3 Peaks Cyclo-X

Most people will say the 3 peaks is a once in a lifetime event, when in reality it’s a several in a lifetime event. My first experience of Yorkshire’s toughest cyclo x race was last year, I was 16 and ill, and I finished in an unspectacular time of 5:41:04. Before I’d even crossed the finish line, I already knew that I would be back again next year.

It's a good feeling to wake up to clear blue skies and a Hope balloon. Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

It’s a good feeling to wake up to clear blue skies and a Hope balloon.
Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

Fast Forward to Sunday 27th September and there I was, once again, amid 600 other mad fools waiting for the off in Helwith bridge. The only difference was that this time I was wearing different team colours, sat astride a brand new, working Raleigh bike and I didn’t feel like death warmed up. I was ready. I set off steady, after recently competing a 68 mile fell run, I’m very familiar with the art of pacing yourself, and I didn’t want to blow myself up before the first peak.

In my opinion the first hill, Ingleborough, is the worst, your ascent starts at Simon fell, it’s steep. Think trying to climb a brick wall, covered in wet grass, with unforgivingly stiff shoes, while carrying your bike, steep. I stayed steady, not getting too out of breath and occasionally swapping words with fellow competitors that I recognised. After Simon Fell it “flattens out” or that’s what it feels like, so I jumped back on a started chasing all the people in front of me, picking them off one by one, albeit quite slowly.

In anticipation of the harsh gradients, I’d swapped out my 32-11t cassettes for a nicer 36-11t and my 40T chainring was downgraded to a 38T to ensure that I could ride as much as possible. This low gearing came into use after Simon fell, where I managed to ride the majority of the way to the top, hopping off only to jump across any wheel swallowing bogs and up the steeper, rockier slopes.

The descent off Ingleborough was uneventful; I managed to get down without going over the handlebars into a bog or worse into a rock. At Cold Cotes I went straight past my support and onto the road, where I managed to hide behind a very helpful man who sheltered me from the wind all the way to the bottom of Whernside. Once again we started upwards, this time on rocky steps. I steadily worked my way up the stream of people, my fell running and hill trudging training coming in handy. Near the top is one of my favourite parts of the course, where the track flattens out and becomes rideable, the view across the valley is amazing, especially when the weather was as clear and sunny as it was on Sunday. It’s so scenic you nearly forget you’re in a race. Nearly.

It was not only a nice day for the riders, but a nice day fr the supporters too. Big shout out to anybody that cheered, heckled or helped me. Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

It was not only a nice day for the riders, but a nice day for the supporters too. Big shout out to anybody that cheered, heckled or helped me.
Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

The descent off Whernside is dangerous, especially without suspension or disk brakes, rock slabs are treacherous and slippery even on a dry day and many riders prefer to take longer routes just to avoid them. Me? I like to live dangerously, so after running and jumping down the worst of the rocky outcrops I jumped back on and set off. It was all going well till I hit the steps, and they were going well till I realised I was pulling my brakes and not slowing down. This is where I decided to make a tactical dismount into the nearby grass at the side of the slabs to avoid a painful experience between some rocks and me. After a well-executed somersault that any gymnast would be jealous of, I picked up my bike jumped back on and continued on my way. The key to getting down Whernside without a puncture is having good bunny hop skills or good line choice or both.

At the bottom I swapped bikes after my gymnastics routine bent my lever inwards and caused my handlebars to twist downwards and then set off past the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct onto the road. Unfortunately on this road section, there were no big strong men for me to latch onto and the headwind was surprisingly strong, I took the brief respite to have a gel and some flat Pepsi (other sugary drinks are available) and then cracked on.

Coming into Cold Cotes or Ribblehead, I can't tell. The days already a bit fuzzy. Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

Coming into Cold Cotes or Ribblehead, I can’t tell. The days already a bit fuzzy.
Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

Up until this point I had refrained from looking at my watch, but at the bottom of Pen-y-Ghent lane I looked to see that I had 1 hour 15 to get up down and back if I was to get under my target of 4 hours 30. Definitely doable without a mechanical or problem. Pen-y-Ghent lane is mainly rideable so I set off upward for the final time. The best thing about being from Yorkshire and racing in the peaks is that there is no shortage of cheers for you and you’ll constantly see familiar faces. It all started going wrong as I descended off the top of the last peak, I punctured 100m on to the main path. At this point I had two options, stop fix the puncture and lose possibly 10 minutes or ride it on the rim down to my other bike at the bottom of the lane. I chose the 2nd option. Luckily, half way down I met a friend coming up who offered to swap wheels with me; unluckily this wheel was a narrower rim so my front brake didn’t work. Who needs brakes anyway?

This is my

This is my “Oh crap, my front brake doesn’t work” face. Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

I rolled in to Helwith Bridge 4hours 20minutes 46seconds after leaving, securing 1st FU23, 6th F and the FU23 record.

My dad rolled in 23 minutes later, securing us the Father/daughter prize.

The fact that I did such a fast time is testament to how light, manoeuvrable and well designed the Raleigh bikes are, and the fact that I rode down half of Pen-Y-Ghent lane on the rim of my American Classic wheel and it wasn’t out of true is testament to how bomb-proof they truly are.

None of this would have been possible without the continued support from Ted and Steve, and the rest of the www.cxmagazine.com team. Thanks, also to Russell Ellis for the Photographs and check out the rest of his Photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/russellellis/albums/72157658813896358

And last but not least, big thanks to my mum who rode my spare bike between the hills for me.

It was a lonely podium for the FU23. Also, an FU23 Trophy is in the pipeline as I felt a bit left out. Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

It was a lonely podium for the FU23. Also, a FU23 Trophy is in the pipeline as I felt a bit left out.
Photo Credit: Russell Ellis

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