Matt Clinton: Hill Climbs and the lack thereof

First things first, hill climbs hurt.  Now that’s been put forwards, you can understand why many people don’t do them. Matt Clinton writes … There’s other reasons, it’s the off-season for many roadies, while others are riding ‘cross, but what was once a thriving hill-climb scene appears to be dwindling year-on-year.

Just like the events themselves, there season is short and sharp, it’s all over and done with around 6 weeks after it’s started; cumulating in the National Championships on the last weekend in October. With a few exceptions, such as the Urban Hill Climb and the Cobble Wobble; all the hill climbs are crammed into these short few weeks. It’s possible to get four climbs done in many cases each weekend (5 if you’re really keen!), so despite having to travel quite a way, you can have twice as much pain per day! All this is set in a really friendly, laid-back atmosphere.

So why the lack of climbs for 2011?

Stocks Lane, too hard?
Is it possible some of the climbs are too hard? Take Halifax’s promotion of Halifax Lane and Stocks Lane, as Jim Henderson stated when the Nat Champs was run here “at last a real climb!” These are two real tough monsters of climbs, both over 5minutes if you want to be near the course record and extremely hard! Yet in recent years, numbers have dropped each year. Hugely popular with spectators at the Nat Champs, you’re riding into wilderness in an open event. Sadly, one of my favourite events of the year, the Halifax event is no more for 2011.

Conversely, the climbs which require much more explosive power, around the 2-minute mark seem to be flourishing. Obviously this length of climb is a great spectacle and with the prize money offered for climbs such as Catford, Bec and the Rake it’s easy to see why they get the competitor numbers they do. These climbs aren’t really in the same league as the diminished Halifax event; granted they’re all tough climbs which will leave you light-headed and gasping for breath at the top, but they’re not real monsters, they don’t scare people from riding.

The length of the season also seems to have caused events to disappear, with some days having multiple events, all within a reasonable distance, yet other days have none. Take for example Sat 15th October, no events in the north of the country, yet the Sunday holds four. The Rake (2.5min) near Bury, Beeley Moor (8min), near Chesterfield, Huddersfield CA (3.5min) and Cragg Vale (16min), both near Halifax – all on the same day. All four events are fantastic climbs and events, attracting large numbers of riders, far more than the diminished Halifax 2-stage. I’ve ridden them all and as much as I dislike the idea, I’m going to have to pick and chose which of these to ride for 2011.

Will my decision, along with other rider’s decisions to pick which event suits them affect future events? I certainly hope not, because without a doubt I’d be at every climb I love given half a chance.

Hopefully this will encourage a few more riders to enter these classic events now being lost, because after all, it’s only a few minutes of pain!

Thanks to Mike Vaughan Cycles who’ve supported me throughout the years at hill-climbs up and down the country!

PS. For one that’s in the middle of the country, try the Warwickshire Hill Climb 25th Sept, just south of Stratford. £12 for two events, 1/2mile apart!

Link: Matt’s blog — click here …

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