We're getting fairly close on to the big day now and I thought it was time that I put in a little update of my own.
It'll come of little or no surprise to pretty much anyone on the start sheet that the weather over the summer has just been one big let down. A few patches of the Three Peaks cyclocross course involve peat bog and grass... not many bits, but a few. So... rain after rain after rainstorm, and you'd start to assume that these bits are going to be dire. However, I'm lucky enough to live with some very similar peaty upland on my doorstep, and going out running and riding lately have noticed just how quickly these areas drain even in a short dry spell (8 days and counting!).
I'm pretty optimistic that the three peaks terrain should remain reasonably ridable if we get a good week at the end of September. I certainly won't be making any equipment adjustments for wet conditions; there's not enough bare grass or bog on the bike for it to make any difference.
Like last year, I'll be getting the most from the race rules and regulations. Don't confuse this with cheating... rules have always had an important stature in this race and I respect them... it's just that it's once a year and I spend most of the other 364 days thinking about it - I want to get it as right as possible.
I'm riding two Columbus frames on the fells this year and my trusty Trek X1 on the road sections. The only real difference with the X1 is the gearing (normal road gears), a bottle cage (utter luxury!!) and the tyre choice and pressure (very worn Vredestein Campo 32s, 95psi !). It's enough to make me feel fresher and faster on the roads, but it's still a sturdy 'cross bike and would certainly do Penyghent in the event of a disaster.
The Columbus bikes are identical apart from the gears. 12-27 on the back for both but a 32-44 chainset on 'bike #1' (for Ingleborough and Penyghent). The 38-46 on the other bike will be fine for Whernside. I've decided to go hardcore and just get Maxxis Locust 35mm tyres on both the Columbus bikes... they're nasty and cumbersome but it's just so crucial not to puncture. I've flatted more times in my ten races here than I care to remember and any disadvantage from the chunky Locusts is insignificant when compared to the threat of a badly timed puncture.
Fitness and preparation
Erm... it's okay - could be better, could be worse. I started working at home four months ago and have lost the good old cycle commutes as my training bread and butter. However, I've kept my discipline and kept the running going well. I've also kept my iron in the cycling fire by riding regular (1 hr) criterium races all summer. These have done me good and ensured that I'm never dilluded about how good or bad my form is. I just need a few more sustained long rides and runs now, but have these planned (sort of).
It gets easier each year in a way. I know what's needed and I'm certainly not daunted by any of it. The BBC Countryfile film last year's made me a bit paranoid in a way though; I feel a bit like I have to live up to something and do a good ride because I've 'gone public' on how much I love this race. I guess this type of pressure's self-inflicted and can only really be a good thing.
Other riders / Team issues
I'm very lucky to have three skilled and fit team mates who are all going very well at the moment; Rob's had pretty much his usual fell running season, Stu has had a fantastic road season and seems to have finally shaken off some niggly injuries that have held him back a bit in the past, and Lewis is training just as well as ever and I expect another stormer from him. We've got new kit this year and new sponsors, which will make us feel special on the big day. Some other things for me to keep an eye on are a return to the Three Peaks for my best man and best mate Matthew Pixton, who I'm expecting a sub four hour ride from. My brother Phil Haygarth is losing weight rapidly and is surely due a big improvement on last year. I'm not sure on the buzz about other teams; I need to give Nick Craig a ring and hope to do a short interview here soon - watch this space.