With entries closing on 11th October, we thought it would be good to chat to the current National Hill Climb Champions, so we start with the Women’s 2020 and 2021 National Hill Climb Champion, Bithja Jones.
L: How did the love for hill climb start for you?
B: At the end of 2018 I bought my first carbon road bike from my local bike shop, Pankhurst Cycles. I was amazed how light the bike was and how easy it was to cycle uphills. (I had spent the last 4 years cycling my children up and down our local hills on a Dutch Bakfiet which weighs about 35kg, without the children!) The bakfiet had been a great investment as it enabled me to exercise and do what I love and also get around without using a car with my two little children.
I loved my new road bike and joined my local cycling club. It wasn’t until fellow cyclists from my club saw my rides on Strava and pointed out to me that I was pretty fast uphill. They noticed that I was beating Maryka Sennema‘s times on the local hills and that I should try and do some hill climb races. I had never heard of her before and had never come across hill climb racing.
In 2019 I did a handful of races and raced in the Nationals on Haytor and won my age category.
L: Have you always cycled, or was it something you got into later?
B: I have always loved cycling. I come from a very big family. We never got lifts to anywhere. If you wanted to be independent, you had to cycle.
I love bike-packing holidays and my bike is my main mode of transport. I don’t own a car. It’s a lifestyle choice. Luckily my children love riding their bikes too.
I had a few years when I did some running, mainly to get fit after having had children but other than that I have never done competitive sports on a serious level.
Quite the opposite, I spent most of my teens and twenties staying up all night, working in my art studio, smoking and drinking beer. I wasn’t very kind to my body.
L: Once you started hill climbs, what was it that kept you coming back to it?
B: I love the intensity of the hill climb racing. I love testing my boundaries – not just in cycling.
But there is a lot I love about hill climbs: the fellow competitors and the sense of community, the spectators and their enthusiasm and encouragement. It means a lot to me, it feels great and it makes me faster! Definitely. And the beautiful locations.
L: How did you find last year at Winnats? And what are your thoughts on this year’s course?
B: Last year I thought: This is going to be hard. A 4minute climb is a bit long for me. But I worked really hard, Matt Clinton started coaching me and it paid off! It was just so amazing the whole event with it‘s history and the dramatic location. That was a very special day for me and I often think about it.
I went to recce the old shoe just a week ago. It is a hard climb. Steep and long. It’s a very beautiful climb too. I really like it. I have to work on my pacing, that will be crucial on the day. I am very excited. It’s going to be another fantastic event!
L: If you were to encourage anyone new to the sport entered into Nationals, what would you say?
B: I always encourage other women to try hill climbing. It’s amazing to find out how strong you really are!
The beautiful thing about the hill climb racing is that you don’t have to be fast to experience the sense of purpose and power when you are giving it everything. The ecstatic excitement when hundreds of people shout, ring cowbells and cheer you on and the feeling of achievement when you have done it when you cross the finish line. Every hill climber, no matter where they come in the results, will experience that. And everyone will get applauded because it’s always a massive effort no matter how fast you are.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from last year’s reigning Champion.
We’d love to see a boost in women’s entries, so if you’re feeling inspired after reading Bithja’s interview we’ve put some info together to explain how to get an entry in for any women new to CTT racing.
Useful Links and Info:
Fibrax Wrexham RC Membership Info – Joint organiser with Velotik RT, they’re great if you’re local to the area.
Racing Chance Foundation Membership Info – A well-known foundation in the North West actively encouraging women and girls into the sport. A great club to get involved with if you’ve got any Junior Girls willing to give Nationals a go especially. I’ve racing with their riders in the past and they’re all super lovely!
Oswestry Paragon CC Facebook Page – Drop them a message on their Facebook page and Helen can send you the form across to confirm your free membership.
I really hope the above clarifies everything to get you entering Nationals. There’s a really good bunch of women and Junior girls entered so far, so don’t feel intimidated that everyone will be ‘pro’.
With entries closing in 7 days, make sure you’re quick to get those entries in via the links below:
If you want to follow Bithja’s Hill Climb season, you can follow her on Instagram here.