30 September 2009

One black dot (Paul Kelsall)'s first timer's blog post

Paul Kelsall's first time in the peaks was a classic tales of emotional - and literal - ups and downs.
We hit the offroad section and before long was pushing up Simon Fell, the steepest section of the course and it was ‘bloody steep + 1 ©’ on the steep-a-meter, having to lean forward and grab at tussocks of grass to stop falling backwards in some sections
Read it here

Flickr group opened....

I started a group on Flickr for 3 peaks cyclocross photos.

If anyone has any and wants to add them to the pool, please feel welcome. Needn't just be from this year!

Huntingdonshire travellers hit the north

Steve Halsall, Greg Simcock, John Batchelor and Gavin Symonds all made long journeys from Huntingdonshire and their efforts are recorded in the Hunts Cross online edition
St Ives' top rider was Steve Halsall, who shaved nine minutes from his 2008 time in finishing in 3hrs 27mins for an impressive 27th place from 500 riders.
Read the local press report here

Richard Seipp's 2009 ride - a tale of a man's relationship with his bike

Richard's ridden the race a couple of times before and last year his work as a photographer took precedence as he took a year off riding the race and took a few snaps instead. This year he was back, and his own blog's account of the 2009 race is a warming tale of a calm and determined approach to the 2009 event - being at one with his bike - and an approach that paid off with another PB.
I was dreading Simon Fell, memories of burning calves, were burned into my memory. My tactic was not to look up, the enormity would be demoralising. Instead I elected to take it one step at a time.

Shaggy's Singlespeed record: full blog post

Recording a time of just over 3:40 is something that many - nay - most competitors in the 3 peaks would just dream of. Doing it on a singlespeed bike deserves some huge portions of respect. I used to ride a single speed bike for 32 miles a day in traffic and was proud of myself when it came to grinding up the 'hills' on the chosen gear. I'm intrigued (but not to the point of ever trying!) by the notion of singlespeeding the whole three peaks route.

"Shaggy" John Ross's blog post tells of a great weekend's work.
It was definitely the furthest I’ve physically pushed myself on a bike but I’m extremely pleased with that time, and don’t feel too broken today. It’s nice to learn a little more about yourself. If I was on better form and could sort out the cramp I could certainly go a little faster but I can’t see me greatly improving on that time. Not on a single speed anyway.

Dave Powell - second time out and all the wiser

Dave Powell's debut in 2008 was a shock to the system. For someone with a background in monster long rides (read his blog - you'll gasp at the mile-eating nuttiness of it all)
I sigh a relieved sigh, shuffle the camelback around to a more comfortable position and await the next sketchy moment as I plummet down the slopes of the first peak, trading wildly bucked places with other riders just as on the edge of control as I am.
Read the full, enthralling and humourous posts here

Steve Riley's debut - "Vertical Chess"

Steve Riley is a friend who I - and my brother - have been pestering for years to ride the Three Peaks. He bought himself a cyclocross bike a few years ago but it was always just a 'fun' thing - a different bike to have and belt about - singlespeed - in his local Cheshire trails. Eventually though, Steve crumbled and got his entry in, got some gears, and started to get justifyably frightened as we blogged earlier this month.

I've raced quite a bit this year, more than any other, but this thing is different. Regular racing has perhaps dulled the experience — turn up, do the best you can, go home — but the Three Peaks is made of sterner stuff than most events. It's an experience you pass through, rather than a mere sporting event.
Steve's wonderful whit comes across so well in this compelling read on his furiouscycling blog.

29 September 2009

Wheelbase.co.uk's own site report

Not a day to outwardly rejoice about for the Wheelbase team after the run of Rob Jebb victories came to an end (or is it just a pause?), but a good day for the wider team - taking first and third places in the team prize, and finishing five riders inside the top ten finishers.

Click here to read the article

Wheelbase.co.uk 'Team' photos

Team Wheelbase have posted a large series of photos on their Flickr page here - almost exclusively of the team members themselves. I like the handsome one with the white shoes. He's my fave.

Click here to see them all.

