A SCHOOL admin officer who cycles to work every day has seen her hard work pay off by being crowned the female National Hill Climb Champion.

Fiona Burnie, of Toft Hill, County Durham, had enjoyed sports from an early age but only discovered the niche of hill climbing in 2015.

She cycles the 16 miles to her school in Durham every day and decided 2018 was going to be her year for winning the British National Hill Climbing Championships.

Miss Burnie, 34, came eighth in the competition in 2015, fifth in 2016 and fourth in 2017.

She said her coach Danny Grieves and her members of her club, Newcastle-based GS Metro, had all supported her especially member Ben Lane who lent her his racing wheels especially for it.

"It's quite an obscure but popular sport," she said. "It attracts a lot of professional cyclists but also is one where amateurs can beat the professionals - it's such a special sport."

Miss Burnie, who is originally from Northumberland before moving to the region in 2009, said she travelled to the very short steep hill in Pea Royd Lane in Stocksbridge, near Sheffield, a total of 21 times to practice ahead of the race at the end of October.

She qualified for one of the 60 places out of more than 300 entrants.

She even had some lucky socks and a special cap to help her along the way.

And the practice paid off when she completed the climb in three minutes and five seconds.

Miss Burnie won by 0.6 seconds after climbing the difficult course but said it was an anxious wait as all competitors have to walk in a loop back to the start and wait until the official times are released.

She said: "It was a massive relief and I was so surprised when I won because I thought I had messed up my race.

She added: "It was a three-mile walk to get back to headquarters so we didn't know if I'd won at that point."

After an anxious wait, Miss Burnie was told the good news and said it was a massive relief.

Second place went to Mary Wilkinson of the Yorkshire Road Club.

Miss Burnie will receive her official trophy at an champions awards night later this month and said she wanted to thank everyone who had supported her.

Miss Burnie, who works at St Leonard's RC School, said staff at work had also congratulated her although the children were not necessarily aware they had a champion in their midst as she had managed to keep it "incognito".

Miss Burnie will receive her trophy alongside the men's winner Andrew Feather who is a former elite road racer.