My First 3Peaks - Kinesis Bikes
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My first 3Peaks

This April I raced the inaugural Dirty Reiver up on the Scottish boarders and I thought afterwards I would do no tougher race for some time. The Reiver was 200km of battling the elements, braving the icy wind and mentally willing yourself to finish.
I have however found that in fact I was wrong, the 3Peaks is harder. I’m not unaccustomed to pain and my regular intense racing during the cross season means that on a nearly daily basis I am used to tasting iron and suffering, but this was different.

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Endless kit obsessing and training on and off the bike rarely prepares someone for something that is so unique. I spent the days running up to the 3Peaks working on our Kinesis UK stand at the Cycle Show, followed by a late journey up the m6 and a pre-race meal that consisted of pot noodles, a rotisserie chicken and lots of raw fruit and veg #eat elite

I slept lightly, hot and restless. The wind was howling outside, and the darkness disappeared in that early morning dampness that is typical after rain in the north of the UK. As I walked out to the van with my kit bags ready to drive further north to Horton in Ribblesdale I could hear the eerie call of the curlew as the wind blew.

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A bleary eyed drive listening to the farming program on Radio 4 supping at my mug of hot sweet tea, I had the anticipatory gaze as I saw the high fells approaching and I followed the queue of cyclists up into the dales. I arrived and signed on, listening to the squally showers persistently rolling in drumming on the van roof as I put my number on and filled the pockets of my jersey with the obligatory safety survival bag, whistle and waterproof.

With kit choice being so key I had gone simple but sensible, 1-1 gear ratio with 1x11 by SRAM. Proven HyRd brakes by TRP with sissy top lever for bunny hopping. This was all attached to my Pro6 with upgraded Thru axle TRP fork. I ran Kinesis CX disc wheels and WTB Cross Boss tyres. I had heard that whatever tyres you ride it’s going to be bouncy but I suffered no punctures riding the WTB’s at 60PSI tubeless. Power is also really useful to measure your effort so I ran a Quarq power meter paired to my Micro GPS and on the last few climbing sections being able to monitor at threshold meant I could ride further.

Clothing wise when it comes to racing on the high fells of northern Britain, there isn’t much better than being supported by Gore Bike Wear. I ran their Power Windstopper jersey and Oxygen shorts and Goretex cap. This mean I had a near waterproof jersey and wind protection all over but wouldn’t have to worry about sweating up and the Goretex cap kept mud out and head dry. I carried Windstopper long sleeve rescue jacket for emergency as I went bare arms and legs. Lucky for me applying lots of waterproof embrocation to my tendons, arms and legs meant I was never too cold or too hot even in the heavy hail as we ran (walked) up Wernside. I wore my oldest pair of Giro VR90 shoes without stud’s in, luckily their Vibram rubber was nice and grippy even on slippery rock!

With my feed bag, spares and extra wheels and tubes handed to my pit crew (Dad and Sister) I warmed up and headed along to the chaotically ranked but quite funny start of the race. You follow the lead car out up the valley with a commentator and loud speaker providing running commentary as you speed up. I didn’t have a problem getting myself to the front end of the race, the group speeding up before we turned off at Gill Garth and headed into the clouds. The bunch at the front saw Scott Easter slide wide on the cow poo as we headed through the farmyard as we took on the lower slopes of Simon Fell.

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With it looming dead ahead, we were all stunned into silence. Or maybe it was just from lack of oxygen as we decided whether to run or to ride - the running won’t last. We looked up and saw that Nick, Rob and Paul had already crested the first ramp. I ran with Chris Metcalf, and though we are good friends we didn’t talk. We only stared forward, striding along. The running stopped as the gradient increased. With the bike on my shoulder, I was glad that I’d chopped up a camp mat to soften its repeated impact on the bone. Knock, Knock, Knock. We were now scuffing our knees on the turf just above, holding onto the fence to pull ourselves up. Patriarch of the sport Simon Burney willed me on, he has been here before. He knows how this feels. We thought we’d crested the top, but no, it was just a trick, a false summit. Our bikes were taken from us and thrown over the 6ft high fence as we then battled across the cloud covered upland moor. I trudged on as Veteran of the peaks, Dave Haygarth, passed me. Then we were on the top steps of Ingle Borough, into the sky, where we were cheered on by roadies and Olympians. Its bloody hard I say, they agreed it looks it, we don’t make it look easy.

