My love affair with with this road began back in 1990 and it’s one of the primary reasons that 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs came to exist. My search for ever steeper ascents to ride and race up brought me here to take part in the George Higton Memorial hill climb. It was my first season riding open events and I was on an upward trajectory fitness wise getting faster every month.
On that first attempt I stopped the clock at 4.14.0 which was good enough to take the first junior prize and leave me 37 seconds behind the winner S.Hulme from the Manchester Wheelers. Winning first junior was good enough for me though and any success however minor to a rider just starting out is treasured and adds plenty of fuel to the fires that were now burning strong.
Roll on another 12 months and with a full season of time trials and a few road races in my legs I returned to what was now my favourite road. I’d not travelled far from my base in Nottinghamshire yet and was still to sample the delights that the Lake District or the North York Moors could offer but from my base in Newark, Matlock and back was a manageable day trip and Riber was always the destination.
By now I was club hill climb champ, I’d taken second in an open event up Harby Hill the weekend before (by less than a second!) and I was confident of doing a good ride. I was never winning confident, I knew my place, but I wanted to be in the mix up there with the fast guys. On that day I clocked a 3:50.8 which placed me 4th over all, an agonising 2.8 seconds off 2nd place and just 13 seconds behind Mr Hulme who won again.
To this day I think this is the best ride I ever did. I knew by now I wasn’t a talent, I wanted more, I wanted to be faster and to dream big, however, October 20th 1991 proved to be my athletic peak.
The next year I returned but by now I’d started University and well, all pretence of living the life of an athlete had gone out the window. Like I said I was not going to make it as a racer so there was no point in making the sacrifices needed and with the temptation of nightclubs and cheap booze it was game over. Still, I clocked a respectable 4:04.3 but never again would I see sub four minutes.
It was 26 years before I returned to race the event again in October 2018. After a long break in the 90’s I picked up the sport once more in 2004 and only wish I would have come back in 2007 or 2008 when I was at my absolute fittest to see what I could have done then. 26 years older and now the wrong side of 70 kilos all I could muster, (after horrendous wheel-spin which almost had me stop) was a 4.25.6. The following year I went better with a 4.18.5 but the game was up, the 18 year old me was never going to be beaten by the 47 year old me. Curse those damn young people. The decline continued in 2020, 2021, I gave it a miss in 2022 but I’m going for one last go.
Now 50 years old but with hopefully some better pacing thanks to getting to grips at riding with power I hope to get under 4.30 again and my dream would be to beat my best ‘old man’ time of 4.18. Even if I fail, I still love the road and its crazy steep switchbacks and I know that once upon a time I got up here pretty fast.
Date My Time Winner’s time Winner
1990 4.14.0 3:37.8 S.R. Hulme
1991 3:50.8 3.37.4 S.R. Hulme
1992 4:04.3 3.41.0 S.R. Hulme
2018 4.25.6 3.16.5 Andrew Feather
2019 4.18.5 3.27.0 Adam Kenway
2020 4.23.0 3.20.1 Andrew Feather
2021 4.31.9 3.29.6 Andy Nichols