It happens the same every year. I know it is coming from months ahead. The dry summer months do nothing to prepare me for it. I ride and I pretend to train. I know when it comes it will be like a shock to the system. A moment of pain in the simplest form. A punch in my over laden gut.
I pay race entries months in advance and I forget about them. This one is special. The Three Peaks Cyclocross. A race now in its 51st iteration. A ‘cyclocross’ race on mountains, with totally inappropriate bikes, on exceptionally hard terrain.
Simon Fell is calling and it says prepare, prepare for the steepest ascent by foot you’ll ever have to do with a bike on your back. Prepare for the descent across rock, slate, grass and mud. Prepare to crash, prepare for punctures, prepare to be cold.
Whernside couldn’t care less. Its steps allow you to ascend, step by step they treat you brutally. Never the same, always more each year as the trail errodes more. Designed for walkers, ascended by ‘crossers. The descent, once feared is now revered. Limestone slabs that are like grease on a hot plate in the wet, like sandpaper when you crash.
Pen-Y-Ghent comes sooner than you’d like. The ascent on P-Y-G ‘lane’ brutal, the descent a test of wheels and body alike. Lane conveys something your grandmother could cycle up, the truth is more akin to a gully filled with baby head lumps of limestone. The top of P-Y-G comes with time, time, blood and usually tears. The descent offers up broken bones, wheels and tubs with every drop and turn. The final road section cramps are something of a norm now.
For my fifth time I return. I never know why. I just always do.
I love this race.