The Struggle is an aptly named location for this year’s National Hill-Climb Championship; a place where the best riders from across the country will converge on Sunday for the final national title race of the season.
At 2.67 miles long the Cumbrian climb is one of the longer locations for this iconic event and has an average gradient of eight per cent with a maximum of 24 per cent.
Starting just outside Ambleside, the event will see both the reigning women’s and men’s champions return to defend their titles at an event organised by Lakes Road Club and Barrow Central Wheelers.
Illi Gardner (Wahoo-Le Col) returns to defend her title, but having not ridden against her rivals she is unsure how this year’s title race will play out.
“I’m glad The Struggle is a longer climb but my ‘punch’ could still probably use some work,” she said.
“The Nationals will be the first opportunity to come head to head with many competitors as we’re spread throughout the country, so there’s always a lot of unknown in that regard.
“The main thing I’ve been working on before Nationals is just dealing with adverse conditions and not getting too stressed out. I’m really looking forward to it though!”
While Gardner is widely expected to win again barring misfortune, the battle for the other podium spots is wide open with many riders having shown great form through the last couple of months.
Leonie Harper (Parlay CC), Frances Owen (Wahoo-Le Col) and Abi Plowman (Jadan-Vive le Velo) are expected to be up there, but there are many other names who are capable of putting in a strong ride.
In the men’s competition reigning champion Andrew Feather has recovered from illness in September and feels he is in great form heading into Sunday’s climb.
“September was a bit of a difficult month for me with illness, but my power is back where it should be and last Sunday I felt back to my best,” he said, referring to his win in Stratford CC’s climb of Saintbury hill.
“I’m just doing some last-minute tweaks on my bike this week, then heading up to Cumbria nice and early to prepare.
“I really don’t know how I will go though. I think Ed is probably the favourite as a long climb specialist so it’s his to lose, but you never know. I’ve done a few recces of the course so I know it well, and I’ll go as hard as I can and hope for the best.”
And Laverack – tipped by several as the pre-race favourite, including national rankings system Spindata – said: “I’m looking forward to getting out on the climb, I’ve had a season that was better than expected and I have been chomping at the bit for over a week and feel like Sunday can’t come soon enough.
“Whatever happens on Sunday will be a bonus on top of a great year of cycling.”
Team Lifting Gear Products look strong for the team prize with Andy Nichols, Patrick Clark and Kieran Wynne-Cattanach all in great form, while others to watch out for include Harry MacFarlane (TAAP Endura) and Camerone Biddle (HUUB WattShop).
For those not making the trip to Cumbria for the National Championships, there’s also the Cambridge University CC event up the 938-metre Beechwoods Hill to the south of Cambridge.
Ewan Tuohy (Dartford RC) is expected to be fastest there.
Check back to the CTT website and social media feeds for reports on events as the weekend progresses!
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