THE Ramsbottom Rake returns on Sunday with riders battling out to conquer the famous old hill.

The long running time trial, first competed for in 1929, it one of the toughest hill climbs in the country – a 875 metre sprint that includes a 25 per cent incline.

Equal prize money of £100 is awarded to the quickest male and female riders while there are veterans, junior and juvenile categories while there is also one entry on a tandem bike.

Organised by the Lancashire Road Club since the 1990s, the host club will be well represented, but riders from across the North West travel to Ramsbottom to see if they can rise to the challenge.

Defending champion, Dan Evans – who entered the race last year as national hill climb champion – will not be in the Valley as the Welshman will be competing in the Welsh Championships

But last year’s runner-up, Barrow’s David Huck returns and is favourite to take the title and will be the last of the 77 riders to take to his bike.

Jude Taylor, who goes out last but one, is also among those expected to challenge for the 2019 title as is young Bury Clarion rider Francis Woodcock who is favourite for the junior crown.

Tom Hanlon and Carl Potters - members of the Bolton-based Team Chronomaster - will be among the last batch of riders to go out.

First off will be Lancashire Road Club rider Erica Booth who has the prestigious honour of getting the event under way as a member of the host club.

Booth, who has had an impressive season on the roads this year, is among the favourites for the latest title - along with Hannah Tweddle and Matha Tibbott – and if last year’s event is anything to go by, spectators are in for a treat.

For while the men’s record of 2 minutes 16.9 seconds set by Jeff Wright back in 1993, the ladies’ record was broken twice in last year’s event - Yorkshire’s Fiona Burnie eventually winning with a time of 3mins 5.9secs.

“The men’s record has stood for quite some time but it was great to see the ladies’ record broken twice on the same day last year,” said organiser Duncan Smith. “For Erica to go out first is reward for an impressive season for her. To go out first is always a special moment.”

Any rider who sets a new record on their way to victory will receive a further £100 while the male and female winners a framed print and a king of the mountain-style polka dot shirt resplendent in the red rose of Lancashire.

A total of 77 riders will take part in the event - a number slightly down on recent years.

Smith said: “Numbers are slightly down on last year as the Welsh riders who usually come across are competing in their own championship.

“But that won’t distract from the event.

“It’s one of the toughest around and that is why so many come to give it a go. The majority are from the North West but a lot do come from further afield.

“It’s a great spectacle and the event is always well supported with lots of people coming out to cheer on the riders.”

The event, which starts at the library in the town centre, climbs towards Lumb Carr Road near to the Shoulder of Mutton pub.

The first rider goes out at 12.01pm with the last set to go out at 1.15pm.

The climb is steeped in history, and has hosted the national championships in the past - most recently in 2012 - and although it has missed out on staging the race in 2020 organisers are planning to apply to host it in 2023 to mark the centenary anniversary of Lancashire Road Club.