The last weekend of October is always a busy weekend for road cycling as it hosts the last events of the racing season before the winter really takes hold.
“Hill climbs” are a discipline of road cycling which involve a time trial with one attempt up a hill, with the fastest time producing a winner. The hills can vary from two to ten minutes long and are usually between 10-20% in gradient. You would certainly notice a gradient this steep in a car so you can imagine how this all-out effort cycling is a real test of fitness.
The University Hill Climb Championships is always held on the last Saturday of October and the National Hill Climb held the next day with both hosting locations varying each year. Having come back from a great trip to the Lake District the week before all the riders were excited to represent the University in the first events of the academic year.
The BUCS Hill Climb was held on Pea Royd Lane in Sheffield. Whilst only 700m long it averages a 17% gradient and the winning time on the day was 2mins 21s.
The Newcastle University Cycling Club headed down with a team of six: two women and four men. Some alumni and friends of the club also came along to support in what promised to be a great atmosphere.
Florence Shekleton was off first, followed by club president Izzy Ash shortly after. Both put in great times to finish 33rd and 27th respectively.
Next was the turn of the men with only road secretary Andrew Berry having done a hill climb before. Richie Allan was the highest finisher for Newcastle, coming in 74th from a field of 188, but only 20 seconds off a top 20 place, which shows how close the timings are in these short events more suited to hill climbers.
Freshers Alex Platt and Calum Spence completed the team performance in what proved to be a great introduction to University cycling. The experience set them up for many more opportunities looking forward.
The overall event was a great success As well as providing an experience in racing for newer members to the club and encouraging others to put themselves forward for events in the 2018 season, the overall event was also a great success in bringing the club together and raising its growing profile.
Sunday saw the National Hill Climb being hosted at Hedley, just 30 minutes from Newcastle and so often a feature of the club’s well-attended group rides.
It promised a great opportunity for club members to spectate in what is one of cycling’s most exciting disciplines to witness live at the roadside.
Alex Platt and alumni club member Freddie Jagger being accepted to the 280 strong start list also gave the club’s spectators a chance to cheer on familiar faces whilst watching the best climbers in the country race up the hill.
The two Newcastle representatives, cheered on by the strong University club fan group, put in great rides and really soaked up the occasion. Alex finished a commendable 76th, especially impressive given he had raced the day before whilst Freddie finished a brilliant 27th in his first Hill Climb Nationals. Both riders with many years ahead of them are sure to improve on these results, with the experience leaving them wanting to come back for more.
The event helped showcase the Cycling Club and Newcastle University to a wide audience with racers and spectators travelling from all over the country to the event which hopefully will encourage more riders to join in the future and inspire more students to take up cycling.