Excited. Stupidly excited.
I waited, along with 907 other people that had passed pre-qual to enter the 3 peaks, to be among the lucky 650 who’ll get to do it. I Waited with bated breath. Wait. Wait. Wait.
A wait not eased by a foolish referendum that’s turned the country upside down and inside out. A wait not eased by the weight I feel on my shoulders to engage with the next phase of social upheaval. A wait not eased by an unexpected extension on the decision. A wait made worse by missing last year with a long recovery from injury. Wait. Wait. Wait.
Then it came through. Success. I’ll be on the start line in Helwith Bridge for a 10th attempt at the 3 Peaks. The only race I really, really want to do. The only race that matters. The only race.
One day, I’ll have had enough of all this. Enough of the stress of entry. Enough of the months of training. Enough of developing callouses on your shoulder through hours of running with the bike. But not yet. For now, the 3 peaks represents all that is beautiful about endurance racing. I can close my eyes and run the memories through my mind:
The nervous anticipation on the startline, a buzz of grit, determination, energy and smiles / The struggle toward Simon Fell, as road turns to farmland and farmland to mountainside. Bending so far forward you can kiss your knees, trying not to fall back / Over the top, bodies pile over make shift ladders, cresting dry stone walls / Exposed plateaus, insane descents. No cross bike was designed for this / The crowds. Huddled in corners, gathered in groups. Support for all / Flying along the road, a chain-gang of temporary teammates / The return from Pen-Y-Ghent. 20 minutes or so, fast,frenetic, chasing honour, a time, respect, all three / Finish / Sharing a beer with your mates and cake with everyone.
The peaks represent a pleasure and a battle all at once. It makes you feel alive; the rocky descents and stiff climbs forcing the blood ever faster through your veins. A race that is as easy on the eye as it is good for the soul, enveloping you in the warmth of the CX community. Bring on September, you beautiful month.
The Three Peaks Cyclo-cross is held in the Yorkshire Dales on the last weekend in September. It is the oldest, longest and hardest cyclo-cross race in the UK.