On the last Sunday in October, Morgan and Olivia took part in the RTTC National Hill Climb Championships on Winnats Pass in the Peak District National Park. The iconic climb takes in incredible scenery on a 900m course with an average gradient of 14% with steep inclines up to 23%. The last time this road was used as a hill climb was in 1977, so to have the opportunity to compete in the championships was too good to miss for the riders. It was also the first time there has been a women’s event held on the climb and there were some outstanding times put down by the female winners!
What did they think of racing the national hill climb champs?
(Olivia) This event was my first hill climb and I was determined to do this one as the organisers had reserved 50% of the entries for women. This is such a brilliant opportunity for female riders, and it is great to see the sport moving in a positive direction. However, there were no women DNFs on the results sheet, everyone gave 100% and we put down some speedy times.
The weather was biblical; torrential rain and high winds made me question driving 3 hours back from University as I got out of my car and was immediately soaked walking the small distance from the car park to HQ. However, it was so worth it for what was 5 and a half minutes of the most incredible atmosphere I have EVER experienced racing. The unique thing about hill climbs is you’re all set off individually at intervals. The crowd have the start list and so know the names of the riders and boy do they let you know it. I had people I had never met before screaming my name, ringing cowbells and running next to me banging pots and pans for The. Whole. Climb. I finished 29th which I was really pleased with as I had no idea what to expect going into the event.
A few days out from the event and I’m still buzzing; I gave it everything to the point where I collapsed at the top and was helped off my bike by two kind marshalls (thank you!) and I already can’t wait for next year.
(Morgan) This event was pretty special to me as in 2019 I took part in the ‘Tour of the Peak Sportive’ with my Dad and Winnats was a climb included in this event and I found it very challenging and had to unclip and walk up the very steep part. Two years on and I found myself racing up this hill with no need to get off and walk! As a paracyclist this event also felt really important to take part in as Cycling Time Trials (CTT) did not include a para cycling category in this event, which for some para cyclists really puts them off racing in these events as their disability is not accounted for and it does not make the para community feel included in the way they should be. Hopefully next year a para category will be added to encourage more paracylists to come out and compete against each other, this year there were three of us.
Taking part was incredible though – I have never experienced such an amazing atmosphere, shouted and cow-belled all the way up the climb, everyone just embraced the horrendous weather and got on with cheering people up the climb. Such fun. It was also fantastic to see the women who got on the podium absolutely smash the event and set some really tough to beat times on the climb.
Our top tips for hill climbs
- Go give one a go! It’s just you against the hill alongside an incredibly welcoming and supportive community. The season normally runs in September/ October and you can find events near you here: https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/find-events
- Recce the climb if you can. It’s always good to know where the top is! Plus if you can have a good idea of what gears you will be in at each point and where more slippery points of the road are, this all helps.
- Do not worry about having a ‘hill climb bike setup’ – just arrive at the start warmed up and ready to go, the easiest way to save weight for a hill climb is to get that saddle bag off and those water bottle cages too.
- Enjoy the pain of going really deep up a climb!
Both Olivia and Morgan have one more hill climb this season at the BUCS championships and we look forward to seeing how they get on.