National Hill Climb Championship 1998

Sunday 25th October

Promoted by Coventry Cycling Club on Dover's Hill, Gloucestershire

Jim meets the Cotswold wildlife In 1998 the hill climb championship returned to one of its most often-used venues, Dover's Hill near Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. Jeff Williams was the most recent winner, in 1982, but the title was also contested there in 1963, 1968, 1973 and 1978. Owned by the National Trust, Dover's Hill was the in the 17th and 18th Centuries for the "Cotswold Olympicks" which included the sports of cock-fighting, wrestling and shin-kicking. The area is also notable for its wildlife such as the friendly badgers that live in the woods.
The course was a straightforward pull up an unclassified road that had a couple of tight bends at the bottom then gentle curves further up that meant you could never see particularly far up the road while racing. The gradient was about average for a hill climb at 9.9%, with the steepest section just before half-way at around 15%. Definitely a hill for a fixed wheel bike, I had thought 44x19 would be about right but discovered the day after the event that I had actually ridden 42x19. No wonder I thought I was pedalling quickly!
National Hill Climb Course 1998 - Dovers Hill There was a full field of 120 riders on the start sheet but The Times reported the day before the race that the defending champion, Stuart Dangerfield, was going to be a non-starter because of a cold. Stuart had won five of the previous six hill climb championships and in his absence the man to beat was going to be Jeff Wright, the 1994 champion riding two minutes in front of me. I was going well at the end of 1998, had been out to the hill on three separate occasions to try it out, and was on a lighter bike than the previous year. If I couldn't do it in 1998, I never could!
A decent tailwind produced some excellent early times - Gary Baker and Tim Bayley were both off in the first hour and did times that would have been good enough for silver in 1982 - so with all the seeded riders yet to come I was a little daunted by the sort of time I would need to do if I was to win. All that went out of the window when I started to race though. I got quickly on top of my gear and pedalled comfortably to the half-way check in the saddle. A clubmate gave me a time split on Jeff Wright as four seconds down about a hundred yards further on, so thinking I had nothing to lose I let rip like I had never done before or since. The low gear really helped here because it made it easy to keep a rhythym going. The crowd was thick on sides of the road and only parted as I got to them, which was very good for my concentration because it gave me something other than the pain to think about. It was like a dream as I passed lots of familiar faces, all screaming at me but only seen for a second or two as they moved out of the way to let me pass. Anyway this bizarre experience was mercifully short and very soon I had crossed the line and was lying on the tarmac.
Winning really was as good as it is cracked up to be, apart from the headache that the ride had given me. I had a three-second cushion over Jeff, and had ridden the crucial second half of the race seven seconds better that him (and was the only competitor in the whole event to ride the second half quicker than the first). In the process I took eleven seconds off the course record, so I went home pretty pleased. Too pleased perhaps, as I slacked right off in my training for the last two months of the year and spent half of 1999 trying to catch up with everyone else.
It went without much comment on the day but the over-15 girls section of the British Schools Championship which proceeded the main event was won by Nicole Cooke in a time of 4-42, better than all but two of the boys. As if this was not enough she rode again two hours later in the RTTC championship, improved by five seconds and was the fastest lady in 72nd place. Definitely a prospect for the future!

The 1998 top ten

Pos. No. Name Team Halfway Finish
1 118 Jim Henderson Oxford University C.C. 1-47.9 3-25.3
2 116 Jeff Wright Team Guru 1-42.6 3-28.3
3 55 Gary Baker Condor Cycles 1-49.6 3-41.2
4 114 Tom Anderson Holme Valley Wheelers 1-45.0 3-41.7
5 108 Neil Swithenbank A.B.C. Centreville 1-45.2 3-43.3
6 112 Brian Green Oldham Century C.C. 1-52.6 3-45.1
7 44 Tim Bayley V.C. Deal 1-50.6 3-45.8
8 110 Bill Moore Leo R.C. 1-54.8 3-46.2
9 12 Andrew Jackson Team Specialized 1-49.6 3-47.8
10 67 Tony Miller De Laune C.C. 1-43.8 3-48.2
Team: Oldham Century C.C. 12-02.3; Brian Green, Stuart Green (4-04.3), Mark Flynn (4-12.9)
Course: START opposite a field gate and in line with a utility building in the field on the left, approximately 75 metres south of the unclassified road Parson's Lane. Proceed to climb Dover's Hill, passing the hald way point sited 4.2 metres north of Telegraph Pole 99 and near to Knapp Cottage, to FINISH opposite the Steep Hill warning sign (14%) and approximately 25 metres before the entrance to the National Trust car park on the left.
Length 1314 metres
Height gain 130 metres
Winner average power 490 W

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