For six weeks in May and June, Strava cyclists tackled six famous climbs in the UK, competing to win tickets to Rapha Tempest, a four-day cycling festival taking place when the Tour de France visits Yorkshire in the UK.
In total, 4,767 athletes made 8,888 attempts at the challenge, riding 15,000 miles and climbing almost 4.5 million feet.
The most-ridden segment was Box Hill in Surrey, with 4,416 attempts by 1,759 people. That means there were on average 105 challenge attempts made per day, with the average rider summiting the climb 2.51 times. Box Hill is one of the most popular Strava segments in the world, making for some fierce ‘Most Ascents’ competition: the rider who recorded the most climbs during the Challenge period was the aptly named Cyclone Jimbo, who managed 200 attempts – climbing a total of 25,000m (82,000ft) on just that one road.
Box Hill is close to London and was part of the 2012 Olympics Road Race course; Buttertubs Pass in Yorkshire, meanwhile, will be on this year’s Tour de France route.
There’s a real buzz in Yorkshire at the moment and the whole county seems to have embraced the Tour in a big way. As a proud Yorkshireman I hope it leaves a positive legacy in terms of a greater number of people taking up cycling,» said Rob Beagley, the fastest male cyclist on Buttertubs and the winner of that Segment Challenge. «I just hope the sun is shining on the 5th and 6th of July!
The other hills were Ditchling Beacon on the south coast, The Brickworks in Cheshire, the brutal Hardknott Pass in the Lake District and the West Country’s beautiful Cheddar Gorge. Read more about the official Rapha Tempest segments here.
For the fastest male and female cyclists on each segment, as well as the person who recorded the most climbs in the period, there was a prize of a pair of tickets to Rapha Tempest.
And the winners are…
- Best male time: Sebastian Ader
- Best female time: Alice Lethbridge
- Most attempts: Cyclone Jimbo
- Best male time: Rob Beagley
- Best female time: Alexie Shaw
- Most attempts: Gray Walker
- Best male time: Lee Baldwin
- Best female time: Sophie Yarwood
- Most attempts: Raphael Murray
- Best male time: Tav Walker
- Best female time: Ali Cameron
- Most attempts: Bill Compton
- Best male time: Dave Powell
- Best female time: Jennifer George
- Most attempts: Brian Finlay
- Best male time: Dan Gardner
- Best female time: Michelle McCarthy
- Most attempts: Michelle P
In addition, we also gave a pair of tickets to Jimmy Woodward who climbed Ditchling Beacon 130 times – but was beaten by Michelle P’s super impressive total of 132.
It was a hard-fought battle. Said Jimmy:
The day before the Challenge ended I uploaded my 101 rides feeling very pleased with myself, and 66 ahead of anyone else. I checked again at midnight and Michelle P had uploaded 109. All that effort and I was absolutely gutted, and I’d never seen her on the Beacon. I was absolutely stunned!
He continued: «I couldn’t have that, so next morning I got up early, put a kilo of dates in my back pocket and off I went to do 30 Beacons – although I miscounted and did 29. I seemed to get into a good rhythm and I can honestly say the first 20 were not that difficult! Halfway through I spotted a lady who had by then done three Beacons and I just knew it was Michelle. It was funny: hundreds of people cycle up there every day, but we both had this weird sixth sense and we knew who the other was. So on the last day we met, which was cool.»
While some people stuck to one climb, others had a go on several of the Challenge segments. “I knew I’d be pushing myself on something impressive, whichever hill I rode, and the prize on offer was pretty special!” said Dave Powell. He won the fastest male time on Hardknott Pass, came close to the most ascents, and also posted the second fastest time on Buttertubs Pass. “It was quite last minute, doing the second segment. I’d intended to ride out into Yorkshire to have a look at a few of the climbs on the Tour de France route for a while, so plotting a route that included Buttertubs seemed ideal. I’m not sure riding 70 miles to get to the segment helped my time, but it certainly gave the middle of the ride some extra impetus!” he said.
Having tried his luck on two of the hills, he is in no doubt that Hardknott is the most difficult climb in England: “There aren’t many places in the country where finding the balance between rear-wheel grip and keeping the front wheel on the ground becomes a struggle as you try to fight your way round crumbling hairpin bends – not for a mile and a half, anyway. Unlike many of the climbs, there’s no way to get into a rhythm on Hardknott, it really is an all-out battle until the very top” he said.
All the attendees will find their time at the Rapha Tempest far more relaxing than their climbs. They’ll be in staying in the tranquil grounds close to the beautiful Broughton Hall and all the attractions of the Festival, which include a big screen to watch the Tour, bands, talks and other entertainment, as well as guided rides to the race and around the stunning countryside led by both Rapha and Strava.
Unfortunately, not all of the winners are able to make it to the Festival. Those that can’t have either nominated people to take their place or are giving the tickets away at charity auctions. Michelle P is one of those who can’t go, and she has given her tickets to Jimmy. «Because I now have four tickets it means me and my two brothers and dad can go to the Festival. It means a great deal to me as it’s so rare that the four of us get to spend quality time together,» he said. «Coming second and being awarded tickets for the final epic ride was better than winning the competition. That meant a lot and that Strava recognised my achievement. I’ve already had people see me out training and recognised me from my profile pic and say: ‘Are you Jimmy the guy that cycled the Beacon 29 times’ After all that climbing I have now become so strong and actually look forward to going up hill. My PB also improved by 30 seconds which is huge.”
Rapha Tempest Festival will be taking place from July 3–6 in Yorkshire, England. Strava will be there to join in the festivities, hosting guided rides and helping festivalgoers keep on top of their ride uploads. Check back on the blog for event coverage and see event photos on @stravacycling Instagram with the hashtag #raphatempest.