As I left my office in Belfast City Centre yesterday evening the weather wasn’t looking great. It was very overcast, with a blustery wind that brought spots and promises of rain, so a perfect evening for an attempt on the 900ft Col du Cave Hill. It didn’t go so well.
The ascent went as well as could be expected for a 5 mile, 4% average climb (with a 0.8 mile, 7-11% section) and I was soon rolling along the flat top of the Upper Hightown Road (B95), having only stopped once on the way up. It’s tracked on RunKeeper, if you’re interested.
The Glengormley side of the this road is quite exposed, and the crosswinds were making controlling the bike quite difficult, so I was happy to more or less just hang on and freewheel down the hill. You can hit 35mph without pedalling here anyway, and that was quite fast enough in the conditions. Then two things happened.
First, I began to feel a little dizzy. I’m not sure what was going on. Maybe I should have waited longer at the top of the hill to recover from the effort of getting up there? Maybe my sinusitis was playing up and affecting my balance (it seems to, from time to time) ? In any case, it’s not fun feeling faint while you’re falling down a 10% hill with only two fingernail sized patches of rubber and a thin layer of Lycra between precious skin and the tarmac that’s whipping beneath it at 40mph, so I got on the brakes to shave off some speed. Just in case.
So, destabilised by crosswinds, balance troubles and not-quite-panic-yet braking, what did I need? Oh yes, a 40′ container lorry and it’s huge aerodynamic wake to pass close by.
Mayday, Mayday, we’re going in.
I had just enough control and presence of mind left to aim at the verge as its foot-deep covering of grass seemed a more attractive landing option than the tarmac and high kerb of the road. One quick tuck, flip and roll later I was sitting on my ass on the grass checking everything was still attached and working properly. Fortunately, it was.
The truck was oblivious to this and went on its way (I didn’t catch a registration or even company name), but one driver who was following me did stop to check I was all right. His son, about eight, was leaning out of the window, staring and mouth agape like this was the funniest thing he’d seen all day. Or the coolest. Yes, coolest, I’m going with that. Because it’s important that eight year old boys think I’m cool, not stupid.
I was lucky. I came away with only a bruised calf (I assume the bike clipped me as we tumbled) and dented pride. If I’d hit the tarmac or kerb it would have been nasty, and would probably have involved an awkward “Erm, hello dear, now don’t panic but I’m in hospital…” phone call too. The BeOne came away a little muddy but unscathed, and after picking myself up I was able to continue on home.
And being very, very careful on the remaining descents.