Riding Up That Hill: Illi Gardner

Photo by Gary Main

Fresh from taking the title of Female Senior Welsh Hill Climb Champion, as well as landing herself 5th overall in the whole event, we speak to Illi Gardner who’ll be on the start line at this year’s National Hill Climb Championships 2022.

L: How did the love for hill climbing start for you? Have you always cycled, or is it something got into later? Do you do any other disciplines? If so/not, what attracted you to hill climbing?

I: I started cycling when I was in high school. After growing up swimming and running that (of course!) led to triathlons. Cycling was originally my worst of the three disciplines, but it wasn’t long until it turned into my favourite and I started taking it more seriously in 2017. After a busy few years of road racing I decided to take an indefinite break from it following the 2021 season, and am now just having fun doing hill climbs and other challenges. Climbing has always been my absolute favourite part of cycling since the early days of hilly adventure rides with my dad – I love the pure suffering and sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

Female cyclist riding up hill.
Photo by The Outdoors and Beyond

L: How did you find last year, and what are your thoughts on this year’s course?

I: I really enjoyed last year’s season – it was my first proper season of hill climbs in the UK. All the events were new to me and it was a lot of fun. Except Nationals, which went terribly! I’m not entirely sure what happened; the weather was awful for everyone so I can hardly use that as an excuse, but it wasn’t a great way to end the year. I’m very excited for the Old Shoe though, as it’s both steep and reasonably long with nowhere to hide. I’ve ridden it a couple of times and it’s pretty brutal!

Female cyclist riding up hill.
Photo by The Outdoors and Beyond

L: If you were to encourage anyone new to the sport entered into Nationals, what would you say?

I: I think anyone new to the sport who’s entered into Nationals will be addicted to hill climbs once they’ve done their first one! Don’t overthink it and just enjoy pushing yourself in what is the purest form of cycling.

Female cyclist riding up hill.
Photo by Graham Haller

It’s been great to hear what Illi’s thoughts are on this year’s Nationals course, so make sure to give the Welsh Champion a cheer when she takes on the Old Shoe on the 30th October. Follow her on Instagram to see how she gets on…click here

From all of the organisers, we’d also like to say a massive thank you to everyone who entered, as at nearly 440 riders we’ve been blown away by the support!

As with every cycling event, we still need marshals to help get all of the riders to and up the hill safely. If you’d be happy to spare some time on the day, then please get in touch on Facebook or Instagram! (I’m having issues reading my website notifications, so might miss any comments!)

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