Last weekend was the first big race weekend of the year for us. We had the BUCS Hill Climb on Saturday at Curbar Gap and a few riders headed up for the Nationals on Sunday at Jackon Bridge as well. We secured the Silver Mens team and Bronze Womens Team at BUCS on Saturday, and had some good performances at Nationals on Sunday.



The fatal date finally arrived: the combo weekend with BUCS Hill climb and the nationals. I was looking forward to it and the training in the previous weeks was very draining – I wanted to race and be done with it! After a 3h drive we arrive in the village of Calver – it was rainy but not too cold. The women were off first – so Liv and I got ready, warming up next to current TT champion Hayley Simmonds. It stopped raining when I started, starting out of the saddle to reach the first steep bit of the climb the hardest. From that time it was 7’12 of pain, the atmosphere at the top was amazing and it definitely helped to push harder! I gave everything for the finished. I did 4th and Liv finished 17th, our combined time allowed us to have the bronze as a team – we are both really proud of that.

Another hour of driving to bring us to Jackson bridge for the national the following day. We drove up the hill before having dinner and relaxing before the national HC: another level! On Sunday morning Angus, Tom and I went to cycle to course before they close the roads. It is steep, and seems harder to pace than Curbar gap, we pick up our numbers before cycling back to the flat. Now there is 3h to wait for me before heading off, the stress is there, it is cold outside and I am not sure I want to do it. All the negative thoughts disappeared once I was warmed up. I went for it from the gun, I luckily avoided a mechanical on the first S corners when I stood up. I overtook the girl ahead of me half way, that was a good sign – especially on that steep middle section. The number of people cheering me on and shouting my name was amazing! After the short downhill section before the bridge you can see it, the last few hundred meters of pain – I get out of the saddle to gain some speed in the corner. There are more and more people – they gave me strength to stand up the last 50m and finish empty. It was an amazing experience and I want to do it again next year! I finished 16th overall – the race was won by Maryka Sennema and Hayley Simmonds.


After weeks of watching what I ate, and lots of dark early mornings with very very hard training rides, finally the big weekend had come around. BUCS hill climb on Saturday and Nationals on Sunday, great way to finish off the season. It was cloudy and spitting with rain as we pulled into Curbar for the BUCS hill climb, and although a few riders got caught in the rain it was clear for most of the day. I had a while to wait around before heading off, so watched some of the other OUCC riders head off, trying to cheer along but drowned out by the guy who brought a spare frame to use as a cowbell. 
I got myself ready and warmed up, nervous about the wet roads risking punctures on my tubulars that were starting to be a bit beyond their best. The build up to this had started to get to me so I was a bit nervous on the startline, but doing my best to fuel that into positive thoughts about smashing the race. I set off hard, focusing on keeping a good rhythm up the first steep pinch. By the time I got to the village where the hill eased though, I was hurting more than I had planned, but sat down on the flatter section and focused on getting the power out. This section seemed to drag for aaaaaages, as the hill loomed ahead and felt like it wasn’t getting any nearer at all. Finally I got to the right hand hairpin, and encouraged by the cheering crowd there powered around the corner and into the final stretch. I could see my minute man up ahead, and knew this was near the end so tried to put my head down and hurt for the last bit, again it seemed to take forever. I caught my minute man just before the last corner, and sprinted out of the saddle for all I could, letting my back wheel slip a lot on the wet road. Eventually got over the finish line and lay down for 10 minutes before feeling human again. I felt like it was a good effort, and enough for 28th overall. 
We headed to our little place to stay on Saturday night in holmfirth and got settled in, sitting around over dinner talking about how to attack the hill tomorrow. After a quick recce on Sunday morning, we all started to get ready for our races. I wasn’t off until later in the afternoon, so had plenty of time to get race ready. By the time I had done my warm up and was on the start line I was ready to go, much less nervous than yesterday as I’d already had one good race this weekend so this was just a bonus! I powered off the line, and kept up my momentum around the first corner and over the first steep section of the course, before sitting to power along the first “flat” section. Onto the second steep ramp, I could feel yesterday’s effort in my legs, and thought I should ease off to pace myself up here, but another part of me said you’re in it now, max effort or nothing, so got out of the saddle and dug deeper to get over the harsh gradient. From there I was in a world of pain, and the thick crowd was just invaluable, not letting me focus on what I was doing but getting me to keep myself at max effort. By the time I got to the downhill corner about 200m before the finish line, I was already feeling like I usually do at the end of the race, empty, not sure how to keep pedalling. Out of the downhill I got up to keep up my momentum, and as I came around the last corner it all came together, I could see the finish line, the crowd cheering helped massively, and the thought ran through my head of “last race of the year, don’t leave anything behind”. Don’t know how I managed but found another kick in me and kept the power on all the way to the finish line, where I completely lost control of my bike and was grateful for the waiting catchers who stopped me crashing and collapsing. They helped me off my bike and I collapsed on the ground for 10 minutes, completely empty. Power was lower than Saturdays race, and I ended up worse than I was hoping, but it was definitely a harder effort, and there wasn’t much more I could have done! Overall great learning experience, and I can’t wait to come back next year to have a better crack at it! 



