Growing up in the shadow of Pen-y-Gent I’ve always had a fascination with the 3 Peaks but was always concerned that I wouldn’t manage the running/walking/hiking/slow trudging! With World Championships so early this year, it left me some latitude for something different and a way to train but away from the focus of marathon racing.
I did my best with adding walking/hiking/running to my already busy schedule, but I would have liked to do more in hindsight. I did enough to see my through the race, but to be competitive in the future this is something I need to continue to work at.
I spent plenty of time on my cross bike and used MTB routes to push my riding abilities on the cross bike. Definitely got some funny looks on some of the more technical trails as I bounced down on my cross bike!
I knew my fitness was in a good place, so spent my time working on getting comfortable on the cross bike in technical situations and hiking, with or without my bike.
Bike and Equipment Setup
We took a MTB approach to my cyclocross bike set up for 3 Peaks. Making some tweaks from my standard cyclocross bike setup including:
- Increased handlebar width from 38cm to 40cm; this allowed for some additional stability
- Shallow drop bars; being able to reach the brakes comfortably is so important and the terrain was too rough to rely riding on the hoods. The shallow drop bars made a massive difference to my bike control and confidence.
- Raised the handlebars to the top of the stack; again to focus on the feeling and level of confidence of the bike descending
- Whilst you’re limited to 35mm tyres I chose Vittoria Mezcals (not spon) for the rugged casing and since the terrain is more suited to a MTB than a cross bike, we felt the Mezcal’s offered a level of grip but wouldn’t slow me down on the road sections. Whilst I wouldn’t want to race a traditional cross race on these tyres they were absolutely fantastic for 3 peaks.
- Most of my off-road bikes have a tyre insert in, and this was no exception. I chose the Cush Core gravel inserts (again, not spon) and they offered a noticeable improvement on the feel when descending. Plus I remained puncture free both training and racing, very impressed in the improved feel of the bike.
- 40t chain ring and 11:40 cassette. I nearly changed the chainring out for a 38, but I’m glad I stuck with the 40t it gave me plenty of pace on the road sections.
Would I change anything? Maybe a dropper post?! I don’t spend enough time practicing descending with a rigid post but would it be worth the weight penalty, I’m undecided! I had a few issues dropping my chain, a chain catch is an easy and lightweight addition, so I would add that going forward.
I was so impressed with my bike set up, the bike didn’t miss a beat.
One of the pieced of advice I was given in advance, but couldn’t fix on time was some flexible MTB shoes, rather than my stiff XC ones. I have short but wide feet and getting any shoes that fit is hard work for me. But if I were to do this race again, it’s something that I would absolutely sort out. My stiff soled shoes offered no flex on the steep terrain and I often felt like Bambi on ice! And meant I had to be purposeful and steady with my feet placement.
In theory I was going to follow my usual nutrition protocol from XCM races, a mix of carb drink and gels. However, I found it challenging to eat when hiking with the bike and I think in future I would use a high carb drink (80g carbs per portion), meaning I would only have to take on one extra gel an hour.
Using the hydration pack was the perfect choice, it made carrying the bike easier, and even offered a bit of shoulder protection too!
3 Top Tips for 3 Peaks
- Ride your cross bike on hard terrain – go for a MTB ride on your cyclocross bike!
- Plan your nutrition
- Spend time hiking with your bike
There really is no other race like the 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race and should be on your bucket list; if you want help to get fit for this race or any off-road events please get in touch