Cycling Weekly had Ed Laverack (SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling) down as pre-race favourite but with three recent national champions all defying gravity well in recent weeks – Messrs. Andrew Feather, Dan Evans and Richard Bussell – it was by no means certain he would win, despite slicing nine seconds off the course record in the Bristol South CC hill climb the Sunday prior.
But ‘The Comic’ got it right and 25 year-old Laverack was the fastest man up Haytor on Dartmor in the CTT National Hill Climb Championship relegating Italian continental Colpack team roadman Paul Double – in the colours of VC Venta – and former champion, Richard Bussell (Aerocoach) into second and third spots respectively.
VeloVeritas caught up with the lightweight man from Llanelli a couple of days after his course record-breaking ride.
Congratulations, Ed – you had a pretty successful hill climb season prior to the National with that win on Burrington and you were second the week before to Andrew Feather in the Welsh Champs.
“Yes but I was careful not to spread myself too thin, traveling all over the country to races takes it out of you.”
The event was blessed with good weather.
“Really good, with a tailwind too…
“It’s a pretty challenging climb, some folks were saying it’s more of a time trial rider’s course than a hill climber’s course but I don’t agree; I’d say it’s a roadman’s course, with the flat section of around one minute duration it means you can recover for the final lift, even though you’re pushing the watts.”
Tell us about your preparation for the race.
“I rode the Cat & Fiddle hill climb the day after the Tour of Britain finished and was second with ex-champion Richard Bussell up there too.
“The Tour of Britain was really my golden ticket to condition – eight days of racing gave me the base that I needed so that after I’d recovered I was able to train properly for Haytor – specific to what the course demands.
“I rode a couple of hill climbs of similar length to Haytor but with no pace strategy – but in training I never did any individual effort over five minutes.
“Much of my training was in zone six, lots of one minute effort with one minute rest; and 90 seconds effort with 30 seconds rest – perhaps three blocks of 10 minute sessions like that.
“I gave myself short recovery periods and spent a lot of time at 450 watts to get used to that level.
“I figured that I had the endurance so if I got used to the intensity then I could hang on.”
I read you did 7.25 watts/kilo for the race with an average of 428 watts?
“Yes, that’s correct, I treated the first nine minutes as a ‘stand alone’ hill climb, averaging 430 watts but touching 450 at times – then, on the flat section I cut back to 350 watts which gave me massive recovery – for the final two minutes I was on 450/500 watts.
“The crowd carries you up and you know that it’s almost over – but I still felt in control and was on 600-plus watts at the line (my watts were way more than I expected).
[VeloVeritas checked his wattage for the Cat & Fiddle climb: 391 watts was Ed’s average there.]
We noticed you didn’t ride carbon wheels?
“No, aluminium rims, hand-built by a friend of mine. I ran latex inner tubes with 160 gram clinchers.
“At 1.4 kilos for the pair they’re not as light as some carbon wheels but I really like the feel of them – there’s no power loss at all with them.
“There were no modifications to the bike, double rings on an Ultegra crankset, I didn’t chop the ‘bars but the seat post, bars and stem are all carbon.
“I ride 36/52 rather than 39/53 which a lot of guys ride.
“I like the 36 ring because I tend to spin on climbs and I found the 52 ring was perfect for the course, I was in it all the way except for one brief spell in the 36.
“The bike weighed 6.2 kilos on the day.”
And what about your weight?
“There’s so much said about training and effort but nutrition and sleep are two aspects of the sport that I think a lot of people neglect.
“I’m used to racing at around 62/63 kilos but I’m down to 58/59 now due to what I term ‘carb manipulation.’
“I eat well but avoid carbs and that got me down to my target weight – I practiced being mindful about what and when I was eating – and portion control too, training for hill climbs doesn’t burn a lot of calories so you don’t need to eat so much.
“But you have to be patient and give your body time to adapt – losing too much weight too quickly is a recipe for disaster.
“After the race folks were asking if I was going to have a ‘blow out’ meal or a few beers but really didn’t feel the need for that.
“And despite all that I’ve just said, I do enjoy my five or six chocolate digestive biscuits each day!”
Tell us about your Facebook videos?
“I’ve been doing them for a while, initially just so local folks would know what I was up to; it saved me answering the same question to different people all the time.
“It started small but it’s snowballed – I have to say I’m confused as to how they’ve become so popular, but as someone said to me; ‘I’d rather watch your videos than listen to you talking about what you do!’”
Season 2020, are you back with SwiftCarbon?
“I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial when I say that there are insecurities in the British race scene; we haven’t really found a model that works.
“This hill climb season has caused me to re-evaluate what I’m doing on the bike and why I’m doing it.
“For me it’s not about riding the Tour de France, rather challenging myself to be the best I can be.
“There are races out there where I think I can perform in – there’s the Taiwan KOM Challenge, which Nibali has ridden.”
[21 year-old Anthon Charmig of Denmark – who’ll be with Danish ColoQuick continental team for 2020 – won the 2019 Taiwan KoM (King of the Mountains) Challenge finishing the mountainous 105-kilometer time trial in 3:24:24. Second place in the men’s race went to Australian Ben Dyball (who’ll be with Team NTT for 2020) who crossed the line in a time of 3:28:16 ed.]
“Then there’s the Hill Climb World Championships in California…”
[Won on a course in California in 2018 by US, ex-Cannondale pro Phil Gaimon, ed.]
“And of course, the Etape du Tour, as well as lots of other stuff involving climbs I’d like to do.
“I’ve spoken to Swift about how I feel, being my own athlete and able to ride events like those I’ve just mentioned but racing with a team as well.
“The thing is that hill climbing is very much ‘niche’ and individual so I don’t know how attractive it is to pro teams – but I have until the end of November to think about what I want to do next year…”