I woke up on Sunday morning feeling even rougher than I'd felt during the previous days - banging headache, dizziness, tight chest, sore throat. No hill climbing for me then.
Even the short walk out to see off Stanley and to pick up some Lemsip left me feeling completely wiped out.
It was a real shame to not be able to take part in the hill climbs. With the numbers of people lined up along the road - around 700, it was a real festival of cycling - not just a painfest for the masochistic riders !
A former cyclist colleague of mine that I hadn't seen for a long time had happened to turn up to watch, and excitedly left a message on my phone : "Great to see your name on the start sheet. I'll give you a big cheer when you go by !" Oh, bummer ! There were lots of people - many I would have loved to hook up with - once I'd undergone my excruciating couple of minutes. But there I was, lying at home, a feverish wreck !
The Catford Hill climb, on Yorks Hill drew record crowds and had a record entry. The Bec Hill Climb, with it's very encticing £1,000 for the winner and £900 for the winning team, attracted a record number elite riders. So it wasn't a big surprise to see the 12 year old record time broken.
Daniel Fleeman (Blue Sky Cycles) made a very tidy earning that day - on top of his £200 for breaking the record, he got the grand for winning, the £900 for being in the winning team, £300 for winning the Catford hill climb in the morning, and more money for being in the winning team there too. Not bad for 3.5 minutes' work !
The lady's winning time was quite impressive too - Kim Hurst (Agiskoviner) recorded 2mins 41 on Yorks Hill (700 yards/12.5%), and an impressive 2mins 36 on White Lane (600yards/15%) - 10 to 15 seconds faster than previous winning times.
Maybe I should be glad I didn't go as I might have finished embarrassingly slowly.
But in the eyes of the spectators anyone who turns up and has a go is a winner - including the Lanterne Rouge.
The riders describe it as an amazing experience. The climb is excruciatingly painful. Your lungs are bursting, your head is hurting, you feel sick - but the shouts from the crowd really spur you to keep going. When you look ahead all you see is a wall of people, and you wonder how you're going to get through. Thankfully they do clear a path for you as you approach them. It's better to focus on the tarmac, avoid the anxiety of not seeing the road ahead, and feed off the the up-close-and-personal spectators shouting in your ears. It's real Tour de France stuff. When you finish you feel dizzy and you just want to keel over - but you're glad you've done it !
These are the words of different riders who had a go.
I felt really disappointed to have not been able to make it, and kept pestering Stanley to know every blow by blow detail of how the day went. He was sweet enough to oblige, even though I was trying his patience !
Anyway, I'm definitely going to do both climbs next year - touch wood that I won't be ill two years on the trot.
Paul Churchill (email@example.com)
John Mullineaux (londoncyclesport.com)