This year stage 5 of The 2012 Tour of Britain (the Stoke on Trent stage) will be passing through Stafford and more importantly my village of Brocton.
The race route comes out of Stafford on the A34 before turning left into Brocton and then turning right for a short sharp Cat 2 Skoda King of the Mountains climb up towards Brocton Coppice and Glacial Boulder after 29km of racing (expected time of arrival 11.20am).
This climb is a favorite haunt of mine for hill sessions being a nice 5 minute warm up ride from home and the steepest bit of road around. I will be there on Thursday together with a gaggle of kids from Berkswich Primary School to scribble on the road in chalk and cheer on Cav, Wiggo and all the other riders.
As I know the hill intimately from many reps up and down it I thought I would preview it and give my thoughts for tactics.
Firstly the entrance to the hill off of the village green is approached after a very fast series of tight right, left and right hand bends and becomes extremely narrow as soon as you get on to the hill which immediately becomes very steep. I’ve marked steep section on the map with blue. (green is fast and more or less flat or downhill and orange is a slight gradient (more or less flat to a proff cyclist)
The steep section is only 300metres or so in length before it levels off and becomes a gradual gradient or flat for another 800m to the entrance to the Brocton Coppice Carpark. A key feature here is the danger from deer who constantly run across the road. There are also some mild speed bumps to overcome.
From Brocton Coppice to the KOM summit at Glacial Boulder, the 800 metres of road is essentially flat and very fast with the exception of some fairly rounded but sizeable speed bumps which will make the sprint for the line a challenge.
So in summary the Brocton climb is half climb half sprint. The narrowness of the access meaning a there will be real advantage to being on the front of the peloton coming into the village, though the finish at Glacial Boulder really suits the sprinter rather than the climber. There is time to attack the steep section, sit on a wheel and recover somewhat and then attack again on the last 800 meters – one for Cav perhaps or one for an early breakaway?
On Sunday my 9 year old daughter Holly and I went to ride the climb ahead of the race to let her get a feel of what it would be like. I didn’t think for a minute she would manage it on her Isla bike but to her credit she got stuck in and rode it all and even practiced a hands up winning celebration when we got to Glacial Boulder after she beat me in our sprint finish on this normally fairly quiet slow road.
The views out over the Sherbrook valley out towards the Peak District are spectacular from the Glacial Boulder trig point so be sure to take in the view after you have watched the tour wiz past. For those wanting to watch the action on Tuesday there is limited car parking on the cross chase road and several small car parks along it but there is no parking at all in Brocton. See you there!
Photos of the climb to follow.