Jason Miles: Rushed bike build but all came well in the end

Jason Miles - AKA Terrahawk - had a second go at the 'peaks this year. His experience from his debut in 2008 clearly paid off and he recorded a handsome PB.
I hadn’t forgot in 12 months how scary the descent of Whernside was and this time it didn’t disappoint; flights of steps follow rock-strewn narrow rutted tracks followed by long stone pavements with wide, deep gaps between some of the slabs. Stone water channels running across the trail at regular intervals have to be jumped over to avoid punctures whilst ramblers and other riders, many of them walking/running, need to be avoided.
Jason came out for one of our recent Helmshore training rides, which obviously stood him in good stead.

A couple of "errors" noted on his blog about preparation (the Ragley bike built up one day before the event - but pretty much got away with it) and a bit of a feeding lapse - but this only makes talk of next year's improvements in train already!

Read the full blog article here

Mick Kenyon's photos from Penyghent Lane

Mick Kenyon's uploaded a large group of photos to a gallery from 'the gnarly bit near the bottom gate' on the Penyghent Lane. Highlights include more of the 1st / 2nd battle and this snarl up >>

'Flyer' in the 2009 program from Kevin White

Kevin White - PE Teacher at Ermystead's Grammar School in Skipton competed in this year's 3 peaks as a tribute to the former pupil Kevin Watson - first ever person to cover the Three Peaks by (or rather 'with') bike.

Kevin Watson was at the finish to present prizes - but has never competed in the race itself.

The flyer is scanned here >>
Posted by Picasa

Chris Pedder's blog of the 2009 race -

Cambridgeshire MTB rider Chris Pedder is another rider who rode to a PB in 2009 with an impressive 3hrs 50 ride.
I lined up on the 4hr line, with an ever-increasing number of people trying to squeeze in in front. Once we'd started to roll out, Owen and I ended up riding together in the slightly terrifying 500-strong peloton where there were almost constant braking waves, including one that very nearly had me off as i locked both wheels to avoid the guy in front.

Read the full blog post here

Alan Dorrington's trouble-free ride: something to build on.

Chatting to a few riders over the last couple of days has reminded me what happens in this race - it takes 24 hours of wind down (max) before next year's plans are underfoot. Fairly local to me is Alan Dorrington - a 'peaks and general cyclocross zealot, whose writings on cyclocross in general are great read. This year, he finally made a proper comeback to the race - after a shocker of a race in 2006, then missing the race in 2008 (as his printed story from this blog in the Three Peaks programme tells).

My rewards came in the form of a crash and mechanical free ride, in a respectable 4:18. Cramp though had chipped away at that golden 4 hour time, on Whernside's slopes and again on Penyghent. Next year simply has to be cramp free and faster.

Read the 'apres race' blog post here

(and his pre-race preview here)

Cycling Weekly Andy Jones pics 2009

A few images here on the Cycling Weekly site from Andy Jones

Ian Hodgson hi res photos show the battle in detail

A great set of images - particularly the ones of the head to head between Rob and Nick in gory detail - on his Smugmug photo site

28 September 2009

Yorkshire Post online report

"Cyclists in the Peak of fitness get to grips with gruelling Dales challenge" in the Yorkshire Post

Read the article here

Preview from XXC Mag

US Magazine recently previewed the Three Peaks on their blog and are hoping to do a short photo report in their next Mag on the Three Peaks and the US cousin to the race - the Iron Cross.

See here for their blog post who pass their link love to this blog - so it's nice to link back!

Also - a reminder that Ian Briggs' blog about both races is here - though it hasn't seen much action this year.

Photos from Brunscar Lane - a Flickr set by

144 images uploaded this afternoon by Nic Bertrand - of riders 'entering' Whernside from Brunscar Lane. Some really great expressions - and the race weariness beginning to tell in some!

Click here to view set

Team Inov8 'team' blog post

Team Inov8 had a good haul this year despite Heather Dawe's defeat in the female category.

My legs were burning already so I decided to hold back and take it easy.

Read their report written by Matt Brown (2nd in the U23s category) on the team blog here

More photos on Flickr: CameraRepublic

Nicholas Boardman AKA CameraRepublic (thanks for that Keith) has posted a good handful of photos of the descent of Whernside, between the steps and the style.

