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.
Well, despite all my positive thinking, no amount of public posturing on this blog could get me to a PB this year. I really enjoyed the whole day experience though (you can read the full report here), catching up with faces from the past afterwards – David, John and Matthew Bardgett (nice first time ride Matt), Sam Clark, Matthew Pixton, brother Dave and Andrew Talbot, to name but a few. However, surfing the web this week has cast up images like this one of me looking like an elephant on a bike. Friends Trev and Leanne rib me saying I have body dysmorphic disorder, but seriously folks I do need to lose a stone or two of if I am to improve on my 4 hours 40; I had better get out training! Off to watch Dave, Rob, Lewis et al in the Exeter National Trophy Cross this afternoon to show me how it is done. See you next year…. Phil Haygarth
A blog from Derbyshire’s Rich Seipp here on his Peak Cycle Hire blog
Next came Whernside. Not as steep as the first climb, but still a bike on the shoulder job. I was tiring already. Every step an effort, and conscious that pushing too hard would result in blowing completely. Not good.
A story here on the Cannondale website about Rob Jebb and Team Wheelbase’s victories in this year’s race.
Trevor Page, Lune RC and the 2008 Three Peaks’ first crash victim tells his tale exclusively for you here on the three peaks cyclocross blog!
This year my preparation was steady. I hadn’t done any running but a few road and mtb races in the preceding months and some walks in the hills over the final few weeks made me feel ready this year, especially after the disappointment of the cancelled 2007 race. All was well until with 5 minutes to go on race day I slipped and slashed my leg on my pedal – the cut was long and deep and I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to start. A fellow competitor helped with a temporary plaster before the mountain rescue first aiders patched me up. As they were working one of them said – “sorry you have missed the start” – I was a bit puzzled as they had also said that the cut would need stitches, but after a few more exchanges I realised that they thought that I may be able to ride. In the end I set off about 10 minutes after the start with instructions to stop if the bleeding came through the bandage.
It was a strange feeling riding through Horton on my own to shouts of – “Couldn’t you get out of bed?” – when I should have been in the craziness of the bunch. Just past Horton I passed a couple of people with early punctures and then didn’t see anyone until the foot of Simon Fell but I could see a huge, and impressive, swarm of colourful competitors on the steep bank ahead. After walking on the steep part of the hill for a few minutes I realised that my leg seemed reasonably OK and that I had to make sure I didn’t put too much stress on my ‘good’ leg as it was begging to get tight as I was favouring it. By the time I reached the top I was feeling more positive about my chances of finishing and wasn’t too disappointed about the queue at the style as I wasn’t really aiming for a good time anymore.
On the first part of the descent of Ingleborough I saw Leanne (my girlfriend) who had stopped with a puncture and was having trouble with her CO2 pump, so I stopped and helped her: it was good to see her as I wanted to let her know I was OK and so that our support team knew I was still riding and didn’t move on without me. We rode together until the road climb out of Ingleton where I decided I may as well try hard as I had trained quite hard for the race. Moving through the field was a fairly positive experience as it gave the impression that I was moving fairly quickly and I was begging to get into clearer territory as the day went on. The line of competitors was a bit heavier on Whernside where I caught a friend, Phil Haygarth – it was good to see him as he was upbeat and looked to be going well.
For the rest of the race I concentrated on eating and drinking well and not getting a puncture, all 3 of which meant that I had a good steady ride to the finish and that I felt the best I have ever done on Pen-Y-Gent. The road sections seemed to pass quickly and I rolled over the line thinking that I was glad I had completed the course (better than a morning in A&E, although I had an evening in A&E to come) and I was surprised to still have done 4:12. Overall a positive experience given the circumstances – so, thanks again to the helpful competitor at the start and the mountain rescue crew for getting me on my way. Let’s hope we get another dry day next year!
Many thanks to Leanne Thompson of the Lune RC for this report:
It’s hard not to get obsessive about the 3 peaks cyclo-cross when you’re in the same room as Phil Haygarth, so as he is staying in our house (myself and Trev Page) for a few days during weekdays at the moment ,most talk has been and still is about the 3 peaks! Anyway, given all the hype it was a bit of a disappointing day for myself and especially for my partner Trev (see his account for details). His incident had me running around like headless chicken trying to get medical help a few minutes before the start, but at least I started on time!
My plan was a slow start and then hopefully a strong finish. This was really motivated by the terrible cramp I experienced in 2006 which started on Whernside. I must have gone too fast too early and spent a lot of time in contorted positions for the rest of the race! Anyway, I was starting to regret going slowly once the enormous queue for the stile on Simon Fell came into view. I hope there can be some way around this next year. I got to the top feeling quite upbeat but then as soon as the descending began I punctured. Martyn Smith and Dave Gorst from Lancaster CC both kindly stopped to offer me help, but I urged them on as I had my new CO2 canister and I anticipated a swift change. Then I couldn’t get the damn thing to work (I’m not the best mechanic!) just as Trev popped over the horizon to save me! He quickly got me up and running and we rode down to Ingleton together before he left me on the next climb.
I’ve done the 3 peaks twice before and never had any problems with impact punctures. Having had one I didn’t think I’d be unlucky enough to get another but it just wasn’t my day and I punctured again at the top of Whernside. Having no tube the second time and this time managing to lose some air out of my last CO2 canister before it was attached to the tube didn’t help matters, so I limped down Whernside on a very soft tyre hoping not to puncture again! Many thanks to the rider who gave me 2 tubes! (the valve broke on one) and also Martyn and Dave who again both stopped and offered to help me again! Anyway, I changed back wheels at Ribblehead and thought I might as well continue. I was interested to see how my legs would feel and whether I would get cramp. I managed to get away with just one serious bout of cramp when I jumped off my bike coming down Pen-y-ghent and once I finally managed to get back on the bike I was OK. So the cramp situation was pretty good and gives me some hope for future years. In the end I finished in 4hrs 45mins. I was disappointed with my time but it was still a great day, cut a bit short by a trip to A&E to get Trev’s leg stitched. It’s interesting to have the split times this year which helped me to work out that without the delays I would have been on track to do about 4hrs 20 something, which was what I was hoping for, so this gives me a realistic future target. Hope to be back next year with much harder tyres!!