Written by Pedr Charlesworth (Secretary)

In light of trying to make varsity more inclusive and inviting Cambridge to battle it out on the wicked slopes of our own Col du Wytham, the entry form for the 2022 edition of the OUCC hill climb had been flooding my inbox every day for the past two weeks. By the closing Wednesday there had been 114 individual entries, and I’d had to contact CTT to also set up a separate category entirely for a rogue tandem, into what Cycling Weekly were surely touting as the pinnacle of world hill climbing.

Although, despite word reaching as far as the female HC champion and a very insistent Tour de France photographer, a frantic facebook message the day before the race indicated it had somehow passed Oxford’s very own defending female Wytham HC champion, that she needed to actually enter the race…With two bottles of wine purchased to hopefully have the officials let Kaitie be timed for the inaugural HC varsity competition, everything was now set for the big day.

The rain kicked things off in the same manner in which the entries had ended – torrents of it were coming down to greet the early birds wanting to gain the edge by scouting the course before sign-on. With all the Oxford team tucked up warm in bed, Cambridge were busy riding up and down the wet climb in search of a wormhole that could transport them to finish – their only chance of finishing within 10 seconds of Harvey’s course record from last year.

With Harvey no longer at Oxford and the biblical conditions continuing for the riders first off, it seemed like this time was not to be troubled. That was until a fresh-faced Henrik – after essentially cycling up a raging river – reported the time-keepers had put his time one second off that of Harvey’s… After the next set of riders also came perilously close to this ridiculous time it became apparent that the timekeepers had somehow missed a minute off all times… Despite that initial confusion, Oxford genuinely started laying down some solid times to match Cambridge’s quick start. With Flo still channelling triathlete tactics to bike races by dropping 800 watts along the flat start line, Katrina followed up this power display by coming very close to breaking the 5-minute barrier with a great ride.

Even after having to stop and clip in again off the start, Kaitie put in an incredible time, bettered only by our custodian of the HC messenger chat and very own mountain goat that is Kate Tidmarsh. Her time was enough to seal the OUCC trophy and overall individual title. Together this mighty Oxford trio proved too strong for the Cambridge contingent – comfortably taking the inaugural ‘Varsity’ HC trophy and setting the precedent for what will hopefully be a successful year ahead.

On the men’s side however, things were a lot closer. Despite praying that he was just being lazy, or had set fire to his toast again, our fears were soon becoming the horrid reality that Mathieu Van der Coel had, once again, failed to navigate freshers without picking up the flu. Without our ale loving prize-fighter able to compete – it was set to be a nail biter at the pointy end. Deprived of a rider at his side to avidly discuss engineering with, a focussed and ever dependable Alex Herd stepped up to the plate with a solid time of 4:01.

This was soon supplemented by an exciting crop of fresh legs in the form of George Hale and James Driver, flying up the berg like true Belgians in rapid times of 3:53 and 3:43 respectively.Although as students of Oxford University, their inability to enter the Oxford University Hill Climb under the Oxford University name, did leave some questioning their mental prowess, there were to be no questions about their physical talent on a bike. Despite a few agonising seconds working out who was actually riding for us, their times put Oxford men at a cumulative time of 697 seconds – two seconds faster than a strong Cambridge showing.

Although James missed out on the individual win to an incredible ride from Charlie Mactear from Exeter (3:33), the event in every sense was a success. From Pat, Laura, Izzy and Flo producing a prodigious amount of cake for everyone, Adam and Becky running things behind the scenes, the incredibly strong rides from faces old and new to the club and the great atmosphere along the climb – kudos to whoever bought the cowbell.

A stunning Oxford victory was followed by pub meet and pizza at the White Rabbit with Cambridge in what will hopefully become a yearly tradition.A massive thank you of course has to go to the timekeepers and marshals for running the event in such bad weather, and Nigel from Wytham Woods for allowing us to run the event on this road.With both halves of my wheel-turned-trophy (a sad victim of a chaingang crash) to be engraved with Oxford names and the tabs shoed, I think it’s fair to say between Nationals, BUCS, Varsity and the road race league, the dark blue have an exciting year ahead.