Rider Report – Nicola Dick on Monsal Hill Climb


Mother of four Nicola Dick is never afraid of a cycling challenge and her latest was the short, sharp shock of the Monsal Head Hill Climb

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Rider Report – Nicola Dick on Monsal Hill Climb

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Nicola writes … HIDEOUS was the best word I could find for Monsal Head Hill Climb (www.monsalhillclimb.org.uk). Described as the best hill climb race in the country, 675 yards long at 1-in-6 and only five minutes down the road from my house. I’m a sort of small scrawny build, and I quite like going up hills, so I applied.

It’s always oversubscribed so Mark Etches of Sheffrec tries to pick a balanced, interesting field. Balanced isn’t a word that my friends would use to describe me, and somehow I was on the start sheet. So were Russell Downing, Adam Blythe, Graham Briggs, Jessie Walker, Nicola Soden and at least a triathlete in the form of the speedy Lou Collins. Throw in track racers like Chris Pritchard and my aim became “not last”.


Previous winners have included both the Downings, Malcolm Elliot, and Tom Simpson who died going up a hill. “Not last” wasn’t looking good.

Some practice was required. On a hill just down the road, I did plenty of utterly horrible repeats, in and out of the saddle, until the farmer stopped me one day and asked what on earth was I doing. He wasn’t convinced and I couldn’t bear him hanging over the gate any longer so found another hill. Crowedote hill has a pub near the bottom, with tables on the front, but is so horrible you can’t go up it more than a few times in one session.

Off to Monsal Head to find how to ride it. This has a pub at the top, and an ice cream van, and a cafe, and lots of tourists admiring the view. It’s not long before you feel a total twit going up and down. The first few times I couldn’t get the right gear at the start, never high enough and spinning too much.

The top was better, where it zig zags horribly steeply, bottom gear was too low honking like crazy out of the saddle. I looked at my times, “not last” was looking even more doubtful, and I was wishing lots of friends didn’t always go to watch, every year.

A glorious Peak District Sunday, the roads were closed off, fencing set up for the last 100 yards, PA system loud and clear, drone helicopter making a film for Sky High. Signed on number 10 of 137, only 13 of which were women, can’t think why.


Even track sprinters can go uphill eh Chris!

Commentator starts to chat to the top end of the field, in their pro kit, about their Commonwealth exploits, pro races and small children put ear defenders on against the noise of the crowd. Someone kindly shows me the marshalls at the finish line to catch me as I fall off, and I freewheel to the bottom.

Go! The start goes well, the middle I make a total hash of in too low a gear, the noise at the top through the crowd is deafening by which time I can’t possibly go any harder. All I can see is the white finish line and two men. Everything else is very blurry. Just over the line, tip into their grasp, someone gets my feet out, takes my bike and I’m on the grass verge. It was hideous, but it was brilliant as well, and I have got to do it again.

“Not last”? not quite, 131 of 137. Graham Briggs won and was half the time I took…how? Just how, even accounting for my bodge of the middle bit, followed by Russell Downing, and then Adam Blythe. Lou Collins was third lady proving triathletes can ride a bike. Chris Pritchard of Scottish Commonwealth fame was 20th.

Next time? Oh yes, I’ve got to do this again, hideous and fantastic.

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