Distance: 3375 metres, Ascent: 233 metres, route map
The ride up Mytholm Steeps demands low gears and high stamina. It’s little more than three kilometres in total but the first section of the ride is a real test as you gain 150 metres in height in just a kilometre along the road. It’s astonishingly steep in places and in Simon Warren’s Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs it was rated 10/10.
The Milk Race came up this way some time back in the 1980s but the route choice wasn’t a complete success. Not all the riders had low enough gears to get up the steepest part of the hill and so some of them just ground to a complete halt. This was the era when riders’ shoes were strapped to their pedals which meant they couldn’t easily put a foot down when they stopped. Instead they simply toppled over sideways bringing down with them most of the rest of the peloton. Once they’d stopped many couldn’t get started again on such a steep ascent and so the spectators at the top of the climb were entertained by the sight of many cyclists trotting up the hill with their bikes slung over their shoulders.
No such half measures for you though. Put a foot down and it’s mission aborted so be prepared and make sure you’ve got the gears and the legs you need.
The climb starts at the junction of Church Lane with the A646 Hebden Bridge to Todmorden road and the going gets tough soon after you set off. Once you’ve drawn level with the church you’re going to have a battle on your hands until you reach farmland above the treeline. It’s an unrelenting series of ramps and hairpins as the road winds sharply this way and that, with terraced houses first on one side of the road and then the other. It’s a case of trying to maintain momentum while keeping a bit of energy in reserve.
The road is narrow, with frequent parked cars and things can get congested at times which only adds to the difficulty. However, you won’t have any difficulty hearing vehicles coming up behind you as you won’t be the only one crawling along in a low gear.
It’s once you’re clear of the houses that you’ll need that bit of energy you kept in reserve because there’s a stretch of road, maybe 100 metres or so, at around 25%. It’s a genuinely tough challenge and if your legs or gear ratios aren’t up to it you’re going to emulate the riders from the Milk Race and come to a standstill. But, if you can get yourself past it and round the hairpin to the left at the end then you’ve cracked the climb. The road remains steep for a while yet but no longer at quite such a daunting angle and soon enough you’ll be on the rolling hilltop road bowling along towards the junction at Blackshaw Head.