Wednesday, 29 September 2010

3 peaks cyclocross

The past weekend I headed up to the Yorkshire dales for the 3 peaks cyclocross race. This is no normal cyclocross race however; it crossed 3 mountains Ingleborough, Wernside and Penyghent. O and they are so steep that you have to carry your bike up!
My only previous experience of this race was as a junior. I had a successful day back then; I won my category and was the fastest newcomer. I also enjoyed it immensely and so was looking forward to returning.

We began at 9:30 with the 4 mile road section. This was dicey to say the least. Everyone wanted to be at the front and the constrictions in the road caused by oncoming cars and narrow roads caused many moments which required heavy braking. As we turned off the road onto the first section of farm track I was positioned badly about 40 riders back. It turned out that I was in exactly the wrong place as everybody in front of me suddenly stopped dead as the leaders rode away.

The start of ingleborough is across a grassy field. I closed a few positions here before the gradient suddenly shot up. It was time for the death march. The slopes of ingleborough are savagely steep. To put it in perspective the person immediately in front of you is standing at head level as you climb the steep slope. I decided that the crawling method would be best, ensuring that the wind would not catch my bike and send me tumbling back down the mountain. By the top of the climb I was in a good top 30 position. This was as good as it got though.

As a junior I had remembered the descents to be incredibly fun. I had obviously misjudged them. It was hell. I have been spoilt the last few seasons by racing on full suspension bikes. The contrast between these and the fully rigid (slightly too small) cyclocross with crappy brakes was immense. I pride myself on being a pretty good descended. I like to think that not many people can gap me on a descent, but now I have to swallow my pride. I descended like a tart. I must have easily lost 20 positions. I hate to say this but I was so glad to hit the road section at the bottom
On the road section I got into my rhythm. I caught most of the riders who had passed me on the descent, jumping from group to group and closing the gaps comfortably. However up the next climb of wernside I again lost some places. It seems I had not prepared enough for this event, motivation was fading.

The descent from wernside is rocky with lots of steps. I was feeling every single jar through the rigid bike and began to wish that I was riding my tallboy. Around half way down on a particularly steep section I was hanging onto the brakes on the drops for dear life trying to maintain reasonable control. Suddenly I began to accelerate fast, still holding the brakes. Somehow I managed not to die as I careered uncontrollably down the mountainside. Thankfully the ground levelled slightly and I performed and emergency skid, my foot dragging along the floor aiding the rear brake. As I inspected my bike I saw that the cable had pulled through the brake fixture which in turn had dropped off. Basically I had no front brake. Gingerly I made my way down the mountain, my dragging foot my most effective means of stopping.

At the feed zone I saw my parents and stopped. I had no desire to continue. I didn’t fancy descending Penyghent with no front brake and risking more injury. I was not enjoying the race and although I hate not finishing this seemed a much better option than continuing and not enjoying myself.

I think my relationship with the 3 peaks cyclocross is over. I am happy that my name is engraved permanently in the junior trophy. Maybe I will return when I have a mid life crisis!

I only have 1 more race left this season. My local race dusk till dawn, 12hours solo to finish off the year. Hopefully I can better my 2nd place from 2 years ago, the weather conditions are even looking similar….RAIN!

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