Saturday October 27th was the date of the annual BUCS Cycling Hillclimb, an event that (I am sure the riders will testify) should be re-named, Annual Agony Day. A hill climb is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, a timed run up Curbar Gap in Derbyshire with an average gradient of 11% with parts ramping up to close to 20%; for a mile. In layman’s terms, that’s really hard! The leaders will do it in around five and a half minutes and people can take up to fifteen minutes of spluttering and wheezing noises before they collapse in a decrepit heap at the top.

This year’s event was organised by Sheffield University and took place in glorious sunshine and autumn chill, and with Loughborough’s tunnel of support lining the road looking out over spectacular views over the Derbyshire Dales, the scene was set for some serious pain.

The competition was divided between the women and men with the first woman going off at 12.15. The women’s event was a closely run-affair for places two through eleven with only 31 seconds dividing those ten competitors. However Loughborough’s own Molly Weaver, obliterated the field by 25 seconds, even with what she claimed was a wheel which was rubbing against the brake; a very impressive performance for a fresher. This nicely rounded off a Loughborough one-two with National under-23 Women’s Time Trial Champion Eli Thorogood coming second and Warwick Uni’s Claire Hansell coming in third, four seconds behind. This strong showing from Loughborough also meant that the women claimed the team prize, giving them two golds and a silver!

The men’s competition saw a great turnout with a full field of 150 riders taking part, many of whom were trying the discipline for the first time whilst others had been training for the last few months specifically for six minutes of death. Regardless of how good or not they were every single competitor got great support on their way up with spectators sprinting alongside them and creating a tunnel of noise in true Tour de France style (this may have been very off-putting (sometimes deliberately) but it was awesome fun) and greatly contributed to the atmosphere of the event.
The race itself was incredibly tight, with only six riders going sub six minutes in impressive displays of power and lack of upper-body.

The podium was topped by the University of Bedford’s Jake Hales in an awesome time of 5 minutes 42.7s with David Griffiths and Thomas Stewart from the universities of Glasgow and Sheffield respectively being separated by a mere second. In a combination of divine providence and intense sibling rivalry fourth and fifth place was taken by the Nichols brothers with Loughborough’s David just sneaking ahead of Sheffield’s Andy by two seconds. I spoke to both of them afterwards and it was evident there was no love lost. The team prize was won by half a second by Sheffield who slightly edged out Loughborough, who were not given medals as for some unbeknown they were believed to have come fourth.

This concluded a fantastically awesome day of sunshine, sweat and cardiac arrest, providing evidence that despite the doping induced media shambles that is Professional Cycling, the British domestic scene and University cycling is still thriving and providing cracking days out. 


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