Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Three Peaks Cyclo Cross, 50th Anniversary race

Well, despite this being an absolute epic 1st race for me last year, my Bob Graham 3 weeks ago really overshadowed this and with all the best will in the world since then, it has played second fiddle in the grand scheme of things this year - not what I'd have chosen given a free choice!

Nevertheless, I've managed to get out for 2x4hr rides over the last two weekends including this great offroad one from Rowsley. Loved it and made me realise I need to ride the cross bike on proper rocky stuff more (instead of muddy playing fields).

Glad that Dave got an entry this year so we made a weekend of it with Teresa, Graham, Gary and Martin taking a long 2 day cycle tour up to Stainforth campsite via an overnighter in Holmfirth. Think they had a great time - not so sure Gary's ar*e would agree after two long gritty days in the saddle.

Weather forecast was bad and the morning dawned - bad ! It's always good to be mentally prepared for dire weather - plus it ensures you pack the right gear too - in this case my Icebreaker Mondo Zip Merino top plus windproof gillet. A perfect combo that sees me through most winters running and riding.
Dave & me just before the start, Stainforth campsite
The aim this year was 4 hours and although I'd not done as much riding this year, I felt my legs were stronger on the bike, however even on the start line I realised the weather looked more like "let's just get round" type weather !  I started right at the back of the field last year so remedied that by starting about 100-200 riders from the front. 930 and we were off. Pace was as I remember from last year - pretty frantic, but I soon got to just behind the guys following the leadout car.

Apprehension was high as we took the first left offroad up towards Simons fell. It very soon turned messy with all grass being very very sodden and hence proving running just as quick as biking over most of the lower fell. Both years now Simon's fell has been shrouded in thick clag. Probably a good thing - it seemed to unveil itself to us riders in 50m chunks - each of which was steeper and more insane than the previous one. 

This year we had a very very strong side wind too to contend with. Going up the really steep bit with "the fence", my climbing legs were in neutral and so I felt quite wobbly with the wind threatening to whip the bike from my shoulder at every opportunity. Soon we reached "the stile" and I knew it was serious as mountain rescue were there to take bikes from us as we stepped over the slippery stile into a headwind. Boy was I grateful for them as no sooner than you lifted the bike over your head than the wind took it away from you. Not good on a slippery stile in SPD's !! 

From there to Ingleborough, it was way more waterlogged than last year - all the way to the summit was a lot more of a struggle. I was 5 mins slower than last year plus the legs felt tired (two hard short sessions in the week should have been out of my legs but probably weren't, oh and two pints of top beer on Saturday night probably didn't help things!). 

Again, the descent to Cold Cotes seemed twice as long as I remember with very bad side winds blowing several riders clean off their bikes. It also became clear towards the bottom of the descent that riding my brakes on the hoods was not a good plan - on the drops was the only way on this race. I nearly got jolted off the hoods just as the crowds came into view. Not as embarrasing as these two guys in the picture below - I'm sure the organisers put the checkpoint right in a bog just for the photographers benefit and to keep the crowd happy!
Cold Cotes : Cries of "Keep left"
falling on deaf ears !
The tailwind to Whernside was a welcome respite although it took a minute or so for my road legs to kick in. I soon overtook everyone in sight on the climb out of Ingleton and worked with another guy most of the way to Whernside steps. Again here I was slightly surprised to find my climbing legs in neutral with me wobbling and tottering up the steep steps - not something I normally suffer from, but probably something to do with the BGR. I eventually caught up with Pat Higgins who put stacks of time into me on the Ingleborough descent not surprisingly.

Whernside steps
I remember the Whernside descent from last year - either scary or brilliant depending on your confidence and skill. I started riding it too cautiously, but started to relax into it as soon as we got to some rockier bits, but I misjudged a drainage channel and heard the dreaded hiss of a punctured rear tyre. Conditions now were absolutely dreadful with horizontal wind and rain. From last year I remembered a wall a little further down the hill so I ran down to that to repair in a more sheltered spot. Sadly it was way way further than I remembered and so I lost absolutely masses of time getting to the wall. The repair was quick and so after that I just loved the remainder of the descent to Ribblehead with crowds being even bigger than I remember from last year. Stream crossings were now of epic proportions with most riders opting for a bridge whereas we rode through it last year.

The road section to Pen y Ghent was bad - riding into driving rain for 5 miles or so with more uphill than down it seemed ! Again, I made up places here but they were only places that I'd lost on Whernside. Now, the ascent to Pen y Ghent is climbing bliss - I love it ! Rideable all the way to just before the very steep bit at the top, including a tricky section from last year which has now been regraded as easier so no dabs this year. Good to see Teresa, Lewis, Martin, Gary and Graham on the climb up there. I needed a mental boost ahead of what was still to come...

The upper sections of Pen y Ghent were atrocious. 50mph headwinds sapped every ounce of energy left in my body. I had to have a mars bar just 100m before the summit marshalls - I was knackered!

The descent started shaky as I was so tired, but as the slope eased, my speed picked up. Sadly my brakes couldn't stop me in time for a sharp hairpin in the path so I opted for a comedy over the handlebars moment into - yes, a bog.
The "puddle" on the Pen y Ghent ascent path
I was very glad to get back down to the road as my brake levers were now pulling back to my bars, so I knew I didn't have many brakes left. More headwind and driving rain before the finish came, 4h43 after setting off.

This was every bit as good as last year - it really felt like I'd been part of something epic. Every person who finished that deserved massive respect as it really was hard.

But I loved it ! And yes, I can't wait to get my entry in for next year !!

Bike Reminder for next year - ride on drops, so bars higher, not lower. Tyre pressure 55-60psi.

Results & Analysis here
2012 Splits
2011 Splits