The 2015 BUCS HC was never going to be easy. Just over a mile at 11% average gradient, it turns out, was enough to make me question reality’s most basic precepts for a good few minutes, but we’ll get back to that. I began my trademark perfunctory warm up in conditions that could only be described as typically moist for The North and rolled over to the start feeling cold af. Pumped up on adrenaline, I crushed it off the line earning many spun rear wheels on a) the wet starting mat and b) the leafy patches up the steep starting ramp (due in no small part to my skimpy 22mm quasi-slick tubs inflated to 8 bars and my aggressive out-of-the-saddle demeanour) only to monumentally explode about 1.2km in. Somehow I managed to keep the wheels turning all the way to the line but not without leaving both my life and soul on the road. The next 10 minutes were spent in a ditch by the side of the road, curled up in the foetal position. Despite getting the second fastest Strava time up the first half of the climb and Jakub’s encouraging words “Fly and die, the strategy of champions!” I couldn’t help but think a better pacing strategy could have shaved off a few seconds. I feel a possible improvement for next year would be to actually look down at my power numbers; they are just there in front of me, after all. The effort was good enough for an even 400W and a time of 5:47 (a scant 48s faster than last year’s performance) which I can only be happy about. A certain sense of relief ensued when Oxford secured the Men’s team silver thanks in no small part to Isaac’s stompfest of a time of 5:23.8. Sure enough, no later than during the drive home I wanted another crack at Curbar gap but sadly this climb will never feature in the BUCS event again. Good riddance.



Some months ago, around the middle of July, I realised I was only riding hard on hills. It’s a basic sort of cycling; when you reach a climb, you smash it to the top. You don’t decide for how long or how far, you go until you reach the summit.

This realisation meant I spent August travelling around London and Surrey riding the nastiest, steepest, most gurn-inducing climbsI could find, so when Alasdair and Tom said they were going to race the Didcot Phoenix HC double, I jumped at it.

I turned up not really knowing what I was doing apart from that I was supposed to race in a hat, and came away hooked. Here was something to focus on: the BUCS event in a couple of months.

During the build up, I did increasingly frequent events, taking them more and more seriously. New shoes and pedals, my first cycle computer, borrowed wheels & skin suits, a lot of trips to Brill and too much time on Strava looking at power leaderboards meant that coming into Saturday I felt about as prepared as I could be, though nursing a cold and a cough.

After a final walk of the hill, I began spinning on the road by the start, with the nerves accumulated in the last few weeks beginning to be dispelled by adrenaline at last. Knowing my minute man, Tim Allen, also helped calm things as we warmed up together, sharing an apprehension of the imminent pain.

I then made what I think was probably an error. I popped into the pub to see what the current leading time was. “5:17” someone breathed in shock. That was Bradburyesque, it was better than last year, it was astonishing and seemingly insurmountable. I was prepared to try for 5:30, based on last year’s results, and this threw all of that.

The start felt steeper than I expected it to and I went hard to the crossroads, trying to get over the hump before settling down into the grind. It was then that I realised with a shock quite how hard sticking to 11.6mph was going to be. Reaching the first of the bends marking the upper reaches, I felt already spent with over two minutes to go. From then on all planning went out of the window and it became a battle, trying to make the training pay off.

Tigger, a giant banana and Joe Kang were shouting in my ears as my vision narrowed and I glanced down. Fuck. Only 4:40 on the clock and there was the finishing bend, this had gone quicker than I expected. Out of the saddle on the drops, sprinting hard, I saw 5:17 pass with only 20 yards to go, another few seconds and I was curled on the bank, head swirling, “it’s over! No more pain! But you lost! Bollocks!”

5:23.8 is a time I’m proud of and I’m happy to be in the top 5 in my first BUCS competition. To be 1.4 seconds off a medal and 6 off the win is inspiring and frustrating in equal measure.

An aspect I found great about riding this event was having teammates around. Thank you Tamara for sorting all the entry faff (and congrats on 4th), Liv for showing you can hate hill climbs and still come in the top third of a strong field, Tom for sparking my interest in the characters and history of the sport, Angus for inspiring with a level of commitment and professionalism somewhat lacking in my approach and Daniel for reminding me it’s only sodding bike racing.






Thanks to Rusellis Photography, VeloUK, and Ellen Irshewood for the photos!


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