I’m not one for writing anything longer than an email but last night really did take my breath away and I thought it best I reflect on our journey, largely from my own perspective of course, as to what happened. It wasn’t just another hill climb, it was a whole series of stories that culminated in what I can only describe as the cycling event of the year. Sorry Sir Gary, but this was way better than the Tour de Yorkshire, but in fairness it captured what the Tour de Yorkshire has shown, and that is women’s cycling is absolutely fantastic and the energy all the riders spent on that hill last night could keep t’Huddersfield lit up until winter!
All of this started with Dick Facey, our seasoned Hill Climb event organiser and general uphill fanatic, who came to the committee and said he’d got a slot for a brand new hill climb, and given we are a club that’s committed to racing equity, we decided we’d make it a women’s only event. It seemed an easy decision at the time and I promised Dick that we’d make sure it was a success.
Roll forward the middle of February and following an approach by long time Star Wheeler Deryck Jones of Modesto Works, Matt Bourne, Helen Hudson and myself met Deryck and started talking about branding and in particular our Hill Climb and how big an event we wanted it to be. Roll forward to the first Saturday in March and on a bitterly cold morning, I attached my Sony action cam to my bike and set off with Helen to shoot some ‘action sequences’ for our first video, and after we thawed out I hunted round the internet and found the Dame Kelly Holmes quote and our first new brand video was produced.
The video was just a teaser and following some frantic Tweeting (yes people still use Twitter!) we started to generate some positive feedback, and lots of interest about the specifics of the event. One person in particular, Beverley Lucas, CEO of Knight Composites, was particularly keen to get involved to help with the promotion of Women’s cycling events in our small corner of Yorkshire. Beverley might have spent a long time living in the USA working in some big companies in the cycling industry but deep down she’s just a hard working Sheffield lass. The first chance we had, Helen and me popped down to Full Gas Bikes at Fox Valley and we talked about our ambition. Beverley was hooked and we agreed to meet up on a chilly April 1st (more fool us that day) to do more filming on the hill and for Deryck to do some pieces to camera.
Following a late call on Facebook, we rode out with Gilly, Helen, Diane, Louise and Helen Roby, our winner on the night. This is where our first story starts. Louise rode out to Marsden on her trusty ebike. She knew she couldn’t compete but she wanted to part of the event. We filmed for as long as we could stay warm but once Di started more or less turning blue we knew it was time to retire to the Handmade Bakery in Slawit to shoot the interviews in the video below. We created three films with the primary film being about creating an inclusive event anyone could take part in, whether you’re a racing snake like Helen, or someone like Diane who wants to ride for her club and post a time she can beat next year when she’ll be in the Vet 70 category! Kudos to Diane, Maz and Betty-Ann for smashing it last night by the way!
We finished our cake and coffee, and wrapped up the filming had a good laugh about sports bras and saddles and off we went home. Helen and myself went home to pack for our 6am flight to Palma who started to ride up hills setting PR after PR. But one person didn’t go straight home – Louise. Not content with not being able to take part she decided there and then on her journey home to go to Holmfirth and to buy her first ever road bike so she could enter the hill climb. Four weeks later we met up again and we rode all the way over the hill with one stop half way. Louise was so happy but she wanted to know she could do it again so just seven days later, not only did she ride over the hill without stopping but she rode over the ‘Buck’ in what I can describe as a soul destroying headwind, the kind that ruins the descent on the other side. It was a fantastic day out for someone who’d only ridden a road bike for days never mind weeks, and I don’t believe a word about the skinny bloke at the front being a wind break because he only breaks one type of wind according to his wife.
Once we’d published the video above and started really pushing the event, something very special and truly amazing came to being, and our second story started to be written. The family of the late Alison Whiteley nee Garside got in touch and asked if they could support the event and give us a donation. Everyone at the event will have heard the touching word’s of Alison’s father reminding us all that “If they can do it, so can I”, and forever more we will have a trophy in Alison’s memory, and those words will be our very special reminder each year, of what we can all achieve when we put our hearts and minds to it. Hopefully, Alison’s 12 year old daughter Florence (pictured below), will be able to come along each year and show us all “if they can do it, so can I”. Truly inspirational.
We continued the theme of the event promotion, tongue firmly in cheek, but keeping it very real as an individual sporting challenge, by (not) sticking cleats onto Helen’s new Jimmy Choos, images of cake and the cake, coffee, ride, repeat meme.
In between the social media shenanigans, Alex Raine our women’s ride secretary, arrange a recce of the hill and went out there with a big group of Steady Eddies and got some last minute training and hill reps in. Big thanks to Alex for sorting that and encouraging so many Huddersfield Star Wheelers to enter!
And so we came to the night itself. The weather seemed perfect at the Marsden Cricket Club, whom we must thank for providing us with a fantastic venue, but there were tales from the top of the hill and the first arrivals from over t’border who’d ridden here, that there was a bit of a headwind blowing. Nobody seemed at all phased by it and slowly but surely the car park started to fill and the whole hill just seemed to come alive.
There was always a steady queue in the club house and the cake came in from all quarters and in all styles and gluten free too! We had some club riders turn up early to keep the road safe and the remaining Tuesday night club runs all spilled onto the hill from the top all the way down to keep noise levels at fever pitch.
So it was over to Dick’s team of holders, catchers, timers and general all round helpers to keep the whole show on the road clockwork fashion with 57 amazing riders giving it their all to get over the hill as quickly as they could possibly muster. I’ve never seen so many people and so much energy and support at a club level event. It was absolutely awesome and one rider, gave us this feedback:
“A huge thank you to everyone who was involved in the event last night, marshals, time keepers, holder at the start line, cake-bakers and cheerleaders. It was well-run and a great success. It was also notable because it was just a hill climb ….. You hit the mark with that and the number of entries and the fact we all buried ourselves shows it was taken as seriously as any other hill climb event would be. I hope you keep this in your calendar for future years and can build on this success.”
Well from where I was stood, directing traffic most of the night, it was just an amazing night in so many ways for so many people and I enjoyed it all from start to finish. And thinking of start to finish, Helen Roby was with us at the start and is a credit to her club HD Revolutions, so I must end with one last picture of a very proud athlete receiving the Alison Whiteley Trophy, who will always put everything in when she competes but will always have fun doing so.
If anyone else has any stories to share from last night please drop me a line at email@example.com
Thank you all for making it an amazing event and see you all again next year!
More photos from the event can be found at the following links. Thanks very much to all of the photographers.