URBAN HILL CLIMB 2017: PAIN ON SWAINS LANE
By Oscar Smith
Each year, hundreds of cyclists don their lycra and descend upon Highgate, a quiet North London suburb, home to a variety of coffee shops and organic food stores for the well-heeled Highgate residents. But behind this tranquil façade, is a hill of such ferocity, it has been known to make grown men weep. It is known only as Swains Lane.
Compared to mountains like the Pennines, the Grampians or Snowdonia, Swains Lane is little more than a speed bump; but for any keen London cyclists it is a mecca of activity, a rite of passage even. The road begins to rise gently passed Highgate cemetery, before you are plunged into a dark tree covered section, which rises to a dizzying 20% in gradient, enough to make most people get off and walk.
This nasty 800 metre stretch of tarmac plays host to the Urban Hill Climb, an annual hill climb race which has been running since Rollapaluza launched it in 20. This year as usual the event was a great success taking place on Saturday 30th September.
The race followed its usual format with junior, men, women, veteran, cargo bike and the newly added youth category. The aim of the race is simple: quickest up the hill wins!
The youth category kicked events off with an array of talent on offer. Notable performances included 8 year old Ruby Isaac who tackled the hill on a very stylish bright pink Specialized bike and finished in a very respectable 3 minutes 24 Seconds and Oscar Nilsson Julien who rode up the hill in a blistering 1 minute 37.5 seconds, not only winning the youth competition but also coming an impressive 27th overall.
Following the youth riders was the cargo bike category, probably the most popular race for spectators to watch, with competitors forced to ride 25 kg bikes up the hill. Just 5 brave souls accepted the gauntlet thrown down by the race organisers and faced the mighty Swains Lane on their heavy steeds. Eventually it was Wei Ho-Ng, lugging two massive beer kegs up the hill, who was victorious, finishing incredibly in a time of 2 minutes 53 seconds.
The veteran men were next off up the hill with Will Adams and Bill Bell posting the fastest times of the day with 1:31.2 and 1:31.6 respectively. They took each other on again in the final to decide who would be victorious, and it was Adams who came out on top.
Unlike all the other categories the Junior category was not too fiercely contended with just 5 riders taking to the start line. Ultimately, Thomas Arkell won by just 0.2 seconds in a time of 1:33.8.
The men’s and women’s competitions also provided some thrilling racing with Rowan Brackston stopping the clock at 1:23 and setting a new course record, only to fall short to Dan Evans in the final. Evans, therefore, took the victory. In the women’s race it was Jessica Evans who won meaning that the men’s and women’s races ended up being won by a husband and wife!
All in all the Urban Hill Climb was a tough race, but as they say: no pain, no gain!