THE Ramsbottom Rake returns this weekend with a record entry and a host of top names bidding to take the title.

The testing hill climb takes place on Sunday with more than 100 entrants - including a record 14 female - lining up for the 875 metre effort.

And organiser Duncan Smith is delighted with the calibre of riders who will be taking to the startline.

He said: “It is a huge number of entrants this year with 105 and we are really pleased to have so many female riders as that is something we have really pushed this year.

“We have 21 juniors on the startline and Lancashire Road Club, which host the race, have more than a dozen riders competing.

“Hopefully there will be a big crowd to cheer on what is a record entry for the event when it has not been the national championships.”

Defending champion Lee Baldwin will be back to defend the title he won a year ago when he clocked 2minutes 26.4seconds to win by seven tenths of a second, while former national champion Dan Evans is also in the field. Wigan’s One Pro Cycling professional Richard Handley is another big name to watch out for while Welsh national champion Jessica Roberts will have her eye on the female title.

The action gets underway at 12.01pm with home rider Hope Kerry, from Blackburn, the first rider to tackle the course.

This year’s race will also the return of special jerseys given out to the winner, first lady and first junior after Lancashire Road Club had 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.

There will also be artwork prizes supplied by local artist Adam Rowlinson and Champion Systems sunglasses will be on offer to runners-up.

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. The course record is 2mins 14secs and roads will be closed.