It was a freezing cold Sunday morning for the National Hill Climb at Haytor in the Dartmoor National Park. First task was to sign in at 7:40am and get my numbers pinned on and then Park near the top of the climb.
The climb is 3.1 miles long with an average gradient of 6.4% and total height gain of 1068ft.
Having taken a good 40mins to try and warm up on rollers it was then time to roll down to the start where I froze!
When my number was called, I rolled to the start area and me and my bike were held up and had a photo taken before I looked like I was about to die. I then had the dreaded 1-minute countdown which feels like an age. 321 and I was off with a blast up the initial approximate 15% gradient lane we start on before hitting the main climb.
I came into this hill climb with a target of a top 10 and to average 400 watts over the duration of the climb.
As the cold air started to hit my lungs, I settled into my effort and up the steep first bit of the climb where I was greeted with some fans cheering me on. I didn’t feel great on the first half of the climb, but I knew I could make up time on the flatter section of the climb.
Having seemingly crawled up the first bit of the climb I decided it was time to accelerate on the middle/last part of the climb. When I saw the exposed moor and I knew it was time to go full gas. I could see spectators with cow bells and shouting at me which gave me that extra bit power and motivation.
I then hit the final bit of the climb where the majority of fans were, and you caught sight of the famous rocks! This is when I felt like the top was never coming. My legs thought this was the end, but I had still at least 400 metres to go which is where the fans cheers come in to play and give you what you need to get to the top. As approaching the top, I could make out my name and Exeter Wheelers (the club I ride for) being called out, but I was so tired I couldn’t make out!
The Hill climbing community is very supportive of each other as everyone cheers everyone including their rivals! It’s a great atmosphere to ride in and be a part of. During the hill climb riders will want to stay as light as possible but as the National is usually is the last hill climb of the year it’s a chance to eat as much cake as possible after.
I finally got to the top where I was greeted by friendly volunteers to hold you up or your bike. I rolled onto the grass patch at the top and flopped over my bars and luckily my bike was being held. I stayed there for 5mins and was then invited into the coach which was designed for riders to sit in to warm up and rest. It was a great relief as it was warm, and I could finally sit down. I reflected on my effort and was trying not to be sick as I had worked so hard.
I then stayed up the top and watched and supported the other riders coming up the climb before heading down to sign out and see where I had been placed. I was very happy to find out I managed to pick up 8th and later analysed my ride to find out I had hit my 400 watts target and set lots of PB’s along the way.
This has been my first year of racing (17 years old) and it’s had its ups and downs. I started the year with some unfortunate crashes and a few good results but coming towards mid-season where I felt I had settled into the racing season and picked up some decent results, but I had an head on collision with a car whilst out training. I broke 3 ribs and punctured my lung amongst some other injuries which led to a 5 day stay in hospital. This led to me missing my second half of the season and knocking my confidence quite considerably. I recovered in time to race 1 circuit race where I got 9th and a Road race where I picked up 15th. It then came to the hill climb season where I was super motivated and ready to go. I did around 5 hill climbs before nationals where I picked up 4th, 5th,7th and 2nd overall in the 3 hills challenge which consisted of climbing Chineway, Haytor and Widecombe in 1 day! (Both Haytor and Widecombe where run by Mid Devon CC)
The event was run by mid Devon cycling club and it was a very well-run event! There was marshals everywhere and the sign on process was easy and all results were posted on a Great Wall in the HQ when the riders finished. When you finished you got a free cup of T which was nice.
I would like to thank all volunteers and Mid Devon cycling club for putting on the national’s champs on and all the fans that turned out to support.