According to exercise app Strava, the UK’s National Trust property Box Hill has beaten the winding French Alpine passes to be crowned the most popular cycling hill climb in the world. The stunning scenery, array of wildlife and breathtaking views – as well as a 5% incline – make the Surrey route among the most coveted achievements among amateur and professional cyclists.
More than 100,000 people have taken on the 2.5km segment – known as Zig Zag – since the app was created in 2009. The fastest climb, which rises by 133m, is recorded as an eye-watering 4min 37 seconds at an average speed of 32.5kmh.
Some of the famous French climbs – which have both featured in previous Tour De France routes – include Alpe d’Huez with over 20000 cyclists and Mont Ventoux with over 75000. Box Hill is steeped in history having always been popular among road cyclists and, as early as the 1890s, drew hundreds of people to line the road for Dorking Cycle Club events.
It was also seen as a scenic spot for Victorian day trippers to escape the smoggy air of inner city London. The segment’s gradients, sharp turns and gruelling long climbs meant that road races, hill climbs and time trials became a regular occurrence.
Tour De France and Olympic gold winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, once described it as among his favourite professional cycling routes with Mark Cavendish saying on Twitter “Wowzers, it gets heavy after a while. Relentless roads.”
In July 2012, the London Olympics took Box Hill to another level of cycling fame when it hosted part of the 155-mile long road cycling races. Watched by 15,000 spectators on site and by a global audience of two million, the route and its surrounding areas instantly became synonymous with road cycling.
Gareth Mills, UK Country Manager of Strava, said: “Box Hill has been an iconic cycling destination for over a century and Strava members have embraced the challenge it presents to amateurs and professionals alike – as Greg LeMond said, it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster!”
The National Trust has looked after Box Hill since 1914, balancing care for its rare chalkland habitats for wildlife, with public access to its viewpoints, Zig Zag and footpaths.
Andrew Wright, Box Hill’s Countryside Manager, says: “Beautiful natural and historic places matter – for our spirit, our wellbeing and our relationships – whether it’s to take in the scenery on a bike ride or a walk. As a conservation charity we look after Box Hill, and much of the Surrey Hills, for the benefit of wildlife and the benefit it brings to people. Everyone is welcome, for the breath-taking views, great walks, amazing nature, picnics or fun and games on the Donkey Green.”