James Eddison – Skipton / Swiss rider’s account from 2008

James Eddison came from Switzerland to ride the Three Peaks in 2008 and has only just recovered enough to send us this tale of his experiences…. thanks James.

2008. I finally had a start place. I had been wanting to enter for many years through growing up in the Dales and watching friends compete. One particular pal was always my cycling companion, who always beat me in whatever we did together. I had this burning ambition to beat him in the Peaks. In 2006 I moved to the Zuri Oberland in Switzerland and finally started taking my cycling a bit more seriously. I met a couple of lads at work who were and still are significantly better than I am on a bike and I used this as a springboard to up my fitness. From riding general 25 mile loops around Skipton I moved on to doing 120km road rides with some serious climbing. In addition our local hill out the back door is a 4km 600m climb. Perfect. Peaks training was shouldering the bike up this little gem, with the odd trip out down the local Mtb DH course, on the cross bike – much to the disbelief of the local DH lads! Come race day, sadly my pal had pulled out due to injury but was there for moral support, which spurred me on no end.

The start was an odd occasion. I have competed in a few road races with neutralised starts, which are in general pretty neat and calm – but the Peaks start was crazy and frightening, especially when starting back in the ‘midfield’. I counted myself lucky to stay upright as there appeared to be many riders not used to such a start swerving from left to right. The first part of Ingleborough – I had been warned, but nothing prepared me for that gradient! Ouch. The descent of Ingleborough – great, passed many. Stupidly didn’t take on a fresh bottle at the bottom – I was running out of energy on the way to Whernside – lesson learned!

Managed to ride all the way down Whernside, how rocky is that?! – Please my personally hand built wheels held together (they were even perfectly true at the end of the race!). Got a decent tow in a pack on the way to Penygent.. was feeling OK until I hit the gravel track – blimey, does that stuff sap the energy out of you on the way up! I took far too long on the way up and got passed by many, however on the descent I took pride in the extreme practice I had made on the DH course and passed scores.

As soon as I got onto the road for the short blast back, I had this overwhelming sense of joy/happiness at the realisation that I had completed the Peaks after many years of wanting. Seeing my pal on the run in back to the finish gave me an extra boost of motivation. I crossed the line at 3 hrs 58, beating my pals best time from through the years by a good 8 minutes. Job done! He was the first to congratulate me, a true friend and competitor.

I have competed in many bike races in Switzerland since moving here, and whilst they are all good, nothing quite compares to the unique nature of the Peaks. This year I have set my sights on doing it again, and hopefully beating my time. Preparation has been different and tough. The group of us here set ourselves the challenge of the Trans Alp Road Race, 880km and over 18,000m of climbing over 7 days. We started training in January (in Switzerland with over a meter of snow on the sides of the road!), a week at Easter in Majorca for some warmer weather, many weekend long road rides around here and the mountain passes followed finally last week the race. We managed P60 out of 550 starters. I have never been through so much pain, mentally and physically on a bike ever, I can’t say it was pleasurable, but it was satisfying.
So now to the Peaks… I should start running again – which I hate, and I can’t even go close to my road bike after last weeks hell. We have a nice 5 day Mtb Trans Alp social trip planned for the first week in August – so hopefully that will keep things ticking over. I really don’t want to waste my new found fitness. Motivation for Transalp training was difficult, but somehow Peaks training is more fun and the end goal more pleasurable. I see it more of a challenge than trans alp in a strange way, maybe it’s because in reality the Peaks is the highlight of my cycling year. I try explaining the appeal to my cycling pals from here and they don’t quite get it. Hopefully this year they will travel over with me, see how stunning the Dales are and that the UK is far more than the big cities and that this quirky race in God Own is one of the finest races in the world.

Entry form concerns: Reactions, Context, The bigger picture

I’ve had a good chat with a good number of people over the last 24 hours about the entry form and whole entries issue with the Three Peaks Cyclocross. It’s such a complicated and sometimes subtle ‘system’ that it needs a bit more explanation.

The first thing to understand is that there is no formal ‘system’ for filling / selecting riders for the race. Remember that the race never filled up in advance until 4 or 5 years ago. For that reason it’s never been an issue until the last couple of years. Even two events ago (if we discount the 2007 foot & mouth year) the 2006 event was full in record time of 29 days !
John Rawnsley is one of those salt-of-the-earth good people with a strong sense of morality. He fundamentally does not like to let people down. Bearing this in mind, after what is rumoured to have been 1400 hits on the entry form in a little under 11 hours, John was in no quandary about taking the form down from the site.
Leaving it on there would have also given john the nightmare of opening perhaps 2500 envelopes and sifting through as many entries to try and make a decent field. That in itself is several days’ work on top of what is virtually a full time job for John.
However, it’s important to remember that the entries are not closed until the final list of accepted riders is published on the site. It doesn’t take much to work out that there is a complex and ultimately manual task for John in balancing the right field for the event. This means balancing the race demographics
  • old / young / (and juniors!!)
  • newcomers / seasoned riders
  • male / female
  • people who will genuinely turn up, be fit, and finish !
My blog post yesterday was packed to the brim with my usual flippancy – and over-simplifying things here doesn’t help. Yes – it is a race – and yes – there is a selection process taking place alongside a first-come, first-served system. But there is no ‘system’ and there can’t really ever be. As soon as there are rules about who rides, you’ll need to bend them. First-come, first-served is fair to an extent, but imagine the race without Rob Jebb or Nick Craig in it. It’s equally unsustainable.
So, once again, hats off to the likes of John and Keith Parkinson (the official website‘s webmaster – who voluntarily published his phone number on the site when he took the form down and lost another day and evening of his life to this race as a result ) – doing this nightmare of a ‘job’ for the love of the event and the sport.
I hope you get in – and if you do I bloody well hope you turn up and give it your very best shot !!!

