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Dave Haygarth - The Build up to Three Peaks

I've raced the Three Peaks Cyclocross ever since 1995.  In those years, aside from the two non-events because of Foot & Mouth disease and my non-start in 2013 with shoulder surgery, I'll have been on that start line 18 times come this Sunday.  Yet it still gives me goosebumps thinking about my favourite race.

I was racing yesterday and a few people asked me if I was fit for the Three Peaks this year. A polite, jovial response or two made do... "you never train enough for the 3 Peaks", I'd tell them.  But inside, it's true.  Not just the unique pounding that this event gives your body, but the psychological side is something you never quite conquer.  You have absolutely, categorically never, ever done enough training or prep for that race. It's impossible.

But we try... last week it was a North West Cyclocross league race on the Saturday (3rd position / veteran race), then the gruelling Scott MTB Marathon in Ruthin on Sunday (24th), and a working week fitting in fairly gentle running and riding (6.5 hrs) before the North West Cyclocross league round 2 at Bolton. 

But training guilt was getting the better of me. How could I just be doing a 40-minute veteran's race around a dry, grassy park when it's the 3 Peaks next week?   So I entered the Senior event then after a 30-minute gap, rode flat out again in the hour long senior race.

Not that I was the only one.  Chatted to Nick Craig at the start of the vets race and he obviously felt the guilt, then went to sign on for the seniors, too.  And that's it, summarised - about the 3 Peaks - you just can't train enough, even if you're a two-time winner like Nick.

I must admit I was really curious about doubling up on the day. I'd seen a few people do it in the past - quite regularly Ian Taylor - another 3 Peaks podium guy like Nick - so I was interested in how it would feel to race - gel / drink, - then race immediately again. After 5th place (156 starters) in the veteran's race, I started the Senior (u40s!) race conservatively and eased myself in.  But I couldn't stand it!  Watching people in front of me and trying to just ride conservatively did my head in, and after a lap I couldn't help but get straight back up to flat out again. It's a weird feeling.  Certainly not as difficult as I thought it might be, but then again, there's only one flat out feeling you can experience.  It's painful, but it always stops, somehow.  So an hour later, it had indeed stopped and I'd finished 16th from the 78 starters in this one and, although I was a spent force on the last lap, I managed to fend off an assault from two riders closing in fast on me. I was cooked, but strangely okay, too, after a few minutes. You have to try these things, sometimes.


Being a bit of a (very amateur) stat geek, it was great to compare the two races on Strava.  The average speed for the (15 minute longer) senior event was only 0.1mph slower, and my average heart rate was only 1bpm lower.  That amazed me, in a way.  Psychologically, the second race felt much slower.  It wasn't, really, but it felt it. Maybe there was also an element of knowing the course really well by then, and having some nicely warmed up muscles, but I know in reality I was labouring a larger gear as I went on as a coping tactic.

And so to next Sunday.  Have I done enough?  Have I hell.  But I'm doing what I can, I know that much.

The 53rd annual Three Peaks Cyclocross takes place in Helwith Bridge, North Yorkshire next SundaY - 27th September 2015. 

22 September 2015

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