Five-time National Hill-Climb winner Jim Henderson is to retire for a second time from hill-climbing.
The Southport CC rider came 15th at Jackson Bridge, near Holmfirth in Yorkshire, on Sunday, his first Nationals since he came third in 2009. His time of 4-37.2 was almost 22 seconds off the winning time of Richard Bussell (RST Sport – Aero-Coach) but he did top the veteran’s category.
Henderson won his five titles in six years from 1998 to 2003, and told Cycling Weekly two months ago that he would only ride this year’s event if he thought he could win for a sixth time.
“I did think I had a chance,” he said. “I came up on Wednesday and there was a tailwind – maybe that got my hopes up a little bit. I’m very disappointed with where I came.
“Three-quarters of the way up, near to where the fan playing the trombone was, it was steep and it took it out of me.
“I was happy to get a rest [on the slight downhill just after] and it’s only 45 seconds from there but it felt like an eternity. At one point, I weaved right across the road, barely able to get my gear over.
“At that point in the race you’ve got to be sprinting, got to be flying. That’s what the top guys were doing and I was going backwards.
“There’s a full circle element to it because the first Nationals I did I came 14th. I enjoyed having a good go this season but I won’t be back, that’s it for me.”
2014 champion and pre-race favourite Dan Evans (Cannondale UK-Team Elite) was also left reflecting on a ride that did a disservice to his form, having won eight hill-climbs in the past two months.
The Welshman admitted to going too fast on the course’s steepest section at the bottom, meaning he couldn’t replicate his time of 4-11 that he posted on the course two weeks ago.
“I was looking at a similar time but the course didn’t feel as fast and I’d blown,” he said.
“But I look at the guys who I thought would be up there and they were quite away down, which is surprising,” he said, citing 2013 champion Tejvan Pettinger finishing sixth, 2008 winner Matt Clinton’s seventh place and eighth for Adam Kenway.
“There’s always someone who’s going to have a cracking ride on the day and Richard’s had a hell of a ride.”
The climax of the season, however, was cause for celebration and food indulgence. “I’m looking forward to a curry, chocolate and some cider tonight!” Evans laughed.
Hayley Simmonds (Velosport) finished her extraordinary season as the second fastest women, 2.3 seconds behind Maryka Sennema, and went straight for sugar upon completion.
“My highlight of the day was going back to the car, ignoring the recovery drink and eating shortbread. I’ve starved myself this week so I deserved it!”
The 27-year-old, who won the British University and College Sports Hill-Climb Championships on Saturday, added: “It was just fun and enjoyable. It’s great to end my season with friendly faces and people I know.”