On a wet and windy day Jack Pullar (Wheelbase.co.uk MGD) lived up to his growing reputation to win the 2012 RTTC National Hill Climb Championship on the unforgiving Rake, in Ramsbottom, on Sunday.
With an effort that left him shattered and physically sick Pullar clinched the title ahead of defending champion Gunnar Gronlund (RST RT-Trigon) and former champion Matt Clinton (Mike Vaughan.co.uk).
While Gronlund had to give best to Pullar the women’s title remained in the hands of Lynn Hamel (Team Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes), who celebrated her third consecutive success in the championship. At the same time Hamel established a new women’s course record, which earned her £200 courtesy of the promoting Lancashire Road Club.
On a day when you certainly would not put the cat out 144 brave souls, men, women and juniors chose to do battle over the 947 yards ascent of The Rake with its gradients switching between one-in-12 to a shade under one-in-five.
The weather certainly did not deter the fans, once again out in their hundreds and offering shouted words of encouragement to the competitors as they fought to maintain their upward momentum.
It was soon obvious that the head wind conditions were not going to put former champion Jeff Wright’s 2-14 course record in danger.
The juniors set the early standards with Ashley Proctor (Sportscover Altura RT) clocking 2-45.9 minutes before 10 and 25-mile junior champion Ryan Mullen (Planet X) finished on 2-50.4. Both, however, were eclipsed 20 minutes later when 16 year-old. James Knox (Kent Valley RC) passed the timekeepers in 2-40.4 to claim the Junior title and a magnificent ninth place in the overall listings.
The ladies followed on with Joanne Clay (Leek CC), 3-18.6 the best of the early starters. With former champion Ann Bowditch (Guernsey VC) and Hamel still to ride Clay’s position was going to be under attack.
Forty minutes on and Bowditch, champion in 2004, 2005 and 2006 was on the climb and a 3-23.4 slotted her in to second behind Clay with Hamel ready to start.
No newcomer to The Rake, the lightly built Hamel was quickly up to pace, with a few wheel-slips doing nothing to put her off as her course record 3-08.9 showed.
“It was harder than last year with the head wind today and the wet leaves did not help, I was getting a lot of wheel spin,” Hamel said. “But I knew I was going well, the hill seemed a lot shorter and it all seemed to be over a lot quicker. On a good day I think I could get inside three minutes,” champion Hamel said.
Spectating with Hamel’s parents was Vic Clark, the first rider to win the hill climb championship for three successive years, 1946, 1947 and 1948. Vic is 93 and rides his bike for half an hour every day.
In between time, Peter Tadros (In Gear Quickvit-Trainsharp) had staked his claim as fastest of the veterans, his 2-45.4 standing against all comers.
The men’s competition saw the unseeded Matthew Pilkington (Team B Global) heading the leader board ahead of James Allen (Sheffrec CC) with little to choose between them with their 2-30.6 and 2-31.4.
The top seeds were now entering the fray with Clinton the first of them. He didn’t let his supporters down, a 2-29.0 shooting him to top spot. Prolific hill climb winner Tejvan Pettinger (Sri Chinmoy CT) was a dozen or so seconds off Clinton’s pace and out of the running. It was Lee Baldwin (Buxton CC-SettValley Cycles) who came close to shifting half a second behind Clinton. However, Baldwin’s effort provided the base for Buxton CC to take the team medals, backing coming from Chris Baines and Sam Mansfield.
The three final seeds, Pullar, Robert Gough (Arctic-SRAM RT) and Gronlund made their final preparations as they headed to the line.
Off number 140, Pullar, unbeaten in hill climbs this season chose to ride gears (Clinton was on fixed) and his 2-21.3 put him in the lead, 7.7 seconds up on Clinton.
Could Gough or Gronlund do better? That was soon answered, Gough’s 2-32.9 put him out of the running. All eyes were on Gronlund the reigning champion, but he too could not improve on Pullar’s time. A 2-26.0 was worth the silver medal this time out.
Clinton was pleased with his ride. “I rode fixed, I might have done better on gears, but it s a risk changing gear on a hill like this,” he said.
Gronlund has had “a good year” riding on the road with RST. “They have been very good to me,” Gronlund said reflecting that a longer climb would have better suited his talents.
“I have not signed with a team for next year yet, I would like to step up a class and ride bigger events with a UCI team,” Gronlund said.
“Yes, I was sick after finishing, I really went deep to win today,” Pullar said. “I’ve been riding some Premier Calendar events and crits this year. Next season I’ll have a full road season, I’m moving to a UCI team, but can’t tell you which one yet,” Pullar revealed.
So ended the year’s RTTC championships and as the Mayor of Bury, Councillor Joan Grimshaw said before presenting the awards, “I didn’t realise how important this was with riders coming from all over the country.”