The 3 Peaks Cyclocross race in Yorkshire has long been billed as the hardest cyclocross race in the UK, if not the World. And for good reason. Over 38 miles of finest Yorkshire terrain, half of which are unsurfaced and a with large amount unrideable, it is a unique test of rider and ‘cross bike. After a record number of entries this year, the lucky 650 riders allocated a race start have their confirmation now and for many thoughts will be turning toward how to prepare over the next 3 months or so.
This summer we’ll be dipping in and out of how we have prepared for the race in the past, but for now can offer up some thoughts and a couple of specific sessions that will help focus your mind, if nothing else, on the task ahead to get fit for that last weekend in September.
It might seem obvious, but you need to ride offroad. I don’t mean on nice tracks, through local woods and round playing fields – gnarly, rocky tracks and trails are the order of the day here. This may be easier for some who live near this kind of terrain but the Peaks is a total all-body workout, what with the carrying climbs and harsh descents. A lack of time spent off-road can come back and bite you in the latter part of the race as everything begins to hurt, not just your legs. But mix road and off-road sections up on these rides. There is a rhythm to the Peaks – fast road, stupid hard carry, tough descent and then repeat x3. Emulating this type of pedalling hard then walking then descending pattern in training will mean you are prepared well for the demands of race day.
And then there is the carrying…. time on your feet spent carrying the bike, preferably up really steep hills is key to a good experience on race day. How much carrying you can do will again be dependent on the topography of your local area. If you live in or near any moorland, 20 minute carrying climbs will be possible to find, not necessarily ones too steep to ride, but ones that you can walk up in preference to riding, conditioning your shoulder and legs for carrying. Those living in more topographically challenged areas have been known to seek out long flights of steps or even office stairwells out of hours to replicate the process. Either way, find somewhere where you can get in some carries of over 10 mins minimum, at a walking or jogging pace – you may need to do this by doing reps up and down. Don’t worry about how you look, you’ll be glad you did it when you hit Simon Fell in September. And learn how to carry properly – nothing is more uncomfortable than a ‘cross bike dangling vertically off your shoulder. The more horizontal and balanced the centre of the top tube is, the more comfortable your carry will be.
So, as we roll into July here’s a couple of specific sessions you can do to help things along:
Session 1 – Peaks roller
Aim: to condition yourself to the rhythm of riding road and off-road in succession, as well as the ability to keep a good pace on the road sections.
Seek out a mixed off and on road route to give you 2-3 hours riding time. For the off road sections, incorporate trails, rocky sections if possible and any carries you can. Ride these sections steady, concentrating on technique and flowing on technical sections.
On the road sections (min 20 mins if poss), ride tempo or even threshold. Practice eating and drinking whilst pushing on. This is what you will do on race day so get used to it now.
Session 2 – Peaks bricks
Aim: if you already run, or want to run in training, this is for you. It’s a concept borrowed from triathletes who need to condition themselves to the change of effort, muscle groups and feel between the different disciplines. The Peaks course forces you on and off your bike multiple times. This can be a shock to those used to steady riding.
Ride 30 mins tempo/steady on the road (cx or road bike). Stash your bike somewhere safe, don trainers and walk/jog/run for 10 mins before returning to the bike and repeating.
You can extend the bike session or the run session to whatever length you like – just mix them up at least a couple of times, maybe more if you have time.