3 Peaks 2011 – We’ve been here before.

Another September rolls in and I’m making my way across towards Settle and then onto the start of the 3 Peaks Cyclocross race. I’d been here before in ’08 as a total beginnner not knowing what to expect, then again in ’09 with a bit more of an idea but less fitness. A missed entry in ’10 was initally a bit of a pain but resulted in an excellend CX race season as I focused my attention on that. This year, back in Horton, getting ready for what I knew was going to be a day of the usual mixed emotions, pain, crashing and probably a beer or two.

Since the ’09 race I’d managed a few runs on both Whernside and Pen-Y-Gent in all conditions from lashing rain to snow capped peaks. I’d come into the race with no idea what to do my first time, but now had a much better idea of what lines to take down and where I could make some speed up. This year I wanted to go faster, aiming on the best day to go under the 4 hour target and at least beating my 4:35 time from ’09. Sadly the weather was not playing ball and I’d been told that the fells were sodden and going to make for a long day out.

Once again this trip started out from Chez Dorrington , as have many CX trips in the last year, And I must extend my greatest thanks to Alan and family for the cooking; hospitality and friendship that have been extended. Its made racing in the grim north a much easier and more financially viable option when coming over from Ireland. I am however getting fatter from each visit from all the woppie pies and beers.

After an early start that saw myself and Alan forget all out pre-made bottles we arrived in Horton. Signed one. Packed up our kit. Got ready to roll out after a short warmup. Joined in the 3;30-4hr group. It rained and I stood there with Rich and Alan shivering away wondering when we’d get’mooove’on as the Yorkshire babble came out over the speaker. The usual carnage that was the road section started and I just hid behind wheels and tried not to get in the way of all the confused/scared people. A brief chat with Dave Powel on the road as we hit the left turn and move onto the fell, at this point I realise its going to be one of those days.

Cloud nearly instantly envelops us as we hit the first upward section. I keep reminding myself that its normal to feel terrible at this stage and just get on with it. Second section and Alan comes past me like a gazel with a very firm purpose. This time I took the RHS up Simon Fell and stayed away from the crowds on the fence, much easier line, faster ascent and less anger/getting slapped in the head by wheels. The middle section was a bog, tough to ride and slower than normal. Hitting the top was a relief and then mind switched into descent mode and putting my new skills into practice. Once over the bars in a pretty peaty section resulted in a spongey fall, no damage done to bike or rider. A quick dib in Cold Coates and a new bottle from Pauline and I was on the road to Whernside. It was at this point I realised my bottle tasted a bit funny….kinda like Brie.

Hurrah for the support crew

About half way up the steps at Whernside and I’d realised that there was no way I was going to get a drink until Ribblehead. The bottle was not drinkable, it tasted like a mizture of Brie and NuuN. No way it was going to stay down. The steps were vertical, the top was ridable and the descent was much easier than I remembered it. A few lines to cut corners saw me start to gain places only to get stuck behnind slow riders. Wait for an opportunity, pass, repeat. Onto the gravel track then pick up speed and ride smart. No punctures despite a few heavy landings bunny hopping the water bars. Bottle and Dib at Ribblehead then onto the road, eating and drinking for all I was worth.

The usual towing of riders occurred as they would not/ could not work with me. Just rode at my own pace tucked up in TT position doing what I could to make up time. Hitting the bottom of PGY Lane I felt pretty good, dropped down the gears and started up. I knew how this climb can break me from ’08 and I was not going to let it happen this year. Ride well, ride strong, ride as you can. Hitting the bouldery corner I dismounted and ran breifly then rode on again, riding much further up than I have before. Somewhere before the turn up onto PYG propper while carrying my bike I saw Dave Haygarth walking down, arm in jersey, collar bone broken. Still carrying his bike and finishing in a 4:10 time. Beast. Grovel up to the top never stopping the forward motion watching Rich, Alan, Jase and Dave P go past on the way down. When Dave  P went past I knew I was close to the top and I knew it was nearly time for fun. Dib, turn, plummet. Running the rocky section I’d forgotten about I hit the path and dropped much faster than I’d ever done, feeling very confident and happy that I was going to be hitting a 4:15 finish.

Turn left onto road, big ring, smash it out…or so I though. After about 500m cramp…not a little …but both thighs and hamstrings at the same time. Try to pedal…can’t…fuck.. get off bike to stretch….cant swing leg over cross bar…fuck….pedal again…cramp…and repeat. Twice off the bike and loosing time. I rolled into the start nearly in tears having a hard time trying to stand. Another year…another peaks…another thing to get right…stupid brie bottle…

Things I changed for this year:

  • Tubs…total revelation…such a difference…bit death or glory but resulted in more confidence and less chance of punctures
  • No camelbak. Water cage on the bike, put up with the pushing in the back
  • No extras. No tool. No levers. No room for error.

Things I will change for next year:

  • Disc brakes for PYG at least. Liking the look of that Whyte bike Dave was on
  • Two bottles from Ribblehead to PYG, one for the road, one for the climb
  • More running…less weight on me
  • Two bikes
  • Remember my bottles…..

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