British National Hill Climb Championships - Winnats Pass 2021: Summary and Reflections

Ifan Roberts
Nov 03, 2021
7 min read

On a day that will certainly go down in the British Hill Climb history books, Tom Bell triumphs the men's field to take his first national hill climb title, and Bithja Jones sets a new course record and is crowned the first Queen of Winnats.

The brutal climb that is Winnats Pass was made even more challenging on race day by the extreme weather conditions. The riders faced brutal conditions with huge rainfall and strong winds. This resulted in plenty of wheel spinning and an overall epic test for each competitor. Despite the weather, the effort was made somewhat easier by the fact that the event was held in such an iconic location and the huge support for the hundreds of spectators that lined the climb from top to bottom.

In the women's event, retaining champion Bithija Jones (Pankhurst Cycles) regained her title by taking the win with a small winning margin of just 1.4 seconds. Jones posted a time of 04:00.4 whilst setting a new course record. Just missing out on another national title was Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire Road Club) as she finished in second place with a time of 04:01.8. Recently crowned Welsh Hill Climb Champion, Rebecca Richardson of Team Brother UK took the third spot on the podium setting a time of 04:13.5. In a close fourth place just over a second behind Richardson was CAMS-Basso rider, Lilli Gardner.

In the men's event, Tom Bell (High North Performance) produced a great ride to take his first national title whilst also setting a new course record of 03:01.6. Unlike the women's race, the winning margin was much higher in the men's race with Andrew Feather (Hunt BikeWheels.com) finishing in second place over six seconds behind the race winner. Andy Nichols took third place for Team Lifting Gear Products/Cycles, who finished a further three seconds behind Feather.

The junior men's title was won by Tomos Pattison (Halesowen A&CC) with a time of 3:26.6. Tomos Williams (Webbs 1902 CC) finished in second place with a time of 3:31.3 and James Hartley (JRC Shutt Ridley RT) finished in third with a time of 3:32.2

The junior women's event was dominated by Sannah Zaman (Bigfoot CC) who took the win with a time of 4:41.1. She took the win by a large margin, with Amelia Cebak (Team Milton Keynes) finishing in second place over 40 seconds behind the winning time. Ellie Mitchinson (CC Ashwell) rounded up the podium finishing a further 10 seconds behind the second-place rider.

Despite the weather, Winnats 2021 provided us with a championship to remember. Where else in the world would you see hundreds of riders and spectators standing in the pouring rain on a Sunday morning? The UK hill climb community, like the Pillar family, is already looking forward to next year's event.


British National Hill Climb Championships - Results

After and extremely tough day of racing, here are this years podium holders for all the different age categories.

Women

  1. Bithja Jones (Pankhurst Cycles) - 04:00.4
  2. Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire Road Club) - 04:01.8
  3. Rebecca Richardson (Team Brother UK) - 04:13.5

Men

  1. Tom Bell (High North Performance) - 03:01.6
  2. Andrew Feather (HuntBike Wheels.com) - 03:08.5
  3. Andy Nichols (Team Lifting Gear Products/Cycles in Motion) - 03:11.6

Junior Women

  1. Sannah Zaman (Bigfoot CC) - 04:44.1
  2. Amelia Cebak (Team Milton Keynes) - 05:21.9
  3. Ellie Mitchinson (CC Ashwell) - 05:31.0

Junior Men

  1. Tomos Pattinson (Halesowen A&CC) - 03:26.6
  2. Tom Williams (Webb 1902 CC) - 03:31.3
  3. James Hartley (JRC Shutt Ridley RT) - 03:32.2

Vet Female

  1. Bithja Jones (Pankhurst Cycles) - 04:00.4
  2. Mary Wilkinson (Yorkshire Road Club) - 04:01.8
  3. Jessica Evans (Assos Speed Club UK) - 04:45.5

Vet Men

  1. Dan Evans (Assos Speed Club UK) - 03:29.9
  2. Phil Stonelake (Bristol Road Club) - 03.34.0
  3. James Hayward (Woolwich CC) - 03:56.8