Entries online, entries offline.

Well that was fun wasn’t it?! Entry form removed due to excessive demand… so it IS a first come, first served event – I’d always been saying it was a RACE and that John and team had to look at the entries and decide who’s going to turn up AND make a race of it.

I think it’s fair enough to give some credence to those who enter promptly but surely we’ve got to allow some room to pick and choose who rides?

Oh, and I know of at least one seven times winner who hasn’t got to the form in time – and yes – I agree wholeheartedly that John should consider a late entry from him.

Nick Craig: A Vet, but not done yet

Just browsing through some fell running results and I see that 3 Peaks legend Nick Craig has been posting some of his best ever fell running results this year. This from the supposedly full-time bike rider.

See some of his recent running results here, including second to one of Rob Jebb’s main running rivals Lloyd Taggart a couple of times already this season.

Talking of Rob, most of you may have noticed that the recent birth of his first child – daughter Millie – doesn’t seem to have blunted his sword in any way – with a repeat performance of his 2008 Fred Whitton ride in the Lake District, placing equal first with former national hillclimb champion James Dobbin.

Jebb’s peaks domination continues

Robb Jebb’s seven three peaks cyclocross victories would be enough for most mortals, but it seems he can’t get enough.

In this year’s three peaks race (the running race, that is), Rob completing the 55th running of the 24 mile course in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 53 seconds, making it four wins in the running race since 2005.

Perhaps more special and notable in this year’s victory, was that Rob became a father on 25th March for the first time. Millie Hannah Jebb was born to Rob and Sharon, meaning that, rathr worryingly, fatherhood seems to have done nothing to dent Rob’s thirst for victory.

Full results from the fell race here.

Some photos from the 1980s

ThreeThree great photos ‘from the archives’ here from Flickr – all from a user called Fleming2009 (I think I should know what the first name is but it’s been on the tip of my tongue for ages!)

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Three interviews in one: Bontrager, Jebb and Gould

Tim Gould’s three-peaks-specific interviews are hard to come by on the web – the era of his doiminance pre-dated the digital age, but this page of interviews from rouleur magazine gives three in one – two dominant winners Gould and Jobb, and a seasoned and respected ‘name’ of cycling Keith Bontrager.

Read the article here.

My favourite quote is from Rob Jebb, whose tale he told at the 2008 Three Peaks podium still makes me giggle…

When I was about 14 I was watching the race at the summit of Ingleborough on my bike, supporting Fergy, when Tim Gould came running towards me with a bent wheel. He noticed I was on my bike and asked for me my wheel. I said no, as I didn’t know how I would have got home with a bent wheel. As Tim ran on he was swearing at me for not having given him the wheel – I didn’t really think anything of this but the marshals on the summit were not impressed that a Peugeot professional swore at a youngster and reported him the organiser, John. John made Tim write a letter of apology, which I’ve kept to this day. In the letter, he said that he hoped the incident would not deter me from riding the Three Peaks in the future!

Nick Craig and his monster 3 Peaks training ride

Great story here that I read a while ago about seasoned campaigner and former winner Nick Craig. Nick’s renowned for his MTB marathon prowess, but riding the current existing section of the pennine bridleway in a day is very, very impressive.

I rode a 35 mile section of it a few years back when i worked for the Countryside Agency (the best work day ever – ‘testing’ waymarkers by trying to ride it without a map !!!) and I was wasted after the experience. Nick’s attitude comes across brilliantly in this excellent article.

Newsletter article from Matthew Pixton

Matthew Pixton
Matthew Pixton returned to the race this year after a few years off it, and wrote this quick account for the Rossendale Harriers Stag-ger magazine..

A fell runners’ bike race?

Every year on the last Sunday of September two noble sports combine in a blur of coloured kit, expensive machinery, agony, ecstasy and wonderment. Last Sunday, 28th September, saw the 46th running of the annual Three Peaks Cyclo Cross over Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen Y Ghent. Carl Nelson and I joined the 450 other competitors for what has to be one of the most spectacular races in the world.

The Three Peaks are familiar to many fell runners from the Harriers with races on each individual hill and the epic slog that is the combined fell race in April. This is a bit different – it goes the ‘wrong’ way round and starts/finishes at Helwith Bridge to the south of Horton. In between the three summits are break-neck descents on bogs and rocks and fast road sections just to confuse the tired legs.

Undoubtedly it is race that attracts the fell running community – the current unassailable champion is Rob Jebb; a previous winner and first to win both the fell and cycle races in the same year is Bingley’s Andy Peace; Ian Holmes is signing on this year and there are plenty others of us in the ‘also ran’ category who run more than cycle. It’s also a race attracting champion cyclists like Nick Craig, Barrie Clarke and some very good less familiar names like Lewis Craven from Ramsbottom.