Dan Evans (Assos-Equipe UK) stormed to a convincing victory in the 2017 National Hill-Climb Championships in Northumberland on Sunday, beating defending champion Adam Kenway (Raleigh-GAC) by more than five seconds.
Joscelin Lowden (Lewis Wanderers) claimed the women’s title, just over a second faster than Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire RC) and two seconds quicker than pre-race favourite Hayley Simmonds (Team WNT).
The 1,572m course, which averages 7.5 per cent, was completed in 3-54.3 by Evans, seven hundredth seconds inside his target. His win, allied to his 2014 title, makes him the first rider since Dan Fleeman in 2009 and 2010 to win multiple titles in the discipline.
A bitterly cold but bright day in Northumberland saw hundreds line the twisting course, and they watched as Kieran Savage (Team B38/Underpin Racing) rode to third, Joe Clark (Sheffield Giant) to fourth and Leon Wright (Race Hub) to fifth.
“In 2014, it didn’t really hit me what I had done when I won it,” Evans, 36, told Cycling Weekly. “This feels different. The [hill-climb] scene has got bigger. I appreciate it a bit more now that I have had two years of not winning it, but coming close, especially in 2015 [when he finished second to Richard Bussell].
“We had all the best guys here today: Adam, Joe, Kieran, Andy Cunningham. To win it like I have today I am really happy.”
The climb – which was decorated with chalk markings encouraging riders to “smile” but then also reminding them that “yes, it hurts” – ramped up to its steepest sections at the mid-way mark, when a left turn was followed by a hairpin bend.
It was before the toughest gradients where Evans believes he put the most time into Kenway and his rivals. “I think I probably won it from the start to the first hairpin,” he reflected.
“That’s where I put a lot of time into everyone. What I can do different to a lot of the guys is that I can go really fast at first and not pay for it too much; I can hang on and maintain myself.”
With defending women’s champion Lou Bates not racing, there was always going to be a new female champion. Many expected Simmonds to conquer the hill, but it was Lowden who was the quickest, ending only her second season of racing in national glory.
“I knew that if I put in a really good ride, I would be in with a really good chance of winning it,” she said. I knew it was going to be really tough competition. There were loads of girls doing so well in the run-up, that if I didn’t win it, it would be because I was properly beaten. I’m pleased.
“I thought I would get ten seconds faster, to be honest. But I obviously completely overestimated it.”