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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Poole

Climbs: The Rake

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Location: Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester (formerly Lancashire)

Maximum gradient: 25%+

Average gradient: 12%

George's climb rating: 8/10

Welcome to The Rake, only the steepest gradients on offer in a lung-busting 0.6 mile stretch. Unsurprisingly, the narrow street climb has made it into Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs list- 'a road so steep at the top it has a handrail fixed to the wall to assist pedestrians'. The first time I came across this beauty that has me picturing the brutal bergs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, it was the final stage of the 2019 Tour of Britain, with Mathieu van Der Poel donning the leader's jersey.

It was our (my Dad and I) first time seeing the Cyclo-cross legend in the flesh, coming towards the end of his 2019 road season which had the cycling world set alight, including an improbable win at the Amstel Gold race. However, Mathieu was not the first rider up The Rake that day, instead that honour was bestowed upon Team Ineos' (now Ineos Grenadiers) Pavel Sivakov, who had attacked from the main bunch. My fastest time up The Rake is 4 minutes, 29 seconds, with that attack from Sivakov, he set a new Strava KOM of a blistering 2 minutes, 45 seconds. Pavel obviously hadn't heeded the plea of this banner positioned on the right hand bend onto Rawson's Rake...

© Malcolm Scott

The gap he had over the chasing pack was 17 seconds, having attacked at the bottom of the climb on Carr Street. A further 2 minutes and 2 seconds behind the peloton was the greatest sprinter of all time, Mark Cavendish. I would imagine Cavendish was not even a minute's adrift as he turned onto Carr Street, perhaps he was even positioned within the peloton, but The Rake had now made its mark.

With an innocuous start, riders turn onto Carr Street as they travel through the town of Ramsbottom, where they will find no gentle easing into the climb. For the first 300m or so, the gradient will not dip below 10% as you make your way up a painstaking straight that will have you wondering what you have gotten yourselves in for. After a left turn opposite the Rose and Crown pub, now is time for you to gather your breath as the gradient ever so slightly decreases. Along the next meandering few hundred metres (roughly 6-9% gradients), pull yourself together and ready the legs for a brutal final push as you turn onto Rawson's Rake. It is on this right hand bend that the plea to Pavel Sivakov went unheard, though I imagine us mere mortals will find it easier to avoid taking the KOM! The final few hundred metres on Rawson's Rake provide sadistic pleasure as your legs scream on the 15%+ gradients. As you grind your way up a narrow lane that tops out above 25%, you may find pedestrians struggling to even walk up alongside you, with the green overhanging vegetation on either side of the road giving you the sense of pedalling away in a cauldron. This cauldron created an amphitheatre of noise as the Tour of Britain's best fought their way up the climb, providing an incredible spectacle that has me longing for days before COVID-19.

© Malcolm Scott

The climb will only come to a conclusion as you reach the church at the top of the road, where you will most likely be in all worlds of pain. To give you a sense of achievement in powering your way up this British hill climb legend, when I cycled up The Rake on a quiet April's day last year, I was met with applause from nearby pedestrians when reaching the end of the climb- boy did it feel good!

© Malcolm Scott

With the eye-watering gradients, narrow lane and a cauldron of vegetation, this climb should certainly be on your bucket list. Attack the climb from the foot, gather yourself after the first left turn as the gradient slightly eases and then prepare yourself for a brutal grind to the top. This is a wonderful climb, in a wonderful part of the country. You won't go begging to find nice routes around The Rake, but if you turn right at the top of the climb, ready yourself for a drag of a stretch between Ramsbottom and Blackburn; coming so soon after The Rake, this steady but prolonged climb to the hills above Blackburn serves as a real kick in the teeth. Imagine yourself as the talented Pavel Sivakov when grinding, floating or stumbling up Ramsbottom's finest climb, you'll be in pain but you'll also have a wry grin on your face- this is The Rake!

© Malcolm Scott

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