If you haven't seen Part 1 of John's #ProjectHillClimb check it out in the related posts on the right.
There are three major components of a successful hillclimb campaign - Training, diet and the bike, the bike being probably the most exciting and glamorous piece to the puzzle. John decided to use a Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod frame and fork, one of the lightest off the shelf frameset's available. He would have it stripped it down and purpose build it, specifically for the job of going 'up'. The paint was removed, taking the frame and fork back to a raw carbon finish (saving a few hundred grams) which was then lacquered in a ‘K-Flow’ protective gloss coating by Tom at Kustom Flow. The finish is something pretty special with the carbon weave and joints catch the light at certain points, giving it a raw and industrial feel whilst also being extremely lightweight.
Q&A with hill climber John Blight
Tell us a bit about yourself? How you fit cycling into your life?
I work at an ad agency as a strategist in London and cycling has always been part of my life. To some extent I have always cycled, starting out on mountain bikes, then a bit of questionable BMX and later road cycling. With road cycling, it was the speed that grabbed me instantly and then I explored and grew to love other aspects of it.
What inspired you to want to tackle the hillclimb season with such commitment this year? And when did you decide on racing this discipline?
I saw my friend Will Adams race the Catford CC Hill Climb (the oldest race in the world as they love to say) in 2016. Being of a slight build and alright going up some hills, I thought “next year, I’ll give that a go" so in 2017 I tagged along with Will and a few others to participate in the Urban Hill Climb, Catford and Bec. I did okay last year but thought I could do better, I can get quite obsessed with things when I set my mind to it so thought next year, would be the year. I subsequently read ‘A Corinthian Endeavour: The Story of the National Climb Championship’ and that was the flame to the touch-paper
How did you decide on the bike's components and spec, was there a budget?
In part I was inspired by Oliver Bridgewood of GCN (formerly Cycling Weekly) and what he did with a hill climb bike last year but when you start going down the WeightWeenie path it can naturally take you down a set route. Exotic German carbon fibre always crops up and having ridden different Cannondale's for a while I knew I would base the build around the featherweight Supersix Evo Hi-Mod. I wanted the bike to be really light but useable the rest of the year so whatever I bought needed to have some kind of longevity. This meant buying quality components, rather than eBay specials. All of this had a cost but I thought if I started long in advance I could afford a part or two a month, in reality it got a bit out of hand but had I set a budget, I don’t think it could of been as light and decent in the long term - I’ll keep telling myself that
Why did you decide on using Bart at Super Domestique to build up the bike?
I own a Pretorius and the company used to be based out of the arch, so I would always get my bikes serviced there. When Pretorius left and Hex and SuperDomestique took it over I carried on going. Bart’s attention to detail is second to none and when I mentioned this hill climb bike idea, he was really keen to build it up. How could I say no?
How did you get on in last years hillclimb season?
I came 24th in the Urban Hill Climb, 27th at Catford and 26th at Bec and then 10th at ELV’s Hill Climb (the start list wasn't quite so long on Mott Street) A lot of room for improvement…
Whats the aim for this hillclimb season?
The aim is to qualify for the National Hill Climb. I know that’s ambitious and I might be disappointed but I’ll give it a good go. This means I need to do pretty well in some of the bigger events in the run up to it so my aim is to do more hill climbs this year and do better, both with my time and how I place.
What do you think it is that makes hill climbing so special in Britain and something that people want to do with such incredible commitment?
I could pretend that it’s because it’s a purer type of racing and all of that but I think it’s because it’s just old school which seems cool to me. You have a bunch of people who have been members of their local cycling club for 50-something years and they put together a hill climb and the only reason they do it is because they love the sport. It’s the same as the local club 10, Because of this, there is an incredible sense of community at these hill climbs which I love, that and the feeling of going up a hill with people cheering you on is pretty exhilarating. Also the home made cakes are second to none
Tell us a bit about your training? Has your training matched your investment into such a high spec machine for the job?
That’s it isn’t it? I now have to perform to do this bike justice. So I got the help of a coach. I had never used a coach before and because it was all about hill climbs I went with Matt Clinton of Clinterval coaching - he was the only person that seemed to offer coaching specific for hill climbs and as a former National Champion, seemed like a safe pair of hands/legs. My training a few months ago consisted of getting my base power higher but now we’re closer to the hill climb season, it has switched, fewer rides and higher intensity workouts such as Tabata training. There have been a lot of hours done on the turbo which isn’t the most enjoyable but it’s consistent and I can motivate myself knowing what the ultimate goal is
Which hillclimbs are you doing? And how have you chosen them?
Currently my plan includes Reading, the Urban Hill Climb, Catford and Bec and then a few further North such as Jackson Bridge and Bank road, then let’s see about the National on the 28th. I wanted a mix of lengths and tackle some of the more prestigious events, plus the further North you go, the events have a wealth of history to them - I wanted to experience a little bit of that
Anything else you’d like to add or mention?
Will Adams is a brilliant rider and hill climb specialist and a friend of mine, he’s been an enormous help throughout all of this, just to talk to and give me a bit of guidance so cheers Will