Womens Team

Bristol South CC (Kate Mac Tear, Emily Kate Walton, Naomi Aylwin)

Men's Team

Lifting Gear Products-Cycles in Motion (Andy Nichols, Kieran Wynne-Cattanach, Alex Rayanrd)  


A word from Chris MyHill - myHill Cycling

Following Sunday's event, we sat down and talked with Chris Myhill, one of the race organisers for this year's events.  Chris is a keen hill climber and the founder of myHill Cycling, which he set up to get more people out on their bikes and to find a passion for  the outdoors. Here are Chris thoughts about Winnats 2021.

In three words, how would you describe this year's event?

Historic. Crazy. Important.

The location, weather, and atmosphere will certainly make the 2021 championships go down in the Hill Climbing history books. How would you summarise the 2021 national champs?

The location and the weather combined to create a perfect storm. We always knew that Winnats would be very, very special. The unrelenting nature of the gradient makes it one of the toughest tests in the UK, but it is the gorge that it goes through which makes it special. The steep sides of the valley create a natural amphitheatre for the spectators, compressing the noise and chaos into a narrow funnel.
When we saw the weather forecast we were concerned that this would put many people off from spectating – but we could not have been more wrong. People literally turned up in their thousands and created an atmosphere that has only been rivalled in the UK by the Tour de France’s visit to Yorkshire in 2014.
The sight of the climbers parting the crazed, sodden crowds as they inched their way up the fierce gradient, against a curtain of rain, is a vision that is etched into my memory. The hill, the spectators and the conditions created a perfect moment in hill climbing history.

What was the overall highlight of this year's event for you?

Winnats has a history and prestige unrivalled by any climb in the UK. It is peerless. On 10 previous occasions the King of Winnats was crowned and, in becoming so, they each became a giant of the sport. This history, as rich as it was, had one thing missing -  there had never been a queen. This all changed on Sunday 31st October 2021 when the first Queen of Winnats was crowned. And her name is Bithja Jones. What a moment.

After hosting such a successful event, what's next for you?

Right now – I need a rest! This event has been 2 years in the making, and in the last month it was like having a second full time job!
2022, however, is going to be super exciting. In April we will have the 2nd Spring Classic Sportive. This is the event that launched myHill Cycling in 2019, so it will be wonderful to return to this again. In the summer there will be the 3rd Longstone Edge hill climb, and this year I am hoping to make the dream of a Peak District Hill Climb Festival a reality, by joining together with the other 3 Peak District summer hill climbs to create a 4 race series that will run over 10 mad days!
There are other exciting ideas in the pipeline, including an exciting new format for a hill climb series, and a festival combining cycling, food and music; but these are still at the concept stage and may have to wait until 2023 as they are reliant on forming partnerships with other, like minded, organisations and individuals.
Finally, from the outset of forming myHill Cycling, I have always planned to run Peak District training weekends and, with Covid hopefully retreating next year, I may finally achieve this ambition next year.


Why Pillar?

If you want to improve your own hill climb performance, try out the new Pillar hill climb training packs.  Who knows, it could be you in contention for next year's title.

Pillar is a smart and dynamic training companion, which creates you a personalised training plan based on your fitness, your goals & your availability.

With cutting edge sports science at its core, Pillar takes a holistic approach to your endurance training, rest, and rehabilitation.

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Welcome to Pillar! We’re a small UK-based team (full of real athletes) who are developing an app dedicated to all areas of cycling training. Whatever pains you can think of related to your training, we want to solve them. Pillar is still at an early stage. The first feature we’ve built is an adap…
‎Pillar
Welcome to Pillar! We’re a small UK-based team (full of real athletes) who are developing an app dedicated to all areas of cycling training. Whatever pains you can think of related to your training, we want to solve them. Pillar is still at an early stage. The first feature we’ve built is an adap…