Friday 29 October 2021

Winning on Winnats (Part 6): Illi Gardner and Vikki Filsell on the National Hill Climb Championships

 As we head towards the big day in which we find out who will be the inaugural Queen of Winnats Pass at the National Hill Climb Championships we hear from one of the youngest competitors in the women's senior race, and one of the older competitors 

22-year old Illi Gardner (CAMS Racing) is a hot contender for the overall crown. Having recently broken the world Everesting Record by riding up the formidable Bwlch Y Groes 72 times, the Wales-based rider will have nothing to fear on Winnats Pass. 

Meanwhile Vikki Filsell, who races for the Surrey-based all-women cycling club BellaVello CC, was in the mix of fast Vets on Streatley Hill, in her maiden season last year. This year she is hoping to build on her solid performance.

Illi Gardner (CAMS Racing)

World Everesting record holder, Illi Gardner (photo: Paul Gardner)

"This has been my first proper hill climb season as I also race on the road which is at the same time. This year I was really keen to do more hill climbs, so mixed it in with the end of the road season. I was hoping to attend the Nationals in 2020 but unfortunately couldn't due to lockdown restrictions in Wales, so these will be my first Nationals.

All the hill climbs have been really fun but I think the Porlock Hill Climb [Exmoor] and the University of Bristol hill climb [Belmont Hill] were my favourites, even though they were kind of opposites being the longest and shortest ones at ~17mins and ~3mins respectively.

I think racing on Winnats Pass is going to be special as it's such a unique, well-known climb that hasn't been raced on in so many years. I'm looking forward to the atmosphere. I rode up it for the first time earlier this year (in the snow), then again last weekend. I'd forgotten how brutal it is! My favourite kind of hills are steep ones, which Winnats certainly is; I usually prefer long grinds rather than short punchy climbs but I'm really excited to give it a go.

Everesting is such a different effort from all-out hill climbs but it definitely cemented my love for climbing, my motivation to get involved in more hill climbs, and maybe increased my pain tolerance too!

I beat Bithja Jones earlier in the season [on Bowden Hill], but it still doesn’t give me much confidence at all.... anything can happen on the day."

[Illi sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.28:30 seconds am on Sunday 31st October]


Vikki Filsell (BellaVelo CC)

Photo: Vikki Filsell

"I am very excited (and grateful) to have the opportunity to race on Sunday. I’m not a contender, as such, but hope to do well in the over 50s category.

I visited the area in the summer and found the Winnats climb super-hard and extremely full of cars. It will be amazing to ride up it ‘traffic-free’. I think I’m ready for the windy and wet conditions, having cycled outside quite a lot recently. Training has been going well for both hill climbs and cross-country running. I try to combine the two disciplines and quite enjoy the challenging conditions.

I’ve tried two new hill climbs (for me) this season: Catford and Bec. They were my first experience of the wall of sound from the spectators. It was deafening and inspiring! Gary Beckett knows which climb I enjoyed the most (and wasn’t happy!)

There is a large womens’ field this year but not quite so large as last year. I have a prediction for the womens’ race winner for 2021 but will keep it to myself!"

[Vikki sets off from the cattle grid near Speedwell Cavern at 10.07:30 seconds am on Sunday 31st October] 

Related posts

Winning on Winnats (Part 5): Becky Hair on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 4): Frances Owen on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 3): Rebecca Richardson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 2): Mary Wilkinson on the National Hill Climb Championships

Winning on Winnats (Part 1): Bithja Jones on the National Hill Climb Championships

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