It’s the big one, the one race that ‘crossers around the country count down to through the long summer, waiting for the rain and the wind of the ‘proper’ racing season. The 3 peaks, Ingleton, Whernside and Pen-Y-Gent, are the ultimate challenge for the ‘crosser in need of a different challenge, something to really test the metal of man and machinery.
With Rob Jebb, mister 3 peaks, out with a broken shoulder, the race was wide open, with at least 5 people who could jossle for the top spot. Expectation was running high, although that might just be 3 peaks fever, as #3peakscx was almost trending on twitter.
Anyway, as a 3 peaks virgin I was pretty excited about seeing the spectacle, particularly after the sunny pictures from previous years. After a recommendation from Dave Haygarth I headed over to Whernside because, and I quote, “the views are better”.
This wasn’t in evidence as we strode up into the cloud above Ribblehead, the viaduct rapidly vanishing behind us and no sign of the summit, somewhere buried in the dense fog above us. Reaching the stile that marks the turn down from Whernside onto Ribblehead we could see 25 yards in all directions! We were soon joined by a group of wheel bearers, spare bike handlers and hangers-on. We still couldn’t see anything though and it wasn’t until Nick Craig emerged out of the mist that we even knew we were in the right place. He vanished as swiftly as he arrived, closely pursued by Ian Taylor (who, after some thought I realise I’ve photographed before, at Hit the North last year), Paul Oldham and Andrew Peace.
Riders were soon streaming down the mountain, some running some riding, quite a number sliding on various bits of themselves. The ride had already claimed a number of riders, broken bodies and bikes strewn across the hillsides.
The tail of the race passed us by just as we made it back down to the Ribble Viaduct, the mist by now blown way to the south. The magnificent structure towering over the remaining riders as they wended their way towards Pen-Y-Gent and the final struggle of the day. Looking at the watch it was 2.30, the lead riders well finished with ever-green Nick Craig victorious, and time to head for home.
Quite possibly the craziest racing experience that I have ever had, but I can understand the fascination that it holds for many. I’ll certainly be going back!
For a proper race report with results and suchlike you can check out the British Cycling website here.
Al my pictures are also up on the online shop.