It’s a long way from the climb up to the Santuario di Madonna di San Lucca in Bologna and the Zappolino climb near Monteveglio – both in la Bella Italia to Haytor on stark Dartmoor in Devon – but what have these three jousts with gravity all got in common?
Let me first take you back to Sunday afternoon when I was trying to get the result of the CTT Hill Climb Championship.
Ben Lane, on the ‘Real 80’s Cycling’ page on Facebook kindly clued me in; ‘Laverack, Double, Bussell.’
The winner, Ed Laverack, a 25 year-old SwiftCarbon professional who hails from Llanelli wasn’t a surprise victor; he’d won the Bristol South Hill Climb at Burrington in Somerset the weekend before slicing the old course record and made no secret of his designs on the title.
And Richard Bussell (Aerocoach) wasn’t too much of a surprise either, VeloVeritas interviewed him back in 2015 when he won the CTT 10 mile and Hill Climb Championships.
But the ‘Double’ name did surprise me; ‘Paul Double?’ I enquired.
The answer came back in the affirmative and there you have the link with those famous Italian climbs…
Mr. Double has raced both climbs with his Italian Colpack team – one of Italy’s strongest continental teams (Filippo Ganna [Team Ineos, World Pursuit Champion] and Simone Consonni [UAE, London Six Day winner] are both are Colpack ‘old boys’). The San Luca climb features in the Giro dell’Emilia and the Zappolino bends the legs in the Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli – and yet, here Double was on Dartmoor.
Our curiosity was piqued…
Did you have problems finding your way round a CTT entry form, Paul?
“I just told them I had the record for the three-mile climb in 12 mins 36 secs which was eight seconds faster than Jeff Williams (Manchester Wheelers) had done to win the National Hill Climb Championships back in 1979.
“I did that back in 2018 in the Totnes Vire stage race.
“That seemed to do the trick.
“But in the championship we must have a good wind because both Laverack and I annihilated my old best time.”
We were surprised to see your name in an English hill climb after all those Italian semi-classics...
“I was ready for the off-season but the form was good and I thought I’d give it a go – but when I got back from Italy it rained all the time and then I was ill, so I didn’t do much on the bike.
“But the week before the race I felt better, my numbers were OK and I recce-ed the climb.”
You rode an Argon 18 in the race.
“Yes, my Cinelli team bike stayed in Italy so I had to borrow a friend’s.
“It’s a climb where you really use the gears; I was on the inside ring then up on the big ring when it flattens near the top, then back on the inside ring for the final kick.”
“Laverack is a specialist climber and he was on a super-light bike – I think if my preparation had been better then perhaps it might have been closer.”
From the tifosi to a CTT hill climb, wee bit different atmosphere?
“To be fair there were a lot of spectators out on Sunday and the atmosphere was good.
“But in the Giro Dell’Emilia you climb that San Luca climb – the one where this year’s Giro opening time trial finished – five times, I’d been going well but ‘popped’ in a big way with two laps to go, the race officials said I could finish but I simply couldn’t get up the climb to the finish for the last time due to the sheer volume of fans flooding back down the hill.”
How was the Colpack experience?
“It’s a top team, really good organisation and a step up for me – I’ve done a massive amount of learning in my time there. I learned Italian and could see myself living there.
“But unfortunately I had a few crashes and injuries so missed races, one was a real bad one where I landed on my face and lost teeth – that took a while to sort out.
“The time off the bike is hard on the head and then when you come back the team are perhaps a little reluctant to put you in the biggest races because they’re not sure how you’ll be in the finales.
“But on the occasions I came back from injury and crashes I surprised the team because I was going well – but they still have you in a team role rather than giving you opportunities.”
You seem to have coped with the jump from competing against u23 riders to men who are riding World Tour?
“In the Gran Premio Citta di Lugano I was in the group with Aru and Nibali and really thought I was heading for a top 10 finish but on the penultimate climb the lights went out.
“It’s that last hour where you notice the difference between u23 and World Tour guys most – you’re going from four hour races to five hour races.”
Overall, are you happy with the season?
“Results-wise, it’s been a disaster but I was happy the form I was getting back to in the likes of Emilia.”
Are you back with Colpack for 2020?
“Unfortunately not, the team will be exclusively u23 next year and I’ll be 24 in June.
“I also have an avenue in the UK but they can’t afford to pay me, which makes life difficult.
“The fact is though that if this was last year or the year before I would call it quits – but the form I’ve had when recovered from injury makes me believe I can make it, I think I’m very close to the level you need to be at…”
VeloVeritas wishes the man well, and whatever happens he’s ridden the races most of us just dream about…