“It wasn’t any old uni mates race! It was the BUCS Hill Climb Championships! The boys (and girl) put in a sterling effort. Achieving 5th overall in the Mens team rankings and a lot of PBs!” were the praiseful words of Henry Marsh, Chairman of The University Of Sheffield’s Cycling Club (TUOSCC) after the teams successful road hill climb performance at Curbar in Derbyshire’s Peak District on Saturday 30th October.
Being so close to Sheffield, Curbar Gap can easily be considered the team’s home ground and so it was vital they did themselves justice. It was a fairly early start to the day for the riders and a long wait for some who were there at 10am but not racing until 3pm. During this time, the team signed on and got race numbers, joked about and made the camp look professional with a gazebo from The Bike Tree (the team’s sponsors). They kept warm on the turbo trainers as they awaited their chance to shine. And shine they did!
Mental strength, focus and physical stamina are the key requirements in hill climbing to ignore the pain, concentrate on the summit and push your body to limits it didn’t even think possible. All of which, TUOSCC defiantly demonstrated with their stunning performance at the weekend. Shunning the lactic acid and many collapsing at the top, each and every rider can be nothing but proud of their own and the teams efforts and performance. Of notable exception was girl-bike borrowing, normally cross country rider Nyle Howard, who put in the clubs best time of 6:26 –just two seconds short of Adam Dunajko and under a minute less than the winning time of 5:39 recorded by Kings College’s Matthew Pilkington. Training partners Andrew Cater and Jonathan Shuster’s notorious (yet friendly) rivalry came to a head at this end of season event as they finished just 5 seconds adrift of one another (6:49 and 6:44 respectively). Training for a hill climb is relentless and after weeks of preparation, the two were heard agreeing to ride cross country for the next couple of weeks as they head into their ‘off season’, much to the dismay of their fellow roadies. With ‘Mountain Goat’ Alice Miller and ‘Heroic’ Holly Thompson both out with injured knees, it was up to Nicky Shaw to ride solo for the Women’s team up the mile long Curbar Gap at a very respectable 9:41, by which the team felt very proud. Further exceeding expectations was only-been-on-a-road-bike-once-or-twice XC rider Robin Groves who had started the day worrying whether or not he’d beat the infamous 10-minute mark only to finish with a resounding 7 minutes 57 seconds. TUOSCC is always keen to encourage new riders to take up the sport and new teammate Alex Longfellow repaid his teams loyalties shown to him in his early days in the sport by thrashing out a convincing 8:27 – doing the team extremely proud. Also just over the 8 minute mark was Matthew Tucker (8:15); famous for bringing a support convoy with him to races (in this case, his Mother, Father, Sister and Girlfriend) to urge him to his best, which certainly seemed to pay dividends on this clear, occasionally sunny 12-degree day. TUOSCC’s infamous contention with Sheffield Hallam was an easy affair for the Uni on this occasion as the rivals placed a dismal 19th overall. Jerome Jacob rode the hill in April for Varsity and swore to improve after a disappointing climb. A man of his word, on the day he made a crazy 6 minute improvement on his last time to seize a stonking 7:26. Only 22 seconds down on Hallam captain Dave Starkey who further continued the disappointing streak for the old Polytechnic as he failed to break the seven minute mark and tarnished his university’s reputation as he proved unsportsmanlike on the start line, after the Uni riders had cheered him on earlier on in the day. Another man breaking the 7 minute mark, unlike all but one of the Hallam team, was irrefutable dark horse of the day Jacob Storey who is another new addition to the club with a great time, in this case 6:54. The team left the event with 5 BUCS points in total, which is a great start to the year for the Cycling Club and hopefully they will be the first of many! Road Captain John Albaya was unable to race the event but was “absolutely delighted with the days results” and “very proud of everybody’s efforts and consequential times” as he “looks forward to next years Varsity Hill Climb” which is when the club will next compete up their ‘home hill’ hoping to hammer Hallam.
Conclusively then, the day was a success by all accounts and The Uni Road Cycling Team can feel very proud to have been part of something of such excellent conviction.