Tree Tunnel Gradients: Catford & Bec Hill Climbs
Spectator and race faces at their finest
Catford Cycling Club hill climb is thought so be the oldest race in the world with the first event taking place in 1887 on Westerham Hill before moving to the steeper York's Hill in Kent, where the race is contested today. The climb is 640m long and is completed anywhere between 1 to 3 minutes at an average gradient of 14% with pitches of 25% right near the summit. This years race was the 123rd edition sponsored by Cyclist Magazine.
Bec Cycling club run their hill climb on the same Sunday, starting in 1955 this will be the 63rd edition and it's raced in the afternoon so many riders and spectators migrate across just a few miles into Surrey to White Lane for a double header. The climb is nearly identical to Catford's York's Hill at 640m in length at a 13% gradient. The start is fairly gradual but it gets steeper and steeper hitting 20% towards the top before levelling off as you cross the line.
In 2014 David Miller raced the Bec CC hill climb in what was to be his last race as a professional for the Garmin Sharp Pro Cycling Team. After an 18 year career as a professional cyclist, he decided it was the right place to mark the end of a turbulent career that included many highs and lows including winning four stages of the Tour De France and five stages of the Vuelta A Espana. By competing in a local British cycling club's annual event (where so many British pro riders start their career) it would mark a full circle on his cycling career.
Power to weight ratio is the be all and end all when it comes to hill climbs........
A wet and slippy climb at Catford after raining the entire day before. Many riders rear wheels were slipping under them requiring the climb to be raced with a certain technique that could make or break their performance. Rapha Cycling Club went on to take the three man team prize in both events.
A tunnel of light and sound towards the line
Chris Crabtree was 2nd in last weeks Urban Hill Climb and 6th in the morning's Catford hill climb as he struggled with wheel slippage on the wet climb. He took the top step at Bec with an explosive performance that required 10 minutes collapsed on the grass to recover from (pictured above). His Cipollini bike is his year round road race bike, which he modifies for hill climb season with lighter carbon wheels, a SRAM single chainring setup, a paper thin drilled saddle and cut-off handlebars.