View the 29 photos here

My snaps from before and after

Remembered to put my camera in my kit bag this year - second time running!

Some snaps of the goings-on before and after the race in Helwith Bridge here, including Nick's very light frame ;-)

Cycling Weekly's 2009 report

A brief online report and a few images from the Comic this year...

"We hit Pen-y-Ghent and it was really good, man on man," said Craig afterwards. "We both dished it out to each other on the way up. He needed to drop me before the top, and I knew I had to minimise the gap.

Read in full here.

Singlespeed "record" crucified

John Ross (AKA Shaggy John) rode a singlespeed bike with flat bars to a time of 3 hrs 40 mins yesterday. Light bike or not, that is one fast time and some serious variations in cadence. Chapeau.

More photos on Flickr: Wig Worland and

Wig Worland's photos of Simon Fell and Penyghent are stunning. In particular, by placing the camera on the tough bit of Simon Fell, I think these are the best photos I've ever seen to convery the steepness and impossibility of the first climb.

Eddie Allen's also captured loads of great images. Particularly nice to see so many finish photos - people's faces and expressions just telling so much.

Trio's premier

Amy - or Trio as she's known to most online - has posted her personal blog of her debut. Reading it reminds us all what an undertaking the race is.

Eventually I got to the top on Ingleborough with maybe two or three people behind me. Still I was so pleased, I honestly thought I wasn't going to get up it!

Read it in full here

My own blog post about the 2009 race

My own account / reflection on the 2009 Three Peaks cyclocross is here on my personal blog. The 3 Peaks blog has been a strange sort of project (it's not really just a blog - it's a way of digesting lots of other blogs, articles and photos really) so I'm happier bloggin things like that on my 'own' blog.

I must say though - to all the people on the 3 peaks blog - what a great feeling of warmth I get from people who come up to me on the race day saying they read this - I genuinely feel humbled by the extra 'attention' the blog seems to afford me on race day - thank to everyone and nice to physically meet people (rather than meeting them online) yesterday. Hope you all had a great day - I certainly did!

STACKS of Early 2009 Photos on Flickr

Some cracking photos here on Flickr

From Ian McVety - Penyghent | Ingleborough (Gill Garth) | Presentation
From the Fleming team Penyghent and Horton | More Penyghent

24 September 2009

Nick's tips

New article interviewing 'peaks hero Nick Craig appeared on the British Cycling site yesterday by Eddie Allen
"Bad news is that if you're not fit now, you've missed the boat. "
Read the full article here

23 September 2009

The Three Bike "Strategy" explained

Andy Peace said last year [of race winner Rob Jebb]: 'he could be riding a Raleigh Chopper, he would still win'

This one seems to cause debate every year - particularly after the race. I'm still not sure why - I do know that cyclists are prone to making excuses for their performances (I'm one of them after all) but it seems that bike changes in the Three Peaks are a strange thing to 'pick on'.

I shouldn't need to explain that the Three Peaks is a cyclocross race run under the rules and the spirit of cyclocross. Cyclocross is a sport where it is normal and perfectly sensible to change bikes. Come and watch us in a national trophy or national championships and, on the muddier courses, our people in the pits are working overtime cleaning the bikes one a lap and making sure that we have no excuses for poor performance. At the upper end of the Three Peaks, it's just the same, but being a specialist event, it's not hosing down that's important, it's getting the right bike for the right bits of the course.

The rules state clearly that cyclocross bikes must be used. This includes amongst other things, tyres, wheel sizes and frames. By explanation, it's worth noting that in the early 90s, some people elected to use Mountain Bikes and some people used full on road bikes with disc wheels and tri bars in some cases. This wasn't in the spirit of cyclocross and so a simple 'cyclocross bikes' rule was introduced (mirroring the UCIs definition of a cyclocross bike) .

Having been asked how I do the three bike thing, which I've done for the last couple of Three Peaks races I wanted to write a quick article to show the subtle differences between the bikes, and how having this strategy helps - not just in terms of mechanics but in terms of morale.

