Fergal Keane discussing ‘compassion’ and ‘feeling other people’s pain’ on the radio made me think about the pain I and many others may endure today and wonder how much the spectators and families may feel it too. Of course, I was on my way to the Three Peaks Cyclocross again for my third attempt on this grueling event – as it happened my pain was nothing compared with some.
September had been wetter than in the previous years and the wet weather at the start of the race served to dampen any surfaces that had dared to dry out in the preceding days. Starting near the back for some reason was a disadvantage as soon as the peleton turned off the main road and bottlenecks formed at the cattle grid and any slight uphill or muddy stretch of which there are a few. I cursed my honesty in starting beside the 4-4.5 hr board.
Up Simon Fell I always seem to be able to pass people – here is where runners score compared with the road sections and descents when the roadies and mountainbikers clear off. One of the Wheelbase Team juniors pleaded with me to tell him that we could see the top of Ingleborough – no, sorry, we’ve a long way yet! The summit reached a minute or so down on past good times indicated it wasn’t going to be a record breaking time; instead I vowed to try and stay on the bike down to Cold Cotes for a change. Bog and more bog hampered progress and cost more minutes but at least towards the bottom I was overtaking people.
I picked up a fast bunch on the road to Whernside then plodded up the new slabs again passing people on the way. I’d felt tired at this stage last year so was encouraged by how I was feeling at this point. In line with an increasing obsessiveness about this race I’d been working on some specific training, riding on a circuit round ‘our’ quarry, deliberately convoluted to include steep ascents and descents that are either not rideable or very technical. I’d also tried some new ‘carbo loading’ technique involving beetroot pizza – perhaps it was working and the training paying off.
Loved the descent from Whernside feeling reasonable fast and, more importantly, in control. From Ribblehead I was a bit alarmed to see a rider in front of me on the wrong side of the road, blithely riding round blind bends in danger from on-coming traffic. Catching him up I realised he was foreign, Italian I think, so shouted that he needed to be on the left. He duly latched onto my back wheel sheltering from the headwind!
Riding up the Pen y Ghent track is entertaining for an average mid-pack rider like me because we get to see the elite riders chasing each other back down again. Two in particular were in a right ding-dong battle, bouncing all over the track and scattering spectators on the way. I saw Morgan Donnelly, going well, and some others I recognized, but no Dave Haygarth. I assumed he must be going really well but sadly rounded a corner to find him walking down nursing his arm. I’d never actually met Dave at this point, just communicated virtually, but this didn’t seem to be the time to introduce myself – he mumbled ‘collar bone’ and I pressed on.
A group of walkers coming down commented that “the top riders cycle up here” – he caught me smiling and apologized when he realised I’d overheard as I continued on foot. Still feeling strong the summit soon came and I fled back down if a little gingerly in places, wary from my own and other’s experiences.
And so after battling the headwind for the last couple of miles, Helwith Bridge saw me again 4hr 24mins since I’d left. Not a record but satisfying on a tough day when the conditions must have been worth at least 10 mins! 😉
No mechanicals. No falling off. No records but a great day out and a whole load more people to follow on Twitter.
Four days later I’m still buzzing from this event and still digesting everyone else’s experiences. Have a look at Dave Haygarth’s http://3pcx.blogspot.com/ for many other versions!