These cyclists' pain face pictures perfectly capture how brutal hill climb races really are

You can't cycle up 20% gradients with a straight face

Stuart Bolton at Monsal Hill Climb
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Riding up hills can be both an art form and a masochistic ritual. As the first autumn leaves fall, so commences the British hill climb season, bringing with it some of the most punishingly short races of the year. 

On Sunday, over 200 riders tackled the iconic HMT Hospitals Monsal Hill Climb, one of the most prestigious races on the circuit. 

Located in the Derbyshire Dales, the climb is 600m in length and pitched at an average gradient of 10%. If this doesn't sound challenging enough, some ramps have been measured at a leg-sapping 20%. 

On such savage slopes, come some of the finest pain faces you'll see on the bike. Here are nine of the best, as captured by Cycling Weekly photographer Andy Jones.

Bitha Jones at 2022 Monsal Hill Climb

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Among those gurning for glory was the reigning British women's hill climb champion. Bitha Jones took back-to-back victories on Monsal Head, stopping the clock at 1-39.9 as she crossed the line. 

Simon Warren at Monsal Hill Climb 2022

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, is no stranger to suffering on steep inclines. Warren took to the course in a nude skinsuit, raising awareness of the fight against male cancer.

Rapid Rich at Monsal Hill Climb 2022

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

On his hands and knees, Richard 'Rapid Rich' Stoodley stares into the abyss, gasping for air after his effort.

Luke Allen at Monsal Hill Climb 2022

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Luke Allen lets out an almighty wail as he kicks down on the pedals. Either the pain is unbearable, or he's just remembered he forgot to shave his legs. Every watt matters, after all.  

Stuart Bolton at Monsal Hill Climb

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

These Sheffrec Cycling Club riders sure know how to pull faces. Here, Stuart Bolton sends a hateful stare at the tarmac in front of him.  

Harriet Hernando at Monsal Hill Climb

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

They say that what you don't know can't hurt you. Perhaps this is why Harriet Hernando has her eyes closed as she faces the climb's most brutal slopes. 

Dave Preece at Monsal Hill Climb 2022

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Dave Preece's brown leather bar tape brings a touch of class to his two minutes of torture. 

Chris Kaye at Monsal Hill Climb 2022

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

"Wang it," reads the peak of Chris Kaye's cycling cap. His twisted facial expression suggests he's doing just that. 

Eric Perkins Monsal Hill Climb

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

At just seven years old, Eric Perkins was the youngest rider to compete in the event. His pain face might be a bit stealthy, but he's got plenty of years left to perfect it. 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.