A huge field of 479 riders is set to compete for the final national honours of the season in the RTTC National Hill Climb Championship this Sunday sponsored by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.
In a year where the coronavirus has hindered the racing calendar travel restrictions will impact on the nationals in Streatley, West Berkshire.
Reigning men’s champion Ed Laverack (VAMos.cc) is due to go off scratch rider, however lockdown restrictions in Wales are set to prevent him travelling from his Llanelli home to compete.
The championship climb is over 0.8 kilometres with an average gradient of 13% and a maximum of 25.9%- running from near Streatley School and heading towards Goring & Streatley Golf Club with the steepest section after the half-way point.
All eyes will be on Andrew Feather (HuntBikeWheels.com) who is due to start 30 seconds ahead of Laverack and has an unbeaten record of 13 wins this season and has beaten most of his rivals for the title already this season.
However, Feather says the short nature of the climb makes it a wide-open event.
“I’m pretty pleased to be heading to the Nationals unbeaten but the climb is pretty short,” said Feather.
“I’ve had a recce and it’s not very long at all. It’s nice and steep and I like steep stuff but the distance is not a lot.
“Cameron Biddle has the best time up there and went 10 seconds quicker than anybody else and his time up there was unreal.
“I think the times on Sunday will probably be slower and the weather will be a factor as I expect there to be a block headwind.
“It will be a mental challenge as if you can get through the first minute on adrenaline the last minute you can blast out.
“It’s going to be mind over matter really because adrenaline can carry you through the first minute and then home.
“There is a lot of really strong contenders and it’s so short that the margins will be fractions of a second.
“There is really absolutely zero margin for error, and it could be quite slippery so wheel spin could be a problem.
“I did the climb in 2018 when it was wet and cold and everybody had wheel spin. It was hard to get grip at the top and there was a lot of fallen leaves so it will be interesting.”
Tom Bell (High North Performance) has also been in fine form this season with five wins to his name including three from his last three events and starts 30 seconds ahead of Feather.
Under-23 rider Cameron Biddle (Vredestein Basso) holds the Strava record for the climb when he clocked a 2-12 winning the Didcot Phoenix event last month.
Biddle also won on the short and steep Bank Hill climb last weekend in the Matlock CC double event being pushed all the way by Andy Nichols (Team Lifting Gear Products/Cycles In Motion) who is another contender.
Meanwhile, former National Champion, Adam Kenway (Vitus Pro Cycling) won his title on another short effort in 2016 and could be in with an outside chance.
The women’s event is another one stacked full of talent with 109 entrants all with their eyes on the national crown.
Last year’s top three are all set to miss this year’s event with winner Hayley Simmonds (AeroCoach) and Joss Lowden not entered while bronze medallist Rebecca Richardson (Team Brother UK) is down to ride but set to be unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions in Wales.
Last woman away in two-time National Hill Climb silver medallist Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire Road Club) who recorded a double victory earlier this month winning on Carr Lane and Bib Lane on the same day.
Veteran Bithja Jones (Pankhurst Cycles) could be an outside bet after taking a fine women’s win in the Berkhamsted CC event last weekend on a similar short effort.
Becky Hair (Magspeed Racing) won on the Bank Road climb in Matlock last weekend narrowly beating Jo Tindley (CAMS-Tifosi) and both could challenge for the crown.
In her first season of racing Bexy Dew (Army Cycling) has been a revelation with a host of wins to her name including the Saint Piran event on Mount Wellington last weekend and will be taking on her first National Championship.
After winning the National Circuit Championship, National 50 and National 10 this season Emily Meakin (The Independent Pedaler-Nopinz) is an unknown quantity having never competed in an open hill climb event.
The junior and juvenile boys’ competition sees 72 entrants for the short climb which could see an outside victor.
Lukas Nerurkar (VC De Londres) will start as scratch rider after an impressive run of form which saw him win on the Steyning Bostal climb and Sussex CA events earlier this month on longer efforts.
Kieran Smith (Team Lifting Gear Products/Cycles in Motion) starts 30 seconds ahead and won on the short Mill Lee Road climb last month.
Last year’s top three in the National Hill Climb Championships have all moved up to under-23 but fourth placed Matthew Houlberg (Meudon Pedal Heaven Le Col RT) has hit form at the right time winning in the Farnham RC and East Sussex CA events last weekend.
Some 31 junior women are also set to compete for honours with National 10 Champion Abi Smith (Moonglu CC) starting as scratch rider.
Smith also finished second in the National 25 but is yet to ride an open hill climb event.
After finishing third in last week’s National Circuit Championships Isabella Johnson (Datalynx-Parenesis Cycling) will also test her hill climb legs for the first time this season in search of national honours.
Elsewhere, riders keen to test their late form in the South West have a chance in the Team Tor 2000 10.
The traditional out and back course starts on the B3177 through Fenny Bridges before joining the A30 past Honiton to the turn and then making the return leg.
Steve Lampier (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) has been in imperious form so far this season taking three victories from three rides.
He will face competition in the form of scratch rider Conrad Moss (Primera-Teamjobs) who finished second in the same event last season clocking 19-59.
Lee Frost (NOPINZ Symec RT) clocked a 19-08 on his way to winning the City Cycle Couriers RT 10 in August and is also targeting victory.
Natalie Grinczer (CAMS- Tifosi) has been in good hill climb form but makes the switch back to her time trial bike in the search for women’s honours.
She faces competition in the form of Catherine Hilton (Sid Valley CC) and Leanne Thompson (Royal Navy & Royal Marines CA).
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