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Reigning National hill-climb champion Bithja Jones (Pankhurst Cycles) successfully defended her title with victory on Winnats Pass in Derbyshire on Sunday morning.
The 42-year-old made the trip from Reading worthwhile with a time of 4-00.4, giving her the win from arch rival Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire Road Club) by just 1.4 seconds, with Welsh Champion Rebecca Richardson (Brother UK) another 12 seconds back in third.
The event was sponsored by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and promoted by Rutland CC and myHillCycling.co.uk on behalf of the North Midlands District Council.
Winnats Pass has been the venue for the National Hill Climb Championships on 10 previous occasions, the first in 1947 but not since 1977. The steep and continuous gradient of Winnats becomes slightly steeper further towards the middle with an average gradient of 16% and maximum of 23%.
Torrential rain made the iconic course even more challenging, although the sun emerged just in time for the presentations.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” said Jones. “There was such tough competition in the field that I thought if I could get on the podium, that would be amazing – so I’m absolutely chuffed.
“It was so much better than last year when we weren’t allowed any crowds because of Covid. Crowds definitely make me work harder and go faster, shouting my name and cheering me on.
“The women’s field has become so much stronger this year. When you look back to Monsal where Mary and I both beat the previous course record on a day with quite bad conditions into a headwind, it shows that everyone’s stepped up and it’s quite tough competition, so I’m super chuffed I’ve won here today.
“I’m going to relax and drink a beer tonight! Then I’ll catch up with all the things I’ve put on the back burner for the last four months. I’ll let it sink in and look at all the lovely messages I’ve received.”
Since her win in last year’s National Hill-Climb Championships, Jones has taken victory in eight open hill-climbs. But having not started the last four events she had entered through October, the jury was still out about her recent form.
The last time she was in action was in the Sheffrec CC’s Monsal Head climb which was also in Derbyshire, on October 3. There, Jones took the win from Wilkinson with Richardson third, just as they were at the National Championships.
The only time Bithja Jones has been beaten this season was at the Chippenham and District Wheelers’ climb of Bowden Hill on October 2.
Victory there went to CAMS Racing’s Illi Gardner, which helped the youngster top the Spindata predictions for the National Championships ahead of Wilkinson and Jones. However, Jones soon bounced back and will deservedly wear the jersey of a national champion for another year.
The women’s team prize went to Bristol South CC in 15-52.2 with their trio being Kate MacTear, Emily Kate Walton and Naomi Aylwin.
In the junior girls’ event Spindata’s predicted winner Sannah Zaman (Bigfoot CC) did just that, the 17-year-old clocking 4-44.1 and taking the win from 15-year-old Team Milton Keynes rider Amelia Cebak, while third was Ellie Mitchinson (CC Ashwell).
And in the junior boys’ event Halesowen A&CC rider Tomos Pattinson clocked 3-26.6 to prove Spindata correct once again by taking the win. Second was Tom Williams (Webbs 1902 CC) in 3-31.3, with James Hartley (JRC-Shutt-Ridley) third, 0.9 seconds further back.
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