The first peak was done, finally rest - said no one ever who had previously raced the 3Peaks. Now perhaps a cross bike is the best choice of bike up until this point of the race. However, as we crested the top I soon knew we would need to dismount regularly during the descent, these bikes were not meant to deal with these drop off’s. With hindsight I think that the biggest improvement I could make next time would be knowing when and where to ride and when to dismount. I careered down increasing in speed, when a bog decided to consume my front wheel, at probably 40kph. Crack. Thank god I manged to land on my feet. Sadly, my rear mech and saddlebag could have fared better. I zip tied my seat bag back on and set to replacing my hanger, 4 mins off faff with wet hands. Not bad. I continued down into the valley, grabbed a musette from my waiting sister and a bottle, and fuelled up on the ride up the hilly road towards the next peak. Turning off the main road onto a farm track, over a cattle grid, I then narrowly avoided certain death on the second cattle grid as I watched Neil play on the floor suffering a rather nasty knee cut.

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The push up Wernside was consistently steep and more stepped than before and I got into a rhythm. There was no running, only fast walking up to the highest point on course as the hail rolled in and the wind strength increased. Cresting the main walk, I tried riding as much as I could. I hopped over lips, headed for summit and emptied a packet of clif shot blocks down my throat to chew on during the descent. The downhill off Wernside in one word was, terrifying. Constantly looking for the line that won’t throw you over the bars and have you chewing on grit, the large flagstones pounded the wheels and my shoulders. I managed to make lots of time up by running in the deep bogs beside the well-used main track and this technique got me a few more precious places. I ran directly through the rivers rather than over the bridges, why not. My feet were already wet, crack on. The Iconic flagstone descent by Ribblehead viaduct dropped me in for another feed. It was at this point I realised I had lost my saddlebag. I hope someone enjoys my blingy Lezyne tools. Now I was tube-less, tool-less and had hurty legs.

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Heading down the valley to Pen Y Gent Lane into a strong head wind I formed a partnership with Neil and we took turns into the wind, at least I could have a tasty Clif bar. As we pushed into the wind I could feel my toes begin to cram. With the final climb there was some relief as we were able to ride most of it. However the limestone littered across the wide lane was coated in mud making it slippery to ride up and I wished I had even lower gears. My cassette of shame went up to a size 42t cog but as my fellow kinesis rider Ed Shoote trundled past me on a triple I longed for the granny ring of old. My friends Jake, Becky and Ash handed me a double caffeine gel, and it perked me up but I think I’d rather have had a cup of soup. I was tired now and the summit, though smaller, felt further than any other climb. I realised that I was fading fast and whenever I had to run, it was never more than a jog. I trudged forward with a cold wind to my back as Gaby cheered me on. This was hard, really hard. The final push seemed masochistic, slippery and steep whilst also having to avoid riders coming back down. I reached the summit and dabbed the last dibber. For much of the descent I had no brakes, and I stopped to try and pull up the cable slack to make up for my lack of brakes. I lost places but probably saved certain death descending without a rear brake. I snaked down, avoiding the climbing riders. The final push home, I chanted my mantra “do not puncture” round and round. I had to airbrake, with no pads left, fingers and arms screaming from hand pump, burning white, hot holding tight to ride it out and not deck in so close to the finish. I raced neck and neck with Sam, though I made one poor line choice and he got away. We stormed onto the road, and with a few KM to go I wound it up along the road I tucked down determined to hold 400w to the finish. I managed to make up a few more places as I turned in and crossed the line, a spent force. 3hrs 43 mins – 70th place.

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For my first attempt at it I’m glad I survived, experience would prove useful for making it a lot less daunting. I loved doing it, it’s the little cheers from the ramblers in the cloud, to a bottle of water being passed from a friend that means everyone can play their part in the action, however small. I can see why it is an institution and why people spend whole years preparing. Will I be back? I’m not sure, but it has certainly given me greater respect for the riders who want bikes for this hallowed event and for those like Nick Craig who’ve achieved so much at the race over the years. I think now it’s time to go take another Paracetamol and unpack my van from the weekend and the Cycle Show.

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