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3 Peaks Cyclocross 6 Tips From Dave Haygarth

6 insider tips for the 3 Peaks cyclocross

Planet X Team rider Dave Haygarth has ridden the infamous Three Peaks Cyclocross since 1995 and has picked up a bit of knowledge on the way. His obsessive dedicated 3 Peaks blog (here) documents anything of mild interest from ground-breaking interviews to obsessive minutiae, and is must-read stuff for the connoisseur of 'cross's most addictive and unique race. If you're one of the 650 starters taking to the line in North Yorkshire on the 25th September, you'll be well to keep these gems from our battle-hardened veteran Peaks Professor:

1. Get your tyres sorted:

I never tire of tyre discussions. It goes with the territory for most cyclocross racers, but this race breaks the mould. None of your cotton sidewalls, 21 psi stuff here. The rocks don't allow that and punish the soft-tyred rider harshly with pinch punctures. 

Tubeless, Clincher or Tubular, you need a strong sidewalled and heavy cyclocross tyre. If using tubes, that goes for these too. Don't stretch 28-32 tubes - fit 35-43mm tubes. Pressure for almost all riders should be no less than 55psi and for the heavier ape like me, up to 65. I've taken risks many a year just to try and get a grip and be more comfy on descents, and paid with huge time penalties for punctures in bad places. I can never say it enough... pump them up hard and be prepared to be shaken to bits as a result. The alternative is unthinkable. 

2. It's a long race... but..

I know it's a long day out and that big positions can be gained by the cooler rider who doses their energy until the end, but year after year of riding this race has shown me that you've got to go to the max on Ingleborough (the first climb) then do what you can (eat and drink properly) to hold your position. The gaps just get too big to start closing later on and with such huge mountains to climb, the morale sinks even if you still have firepower in your legs. Go out hard and cling on. 

3. Race all of the race

I was once interviewed on the telly about the race, and although I ended up mumbling my words and being a bit unclear (shy boy...) the one thing that sticks in my head is how I described this as a race. I know it sounds crazy, but the mind can play big tricks - especially on a bad-weather day, and before you know it you're starting to think 'oh, I'll just recover a bit here' or 'I'll save myself for this bit'... Don't. The descents, the 19 miles of road sections, they're all part of this. Get your head down and suffer. It's over with before you know it. You can rest at the Helwith Bridge Inn after the race and have a nice pint. But only then. Get on with it. My only ever top ten(in 2009) came because I pulled three riders back in the last 2 miles. There's always positions to be nicked. 

4. Don't panic

Notwithstanding all of the above stuff, things go wrong. Bad things happen. Mechanicals, punctures, offs... they all can and should be minor. If you make bad decisions when they do happen, then things just compound. Last year, for example... I lost a bunch of places with double punctures coming down Whernside and my morale went pop. Whilst the five minutes or so I lost getting to the support crew and spare bike were frustrating, it was the next 20 minutes, when I blew myself to bits that wrecked it more. Adrenaline took over from common sense, It happens. Remember bits go wrong and keep a calm level head. Be pro. 

5. Eat, drink and be merry...  

If you have a support crew, it helps. If you don't have a support crew, it's not so bad as you'd think, but you have to be organised. But whatever your set-up, make sure you keep the fuel topped up. Again, this is about losing a strategic 30 seconds or a minute eating and drinking (on the road sections only ... it's virtually impossible elsewhere) rather than ten or fifteen minutes later on in the race when you're writhing around in cramp. Salty, proteiny food / drinks are needed as well as carbos through sugars. This race has a special way of awarding random cramp to people... I think it's because of the prolonged periods off the bike, then pedal-free but stressful technical descents, then road stuff. It hammers bits of the legs otherwise unused. Keep the right foods and fluids down you. 

6. .. for tomorrow we die

It's a horrible feeling before a big race. A one-off like this that only comes around once a year. But just chill and try to relax the day before. The last thing you want is a horrible nervous sleep. Whatever happens, you've done all the training you can, you've checked over all those bolts on the bike, and the best thing you can do is remember that it'll all be over int he blink of an eye. Revel in the moment. Take 1.5 seconds to look around on each summit, and remember that you're one of the lucky ones whose entry for the toughest cyclocross in the world got accepted. Enjoy. 

The 54th annual Three Peaks Cyclocross takes place in Helwith Bridge, North Yorkshire next Sunday - 25th September 2016. 

19 September 2016

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