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The Weird World Of Hill Climb Racing

The Weird World Of Hill Climb Racing

(upbeat pop music) (slow dramatic music) – The hill climb! The lung-busting eccentric genre of competitive bicycle racing. Largely un-talked about really, outside of this little
circle that sticks with it. So I thought to myself, let’s tell the GCN viewers all about it. I want to know exactly
what’s so appealing about it. After all, this doesn’t look that appealing. Does it? Hill climbs then. They are traditionally
a very British thing, but more and more countries
are taking some inspiration and having their own events. They’re run in a very similar way to that of a traditional timed trial. So riders are set off at regular intervals and timed over the duration of the course, and the fastest is the winner. It’s as simple as that, a very individual event. Now the people who are timing them are a pair of timekeepers, some at the start and
some at the finish who calibrate their watches
beforehand so that everybody is measured equally. Apparently as well, the first ever hill climb
competition was actually held way back in 1880 at Reigate in Surrey which is just to the south of London which means that those events would have actually been taking place onboard the Penny-farthing and they’re hardly known
for their climbing prowess or ability let’s face it, so I reckon rather than
being an actual timed event it was probably who could get
the furthest up that hill. Fast forward 140 years and
we’re here at Hatal Vale in Devon in the UK, and while we’ve now got
modern training methods, modern equipment, and even hill climb specialists, a buzzing scene believe me. Since the first British national
hill climb championships way back in 1944, we’ve had top road racers who’ve won them, we’ve had top timed
trialers who’ve won them, and also we’ve had the
hill climb specialist. Now the hill climb specialist
is a really rare breed, and it’s not me just joking
or anything like that, you don’t tend to see them
outiside of September and October I don’t know what they
do the rest of the year, they must be a little bit like hedgehogs, they hibernate that sort of thing, but they specialize in these events and they do everything
to try and win them, and there’s no better
place to try and find them than national champs! (upbeat pop music) What more can I tell you then
about the hill climb scene? Well it can be a
lung-busting, blood-tasting, lactic-acid building,
bomber inducing effort, or a slightly more drawn out affair. So here in the UK that means
that an event could be one with a time as little as one minute, or up to 15 minutes there too. And well the season itself
is actually really short, it’s condensed into just two months September and October and of course, the national champs is
the highlight of that. And the scene despite
being relatively small is very very popular in the
pockets of riders travel around these events, and each weekend there’s
at least 10 events for the riders to pick and choose from. It’s great. (bouncy pop music) This year’s event takes place
on the climb of Hatal Vale, which is just on the edge of the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. Let’s look then at the details of today’s championship course. Firstly, the distance. It’s 5.14 kilometers with 310
meters of gain and elevation, which equates to in old-fashioned money, or imperial measurements, 3.2 miles and 1,017 feet of climbing. And well the average gradient, that’s 6 percent and that doesn’t vary of course across the two types of measurements. It’s the day before the race and there are a few brave riders having a quick reccie of the course, so let’s go have a quick chat with them. Right, Kerry we’re stood
almost near the finish line, actually checking it out, what’s your motivation to do hill climbs? – Well I think firstly
you’ve got to be a bit weird to like them, so maybe I have to come
under the weird category. But I kind of like pushing my limits, quite ambitious and so I like seeing how much I can hurt myself really. – For me a hill climb’s
really raw you know, it’s a brutal effort, it’s man against the gradient and whoever’s the fittest
guy wins basically. There’s not much arrow, there’s not much sort of science behind it, it’s just smash the pedals hard. – Well look at it, it’s
wet, cold it’s miserable. (both laugh) No it’s a weird one,
it’s a little community, it’s an end of the season thing and I don’t know it’s nice you see the same people every year. It’s good to get out there, it’s raw, tough put the hammer down and
just see how you get on. – Do you have any tactics involved, I mean tomorrow is a totally
different hill climb, some of them, some of them
are just over a minute tomorrow’s going to be what? 12-13 minutes. – Well for this climb I’ve
particularly broken it down into three sections. So the first section I’m treating
it as it’s own hill climb, and the first 3.5 kilo
until the flat section which is in the second phase, and the third phase is just
the last like two minutes or the last 800 meters because it gets really steep at the end. But yeah I’m aiming to
go very hard early on I’ve got some power numbers to stick to I’m aiming for 430-440 watts and at my weight they’re at 50-59 kilos I hope to get that section
done within nine minutes and then recover on the flat section and then finish it off at the top then. – And finally what’s your
motivation to go out in this because to be honest I don’t think I would
go out, what’s yours? – Well I’ve got a bit of a support crew which helped me today so we went and had a
cream tea in Bobby Tracy and then yeah so that helped
get up the climb today. – Brilliant. Course Devon is famous for its cream teas. I’ve had a look at the weather
forecast and I have seen that tomorrow is set
to be a much nicer day. I really hope that it’s going to be because I don’t have
anymore clothes with me and I’d hate for the event
to be a total washout. Right, on that note I’m
going to go and get warm and importantly get dry. – [Announcer] 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go! – So today is race day and as you can see the weather conditions are very different, it’s still pretty cold, but it’s nice clear blue skies and nowhere near as windy too. Now I could go on and on and on and try and tell you how tough and difficult hill climbs are, but instead right now I
think we should show you a montage of some pained faces of riders battling it out at Hatal Vale today. (jingling music) Some of you may also be wondering why riders aren’t wearing helmets too. Well events held under