Bike 1: Helwith Bridge Start to Cold Cotes
Bike 2: Cold Cotes to Chapel le Dale
Bike 3: Chapel le Dale to Ribblehead
Bike 2: Ribblehead to Horton in Ribblesdale
Bike 1: Penyghent ascent and descent
Bike 2: Horton in Ribblesdale to Helwith Bridge.

As you'll see, you require two sets of helpers but they use the busy road sections less and not at the peak times, so there is paradoxically less effect on road congestion.

So... the differences between the 'ideal' three bikes (above):

Bike 1.
  • Hardened unashamed adapted 'cross bike. Lower gear than normal cross (I use a 34 on the front and 27 on the back).
  • Bar top Levers (only on this bike)
  • Double bar tape (for hands that do dishes)
  • Stem 1cm shorter than my normal 'cross bike (help get that bum back on descents!)
  • Tufo tubulars @ 65 psi on 32 hole standard alloy Mavic Mach 2 rims
  • Bottle cage on seat tube
Bike 2
  • Optimised for road sections,
  • Very hard 'cross tubs with not much tread
  • Carbon rear wheel
  • 28 spoke lightweight front
  • Bottle cage
  • 53 / 39 on front.
    (It's worth noting that this bike may need to be used in a 'bail out' if anything drastic happened to Bike 1, so I leave a 12-27 on the back just in case it's needed for Penyghent)
Bike 3
  • Whernside bike - light, and only needs to 'do' one descent.
  • Normal 'cross bike with light wheels and rock hard clinchers to stop punctures.
  • 34/46 on front, 12-27 on back
  • No bottle cage (plenty of fluid on roads before and after Whernside)
and... to carry in pockets
  1. Whistle and survival bag
  2. Gels
  3. Multi tool
  4. Spare tub
So what about the morale?
It's simple really - it's one thing knowing that you've got a puncture or had a mechanical, but when you know that you have another bike waiting and you don't 'need' to fix the bike you're on, you can use the changes as mental fodder. In 2006, I flatted coming down Whernside, but because I knew I didn't need the bike again after (and I was on a cheap wheel and tyre!) I just rode flat out on the flat tyre to my next bike. Lost a bit of time but not as much as if I'd had to change the tube and re inflate. I was surprised how the rim was still okay too really - managed a winter's commuted out of it afterwards!

But what difference does it make?
It makes none. Well - I'm sure on a good weather day, the 'road' bike will help shave a few seconds off - especially when there's no peat grating in my chain along those climbs, but it's more an insurance policy than a speed enhancement trick. Plus, very significantly, I've got three cyclocross bikes. Cyclocross is my love, and I don't have many other indulgences. The white bike gets its mudguards and road wheels back on for 11 months again on 28th September, and tows a trailer bike to school with my Lily on the back. Keeps its powder dry for its exciting day out once a year.

22 September 2009

Lengthy posts in Singletrack forum

The UK's classiest Mountain bike mag Singletrack has a pretty buzzing forum with more activity than pretty much any forum I've ever been on... this thread about the Three Peaks is a nice example of people getting each other revved up, and it stand quite nicely aside from the 3 Peaks' own forum in that the community is already 'there'.

It's great to see so many people from so many backgrounds with so many expectations coming together and revving each other up like this - another example of this brill event.


Quite apart from anything else, it's just nice for me to see evidence that I'm not in a minority when it comes to gear obsession / worries.

16 September 2009

In Readiness

My previous post on the Three Peaks Cyclocross blog seemed to make out that it was not about the bike or the gear, but more about the training and fitness. I stand by this in general, but there's a middle-ground - it's about all-round readiness.

I've been training 'late' this year - deliberately (so as not to go insane) and it's all coming together now really - I got myself a decent base fitness that (only really this week) has turned into what I'd call 'training'. By training I mean doing things unenjoyable and seemingly unrewarding that hurt and in which time stands still. Hill reps, sprint reps... it's not really enjoying the outdoors (or indoors, on the flipping turbo flipping trainer), but it serves a purpose I suppose.

