Feature Interview: Adam Kenway (Hill Climb Champion)

Feature interview with Adam Kenway (Raleigh GAC) who on Sunday defends his Hill Climb title in the North East

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Feature Interview: Adam Kenway (Hill Climb Champion)

Raleigh GAC’s Adam Kenway has been in winning form of late, victories that included one of his biggest ever at the Monsal Hill Climb a few weeks ago. On Saturday (Oct 21), before we spoke, Adam finished his preparations for the 2017 British Hill Climb championships in the North East with a win in the Belper CC Hill Climb.

Photo: Craig Zadoroznyj

After a season working for the likes of Spain’s Enrique Sanz and Seb Mora in road races, Adam has now taken the opportunity to race for his own success with both hands in the Raleigh GAC colours. Adam explained that after a start to the Hill Climb season where he was going well but couldn’t quite get the effort out on the day, that after freshening up a little after a long road season, things started to come good and he’s now had victory after victory after victory.

“It’s taken a little time to get the road racing out of the legs” he explained before saying how the victory on Saturday morning in the Belper CC hill climb was on the famous climb of Holly Lane used for the nationals years ago (1955) and not used for at least ten years for a hill climb.

[pullquote]“I do feel pressure wearing the champion’s stripes because if you don’t win, people are asking why and what went wrong. So you are always thinking about winning and giving the stripes the proper outing they deserve. You have to dig deep in a hill climb, and get everything out but you can also find yourself digging far too deep, too early.”[/pullquote]

“It’s a brutal climb, a hard climb, over a mile or so” Adam explained, adding the hill’s gradient at times measures 27%. The conditions for the race were windy and the rain was just starting to make its presence felt. Luckily it wasn’t full on rain for the event Adam explained adding there was a blustery head wind on the steepest section which made it harder. “One moment you had no wind and then you were hit by 40mph headwinds” he told us.

This year was Adam’s first season for the Raleigh GAC (Cherie Pridham Racing) team and he has worked well with team owner Cherie saying “it’s all about having the right attitude and helps doing the jobs you are asked to do”. Adam soon got his own chances to win in the team’s colours as he donned the Primal Europe British champion’s skin-suit and the first victory in it was Monsal, probably the biggest Hill Climb event outside the British championships this year.

“That was my first proper hill climb win this year and a mini goal for me” Adam explained. “I had a mini peak for that and there was a big competition there like Joey Walker (Team Wiggins) who was well up for it and others. There was such a great atmosphere there too and there are not many road racing events that you get that close to such a big crowd at the top of a climb. There was also the commentary and it is a weird sensation climbing up through a wall of noise. The only event I can think of that came close was the Tour of Yorkshire.”

Adam went on to say that wearing the British championship stripes courtesy of the team sponsor for the last two seasons, Primal Europe, was great as well. “You do feel a great deal of pride wearing them and the need to do the stripes justice so in the first race I did in the champion’s skin-suit, I went far too hard and blew big time. The course record for that event was eleven and half minutes and I was going for that, and ended up doing 14 minutes losing a minute and half over the last four minutes of the climb!”

“I do feel pressure wearing the champion’s stripes because if you don’t win, people are asking why and what went wrong. So you are always thinking about winning and giving the stripes the proper outing they deserve. You have to dig deep in a hill climb, and get everything out but you can also find yourself digging far too deep, too early.”
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With just one more week before the end of season crowning event, the Championships, is Adam happy or sad it’s almost over? “I am happy I have won the last four hill climbs wearing the national jersey but I am also glad the season is almost over as I need a rest from the pressure. I’ll probably do more miles in the week after the nationals than I do now but it will be nice not to have the pressure of having something to aim for and just ride the bike for a bit.”

Asked what the difference is between a day after a Premier Calendar level road race and a Hill Climb, the former a 100 miles or so long and the latter as short as 400 or 500 metres up hill; Adam replied “to be fair, not much!”

“Sometimes, I can be more tired the day after a hill climb than after a Prem. The effort for a hill climb is so short and intense, you almost seem to damage more muscles doing a hill climb than some prems where it’s more a gradual wearing down process whereas in a hill climb, it’s a max effort so you are damaging muscle tissue”.

“But, I would say I do seem to recover quicker from a hill climb. So the day after you might be knackered but two days later, you can train hard again whereas with a prem, it probably takes a little longer to get that speed back.”

The difference between winning a losing in such short events can also be less than a second. How does he react to being beaten when used to winning so many events? “I don’t feel bad about being beaten as long as I have put everything out on the road. I’d rather be beaten than beat myself and you can do that very easily.”

The week before the championship will be a busy one says Adam. His son is off school so Adam expects the week to go quite quick. Then next Sunday he defends the title on a course which I get the feeling isn’t his sort of climb as much as some have been this season.

“I’ll have a couple more training sessions now but won’t be doing anything really intense now. I went up last week to look at the course and had two days up there. It’s a tricky one as it’s one of those climbs you can race in the saddle all the way up. It’s about an average of 7.5 % which is quite low for a hill climb but goes up to 14% at points like at some of the hairpins but there are some flat sections as well so there will be a lot of gear changes. Pacing it will be very important.”
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“It’s about a mile, so a four minute or so race. Knowing the line to take on the climb will be critical especially as it’s a closed road. I’ll go up the day before and recce it to get in my mind where I am going to ride it. I don’t think I’ll ride it on the day of the race as I’m off last”.

“It’s a long time hanging around waiting to start and being only a four minute effort, you don’t want to mess it up.” Adam expects the big challenge to come from former champion Dan Evans adding there are others like Joe Clarke, Mike Morris and Andy Cunningham who he expects to be in contention.

Once the Hill Climb championship is done, Adam will then go back to preparing for next road race season, hoping the experience he gained this year will help him be even better in 2018. “I have done a lot more racing than I am used to this year so it been about managing the fatigue levels. You have to discount some events so you can be better at others rather than trying to keep the same form all the way through”.

“I’m better and lighter now than I have been all year and it would have been good to have had this sort of form for Ryedale but you need six weeks without racing three times a week to get that kind of form”.

“I know what to expect next year and what kind of pressure I will be under so I can train for that. I need to get the base miles in and try and keep the weight off I have had for the hill climbs because I have been three to four kilos lighter than I was in the road racing season (66 kilos and he’s six foot one!)
“Being so light, it does make you feel lighter on the bike, you can skip away on it rather than just pulling the bike with you. But it’s hard to stay at this level and watch so carefully what you eat which is hard when you are racing as you crave sugar and carbs.” It is adds Adam, another of the pressures that comes with racing at the highest level in Britain.

Good luck to Adam for the Hill Climb Championships!



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