There's obviously a few reliable sites and forums, and people will also know other people who have ridden the race and can chat to... but it's surprising at times how much conflicting opinion there is on all these things.
I'm going to throw a few of what regular readers of this blog would see as my common basics and a few that are a less common: My first-timer-friendly advice for the 3 peaks cyclocross.
1. Who are you??
Firstly, what's your background? What do you ride and how well do you do? Are you a regular 'cross racer, a Mountain bike rider, occasional off-roader, Sportive rider...? It's so obvious but how do you apply your background to getting the most out of this race?
What I'm basically getting at is the need to train your weaknesses - not your strengths. The chances are that you don't normally lug bikes up big mountains on your shoulder so a bit of that is an obvious thing to be trying out and getting used to. If you're a cycle commuter with little or no experience of racing then think of riding really fast for short bursts. If you are a mountain biker who lavishes in the comfort of a 120mm all mountain bike with fat tyres then ride your cross bike over really uncomfortable terrain. Do what you can to get out of your comfort zone and simulate this race.
2. Getting tyred of answering
If you're on clincher tyres, then Shwalbe Landcruiser 35mm or Maxxis Locust 35mm. Maximum PSI. Fit 35mm-40mm tubes NOT 28-35mm ones. Stretched tubes will PUNCTURE
If you're on tubulars, Tuffo T34 or Vittoria XG 34mm. Again, maximum PSI. Fill them with Latex (eg NoTubes) sealant and plenty of it.
Lots of reasons, but in essence and in no particular order:
- TREAD: Grip isn't a real issue in this race
- WIDE: Punctures wreck your race and you get mild comfort from the width
- PRESSURE: Punctures wreck your race (again!) and rocks give punctures here, not your mamby pamby flints or thorns
Unless your an absolute whippet or you really know something I don't, then don't ride anything that varies from this. Tried and tested.
3. Eat, Drink, and you will be merry.
Drink and eat. Winners are never thirsty, and you will burn more calories than you can think possible. Whatever you can stomach that helps. Energy drinks are your friends - they provide nutrients and minerals that you will need like you have never needed them before. Get bottles handed up or carry a camelbak and take fluid at the two water holes to save carrying it before. The climb and descent of Penyghent is hard going enough on the body without you having to beg an apple from a passing walker. Cramp is also a killer and may well undo loads of hard work. Drink regularly and sensible fluids. (I use SiS Go and SiS PSP22 generally - check the proportions of powder to water - that is important to ensure you don't cramp).
4. Prepare for the worst
Carry what you'll need to get you to the next stop. I have cocked up several times with crap tools etc and know loads of other people who have... but you can prepare by knowing your bike is in tip top shape. Replace cables a bit before, brand new brake pads in case it's wet... check those bolts so you don't end up riding two and a half peaks with only a rear brake like some numpties.. :-) - be meticulous - you'll sleep better. Here's some real life bad news stories (there are many more)
- Carrying spare tubes with valves too short for the rim
- Carrying an emergency pump that inflates the tyre so badly you puncture again immediately
- Not carrying a spare tube or pump (!!)
- Not knowing how to split and re-link a broken chain
- Jockey wheels / cranks / pedals / cleats / saddles / brakes "falling off"
- Frames or Forks breaking (harsh I know, but check them before for cracks and ageing!)
- Spare wheels not fitting bike or rubbing on brake pads etc.
- Chains jumping on replacement wheels.
- Saddle Bags (with tools) falling off (when later needed)
It can be a tough race on you for all sorts of reasons, but a positive mental attitude is the best ally in difficulty. It's once a year - if things aren't going well, just do everything in your power to get the best out of the day. Everyone's got an excuse or ten when they get to the finish line - just look forward to sharing yours but don't think about packing in.