”

How many times did you ‘try the hill out’?

“Twice – once in 2010 at race pace and once very slowly on the morning of the race.”

Wheel spin is always a problem on Purrinden, how did you combat that?

“I didn’t get out of the saddle until the final push for the line.”

Tell us about your warm up.

“I’ve never followed a specific routine, but I pedalled steady for 20 mins with three 20 second efforts at race pace.”

How did you pace the ride, given the last stretch is the most savage?

“Quite scientifically.

“I looked at my previous best for six mins which was 420w. I aimed to do that for the first half then ride a ‘negative split’.

“I was at 430w at halfway (and 12s down on team mate Harry) and my finishing average was 453w, a personal best by a long way!

“I very nearly lost consciousness by the finish and it took me a good 10 minutes to stand up.

“I still haven’t recovered 36 hours later – I appear to have strained my diaphragm!”

David Griffiths
David trying the hill out at the Scottish Hill Climb Champs in 2010. Photo©Martin Williamson

How was the wind on the hill – did you get close to Sandy Gilchrist’s record?

“The wind was a slight cross-tail. Not as strong as the tail we had six years ago.

“I believe I might have beaten it with a 6:46?

“My aim was to beat Grant Ferguson’s unofficial record of 6:41 but I didn’t manage it.”

How did you first get into cycling and what have been your best rides prior to this?

“I began riding my hybrid in the evenings as a slightly chubby 15 year old to get fitter and perhaps impress one of my classmates. She wasn’t impressed but one of the guys in the year above was; he let me try his road bike and before long I had one of my own thanks to a very generous Grandmother.

“When I came to Uni I had the good fortune of meeting David Smith on a training ride – he was just back from trying to make it on the continent and I soon found myself a member of Glasgow Wheelers in the ‘Golden Years’ of 2009-2011. Admittedly I was a liability- having no bike skills whatsoever but a decent level of fitness – but Rab Wardell, Dave, Robbie Hassan and Dougie Young were gods in my 18 years-old eyes.

“I’ve always done well in hill climbs and have finished on the podium in the majority I’ve participated in – the only ‘moneymaker’.

I think the best racing experience I’ve had thus far is the Glasgow 2013 British Champs. I rode out of my skin to be the last Scottish ‘part timer’ to be pulled. So many of my friends were out on the roadside cheering me on and also my family were watching which doesn’t happen very often. A special day.

“Aside from that I do well in shorter hilly road races and I enjoy getting ridiculously aero in time trials!”

Where are you based – and you’re a doctor, doesn’t that involve daft hours?

“I’ve been based in Glasgow for over six years now. Currently my hours are fine, around 12 hours door to door, four days a week, but when you’re working 14hr days in the middle of 12 day runs and have 22 hours between days and nights it gets a bit much.

“Unfortunately I can’t say I enjoyed my first year; I was determined not to let it stop me racing though – I made the winning break in the Road Champs in the middle of night shifts and tried my best to work for John – one of my crazier moments!”

Do you have a coach – what’s the training philosophy and how do you fit it in around your profession?

“No, I don’t have a coach and have never approached training scientifically. I normally ride hard when I can get out which most of the year wasn’t often, unfortunately.

“I’ve averaged 120 miles a week this year but at times it was a lot less. I’ve got a lot fitter during my most recent rotation from cycling to work and the lack of nights and weekend shifts.

“I’ve had a power meter the past couple of years and anyone who knows me will know I love the numbers and I’ve certainly improved since riding with one.

“Next year I might get a coach and see if it makes me any faster.”

David Griffiths
David getting “ridiculously aero”. Photo©Ed Hood

Tell us about your team – why them?

“Pro Vision formed out of the ashes of the Glasgow Wheelers race team, which at one point consisted of just me at national B level.

“Unfortunately the club, which has a phenomenal racing heritage (Robert Millar and Graeme Obree being notable alumni) became almost exclusively a leisure club for a while, but hopefully it will make a resurgence.

“We are not a professional outfit, just a group of motivated, talented friends all with day jobs.

“We’ve been the most successful team in Scotland this year, winning races in virtually every cycling discipline including a bronze at road champs (John Archibald), gold in the TTT (John, Jason, Peter Murdoch, myself), gold at the crit champs (Harry Johnston), gold in the XC MTB champs (Rob Friel) and now gold in the hill climb.”

Will you be riding the CTT Hill Climb Champs?

“Unfortunately not – at under 1000 metres its much more my sort of climb but I missed the entry date by the time I realised I was going well enough to justify the journey.”

2017 is about?

“Stepping up a level, especially August onwards where I finish ‘Foundation’ training and will be having a more relaxed year of locuming, training, travelling and racing.

“I’d like to improve my endurance and be properly competitive in at least National B level events.”

Did you allow yourself a celebratory indulgence? a haggis pudding supper, perhaps?

“Unfortunately not! I pushed myself so hard I spent the rest of the day feeling rather unwell shivering in bed.

“I did enjoy some of the Thistly Cross cider I won at a recent event a couple of days later though.

“And if I could just add that I must thank David Lang for his assistance over the years – be it organising trips away with the team or donating his dinner suit – without his help the learning curve would have been much shallower.

“I do feel like the older party in the friendship sometimes though, despite him having 40 years on me!”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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