Well that was lots of fun and very satisfying. I’ve ridden every three peaks cyclocross now since 1995 and apart from a broken seatpost in 1999 about 3 miles into the race, I’ve completed them all.
But today was the sweetest for me. The last three events have been exceptionally good to me with not many issues on the gruelling 37 mile race, but today in particular was my smoothest ever 3 peaks race. No crashes, no cramps, no mechanicals, and only one puncture that was only three minutes from my support crew at Ribblehead and a welcome bike change.
I finished in my best ever position – 9th – and in my best ever time – 3 hrs 18 mins – and feel like I’ve genuinely reached my best now in this event. I’ve done my time, but this year I got it right. I’m just relived – I put a lot in, and it’s good to get it back. I know everyone puts a lot in to this race – but you know what I’m like. I’m a notch up when it comes to obsessive three peaksery.
So – a quick tale of the highs and (not many) lows….
Preparation, preparation, preparation
The approaching weeks were really good looking back. I have a good knack of avoiding long hours in the saddle these days – being much more happy to spend time with the children – but I know when there’s a job to be done, it needs doing, so a few well-times longer rides out were thrown in with the usual more intense training in September. I think this is one of the key areas for me. Long rides do me good but thrown in with the rest of my busy life they wear me down, so they need to be used sparingly and strategically. Basically I have learned through trial and error that if I want to go faster and be stronger I need totrain instead of just ride.
On the day itself I was well rested after two whole days of no exercise at all. I was down to the goal weight (important on these hilly events!) having lost 7 lb in three weeks. Cutting it fine…
I’d eaten well and drank plenty on the morning. Not too much of either but perhaps a bit more than normal. In the past I’ve over carbo-loaded and felt too full – it’s an easy mistake to make with an epic hard event. The trick is to use energy feeds and drinks as you do it and in sensible small amounts. Loads of pasta is worth nothing compared to a good load of carbo drink.
So – we’re off….
Ingleborough… Simon fell approach was dry. My lovely new white shoes stayed clean and that was not expected. It was more rideable across the fields at the bottom than I can ever remember and I felt pretty good – especially compared to my dire start last year. Those hill reps probably came into play early on as I was happier to pedal than push this year.
The summit came fast and as usual I’d started to pick off some of the fell runners by the top, and definitely more on the way down as usual. Katie was looking after me on her own this year at Cold Cotes and she was nervous about getting anything wrong, but she did me proud and I changed bikes at the foot of the track and joined the road with fell hero Ian Holmes. I soon dropped him – even before Ingleborough – as it seemed he didn’t want to ride hard on the road, and I joined two other riders to get a good pace going up to Chapel le Dale.
Phil and family met me at Chepel le Dale with my Whernside bike, and I quickly changed (thanks to 7 year old nephew Angus) and hit the foot of Whernside feeling fine – riding past and saluting the Lune RC’s spectators – more helpful support. The climb as good and for the first time I can ever remember I could actually see right up to 3rd place on the hill – seemingly not that far ahead. I was in 13th position and comfy. I could also see Stuart Reid and Damian Smith (Wheelbase team mates) agonisingly 40 odd seconds in front all the way up the climb, but kept my pace. At the summit – (again, very rideable on top this year) – I was ready to take on another couple of fell runners on the descent! It was on the upper slopes of the descent that I noticed the only planning issue that had escaped me. I could feel that both tyres on this bike were running too low. Only slightly, but I could feel them bottoming out in places (my fault – inflated them on Monday and then didn’t re-check) , so I had to take things a lot easier than I normally would. I caught Stuart – he had had a minor mechanical – then he caught me back and we rode the fast section of Blea Moor together. Then I flatted on my rear tyre. Inevitable, but only about 3 mins from my helpers and bike change. My gentle descending had prevented it happening any earlier – so all in all I got away with it.
Phil’s team of helpers supplied me with the clean new bike and I was off like a shot trying to catch back Stuart and another rider – Paul Caswell – after losing a bit of time with the flat. I eventually caught them back in between Ribblehead and Gill Garth – after Stu had seen me coming across and eased up – so i did a couple of fairly big turns to pay him back.
I normally hit the bottom of Penyghent lane in Horton feeling scared of cramp and generally going backwards, but as soon as I got the bike change from Katie and went round the steeper turns at the bottom, I felt something kick in. Was it the fortnight of Beetroot (see here) or the heavy diet of hill reps? Whatever it was, it was welcome, and I happily put some good daylight between Paul and my back wheel. I rode the rest of the climb on a high, and although the challenge eventually came near the summit from fellsman Steve Bottomly, I knew full well he’d be mine on the descent!
A final bike change after the descent and I was surprised to see Ian Taylor had caught me on the descent. We rode together out of Horton and although he was stong into the slight headwind for the final mile, I knew there was no way he was going to be allowed to finish in front of me – not after all that hard work! I started my sprint early knowing that the two bends before the bridge would be crucial, and put enough distance between us to get ‘inside’ the top ten.
I was – and still am – very pleased. I feel like I’ve got something now that I never thought I’d ever get – and no-one can take it away! Looking forward to next year already – as usual.
HUGE thanks to all my helpers. Katie, Mum, Jean, Phil, Angus, Matthew… and the Wheelbase people (we won first team AND third team prises this year) and the biggest thanks of course go to John Rawnsley and his team of dedicated helpers.