With this 'switch' to training I'm reminded of two things:

1. There's no training like racing
If you're in need of pushing yourself really hard, then you can never do that as well as in a race. Whilst I've managed to keep myself going with a few crits on the roads this summer, I haven't raced since the first week of August. That's nagging at me. This weekend at the Grizedale Mountain bike Challenge I'll get that racing feeling again for about 3 hours. Whilst it's technically not a 'race' - but simply riding your bike against hundreds of other people as fast as you can over the same course (!) - it'll still give me that welcome indicator of what it feels like to really push hard one and two hours into something. You just can't do that in training (or at least I can't).

2. The fun is in the result, not the process.
I'm not alone in not enjoying hill reps - if you enjoy them, you're a mentalist - face it. However, a quote that Chris Boardman rolled out a few times during his successful cycling days always comes to mind... something about getting satisfaction from something but not enjoying it. The satisfaction comes from knowing I'm training my weaknesses. There's little else to train - if you train your strengths, you're not really getting better.

Back to my initial thoughts... about the balance between 'gear' and training. It's all got to come under the same roof or 'readiness' or 'preparation'. Two lovely new Cannondale cyclocross frames came into my possession last week thanks to the best bike shop in the world and I take almost as much satisfaction from seeing those built up and sitting in the garage ready for action as I do riding them. The special care that goes into getting the bike(s) ready for the 3 peaks is part of the process. Training, building, tweaking, peaking. It's the readiness thing.

11 September 2009

Fridays in Helmshore - our own little Helwith Bridge

We've had a bit of a gathering in Helmshore, Lancs (where I live) the last couple of Friday lunchtimes. It's amazing how many people who ride the three peaks are within a few miles of here and it made sense to get a few of them together to share the pain of my fairly regular 'simulation sessions'.

I've got a 'course' of about 1.3 miles that is a fairly good simulator of Ingleborough - the un-runnable grassy climb, peaty unridable jog, fast-ish but tricky grassy descent - it's not bad and certainly helps technique.

So Mark Solomon (first timer this year), Matthew Pixton and Carl Nelson (multiple finishers!), Alan Dorrington (Cyclocross Connoisseur and former top ten in the 'Peaks) and Jason Miles (long distance looney - clue's in the surname, and finished first 'peaks last year) and I have all met up over the last couple of Fridays and hammered ourselves up and over Bull Hill a few times.

It's bringing a new dimension to it to me - subtly making the social aspect of this special race spread itself that little bit further.

-Next Friday's the final one - details here on UKCyclocross if anyone else local fancies it...

Links to some of these Titans of Cyclocrossery:
Jason Miles
Alan Dorrington

08 September 2009

Steve Riley: "the bemused looking bloke, trying to work the shifters"

First timer Steve Riley is under no illusions about the venture he's setting out on later this September... even though he's given himself the luxury of things like gears.

So I was thinking why on earth would anyone want to read about an ordinary bloke trying an extraordinary event? Of course, the answer's in the question. I’m an ordinary bloke, one that makes too much noise on the internet, and the Three Peaks is clearly an extraordinary event. So clearly bonkers, that no race in the country is quite like it. Heck, the world maybe, I don’t know....

Read more on Steve's blog - furiouscycling.

07 September 2009

September's mismatch

Guest Blog Post from Alan Dorrington:

Less than one calendar month till the 3 Peaks but my conflict has been in full swing for some time now - normal cross vs Peaks. Whilst the Peaks is cross, it certainly isn't cross as we know it, Jim. It is utterly unique, combining skills sets that borrow heavily not just from cross but from mountain biking, fell running, even time trialling...... The struggle is in training for a one-off 4+hr (for me) event with all these skills when, as a cross obsessive, the calendar is demanding concentration on a sub 1 hr blast over relatively amenable parkland surfaces.

I was attracted to the Peaks from a cyclocross background - back in the early 90s when I first came across the race it seemed it was something that you did as part of your cross season. Why? Because most others did as well. Since then, the Peaks has welcomed mountainbikers, runners, road riders, adventure racers and more to the party and it no longer feels the sole preserve of the cyclocross community. And it is all the better for it.

