A peculiarly British form
of masochism

Words by Martin Thomas
Photography by Matt Randall

What does it say about our national psyche that so many British bike riders are prepared to attack viciously steep hills at just the point in the season when race fitness might be starting to fade, the evenings are drawing in and our thoughts are turning to toasted teacakes by open fires?

The pinnacle of the curious practice of hill-climbing is the annual Cycling Time Trials National Hillclimb Championship, which this year took place in Matlock in Derbyshire on a course that was just 834 metres long but with an average gradient of 14%, maxing out at 20% in places.

The event was won by Adam Kenway (Metaltek-Kuota), just nine days after he’d collided with a car and was taken to hospital in an air ambulance. Kenway’s time was 2:18.2, more than two seconds faster than the second place rider. Lou Bates (Velochils Interbike) won the women’s title. She was the only woman to beat three minutes, posting a course record time of 2:57.1.

For a frighteningly visceral (but mercifully painless) first-person view of what it’s like to ride, there’s this YouTube clip https://youtu.be/gX-BQJxea14, complete with some of the most alarming performance data you’re ever likely to see.

But for a more reflective look at this torturous pastime, nothing beats good quality photographs that really capture the extraordinary effort the riders put in. So when we got the chance to publish these shots by the very talented Matt Randall, we jumped at it.

You can see more of Matt’s excellent work on his website. http://mattrandallphotography.co.uk