Before I had crossed the finish line of this years Three Peaks Cyclocross Race I'd begun thinking of next year- where I could gain time, changes to my bike and how to approach my third attempt.
I hadn't planned to enter this years race however soon after the first round of entries had closed I regretted not posting an entry. Thankfully the race didn't sell out so I got in the second wave of entries. Game on.
Training didn't really go to plan; the Kielder 100 was horrible (amazing event but not a good one in which to be having a bad day) and didn't give me much confidence I'd be able to race the Peaks. Not having much hope of a good ride I decided to take it easy and just enjoy riding my bike.
Taking a relaxed approach to the race I decided to change a few things from last year's safe approach. I used tubs instead of clinchers and went for the lightest set up I could carrying only a single bottle, six gels and the regulation whistle, safety blanket and waterproof. A light set up worked really well, less weight on the carrying sections was nice, tubs were just the job and gave me no worries, I'll use them next year for sure. Using a bottle instead of a pack was good for less weight and not having something bouncing around on my back but carrying it in my jersey (no bosses on my crosser) limited me to drinking on the road sections.
So the race went pretty well, the neutralised start was more relaxed than last years mad dash. The first climb up Ingleborough was steep and tough but went well, somewhere around the top ten at the first summit gave me some confidence I could do a good ride. Descending off Ingleborough I discovered how rubbish Frog Leg cantilever brakes are- these are going in the bin as soon as I can find some Pauls! Brakes were to be my only problem but one which cost me minutes on every descent. Last year I loved the descents and enjoyed making time coming down, this year I was really struggling and riding the down hills like my gran! Annoyed at losing time off Ingleborough I got my head down and beasted myself along the road to Whernside. The climb to the highest summit went well and my mtb gearing allowed me to ride parts others were walking. The descent again was awful and I got repassed by all those I'd over taken on the climb.
Back on the road at Ribblehead and determined to make up lost time, shovelling in plenty juice and a few gels, head down and on to Pen-y-Ghent. The more rideable climb of the three went well and all those gels helped me pedal well passing a few more folk. The top of Pen-y-Ghent is, for me, the best bit of the race as you know it's down hill all the way to the finish, and the descent is fun. Unfortunately I lost out to the four people I passed going up as they ripped past me flying back down to the final tarmac section. As I popped out onto the road Emma, my girlfriend and super support team, shouted THREE TWENTY; I knew if I beasted the final road section I'd break thee hours thirty minutes and get an elite time. To my amazement I did it and got home in 3 hours 27 minutes. So it seems taking a relaxed approach to racing works- lesson learned, enjoy the ride and the results will come! Big shout to other VCM chaps Gareth, Phil and Dean for beasting it round, Shaggy for doing the singlespeed record, my two mates from home Gav and John for good rides too and Nick Craig, what a ride!
So, next year, more training, some fell running and hopefully a top ten and sub three fifteen time. This will be my main goal next year. A serious attempt but relaxed too and with some good brakes!