the rules of the CTT or the cycling timed trials organization, you don’t actually have to wear them. And that’s not the only bit of tech which is sometimes missing because riders have been known
to chop down their handlebars and all sorts of stuff, and there’s going to be a
completely different video about that coming up very soon. Let’s look at those pained faces then. (bouncy pop music) Of course an event this
scale can’t be done without plenty of help, so the organizers actually roped in a 107 of its finest volunteers to
make sure it runs seamlessly. And we also got a load
of spectators here too, literally hundreds, including Mr. Boom! – Boom! – Steve O! (low chatter) – Well you’ve literally
just crossed the line, and I’ve grabbed you through exhaustion so I’m really sorry, but how was it? – Yeah it went really well. Paced it really well
but I lost a bit really. Definitely bided at the end – Yeah – Not even crossed kink – Now were you riding into
a pace the whole way up? Just looking at the numbers and – Yeah I tried to hold it
to the numbers the whole way so I didn’t overcook it in the first bit so that went pretty well
really and then just at the end whatever was left. – Yeah I guess the crowd helps
to try and empty the tank – Try to yeah, get it to the top and then go – Brilliant you go get warm, well done. – Thank you. – Great ride. (jazzy upbeat music) (horn blows) – Now I have the pleasure
to introduce to you the presentation party. – [Announcer] For the 2019
national men’s hill climb champion with a time of 11:37.8 from Swift Carbon Pro Cycling, Ed Laverack. (cheers and whistling) – All right we just had the
presentation and luckily for the first time ever the
GCN curse has not struck because congratulations Ed, you’ve just won national hill climbs. You nearly left me hanging there as well, that would be real good, but firstly did everything go to plan? I mean obviously you won, but did everything go as you’d hoped? – Yes. Everything went pretty
much perfect to be honest, like I wanted to treat that
first section of the climb as a stand as its own hill climb, so I went off really hard, sustained it pressed on when it got really steep, and when it flattened off took advantage of kind of the free speed and then the crowd at the finish. Like you didn’t need to
look down at your powermeter didn’t need to do anything. You just needed to go as hard
as you could to the finish. The crowd was just incredible
in that last section. – Yeah. Now right if you could offer like if you were out there
thinking to themselves “Oh should I give it a go or not?” I think the beauty of it compared, for me, compared to a road race you know if you’re not in the group you’re not going to get
left behind are you? Because you’re just on your own out there. – Yeah It’s your own individual effort, it’s very personal, there’s a lot of personal satisfaction to come from hill climbing but to be honest, any local
cycling club wil help you and point you in the right direction, it’s where I started, they’ll find local hill climbers too, they’ll help you enter local hill climbs, give you encouragement as well
which is a big part of it, but yeah personal
satisfaction is a big part of the hill climbing scene, and I’m getting around
that community atmosphere and having a tea, coffee and a cake after it’s so – It’s so open, I think that’s the beauty of this aspect of the sport isn’t it – Yeah – Brilliant – [Announcer] And the 2019
national women’s hill climb champion with a time of
14:17.8 from Aerocoach, Hayley Simmonds! (cheers and applause) – Now I’m here with Hayley
Simmonds who has won the women’s event today in
quite contrasting conditions from yesterday where you rode up there and nearly got blown off I think because it was pretty treacherous. – Yeah it was a really
brutal headwind yesterday, it was obviously really wet as well. Yeah and when I turned around with my big rain jacket it caught the wind and I thought I was
going to come a crumple but no I luckily stayed
on and today was beautiful actually, bit chilly first thing but actually I would say
pretty perfect conditions for national hill climb. – And did everything go to plan for you? I mean obviously you won, but doesn’t mean everything
necessarily went to plan. – Yeah well to be fair, on the start line, so I tested my well I had two bikes with me, I had my race bike and then I had my bike
that I was going to use for warming up because I didn’t
want to risk my race tires – Yeah – And so I tested my race
bike and it was all fine, went onto my kind of warmup
bike next to that powermeter, did my warmup, got to the start, reconnected to the
powermeter on my race bike and it wasn’t showing me any power said it was connected, no power so I rode the whole thing on feel I had no numbers so in terms of going to plan, I had a power plan, but have absolutely no idea whether I went you know did my correct power plan. You know, I did enough to win. – Right so I arrived here yesterday, was actually checking down, was probably 15 years
since I did a hill climb and I thought to myself, “Why would I ever want to do this?” What bit of advice or you know, how could you encourage someone to do it? Everyone there at the finish is like “Oh this is great!” But crossing that finish line, the looks on people’s faces I think in that moment
all they’re thinking is “Never again!” (both laugh) – The atmoshpere is really good, is really friendly, everyone in the HQ
afterwards is encouraging you and you know yeah it hurts but you’ve got to test yourself and it’s a really friendly
environment in which to do so. – Brilliant, there we are. If you are keen to get
involved and punish your body, you know what to do. There we are, an insight into
the world of hill climbing, and I loved it because
everyone has been so welcoming and they’ve also been trying
to sway me to take part in one. It’s not going to happen anytime soon, but I’ve really enjoyed seeing the scientific approach of some people and the eyeballs-out approach of others, not to mention some of that
cheeky little bits of bike tech that have been used too. Let me know in the
comments section down below which GCN presenter you would
like to see tackle next year’s national hill climb champs, get involved down there, and if anyone mentions me, don’t worry those
comments will be deleted. But huge thanks actually to
the organizers of the event for welcoming us here. Remember as ever to like
and share this video with your friends too. Don’t forget to check out the GCN shop at and now for two more great videos how about clicking just
down here and just down here and me, I’m going to go
get myself a Mr. Whippy.

