James Eddison came from Switzerland to ride the Three Peaks in 2008 and has only just recovered enough to send us this tale of his experiences.... thanks James.
2008. I finally had a start place. I had been wanting to enter for many years through growing up in the Dales and watching friends compete. One particular pal was always my cycling companion, who always beat me in whatever we did together. I had this burning ambition to beat him in the Peaks. In 2006 I moved to the Zuri Oberland in Switzerland and finally started taking my cycling a bit more seriously. I met a couple of lads at work who were and still are significantly better than I am on a bike and I used this as a springboard to up my fitness. From riding general 25 mile loops around Skipton I moved on to doing 120km road rides with some serious climbing. In addition our local hill out the back door is a 4km 600m climb. Perfect. Peaks training was shouldering the bike up this little gem, with the odd trip out down the local Mtb DH course, on the cross bike - much to the disbelief of the local DH lads! Come race day, sadly my pal had pulled out due to injury but was there for moral support, which spurred me on no end.
The start was an odd occasion. I have competed in a few road races with neutralised starts, which are in general pretty neat and calm - but the Peaks start was crazy and frightening, especially when starting back in the 'midfield'. I counted myself lucky to stay upright as there appeared to be many riders not used to such a start swerving from left to right. The first part of Ingleborough - I had been warned, but nothing prepared me for that gradient! Ouch. The descent of Ingleborough - great, passed many. Stupidly didn't take on a fresh bottle at the bottom - I was running out of energy on the way to Whernside - lesson learned!
Managed to ride all the way down Whernside, how rocky is that?! - Please my personally hand built wheels held together (they were even perfectly true at the end of the race!). Got a decent tow in a pack on the way to Penygent.. was feeling OK until I hit the gravel track - blimey, does that stuff sap the energy out of you on the way up! I took far too long on the way up and got passed by many, however on the descent I took pride in the extreme practice I had made on the DH course and passed scores.
As soon as I got onto the road for the short blast back, I had this overwhelming sense of joy/happiness at the realisation that I had completed the Peaks after many years of wanting. Seeing my pal on the run in back to the finish gave me an extra boost of motivation. I crossed the line at 3 hrs 58, beating my pals best time from through the years by a good 8 minutes. Job done! He was the first to congratulate me, a true friend and competitor.
I have competed in many bike races in Switzerland since moving here, and whilst they are all good, nothing quite compares to the unique nature of the Peaks. This year I have set my sights on doing it again, and hopefully beating my time. Preparation has been different and tough. The group of us here set ourselves the challenge of the Trans Alp Road Race, 880km and over 18,000m of climbing over 7 days. We started training in January (in Switzerland with over a meter of snow on the sides of the road!), a week at Easter in Majorca for some warmer weather, many weekend long road rides around here and the mountain passes followed finally last week the race. We managed P60 out of 550 starters. I have never been through so much pain, mentally and physically on a bike ever, I can't say it was pleasurable, but it was satisfying.
So now to the Peaks... I should start running again - which I hate, and I can't even go close to my road bike after last weeks hell. We have a nice 5 day Mtb Trans Alp social trip planned for the first week in August - so hopefully that will keep things ticking over. I really don't want to waste my new found fitness. Motivation for Transalp training was difficult, but somehow Peaks training is more fun and the end goal more pleasurable. I see it more of a challenge than trans alp in a strange way, maybe it's because in reality the Peaks is the highlight of my cycling year. I try explaining the appeal to my cycling pals from here and they don't quite get it. Hopefully this year they will travel over with me, see how stunning the Dales are and that the UK is far more than the big cities and that this quirky race in God Own is one of the finest races in the world.