Climb every mountain … or maybe it just felt like it

Russell Mowat and Kevin Pugh from Walkers Cycling Club along with Joanne Baxter from Ayr Burners travelled to Helwith Bridge in Yorkshire on Saturday for Sunday’s 3 Peaks Cyclocross race.

This iconic event takes 700 competitors over the three highest peaks in Yorkshire – Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen Y Ghent – and the roads in between. Over the route Some 5700 feet of climbing is tackled by the riders. And to make the competition stiffer, all competitors must use a cyclocross bike with drop handlebars – mountain bikes are not allowed.

The 38-mile cross country marathon, now in its 53rd year, is renowned for its relentless and unforgiving terrain, with steep un-rideable climbs followed by fast and technical descents. Harsh weather conditions are often thrown in for good measure.

The 2015 event got under way with the added bonus of good weather with sunshine and very little wind. Russell takes up the story:

Once we were under way Kevin was first to Simon Fell and kept this lead over the other two for the remainder of the race. The climb up Simon Fell is brutal and really strings the riders out. It is so steep that many can be found pulling themselves up on the wire fence, and the string of riders stretched out over the hillside is the image most often used to advertise the event.

I made it to the foot of the hill before Joanne, but could not sustain her pace and was well behind by the summit. This situation was reversed on the descent and I reached the checkpoint at Cold Cotes just before Joanne.

Next, the riders had to tackle the undulating road to Chapel le Dale and the foot of Whernside. The event takes a twist here with the path up made up of stone flag steps, which are energy sapping if you are carrying a bike. After swapping places a couple of times, I made it to the summit just before Joanne and was soon onto the descent.

Whernside descent is one of the most challenging aspects of the event. Like the ascent it is made with stone flags, but most are placed end to end which means they can be ridden. However there are parts which are more natural and rocky, so extreme care is necessary.

From here the course passes the famous Ribblehead viaduct and another section of road to Horton in Ribblesdale. Here the riders tackle the final climb, but unlike the previous two, this time it is up and down the same path. By this stage I was struggling with cramp and had slowed somewhat.

All 3 Ayrshire competitors made it safely to the finish with times as below.

Kevin Pugh, 4:57:05
Russell Mowat, 05:36:58
Joanne Baxter, 05:47:51

For reference the winners time, achieved by Paul Oldham, was 02:59:33,and a new category was achieved by John Dowell who achieved a finish and is the first person to do so in his 80s.

Kevin looking relaxed before the ride
Kevin looking relaxed before the ride
Russell makes it to the top of the first peak.
Russell makes it to the top of the first peak.