100 comments on “The Weird World Of Hill Climb Racing

  1. I'd love to see on the hill climbs Mr. Brick a. k. a. Lasty. Otherwise it could be interesting presenter challenge: everyone will be given some amount of money to upgrade their bikes to be as light as possible and then points will be given for final weight of the bike, money left and position or time in the race.

  2. How about tackling the Mount Evan' Hill Climb Race in Colorado – 28mile, 7000ft of climbing to 14,100ft with a 5.5 -6.0% average grade with a max of 10% over the distance – Jon Cannings!!! You are the man for this task!!!

  3. Jon, Oscar and Emma…. Jon would have a fabulous series on bike tech and threw himself fully under the bus, and Oscar and Emma are phenomenal climbers, and we miss seeing them!

  4. I would pay DEARLY to see Mr Jon Cannings in lycra bustin his ass on something like this lol, BUT i dont think that would happen so its got to be Ollie, he's soo great in an effort – like a regular guy having a dam good go !

  5. Great. Wish this were more popular in the U.S. Also, would this be more exciting for the spectators if at least two riders rode against one another?

  6. It would actually be awesome to see a Mediterranean GCN member tackle the hills and the British weather!

  7. I love the British Hill scene ! Thanks for the great video, and Jon don’t delete this.

  8. Highly inspirational piece Jon! Great effort by Haley who went "Old School" and won. It seemed that her training bred instincts to overcome adversity. Bravo!

  9. I'm doin my first hill climb boxing day. Only a 400m course which suits me great.
    I'd love to see Dan and Opie have a crack. Opie because that dude is raw power and Dan because he doesn't do enough. He that manager who spends his time smoking fags and playing solitaire 😜

  10. People that love bikes and having a bit of tea and biscuits (cookies) after a nut-busting ride. what's not to like about this?

  11. I am genuinely disappointed and concerned that GCN hasn't covered the Garmin Vector 3 Pedals. I need a review, bloody wankerz!!! Lol still liked the video tho! Take my like !

  12. Get Dan Loyd to do it. With a goal and a reason to suffer his competitive nature would come out again and be rekindled, and they'd be no stopping him..

  13. Everyone knows James Lowsley is the designated GCN torturee for these kind of events. I say we do a video series of him properly trying to do get the best results he can during next year's hill climb season.

  14. Some of the landscape shots were like fine works of art. Beautiful location. Your enthusiasm was contagious Jon. Well done.

  15. I thought Ollie would be the guy to host this segment but Jon nailed this one with genuine enthusiasm and interest in the story. Well done Jon. I would however liked to see some real time climbing or at least a POV of the course.

  16. Great stuff JC! Brilliantly brutal.. Please can GCN make a real effort to cover more Hillclimb events in future? We should champion this amazing British phenomena.. Hank would win if he entered I reckon! ACE 🚴🚴👍👍

  17. I also think all of the presenters should go head to head. Give them 6 weeks to train and do loads of bike tech segments…my money is on Simon.

  18. Everyone should do one & the winner continues for the rest of the season. Once on the start line, you’ll all want to win

  19. Bike Radar, Cycling weekly, and GCN should enter 3 individuals each and all times combined for Youtube National Championship!!

  20. There's one in June in Oregon (Mary's Peak) and it's a monster:
    12 miles (about 20 km)
    4000 feet elevation gain
    5.1% average gradient
    12% max gradient
    KOM: 48 min.
    Only saving grace is a 1 km downhill about 60% through

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