I enjoyed relative success in my first Peaks in 1991, ending up 14th and 1st newbie. No course recces, no prior knowledge - just some useful tips and mentoring from Zodiac clubmates and Peaks stalwarts, Keith Broadbent, Ian Small and Neil Orrel. A year later, forewarned and forearmed, I improved to 10th. But that is where it finished - the following year was a DNF and it was 12 or so years before I started cycling again, re-entered the Peaks, only to DNF again. Must try harder.....

Reflecting the other day on those rides in the early 90s, I realised what a long way the Peaks has come, and in many ways how much 'bigger' a race it has become. Looking at the standard of rider required to finish in the top 10 these days, it has become clear that as more Peakistas have come along to join the ranks of the out and out crossers, that the standard has shot up - particularly in terms of the depth of the field. Put it like this, nowadays there are some very talented riders (myself definitely not included!) finishing outside the top 10. This is not to take away from the acheivements of former winners like Tim Gould and Fred Salmon who were winning impressively around the time I was riding, nor others competing at that time. However, the race simply has got harder, in my view. Call that the Jebb effect, or call it what you like!

I'm back to ride the Peaks again this year, after a slightly chequered relationship over the last few years. The draw is there, strong as ever as the race exerts a unique pull over its participants. For me it manifests itself as a combination of fear and excitement, as it is never a race to be taken lightly, but one which rewards particpants more than any 'mere' cross race. And the conflict? Whilst the first cross race of the season is under our belts here in the NW, and the need for turbo sessions of short intervals all very well, they are of little use when staggering up Simon Fell whilst you fight for grip underfoot. Peaks specific training is where it is at right now and where you'll find me over the next few weeks leading up to the 27th, lugging my bike up and down the local fells, trying to harden up that right shoulder. See you at the end of September!

04 September 2009

Gears and gear

Despite being at this game since 1995, I still can't help but want to tweak with gear in the hope that there might be some 'holy grail' of equipment / setup that I've missed out on.

I've gleaned lots of valuable knowledge in the numerous events I've ridden - like anyone who does the race a few times. The early ones were more experimental and gradually you work your way into knowing what works for you. The problem this year is that I seemed to have forgotten that and started reinventing my particular three peaks wheel.

Shimano gearsThis time, it was the gears. I've acquired a Mountain bike this year after a gap from MTBs for a few years. It goes well and I love the setup. So being a three peaks junkie I inevitably started to ask myself if there was anything I could learn from this year's MTB riding. Mistake number 1... I'll explain why:

Having decided that - being in the lucky position of having three cross bikes - I was going to radically adapt my 'Ingleborough and Penyghent' bike. Given how hard the Penyghent climb is after a good dowsing in Ingleborough and Whernside, I seem to struggle on gearing, not being able to turn over the rather small 34-27 bottom gear I've used there for the last two editions of the race. So the 'logic' is to build up a bike with an easier gear. Given that I'm on 10 speed - and hence limited to 27 on the back - my only real option was to look at a smaller front chainring. Out comes the MTB triple chainset. I was starting to get quite chuffed about my choice of gears... it made sense... on paper. 28-27 would really help in those dire moments on Penyghent... wouldn't it?

Well... no, actually. You see, I've been here before. If there was a medal for riding as much of the course as possible, maybe I'd look into gears as the solution, but yesterday on a long, hard, off road day out, experimenting with my new luxurious gear, it came back to me very quickly. Having a smaller gear just makes you travel slower. The three peaks is a race. Damn. I recalled Penyghent last year, and also recalled a battle with Philip Hinchliffe who eventually finished one place ahead of me. We hit the start of Penyghent together and I was envious of his triple chainset - but by the summit - despite his riding where I could only walk - we crested within 20 seconds of each other. That's just it really - his more ride-able gear took him up the hill no faster than my walk / jog / push / carry approach.

That's the hardest bit about coming to terms with this equipment experimentation - I know in my heart of hearts that the training is what's required. That requires time - not money or technical know-how. Hey ho. The bike now has it's standard gear on and it's back to the training. Until the next bright idea.