It won't be a walk in the park, as he'll face hot competition from the likes of Dan Evans & Ed Laverack (course record holder). After taking the honours at Pea Royd Lane in 2018, we're also expecting to see Fiona Burnie head to Haytor to defend the womens' title against an ever-strengthening opposition.
The nationals will be held on Haytor, Devon on 27 October 2019 - the last time the event was held there was in 1979 when Jeff William's won with a time of 12 minutes 44 seconds. Today's current course record for the 5.1k climb now stands at 12 minutes 25 seconds.
The climb is a difficult one to pace with lots of changes in gradient - the average gradient for the entire climb is quite shallow at 6.4%. This means it's a very different effort to last year's short and sharp climb held on Pearoyd Lane near Sheffield.
Having lived previously in Exeter for 10 years I know the climb quite well - the exposed ascent could be won by a either hill climb specialist, time trialist or road man. The competition is wide open - without predicting any names, the results are likely to be quite different to previous years.
My specific training for the nationals this year has been to focus on the longer efforts - Great Dun Fell, the Tumble etc. So far, I have been successful in winning 10 out of the 12 events, with 6 course records. With the specialist Hunt HC SL wheels I have managed to get the weight of my Cannondale SuperSix down to 5.4 kilos - 400 grams lighter than last year. This is a considerable weight saving in hill climb terms!
With two weeks to go I will continue my preparation with a final recce of the climb the week before - whoever wins, will be a worthy winner.
Dan and I have had a fun hill climb season in 2019. Moving away from our staple events and focussing on some longer climbs (in preparation for the Haytor Nationals) has really freshened things up for us both.
I think the highlight for me so far has been the inaugural running of the “Struggle” hill climb out of Ambleside. That was an incredibly tough climb, a real epic event with great crowds urging each rider home up some sickeningly steep ramps. The weather was incredible too, glorious sunshine.
There are two weeks of prep remaining for Haytor and the excitement is really building, especially after Sunday’s Welsh Championships where a lot of the favourites gathered to test their form on The Tumble in S Wales. I was really happy to take the Vet’s title (ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone I’m a vet…) and that’s given me a real boost, so I’ll be training with a spring in my step from now on.
Bikes are going to be a hot topic from now on. Dan and I will both be using our Cannondale SuperSix hill climb bikes that weigh in at a crazy 5kgs each (thanks to all sorts of exotic carbon parts and our equally exotic Hunt HC SL tubular wheels). The wheels have been a particular highlight for me, especially as a smaller rider you really notice the reduced weight in your wheelset. It makes my bike so snappy and responsive up those steep gradients, and always gives me an edge mentally knowing I have the best wheels for the jon.
Last big effort, two weeks of training/diet/commitment before a winter of cake, pastries and a little bit of gin. See you all at Haytor folks.
I’ve come into the hill climb season after racing on the road this year. It was my second season racing and I’ve been racing for Team LDN who have really helped me progress and develop as a rider. I really enjoyed the road season so wanted to try something different and give hill climbs a go.
Last year I did a couple of hill climbs, one local to where my parents lived in Devon and also near to where Nationals is taking place this year and BUCS which was on Mam Tor in the Peak District. I was surprised and pleased to come away with a good result there and when I found out Nationals was on Haytor I was very excited to give it a go.
For preparation I have been working with my coach, Ian Watson but also decided to have a season break too, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do at Nationals but mostly going to enjoy the experience.
Banner Photo by Stephen Smith Photography (@steph3nsmith)