It is the end of the year in Barcelona, which means cold and occasional rainy days are here, the right moment to go cycling through the roads of the Collserola mountain range. But wait, why? The answer is simple; less busy roads, free from cars as the mushroom hunting season is over, the Tibidabo amusement park is closed, and obviously, the weather is not nice to go out. These are the set of conditions the organizers of Tibidabo Hill Climb (THC) were waiting for, and when the moment was right, it was time to bring back the hardest time trial in Barcelona. November 27th was the chosen day to revive the event, gathering more participants than ever in its sixth edition, and putting fixed gear bikes on the radar again.
Time to move on
After five consecutive editions of THC, from 2013 to 2017, from Raw Cycling Magazine we made the decision to stop the project for a while since we had other projects in mind. This meant we put the event on hold, hoping to celebrate it again in the future. Time passed by and, out of the blue, one day Prblms cycling gang got in touch with us. At that moment, we could not be more excited.
Prblms had been organizing fixed gear events, from tracklocross to off-road alleycats, around the Barcelona area during the last year, trying to maintain the wild, clandestine, and ruthless spirit of the most authentic and simplest bikes. They wanted to relaunch the THC and, in view of their excitement and motivation, we could not prevent them from doing it. So, for us, it was time to hand in the reins of this event we love so much so that Prblms could take over and keep the event alive.
The meet-up call for the sixth edition of THC on November 27th was at 8 am at the usual Borrás square just at the foot of the climb. The beginning of a total of 5.2 km with an average gradient of 6% and 310 m of elevation gain was there in front of everybody, raising the tension among the participants. Despite the cold cloudy morning, almost everyone who signed up showed up for the number pick-up. As people drank a hot coffee to warm up their bodies and spirits, the square got crowded with participants and supporters. After a short but clear briefing, at exactly 9 am the first participant started to climb.
The hill time trial was divided into four categories: fixed gear and free-wheel bikes in both female and male categories. The guys from Prblms had two clear ideas in mind. First, making the race egalitarian. Thus, they opened up equal categories for both genders and gave equal prizes. Second, promoting fixed gear bikes. They did so by not allowing road bikes with blocked gears or any kind of free-wheel bike in the fixed gear category, and by giving the biggest prizes to this category.
As the first girl went off, the race began. From that moment on, every minute one participant would set off to climb the winding road to the Tibidabo telecommunications tower. The climb is rather constant, but it has some steep parts at the beginning, at the Vallvidrera neighborhood, and just at the end, the steepest bit after two switchbacks. A climb that can surprise you if it is the first time you do it.
Once the 14 girls in the open category had all left, it was time for the 53 boys. At that moment a cold north wind started to blow, which translated to random head or tailwind depending on which part of the climb you were on. After the open category, the people who participated in fixed gear bikes (5 girls and 38 boys) gradually took their chances with the climb. If it was not hard enough to climb with a fixed gear, imagine doing it with wind slowing you down.
A total of 110 participants reached the top, where a crowd cheerfully encouraged the contenders as they arrived with their tongues out and showing their prettiest suffer faces. Some, exhausted, dropped dead on the floor barely standing up, and others just had the biggest smile on their faces, happy of what they had accomplished. Normally in a time trial, despite there being other contenders, it is wiser to compete against yourself. Just set an objective and try to beat it. This is what most people did, and once they looked at their time on their GPS a smile popped up.
Once everyone had arrived, recovered their breath, ate and drank something from the supporting stand, being able to feel their legs again, it was time to ride down, chill for a while, and wait for the official results at the after-party. The event had been a total success, without any problems or accidents, everyone was happy, and with a participation that the organizers were not expecting. People had come from all over Spain and other parts of Europe, including the UK, Italy, Belgium, and Germany.
The THC had not finished with the race, as the party would continue in My Beautiful Parking from 6 pm. It was a moment to relax over a beer, discuss with other people about your feelings during the race, and think about the next challenge. Yet, at the same time everyone was curious and a bit anxious to discover how they had performed.
Once everyone was at the shop it was the time for the big announcements. This was the biggest event Prblms had ever organized, with many sponsors and participants, with a special mention to the large female participation. As the award ceremony started the excitement was incredible, moments of silence were accompanied by an explosion of cheers and shouts from a passionate crowd as winners reached the podium. Surprise, happy, and awe faces could be seen all around. All contenders had performed at their best, obtaining great times and the fastest times comparable to those of previous editions.
After the awards, it was the moment for the real party to start. A giveaway between the participants and assistants was done, offering two framesets and many prizes from the collaborating sponsors. After that, to keep the good vibes going, a gold sprint league was organized. The perfect opportunity to challenge a friend and burn all the gas that was left in the tank.
It was one of those parties from the good old days of RHC and fixed gear all over town. A day of nostalgia but a day of excitement after realizing that the spirit for fixed gear is still there and the Prblms crew, as well as other groups around Spain, are trying to keep it alive and growing. Fixed gear is not dead, it is just a matter of believing and doing what you like.