British National Hill-Climb Championship
Dangerfield’s autumn gold
GAINING revenge on the rider who deposed him last year, Stuart Dangerfield (Leo RC-Shorter Rochford) scored a resounding victory in Sunday's national hillclimb championship on Ditchling Beacon in East Sussex.
Dangerfield collected his third RTTC hill title in four years, pushing defending champion Jeff Wright (North East RT) back into the silver medal spot. Track and road international Chris Newton underlined his all-round class by taking the bronze medal and leading North Wirral Velo-Kodak to the team championship.
Catford CC pushed the boat out in organising their 100th hillclimb. They were rewarded with a fine autumn day and big crowds lining the South Downs climb which has tested the world's top professionals in the World Cup and Tour de France in recent years.
Although 85 entries were returned, the 120-man field lacked some of the quality of recent championships. The line-up was weakened further by the non-appearance of several seeded riders. But that should not detract from the quality of Dangerfield's ride. He was in a class of his own, beating Wright by a massive nine seconds.
`This autumn has been a turning point in my career,' said Dangerfield, who was forced to take a four week break from racing in high summer due to illness.
He eased his way back to fitness, and returned to the national scene by winning the inaugural BCF time trial championship in late September.
Dangerfield laid the foundations for Sunday's success with a morale-boosting victory over Wright and Newton in Lancashire Road Club's Rake climb two weeks before the national, when Newton was third.
Wright had a trouble-free ride at Ditchling but admitted he had been below par for three weeks, taking a course of penicillin for a troublesome throat condition.
The gold and silver medallists were the only competitors to beat the four-minute barrier for the sinuous 1,600-metre climb from the outskirts of Ditchling village to the Beacon summit, 228 metres above sea-level.
They both chose to ride single fixed gears, Dangerfield fitting 42 x 17 and Wright 47 x 19, which gave ratios 66.7 and 66.8 inches, respectively.
Early starters struggled to beat five minutes and it wasn't until number 40 Richard Taylor (VC Venta) crested the summit in 417.8 that the first quality performance went on to the result boards sited at the top and bottom of the hill. Taylor, a first-category roadman but hill-climb novice, was destined to finish eighth fastest.
He held top spot until Chris Myhill (Chesterfield Coureurs) sprinted home in 4-09.2. Myhill, who also chose a fixed gear of 42 x 17, finished just outside the medals in fourth spot, his best result in a national.
Newton, number 95, raised the standard with a new best of 4-02.6, which meant a sub-four-minute ride would probably be needed to take the title.
Rob Harris, last year's bronze medallist, came to Ditchling with the world championship road race and the amateur Paris-Tours in his legs. He attacked the hill with gusto and clocked 4-12.6 for fifth place, commenting `It was over too soon.'
Now only two fancied riders were left. Dangerfield, number 110, sprinted into view, back arched, out of the saddle but also looking relaxed under pressure. His smooth progress belied his speed, and when his time of 3-45.2 was posted it was clear that Wright was about to lose his title.
Wright, last man off at high noon, looked pale and washed out. NP made a hrave bid to match the
Defending champion Jeff Wright managed to get inside four minutes, but felt he was still feeling the effects of illness.
Crowds turned out in force to encourage the riders in the centenary edition of the Catford CC Classic on the Beacon.
Leo RC man, but by the time he hit the crowd-lined finish all the zip had seeped out of his legs and second place was the best he could hope for.
Notable top 10 finishers included Brian Green (Oldham Century RC) who finished sixth, four places ahead of his brother Stuart, while national road champion Simon Bray (Team Energy) took seventh spot.
Absenteeism affected the team contest. Non-starters included Shaun Tyson, of defending champions North East RT, and Wayne Randle, of Optimum Performance RT.
It left the way for North Wirral Velo to beat Leo RC for the title by 2.8 seconds. Paul Manning and Julian Ramsbottom backed North Wirral leader Newton. `Not bad, taking the team with a couple of six-footers,' North Wirral Velo manager Pete Longbottom commented.
1. Stuart Dangertield (Leo RC-Shorter Rochford) ............ 3 45.2
Team.- North Wirral Velo-Kodak Prints (Chris Newton, Paul Manning, Julian Ramsbottom) 13-06.3
What they said
`It's been a really trying year for me,' admitted Stuart Dangerfield after regaining his hill title, `but with the help of Dr Gordon Wright I've turned the corner.'
Dangerfield selected his gear after reconnoitring the Beacon on Saturday afternoon. `I went up it six or seven times. There was never any hesitation about using fixed.
`It's direct drive, there are no worries about gear slip and it's lighter. Jeff (Wright) is usually up on me over the first half of this kind of climb. I saved a bit and was going flat out over the top.
`I think it's probably the best hill-climb I've ever ridden. It's not one of those climbs where you're fighting the gradient all the way, and you don't end up as a hospital job, but it's hard enough. Now I've got this super form and I've got to let it go. Next season? My target is the Olympics.'
Third-placed Chris Newton admitted: `I didn't bust a gut, I just took it steady.
`I've done one before where I really hurt myself. I didn't want to do
that again, so I just controlled it. I'm riding the Manchester track meeting
next Sunday. I should do all right, I haven't lost my fitness yet.'