3 Peaks Cyclocross Race – 2014
Well that was very different! Sol and I drove up to Helwith Bridge near Settle in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday. Beautiful scenery in the evening sun. Sol looks up at the craggy peak on our left and exclaims “Wow look at that!” That’s Pen Y Ghent I say. We’re riding/climbing up that tomorrow. Silence.
Into the Yorkshire Subterranean Society Bunkhouse and drop our gear and into the pub to carbo-load! Great pint but long wait for food so we share my pasta and chat to other riders and supporters. Bit like “The Slaughtered Lamb” in “An American Werewolf in London” but much friendlier and with its very own transvestite holding court at the end of the bar. We feel right at home!
Lots of cheerful Northern talk of breakdowns and accidents from previous years so sleep could be fitful.
Add to that we’ll be sharing the mixed dormitory with 6 others so could be a noisy night! Misty start forecast so thankfully should be dry. Roll on tomorrow. My first 3 Peaks after a few attempts to get a place. Hope it’s kind to me and Sol!
That was yesterday. It was a noisy night but we did get ‘some’ sleep. Now it’s 10.30 Sunday night and we’re in a breakdown truck on the M6. The trusty Volvo gave up the ghost just after Sandbach Services, so after a very long, hard day we are finally on our way home.
We both completed this really tough race. I finished in 4 hours 19 mins and Sol in 5 hours 40 mins.
It’s a beast. It’s ‘only’ 38 miles but you have to climb, and I mean climb, the 3 peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and finally Pen Y Ghent. Linked together by a mixture of rolling road and farm tracks it’s draining and demanding on the body and the mind. The descents are fast and terrifying. Loose scree, drainage ditches to bunny hop every 30-40 metres, peat bog, boulders. Accidents are frequent and painful.
We both set off at the back of the field of about 700 riders. As 3 Peak ‘virgins’ we just wanted to get around safely. When the whistle blew the field took off like the clappers to get into good position on the first climb of Simon Fell. There was an early crash with several riders going down but nothing serious and then after 5-6 nervy rolling miles we turned onto the climb. A few hundred metres of rising farm track and then bike straight up on the shoulder and for the next 30 mins we trudged up an ever steepening slope. It’s so ridiculous and surreal. You get into a rhythm and just keep working at getting up and over. You don’t really overtake anyone, you just follow the person in front at a 45 degree angle with their wheel poking in your face. When you think that’s it you see the second peak of Ingleborough and that’s Cold Cotes. At the top of that its a sludgy, peaty plateau across the top and then down, down, down at frantic speed to the valley again. Same again at Whernside. This is more of paved slab kind of staircase that reaches up and up. All the 3 climbs are exhausting and back breaking and the descents just nerve wracking.
Past the Ribbleshead viaduct and masses of crowds and supporters. Great local support and enthusiasm for this community event. Its their race, and they do it proud, with local heroes and fell runners turned cyclists all getting a cheer. Coming off Whernside I’d noticed my tubeless front tyre was losing pressure from constant smashing into boulders and other sharp edges and was nearly flat. I saw someone with a track pump at Ribbleshead and shouted over to him. He instantly jumped to the rescue, delighted to be of help. “You’re the second one today I’ve helped” he proudly told me in a great Yorkshire accent. Faster than a Maclaren F1 pit stop I was back and running again.
Along the roads towards Pen Y Ghent. You ride the stony path for 2 or 3 miles. It’s loose and slippy and gradually steepens till you have to shoulder the bike again for the top mile climb. The riders ahead of you turn round at the top and retrace the same path but in the opposite direction at full speed and seemingly no controlheading straight at you. Shouts of “rider coming” from the supporters and another one flies past you missing you by inches. Its not for the feint hearted! I swore I was going to take it steady and get home alive – no way I was going to risk riding that fast when it came to me descending….yeah! What happens? I get to the shelter on the top, get my transponder chip thing read and then immediately do exactly the same thing. Full speed, skidding, bunny hopping, weaving and winding all the way down to the road. Exhilarating, terrifying, too tired to brake really, just knowing this was the last bit of effort and then the finish. Hands numb from vibration, eyes full of dust, bike rattling and shaking, brakes squealing like a banshee. Brilliant. I’m going up make it. Last few miles on the road and then into the funnel finish to cheers from all the supporters. Thank God it’s over. Back, hands, calves, soles of feet all killing me. Jaw aching from clenching teeth for 4 hours 19 minutes and 29 seconds of the craziest roller coaster of a ride I have ever done. Mike Miach said after he did it last year how tough it is. You can say that again. It’s something else.
Sol came in similarly shocked, punch drunk and exhausted. Nothing a pint didn’t put right and some laughs with other riders and familiar faces from the ‘cross circuit.
Overall winner, for the 11th time was Hope Factory Racing’s Rob Jebb in about 2 hours 59 mins. Astonishing. Second was National Vets cross champ Nick Craig.
We stopped at Lancaster services. I had 10 mins snooze and then Sol appeared with coffee and a box of Kripee Kreme Dougjnuts. Food of champions. And then the battle bus decided enough was enough. So its onto the the Breakdown truck for the Volvo after a few hours wait, but we’re finally on our way home. ETA about 2am