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Three Peaks Cyclocross 2018 by Christina Wiejak

Velo Ulverston | 05/10/2018 15:19:00

For my previous 3PCX races, I did a little write up, which a few people said they’d enjoyed reading. So, after my third year, I’m following tradition. If you’re reading this having raced, I hope that you enjoyed your ride as much as I did. If you’re thinking about having a go, stop thinking and do it. It may be the hardest thing you ever do on a bike, but irrespective of how it goes, you will not regret it.


Credit: Ste Harling-Whernside descent

I suppose my ‘journey’ started in March. Fed up of a cold, dark winter, I found myself on a Majorcan training camp organised by Struggle Events/OTE Sports. It was just what I needed to kickstart my season; I was persuaded to have a stab at road racing, which is how I spent my summer. After entering and winning my first road race, I decided that the quickest way I would learn would be to throw myself in at the deep end. My second race was Rutland-Melton Classic. I did everything wrong, was timed out along with over half the field, and spent the long drive home feeling deflated. I was down but not out; I don’t like doing things badly, so I took everything from that race and told myself it wouldn’t happen again.

July brought the National Road Championships, which seemed a big ask six weeks after my first road race, but I finished in the top half, in very good company. I’d taken on the best field that I could find, and nothing terrible happened. Onwards and upwards. I raced in as many races as I could find. In August, I surprised myself with a win at the North West Road Championships. The week after brought my last race of the season- Ryedale Grand Prix. If you’d said that I’d have a top 20 in a National Race, I’d have been delighted. I rolled in after a cold, wet and tough race in 18th. Could I have done better? Yes, I really think so. On reflection, it was a result to be pleased with. From 116 starters, only 37 finished. This was a fitting end to my first attempt at a road season, and it was time to turn my attention to something very different…

I was very aware when entering 3PCX that I wouldn’t be committing the same time to specific preparation as 2017. I dithered about entering at all. I’d won the year before-could the only way be down? But that isn't how it works; you can’t avoid races for fear of losing, otherwise you’d never race at all. ‘D Day’ always comes around quicker than you want it to, and as usual, I felt underprepared. I knew I had good form; my season on the road and in TTs told me that, as well as the first NW League CX races, but my fell running legs from previous years were still in storage, and my confidence on steep descents was lacking.



Training ride-it could be worse!

September flew by! I checked out the lower slopes of Whernside, remembering a couple of useful lines, as well as a few rides with bike carrying. I tried to turn my nerves into planning-I recruited a small army of helpers, with wheels and a couple of bikes, and gave them their locations. With Velo Ulverston providing a spare Scott Addict CX, and some very generous lending of spare wheels, I was in a better place than last year.

Final preparations took place; Vittoria Terreno Mix tyres and a 36T Hope retainer ring (after two very lengthy debates) were fitted to my trusty Scott Addict, with some TLC from Velo Ulverston. I'm not sure what I'd be riding without them! For me, the week before consisted of a few easy rides, as I was determined to be as fresh as possible. The familiar knotted feeling in my stomach returned, and when I arrived at Helwith Bridge on Sunday, I had a feeling of dread. I wanted to win this race so much; I had a hunch after my win last year that I had won through default, so I wanted to prove to myself that it wasn't just luck. There was expectation this year, from myself and others, which was a blessing and a curse. I suffer badly with nerves anyway, and this put me on 'Red Alert'!

Seemingly becoming a habit, I started further back than I'd have liked, but when we finally got rolling, the nerves disappeared. The fields before Simon Fell were drier than last year, but we were soon off our bikes and the calf burning  was back. Nevertheless, I found what rhythm I could, and was confident that no other ladies were ahead. I tried the 'fence line', which proved unsuccessful after getting my rear axle trapped in the wire-fortunately I was untangled by the rider behind. The initial descent off Ingleborough is my least favourite part-I have always lost time and places here. Still, I reached Cold Cotes as 1st Lady. One down, two to go.

Credit: CK Images-off Ingleborough

A favourable wind and a couple of good wheels got me to the Whernside; the climb was long, steep and tough, but the support around was incredible! The descent, as scary as it was, went as well as it could've done. Friends Joe and Phil were well placed with wheels, giving me peace of mind that help was never far away. The lines I had practiced worked, and I arrived at Ribblehead feeling in control, with good legs, a working bike and a knowledge that the race was now mine to win or lose. I grabbed a fresh bottle and gel from my support of Stuart, Scott, Terry and Anne and rolled on. The atmosphere at Ribblehead was fantastic, and it gives me goosebumps thinking about it.


Credit: Rob Atkins-Whernside Descent

I was delighted to find that we still had a tailwind to Pen-Y-Ghent, and I worked with (admittedly mainly behind-thank you!) a local rider. Pen-Y-Ghent is my kind of climb; a slog. Other than the final steps to the top, I really enjoyed it as I knew I was going well. With the summit loop, it is impossible to know what gap you have. It could have been 10 seconds, so it was time to get off the brakes. I was grinning on that descent, and there are pictures to prove it. I had Gary half way down with a spare bike, but I didn't need it. Incidentally, another rider did use it, so it didn’t go to waste! Other than a dropped chain, I reached the road without mishap. Before I knew it, I was turning into the finish as first lady, in 3 hours 45 minutes (other than winning, my other goal was sub-4 hours, so I was delighted with this time)!

Pen Y_thumb[1]

Credit: Mike Adams-final descent of Pen-Y-Ghent

I was elated and relieved. The sense of achievement when hard work pays off is incredible. I'm just glad to make the day worthwhile for those who helped me. The race just couldn't have gone much better, and I'm truly grateful to everyone who made it possible. I'll list a few, but there are so many more. Everyone at Velo Ulverston for their bike help, and putting up with me before the race. My support team of Stu, Scott, Terry, Anne, Joe, Phil, Gary, Dad and Max, Dave and Claire, as well as everyone who came to cheer-I can't list you all. Jo at Body Balance Sports Massage has also helped me endlessly. Adam and Phil for their wheel lending, and Giles for all your advice. Finally, the whole Three Peak Cyclocross crew for another incredible race.

So what next? Well, it's straight back to it, with a NW and National Trophy CX race this weekend, so my winter will mainly be spent in the mud. I'm just starting to work with Better Cycling Coaching to get the most out of my training, and I'm excited to see what progression can be made. Will I be at Helwith Bridge next September? I suspect I will-afterall, there is a record which needs breaking....