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Cycling photography – Magnificent 7 hill climbs Sheffield

I enjoyed a very early start to the day driving down an empty M1 then down the beautiful small roads towards Bradfield with only farm animals in the fields either side of the roads to keep me company on my journey. A beautiful location for any outdoor activity for sure especially when the weather is with you for spectators AND photographers. Today we were blessed without the wet stuff.

As the coffee began to flow so too did the arrival of the riders to sign on for a gruelling morning ahead. A few had done last years event, more fool them but many the first time to take on 7 hills, one after the other. I must mention at this point, huge respect to the organisation of the day and making it flow from start to finish with no incidents to speak of. Hats off to Sheffrec Cycling Club secretary Marc Etches and the supporting bikes, vehicles and marshals. Well done indeed! Something has been created here that can only get bigger and better.
With numbers pinned, nervous pees out of the way the riders grouped to hear the race briefing. Myself and two other photographers headed to the first hill climb summit as a faint hint of possible sun creeping through the clouds. We began looking for the best shot locations. With a slight delay on the start of the race gave me plenty of time to find the perfect location to then dismiss it immediately the second we realised they were a minute away from us at the summit. Photographers prerogative or randomness of indecision and panic mode, you choose. Quickly I turned on the flash and sprayed the leaders with some close up shots, slight silhouette effect with the magnificent landscape behind them. This event was of course about the struggle of the riders but also of the beautiful location too. Hill one done, 6 to go and a speedy walk to the car to beat them to the next hill. This format repeated throughout the race, hitch free from delays between the hills I’m happy to say.
You could see the relief on the faces of some riders at the first summit, relief in the sense they made it and had some gas left in the tank for the next hill. The first hill actually didn’t kill them. They had a chance to finish the series.

With celebration for all the riders brave enough on the roads that day one for me and I guess lots of others on the course that morning stood out from the rest. His difference and crazy challenge was clear to see. Instead of 2 wheels he rode with 3. He would never challenge for the prizes that day but his courage and determination could not be beaten by anyone. Watching him push hard on the pedals on the steepest of hills was amazing and painful to see. His fight and struggle to complete the challenge was his endeavour, to capture how he looked at the end of the hills was my challenge.

With some great support and clanking of cow bells on the smallest of roads was warming to see. Id like to think the support in numbers and ringing of the bells helped to silence the pain in the legs for the riders, if only for a little while. Blake street was the thinest of roads and steepest of climbs as well as most supported. A real heart warming experience to see the riders push hard through the crowds on the road, everyone trying to get a shot to keep. Not quite the scale of the crowds as on the Tour de France as it passed through Buttertubs Pass in 2014 but who knows where this wonderful crazy event is heading… With only one minor fall to my knowledge each rider arrived at the final hill safe and more so relieved. An experience many fought together. Some new friends made and next years goals to beat.

An amazing event for sure in true northern style. I look forward to being there again next time.

March 2018