Around our neck of the woods there are two climbs that seem to bring cyclists out into a cold sweat at the mention of their names. I am lucky enough to live within 5 minutes ride of the foot of one, where the other lurks about as far away from my house as I care to go in a day.
That day turned out to be today, so I was delighted that a selection of my usual road riding buddies were around to keep me company as we embarked on the Full Crowcombe ride.
Thanks to judicious use of CHO and the sight of two of mes amis du route disappearing up the final slope, I was able to record a PR on Crowcombe. For the sake of comparison I rode The Steep a few hours later, before finally bringing my day in the saddle to a welcome halt.
Now it's certainly the case that I was slow up the Steep today. 6.30hrs of riding had taken their toll. I have ridden the Steep nearly 50 times according to Strava, yet have struggled up Crowcombe on only a handfulI of occasions. The sheer lack of familiarity plays into the impression that the marquee Quantock climb is the harder of the two. My pitiful performance on my doorstep however was every bit as challenging thanks to the days travails. I found myself stumped as I tried to decide which hill was harder.
Numbers don't seem to help.
Crowcombe 1.2km 185m gain 14.8%
Steep 1.9km 220m gain 11.4%
The Steep is longer so has a slight lighter average gradient, primarily thanks to the gradual ascent to the summit after the glider club. I'm fairly sure that the front wheel lift is worse on Crowcombe's steepest slope, but I'm sure that the toughest part of the Steep goes on for longer, and as it comes earlier in the ascent, leaves a lasting burn that messes with the head for the remainder of the effort.
Thankfully, however, I have come up with a number that allows a more ready comparison. My power meter allows calculation of TSS, which is similar to Strava suffer score.
The Steep clocks at 23.2, Crowcombe at 22.1. Plainly therefore, the Steep is very nearly 5% harder, which means I may never again have to ride Crowcombe again.