I travelled to Edinburgh on Saturday to meet up with VCM team mates Addy Pope, Maddy Robinson and Fraser Waters our team support/ mechanic for the weekend. Our stop off for Saturday night was at Maddy's folks in Dacre near Penrith. Mr & Mrs Robinson clearly knew what lay ahead for us as they had dinner that was fit for hungry athletes.
Sunday dawned early for us at 05.30. We still had a wee bit to drive to get to the start at Helwith Bridge and we wanted to get there early for a couple of reasons. Parking being the first and getting a good place on the start line as anyone that has done the 3 Peaks before will know trying to get 650 cyclists jostling for position out and over the bridge is utter carnage.
Thankfully I got myself into a good spot and I had a trouble free start. I soon found my pace in the pack on the road to Ingleborough. Turning off the road I got my first glimpse of Simon Fell with a long line of riders snaking their way up the hill side. I would get there soon enough. I had heard horror stories of how steep Simon Fell is and yes it is steep having now experienced it but I must have prepared myself mentally for it being much worse. It wasn't easy but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and it seemed to pass quite quickly. Up on top of Ingleborough the challenge was to keep hold of the bike as it was incredibly windy. I had a reasonably good descent off the hill but I did witness a lot of over the bars action.
The next stretch on the road was welcome relief for my tight calfs after the climb. Turning off the road Whernside was in view. Again I plodded on keeping my momentum steady along with those around me. The climb up Whernside is easier due to the stone steps. Once close to the summit the wind came into play again with everyone desperately trying to stay on their bikes or hand onto them.
I spent the top part of the descent running with the bike as it was all I could do in the gale force wind. Not what I was hoping for but you just have to take what your dealt. Lower down I got going again and I had it in my mind to be careful as this was the high puncture risk area as was evident all the way down with riders stopped fixing punctures, chains and rear mechs.
I reached the stunning Ribblehead viaduct in one piece only getting a quick glimpse of it while getting my head down for the road section to the last hill.
I found myself on my own battling a headwind on the road to Pen-Y-Gent lane and the last climb. Ascending the lane was where my gear modifications came into their own with me being able to climb on my 34x32 for longer that those around me. Pen-Y-Gent was the warmest climb of the day with the sun now beating down. I stuck with my previous plan of simply keeping moving forward. All I could think of at this point was getting to the top so I could start descending as the riders already descending were making it look great fun. The top seemed to arrive pretty quickly and all that was left for me to do was to get down the hill without puncturing as this would be a disaster having come so close to the finish incident free so far.
I had a trouble free descent dodging both drainage ditches and riders still ascending. Dropping onto the road for the last two miles to the finish brought out the smiles knowing that I had survived my first 3 Peaks. A few twinges of cramp were nothing to worry about at this late stage and I held position to the finish. I was delighted I had completed the 3 Peaks in one piece in a time of 4 hours 23 minutes 19 seconds for 221st place. I thoroughly enjoyed the race and I'm already planning what can make a difference to try and break that 4 hour barrier next year if I'm lucky enough to get in again!
Velo Club Moulin had 8 riders in action. Stevo placed a fantastic 12th 3.24.45, Simon 87th 3.57.55, Ian Dunlop 149th 4.10.09, Addy 179th 4.15.55, Gordymac 224th 4.23.19, Maddy 284th 4.35.59, Chipps 393rd 4.55.31 and Beate had to retire somewhere out on course.
For those thinking of the 3 Peaks I learnt some valuable lessons.
- Plumbers insulation on the top and seat tube is your friend when shouldering.
- Refuel on the road sections, its the only time you will be able to.
- Low gearing makes Pen-Y-Gent more enjoyable.
- Tyres pumped up hard avoid punctures but you still have to be careful.
- Tighten everything it will rattle loose if not.
- Don't expect to do anything on the Monday you will be burst!