Riders reach for the skies

Monsal Head viaduct, by Les Cornthwaite.
Monsal Head viaduct, by Les Cornthwaite.

A BREATHTAKING Derbyshire hillside is set to chew up and spit out about 100 cyclists who dare to pit their guts, sweat and tears against it’s unforgiving steep slope.

The Monsal Hill Climb challenge is being rolled out for the 81st year on Sunday, October 9, in one of the Peak District’s most beautiful settings where spectators will witness a gruelling spectacle of endurance.

Secretary Marc Etches, of the Sheffrec Cycling Club which organises the A4E sponsored event, said: “This is one of the most popular hill climb events in Derbyshire and the picturesque setting of Monsal Dale always attracts a large crowd.

“The event first ran in 1930 and to this day it attracts riders from local club level to more seasoned professionals.”

The Monsal Hill Climb is 675yards long with a gradient of one in six and is described by some as a sprinter’s climb and the aim is to complete the distance in an individual solo attempt in as quick a time as possible.

Competitors can pick up a good speed from the start along a 150yard stretch deep in the valley with the summit temptingly in view way above them before the slope suddenly kicks up.

Organisers are under no illusions about the efforts competitors put into this challenge as two catchers are ready at the finish to help exhausted riders off their bikes.

The event was first run in 1930 after a few friends rode out to Monsal Head with its magnificent views of Monsal Dale and the Wye Valley and used to time each other up the hill which was then an unmade rough road.

Laurence Dodd, of Sheffield Phoenix CC set the first sub 1min 30secs course record at 1m 26.9secs in 1941 before Sheffield Phoenix rider CF Belton posted 1min 25secs.

This record stood for 13 years and was broken by 1960’s GB star Tom Simpson with a time of 1min 23.4secs.

But top British rider Malcolm Elliott won the event in 1980 with a time of 1m 20.6secs and went on to set the current course record of 1m 14.2secs which remains unbeaten to this day.

Monsal Hill Climb 2011 trophies will be available for winners of different categories including junior, senior and veteran levels.

Those interested in entering or being a spectator at the event, which starts from 11am, can visit www.monsalhillclimb.org.uk.