Monday, 28 September 2015

Three Peaks for beginners

I wrote this for my running club blog. I'm hoping Piers will pipe up with a report from the quicker end of the field. A little about one of the daftest rides in the world...

I'm not bragging or anything but would just like to mention 'the hardest cyclocross race in the world'. For anyone not familiar with The Peaks, the race makes little sense. It makes little sense to those that are.

It goes back to 1961, long before mountain bikes were a twinkle in the eye. Cyclocross bikes: they're a bit like road bikes with chunkier tyres, slightly beefier frames and lower gears. They are an utterly unsuitable vehicle for travelling the slopes of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent.

In recent years runner Rob Jebb has made it his own, winning 11 of the last 16 events. It's a ride that suits fell runners — several of the elite of English champs were on the start-line, together with ex World Cup champ MTBer Tim Gould ...and me. No fear of troubling the leader board, but it's an absolute treat just to turn up and ride. I say 'ride' but there's a lot of carrying.

So anyways, Ingleborough is mostly a brutal and steep climb via Simon Fell, suited to knotty runner's calfs, followed by a moorland traverse to the top. Dib in, turn around and after a tricky running section through the rocks to leave the summit and then a fast and rutted grassy descent (wrong bike) to Cold Cotes and the first of the road sections (wrong bike again) through to the next climb of Whernside. This is mostly rocky steps and the reverse of the descent on the fell
race. Dib on the top and then the trickiest section of the whole race, down to the iconic Ribblehead viaduct familiar to all steam enthusiasts. Flags, drainage bars, rutted moorland tussocks and lots of rocks doing their best to attract punctures (wrong bike).

More road down to Horton and the out and back climb of Pen-y-ghent. A bent rear mech by now making a nuisance of itself all the way down the road, the final hill taking a long time to draw close. Tired now and even the tiny road climbs are tempting cramp.

Because this last hill is out and back you get the extra pleasure of seeing the fast folk flying down towards you as you're suffering like a dog on the way up. Cowbells, whistles shouts of 'rider up, keep left!' raise your game ...it was a lot quieter when I came down and the support had mostly gone home. Hit the road for the final couple of miles into the finish and both legs lock solid with cramp. Stretch, no that doesn't work. Pedal, no that hurts. Soft pedal, sort of works. It passes and eventually I'm back, just sneaking under 5h for a pretty mediocre performance. Still, top 500 In The World!

38 miles (4 classed as unrideable, I'm asking for a recount) 5000' of climbing. 2 litres, 3 gels, a 9-bar and half a squashed banana.

An utterly, utterly unique event.

4 comments:

simondbarnes said...

Hero :)

Mullerton said...

well done Steve, you had the best jersey in the race if nothing else.
And the biggest smile!

Steve said...

I was chatting to a couple of Germans on the start line - they asked if I was Belgian. Result!

Tom Levell said...

Not Steve
http://www.cxhairs.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/JDC4993.jpg
http://www.cxhairs.com/2015/09/30/the-big-picture-three-peaks/