The recently crowned rainbow jersey Michal Kwiatkowski – the first Polish rider to wear the coveted stripes – lit up September’s Tour of Britain. A stage win, two days in the leader’s yellow jersey, second place overall and the win in the points classification all made for a successful race for the 24 year old.
Thankfully for us, he is also a regular user of Strava, and here we take a look at eight of his 94 British KOMs; along with advice from experts on how to take on the new world champion.
Strava name: The Tumble*
Where: Govilon, Abergavenny
Distance: 3.1 miles
Average gradient: 8.7 per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 13:18
About: Steep from the outset as you go past a row of houses from the village of Govilon, the gradient fluctuates with some sections touching a lung-busting 20 per cent. As the height rises, the landscape gets larger and the climb fails to relent. Expect nothing but a slog.
What they say: “Because it’s steep at the beginning it kicks a lot of riders straight away. When you come out of the tree cover at the cattle grid if you have a headwind it can be a real hindrance. Your time is very much dependent on the weather” — James Knox, 2x Junior Tour of Wales stage winner atop the Tumble
Strava name: Leckhampton Road Climb
Distance: 0.8 miles
Average gradient: 7 per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 3:27
About: This principal route to go south out of Cheltenham delivers an immediate sting in the tail with one-in-six sections common in the first 600m until it plateaus out for 50m before ramping up at the end.
What they say: “Those who attack the beginning of the climb — the steepest part — with all they’ve got end up struggling as the climb progresses; you have to pace it out. If you can get some pace going into the bottom of the climb then that’s a definite advantage” — Harry Walton, Cheltenham and County Cycling Club
Strava name: Bridge Valley Road (plus Downs bit)
Where: Clifton, Bristol
Distance: 0.6 miles
Average gradient: Eight per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 2:02
About: Approaching south from the A4 a standing-start is guaranteed with a sharp U-turn welcoming you on to the climb. Gradients hover around the 10 per cent mark and the difficulty doesn’t relent until you are on to the Clifton Downs. Kwiatkowski accelerated for the stage win after the climb.
What they say: “A lot of people use it as hill-climb repeats. I attack out of the saddle until the slight right-hand turn and then sit down and measure out a high cadence. When it ramps back up, I jump out of my saddle again and grind it to the top” — Rob Handley, Bristol Road Club
Strava name: Stoke Hill Climb
Where: Stoke Woods, Exeter
Distance: 1.1 miles
Average gradient: 6.3 per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 3:43
About: The city of Exeter welcomes you with Pennsylvania Road that elevates over 350ft. The tree cover at the bottom symbolises the steepest part. The incline gets less severe as the climb progresses out of Stoke Woods, allowing you to recover some pace.
What they say: “I’d held the Strava KoM climb for 2.5 years, and unless I get towed up by a group of 40 riders I’ll never reclaim it! The middle section descends a little and it’s ideal to up your pace when you can” — Andrew Feather, Exeter Wheelers hill-climb champion
Strava name: Winsley Hill
Where: Winsley, Bath
Distance: 0.7 miles
Average gradient: 9.2 per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 3:01
About: ‘Short but sharp’ best typifies Winsley Hill on the B3108. You can forget about any respite, with stretches on which the gradient is between 13 and 19 per cent. Only in the final 100m does the climb stop demanding out-of-the-saddle pedalling.
What they say: “The climb starts with a slight descent followed by a sharp rise which might fool the rider into thinking they’ve got some momentum for the hill. But once past the Canal Bridge, the fun really starts as the hill reaches its steepest section” — Richard Grigsby, Bath Cycling Club
Strava name: Kop Hill ToB KoM
Where: Princes Risborough, High Wycombe
Distance: 1.1 miles
Average gradient: 7.5 per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 5:00
About: Starting on New Road, the relatively tame start is superseded by 200m with sections of 13 per cent. A third of the way into the ascent, turn left on to Kop Hill where the road levels out until the one-in-six becomes 22 per cent towards the top of the climb.
What they say: “You have to keep increasing your effort as you go up the climb and then get out the saddle and attack the 20 per cent section. It doesn’t last for very long but if you go full-out, it is quite an intense climb” — Tejvan Pettinger, national hill-climb champion 2013.
Strava name: Ditchling Beacon
Where: Ditchling, Brighton
Distance: 0.9 miles
Average gradient: 9.4 per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 3:59
About: At the crossroads of Beacon Road and Underhill Lane, you can forget about a gentle stroll into Brighton. Twisting right and left, no plateaus can be found on Ditchling Bostall as the trajectory of the road inclines almost 500ft in less than a mile.
What they say: “Exiting the tree cover the sky opens and the Weald stretches in front of you, but this is the mother of all false summits and the pleasant view disappears as suddenly as it appeared. It’s the hill all non-cyclists dread” — Simon Warren, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs
Strava name: Bear Road Full
Distance: 0.9 miles
Average gradient: 7.3 per cent
Kwiatkowski’s KoM time: 3:35
About: As residential street climbs go, not much can rival Bear Road. The straight road tops near enough 15 per cent early on but do not be fooled when the gradients lessen for a small section, as the section of 17 per cent will catch you out just before you reach the summit.
What they say: “It’s difficult gearing-wise as you ponder whether or not to drop a gear on the flatter part to get your cadence up and then attack the last part of the climb with the same gear or just to maintain the same gear throughout” — Matt Coe, Rayment Cycles
Segment research by Chris Marshall-Bell
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