Yes, it Hurts: National Hill Climb by Russ Ellis

Hedley on the Hill, Northumberland, 2017

"I was on the very first section, no more than 250 metres from the start line, when I saw that someone had scrawled on the road in chalk the phrase – YES IT HURTS.

"As a photographer, you are always on the lookout for something that will tell a story within a still image and this was perfect – three simple words that not only sum up this specific event brilliantly, but cycling in general." Russ Ellis 

national hill climb

“It appeals to obsessives. Because it is such a short season, you can indulge yourself and live like a pro for a while. I went up to that goddamn hill the week before, on my own, on my birthday.

“I like the whole scene. You’ve got this mix of skinny nutters, weird old- school cycling clubs supporting, and the lovely people putting the races on. People are really passionate, but it is very friendly.

“I went from fourth to eighth in the last 100 metres – I paced it wrong. My legs stopped working, I tasted blood and I couldn’t speak for 20 minutes afterwards” Jacintha Hamilton-Love, Dulwich Paragon, 8th

national hill climb

national hill climb

“I’ve got a cup of tea, chocolate brownie and a sausage sandwich.

“It is a really pure kind of racing. No real tactics, just how deep can you go for five minutes. There is such a great atmosphere. You go through a tunnel of noise, with people shouting your name. You don’t get that in any other kind of racing” Dan Robinson, Manchester Wheelers, 121st

national hill climb

national hill climb

“It was about 500 yards short of the finish line. As I rode past the lad with the beard, I told him to f**k off, because they were shouting that loud. One of the lads I ride with said he didn’t see anybody on the climb – it was all a blur. But I got a little bit side-tracked” Tony Fawcett, Newcastle Cheviot CC, 58th

national hill climb

national hill climb

national hill climb

“It’s a matter of finding the maximum amount of pain you can take, then seeing how long you can hold that for. It is a very dark place to go” Kristin Stolpe, Lovelo Cinelli RT, 25th

national hill climb

national hill climb

“I’m not sure how long I was lying there for, as your brain ceases to function about halfway up the hill. Maybe five minutes. But a quarter of an hour later, you feel fine.

“Other countries don’t have the same kind of hills. Northern Germany, where I come from, is pan-flat anyway, but in southern Germany you get these long draggy climbs – 5 or 6 per cent – not the half mile at 20 per cent like here.

“What’s the appeal? If you are reasonably good at it, that helps. And it is only a few minutes of pain. I won my age group, so that was an incentive” Wiebke Rietz, 1st Chard Wheelers, 30th 

 

Photos by Russ Ellis. Originally published in issue 17.8 of Rouleur magazine