Hundreds of cyclists attempt to break 35-year record

Credit: Dave Hayward Digital Photography

The Catford Cycling Club (C.C.) Hill Climb is the oldest continuous cycle race in the world, with roots going as far back as 1887, when it was first held on Westerham Hill in Kent. For a few years it moved to Brasted, then onto Toys, Waller and Titsey Hills before finally settling down at Yorks Hill, near to Goathurst Common, Sevenoaks.

Fast forward to 2018, the race is still going strong as ever in its 123rd edition (79th on Yorks Hill). If you were to check all the books that have ever been written about hill climb races in the UK, you will find that the Catford C.C. Hill Climb will rank among the top 10.

This is not only due to its difficulty, but also the prestige of competing with the best riders in the country in the hope of winning and etching one’s name into the record books.
The race itself is only 707 yards long, with an average gradient of 12.5% and includes two sections where the gradient reaches 25%. The record time of 1 minute 47.6 seconds was set by Phil Mason from the San Fairy Ann C.C. back in 1983 (35 years ago) and it remains until this day.

Walking up Yorks Hill is hard enough, let alone riding up it against the clock, nevertheless for two and a half crazy hours once every year on a Sunday morning in October (October 7, 2018) and often in the beautiful autumn sunshine, Yorks Hill is packed with cyclists plus hundreds of spectators and their families and friends, who descend on this part of Kent to cheer on every rider. Some hardcore cycle fans would say the atmosphere can be compared to that of the Tour de France mountain stages, as seen on TV.

The Catford C.C.’s moto is ‘Good Fellowship’ and for the last few years the race has been run in aid of the Chartwell Cancer Trust. This year the Catford C.C. will donate £500 from the proceeds to this most worthy charity.

Cyclist Magazine was the main sponsor of the race and provided prizes from the Katusha world pro-cycling team for all the winners. In addition, a pair of carbon climbing wheelset from Hunt cycle wheels manufacturer were up for grabs for the rider that could break Phil Mason’s record time.

Also, one lucky spectator had the opportunity to walk away with the prize of a day in the Katusha team car at the 2019 Tour of Yorkshire.

One hundred and forty three male and female riders competed from categories ranging from Juvenile (under 16) Junior (16 to 18) Espoir (28 to 23) Adult/Elite (over 23) to Senior/Veteran (over 35). Each rider set off after the designated one minute interval.

As the final 20 riders prepared to set off, the crowd grew larger and more excited in the knowledge that the winner was likely be one of these riders.

The eventual winner of the race was Rowan Brackston from the London Dynamo Club, with a time of 1 minute 57.6 seconds.

He collected a prize of £300 plus the Fred Brushett Memorial Shield, which he was invited to receive at the Catford C.C. Christmas lunch, taking place later in the year at Westerham Golf Club.
First Woman’s prize went to Jacintha Hamilton-Love (Dulwich Paragon C.C.); 1st Junior prize to Robbie White (Arctic Tacx RT); 1st Men’s Veteran to Bill Bell (Bigfoot C.C.); 1st Woman’s Veteran to Debbie Percival (Kent Velo Girls/Boys); whilst the Team Prize went to the Rapha Cycling Club.

The course record remained standing for another year. The big question on the minds of many cycle fans is who has what it takes to beat Phil Mason’s record and will 2019 be the year this happens?