I genuinely thought that my Great British hill climbing feats were more extensive than they’ve turned out to be.
Having made my way through Maps International’s Cycle Climbs Collect & Scratch map of Britain, I’ve plenty work left to do.
The map came through in the post last week, and I thought I’d spend a few minutes scratching off a good chunk of the 75 panels (just what makes scratching off foil like this so satisfying?)
Imagine my disappointment, then, in only scratching off 18.
Living in Bristol, the busiest scratching came close to home. Cheddar Gorge, the closest climb on the map to home, is a regular haunt, in rides out, sportives, Tour of Britain visits and magazine shoots. The Tumble, in Abergavenny, for similar reasons, is another regular. I have fond (I think that’s the right word) memories of almost coughing up a lung trying to follow a colleague’s wheel in the 2015 Velothon Wales, and had a similar experience there a year earlier on a press trip with former pro (but then very much current) Dean Downing. His class told in the final 100 metres.
Elsewhere in the Brecon Beacons, there’s Black Mountain and The Bwlch. I don’t remember riding either as a whole, but they’re regular climbs for Cycling Plus photoshoots, which means plenty of hill reps of varying degrees while the photographer gets their shot.
Dunkery Beacon, 2017, credit: Russell Burton
Further south, into Devon, and I’ve ticked off Porlock Hill, Dunkery Beacon, Countisbury Hill and Haytor. The latter two I’ve only ridden down, on a Big Ride with Ross Lovell of Moor Retreats, last October, so perhaps I should have left on half the foil for next time.
In the entire south of England and Wales, the only other climb I’ve done is Box Hill – once during the 2015 RideLondon, a further 40-something in a one go during a failed Everesting attempt later the same year, and countless more in the virtual world of Zwift.
Box Hill, 2014, Credit: Tom Simpson
Further north, there’s Horseshoe Pass near Llangollen, during a 2012 ride with Geraint Thomas which I’ve brought up a fair bit recently following his Tour de France win. In my telling of the story, I beat Thomas to the summit in a mano a mano battle. In reality, he was fresh off the plane from the Australian track Worlds and, more crucially, he barely broke sweat.
In Lancashire there’s Pendle Hill, the nearest climb on the map to where I grew up. It was quite possibly the first climb I ever did on a bike. I remember going there in 2010 for the British National Champs, where a newly-formed Team Sky blitzed the opposition from the gun, on a circuit that included multiple ascents of Pendle. I remember a Sky 1-2-3 that day.
Hardknott Pass, 2014, credit: Steve Fleming
Further north, I’ve chalked off the Lake District quadruplet of Newlands, Honister, Hardknott and Wrynose multiple times, often in one go during my three attempts at the Fred Whitton Challenge sportive. I’ve still not made it up the insanely steep Hardknott without walking, so again the foil should remain intact. The above image, infamous in the Cycling Plus office, was taken during the 2014 event, with me on foot and editor Rob Spedding up the road, gurning out of the saddle. It’s quite possibly the single most-used photo in this magazine’s history. Rob regularly reminds me of its existence.
So, plenty of amazing memories from cycling in this country and, judging by the foil still to be scratched, plenty still to make!
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