There were three Team JMC riders in this year’s 3 Peaks Cyclocross race – unquestionably the most famous and the hardest cyclocross race in the world. While team mates Jason Miles and Phil Simcock were either having a ‘bit of a nightmare’ or were also smashing their previous best time, Andrew Burgess was having his own battle with another Budge….
Training had gone well for this year’s race. Going on holiday for the last two weeks in July rather than our traditional last two weeks in August had given me a solid seven week run-up to the event. Not sure I used the time as wisely as I could but then I’m not the most scientific when it comes to putting a training plan together. Actually I shouldn’t really use the word plan in fairness. My simple approach was to get the mileage up during August, get a good base level fitness and get my weight down after a two weeks holiday in the US. Then to get as much climbing in as I could during the first couple of weeks of September, followed by the Mary Townley Loop Challenge (2 weeks before the 3 Peaks) to test whether it had all worked.
The only downside was that I had knackered my ankle fell running in February and managed to do it again in July. The damage the second time round was significant and no matter what I tried it wasn’t getting much better. What it meant was that fell running training was out but I could cope with climbing with bike on my back. Not ideal as running up hills made a big difference to my result the year before.
A PB by over 40 mins at the MTL Challenge (9th place to boot) in proper 3 Peaks weather gave me a huge boost in confidence and the thought that a PB at the 3 Peaks (best previous time was 4hrs 38 in 2011) might be on the cards if the weather played ball and my ankle could cope.
Two weeks of taking it easy later and I was on the start line with 600 other cross racers waiting for the gun to go. I get a little nervous before most races but I get properly nervous before the start of this one. Every crash from every previous attempt, and there have been a number of really big ones especially on Whernside, runs through my mind. Looking around I see the same look on many faces so I am sure I am not the only one.
9:30am and we are under way. I knew that to do a PB I had to stop taking it easy at the start and go for broke. The road section at the start was as mad as normal, apologies to the guy I ran into the back of when everyone braked hard. Simon Fell is just bloody horrible and my ankle hated it. However I was really chuffed to dib at the top of Ingleborough over 11 minutes faster than I had done before. My elation only last 5 mins though as a lack of concentration saw me hit the ground after misjudging my ability.
Up to the point I joined the road section to Whernside the weather had been good, a little breezy but dry and bright. However from that point on the wind was really strong and I struggled on the road sections as I couldn’t get on anyone’s wheel. On the top of Whernside the side wind was the strongest I have ever experienced and was blown off the bike twice. As is the norm I also went over the bars on Whernside descent and managed to land awkwardly on my ankle. From this point on running was out of the question so I decided to man-up and ride the tricky bits. Two more crashes later, sure it would have been more if they hadn’t opened up the new grassy section towards the bottom, I made the viaduct.
The road to Pen-Y-Ghent was the usual slog and I took the opportunity to throw down my remaining gels in readiness for the final peak. Pen-Y-Ghent was a blur. My energy levels were right down and I was really suffering. I did manage to ride up as far as you can but after this I was doing the zombie march to the summit. I woke up tho at the point I dibbed at the top as I realised that a PB was definitely on as long as I kept my concentration and didn’t damage me or the bike on the descent to the finish.
That said there was a sub-plot to the day that put a different complexion on that final section. At Hit The North back in February I was involved in a great scrap with a top Aussie guy called Andrew Burridge that was made even harder as the shouts of “Go on Budge!” for me were also encouraging him as I found out later that he was also nicknamed Budge. Approaching the 3 Peaks we had a bit of banter and agreed that the 3 Peaks would be the Battle of the Budge’s part two. Hands were shaken on the start line and during the race we passed each other a couple of times but both stayed focussed on just doing as well as we could rather than racing each other. However it was clear that we were closely matched on the climbs, he was faster on the road but I was faster on the descents. So to see him dib 8 seconds in front of me on the final summit made my strategy for the final leg really clear. Get a lead on the descent and fend him off on the final road section.
I finally crossed the finish line in 4hrs 17 mins. A massive improvement on my previous best and a whole 48 secs faster (and 17 years older – my excuse for next year!) than Aussie Budge.
So a great day out all said and done. Huge thanks to everyone involved in putting the race on. As much as it dominates your thoughts and takes over your life as it approaches – I would be gutted if it ever ended.
So next year I join the V50 category. This year’s time would have made me 16th fastest grand vet. So if I could train a bit smarter, get fell running again, not finish with a litre of fluid left, not descend Whernside like a prat…………………………………….. J