ORGANISERS of this year’s Ramsbottom Rake believe the field for this weekend’s race is the highest-quality entry since the event doubled up as the National Hill Climb championships in 2012.

The testing event takes place on Sunday with 70 riders lining up including defending champion Lee Baldwin and current national champion Dan Evans.

And organisers are hoping for a high quality race when the action gets under way at 12.01pm.

Duncan Smith, secretary of the organising Lancashire Road Club, said he was delighted with the stellar field.

“We have last year’s champion and the national champion coming so it is certainly a good field. I think it is our best since we held the National Championships.

“The weather forecast is not too bad for the weekend and hopefully there will be a good crowd to cheer the riders on as well.”

Evans will be among the favourites but defending champion Baldwin, who rides for Champion Systems, and national junior champion Adam Hartley (PH-Mas Cycling) could give him a run for his money.

Evans will be the final rider off at 1.10pm with entrants going off at one minute intervals. As defending champion Baldwin should the last man to depart but the presence of the UK champion means he will be the penultimate rider to leave the startline.

And the first rider to set a time will be Ramsbottom’s own Ian McKinley who rides for Lancashire Road Club.

Smith added: “We thought it would be nice if we got the most local guy to start things off and you can’t get more local than Ian who is from Ramsbottom.

“He knows the climb very well and I believe he rode it 12 times in a row as part of his preparation so he has certainly been training hard.”

This year’s race will also see special jerseys given out to the winner, first lady and first junior after Lancashire Road Club had special commemorative kit produced by Champion Systems.

The winners of each of those three categories will receive a polka dot jersey similar to the one worn by the King of the Mountains in the Tour de France only the red dots will be replaced by the Red Rose of Lancashire.

Smith added: “The jerseys look great and it will be the first year we have had these to give out to the winners.”

The Ramsbottom Rake starts at the library in the town centre and climbs up towards Lumb Carr Road near to the Shoulder of Mutton pub.

It is only 875 metres long but, though short, it makes up for it in steepness – reaching a maximum gradient of 22 per cent in the steep sections.

The climb has featured in the Tour of Britain and has been the location for a number of national hill climb championships.

A wide variety of riders have attempted to ride the rake including Chris Boardman, Malcolm Elliott, Graeme Obree, Chris Newton and Michael Hutchinson.

The course record is 2 minutes 14 seconds and roads will be closed for the race.

n For a full report and all the pictures from this year’s race see next Wednesday’s Lancashire Telegraph