In a massive contrast to last year’s race the weather was sunny and dry. The gales on the tops remained however. The usual manic start sent all 650 starters hurtling along the road towards a whole world of pain. The thousands of miles I’d put in training began to pay off on the trudge up the grassy wall of Simon Fell. It hurt, as always, but it was bearable. Summitting Ingleborough in under an hour I felt I was racing within myself. The descent to Cold Cotes was taken carefully – plenty of riders passed here but there were many who came a cropper too. A friend broke his collar bone here and two other mates had big stacks too.
I grabbed a gel from Cath and hit the road towards the Hill Inn and Whernside. I tried to ride tactically and use other riders but inevitably ended up heading a train of riders and yelling at them to take a turn in front. Off road again and onto the countless stone steps that lead up Whernside. Again, shouldering the bike wasn’t too painful although I tried to push it as often as I could to save energy rather than following the herd mentality and carrying all the time.
The wind across the top of the hill was phenomenal and as I dropped off the other side I was blown across the track and for a while was trapped by my bike against a wire fence. I tore myself free and had to push some sections that I would have ridden easily ordinarily.
The section towards Blea Moor is one of my favourites. It’s comparatively flat and fast. I caught up with a mate and exchanged a few words. He was still talking to me as I had to pull over with a puncture. I can’t complain – my 6th 3 Peaks and it’s my first puncture. A few problems resulted in a slow change of tube but eventually I was away. Ribblehead is always interesting. So many support crews and spectators cheering you on. Waving flags and people ready with spare wheels and bikes range along the track beside the massive viaduct.
My stop with Cath was a little longer this time. A gel tucked up my shorts leg, a bottle of energy drink and a top up of tyre pressure. Away again on the road and I got the first warning twinges of cramp. I’d been struggling getting a drink from my Camelbak and must have been dehydrated. I glugged from my water bottle to discover that the top didn’t fit well and I was sloshing sticky liquid all over my face. Just to compound the comedy when I got my gel I found it was partially ripped and I’d got it all down my leg. I was more concerned that I had hardly any gel left.
Pen –y-ghent has often been my nemesis on this raceand, despite all the training yet again I was struggling. I rode as far as I could but it felt all too soon by the time I was reduced to walking. The cramp left my stiff legged but I kept plodding on. It felt like an age to reach the checkpoint at the top. Riders coming back down towards you play havoc with your mindset here but soon it was me passing hundreds of battered looking riders as I descended.