This year’s Three Peaks Cyclocross, considered the toughest event of its kind in the world, featured two previous under 23 winners from the cyclcorssrider.com Race Team: Hannah Saville and Edwyn Oliver-Evans. Both had prepared meticulously for the race, perhaps their best event of the ‘cross calendar but fortunes were very different on the day.
Hannah takes up her story:
"The dust had definitely settled on this years Three Peaks Cyclo-X. First ride out for the new bike and the new team kit and what an outing it was! The weather was great on the day but had been quite damp in the run up meaning the ground was pretty wet and boggy on the tops of the fells.
For the first time I set off too far back in the mass of 650 riders heading out of Helwith Bridge and had to do a lot of work to make may way past some of the other riders that had to set off close to the front - hard work on a 1x setup.
The climb up Simon Fell was as horrible as always and it was pretty worrying to see someone dislocate their shoulder pulling up the walled section. I soon reached the more rideable area up to Ingleborough summit. This, however, was not as rideable as previous years due to the heavy rainfall leading up to the weekend so there was plenty of dismounting and bog jumping. Ingleborough descent is probably the safest descent of the race with the majority grassy and/or muddy with only the occasional broken wall to navigate over.
[At the timing zone the crowds were treated to a number of over the handlebar incidents, Hannah not among them fortunately]
Whernside starts with a compulsory dismount which most years I seemingly forget, with the marshalls there shouting at me to get off the bike. This year I had sprung a plan to force me off the bike by giving Sinead a drink for me to grab. It’s all in the planning! Whernside climb is most rocky steps until you reach the ridge where it turns into a wide path mostly rideable with the occasional steep part. The descent to Ribblehead was one of my favourite parts, not least due to my new bike possessing disc brakes meaning I could control my speed and didn’t have to make any emergency dismounts.
I managed to ride the majority of Pen-y-Ghent up until the steepest part towards the top of the main bridleway. The new steps up Pen-y-ghent were cramp inducing but the new descent was, in my opinion, far better than previous years as we descended down a fully rideable quad track that rejoined the path further down. I tried to avoid braking or hitting any riders coming up on the descent back down to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and popped out on the road minutes from the finish only to get cramp trying to draft a kind fella who said he’d give me a tow to the finish.
I managed to come away with 1st U23 Female and 5th overall, which is my highest ever overall placing. Next year I'm aiming for a podium. Big thanks to @spin_11 for delivering some great kit for me to get covered in mud and to @cyclocrossrider, @betdcomponents, @4iiii, @ribble_cycles for the support."
Meanwhile Edwyn also had his sights set on retaining his title, but things didn’t quite go to plan:
"As the years have gone by, the Three Peaks Cyclocross has never lost its place at the pinnacle of my racing calendar. It's hard, crazy and an adventure in itself. In 2016 I broke into the top 20 overall for the first time and managed to bag first under 23 male to boot. It was always going to be a hard result to beat, but I set my sights high coming into the 2017 edition of the race.
My preparation was the best it's ever been; plenty of off-road mountainous adventures, on what is effectively a road bike, and personal bests on my local training loops too. I was also excited to show of the new team colours which were due to arrive from Spin11 in the run up to the race.
A few weeks to go to the race and I was feeling great, but a spot of lergy after competing at the Isle of Man End2End mountain bike race managed to grab me by the scruff of my neck. All I could do in the final fortnight before the 'Peaks was to rest up and hope it would let go.
Unfortunately, while out riding in the week before the race and on the day before, I knew I wasn't 100%. My heart rate was up and I couldn't put out the same sort of efforts I was doing only a couple of weeks earlier in training. Warming up before the race and nothing had changed; all I could do was forget about it and let the race take its course. After all my preparation, it seemed stupid to not give it a punt. However, by the time I'd hit the slopes of Simon Fell I knew it was game over. My heart rate seemed too high for my effort and my legs had no impetus to drive me forward at all.
I sat into a rhythm and set my mind to conquering Ingleborough, my mind going into overdrive with disappointment, annoyance and anger. It seemed so harsh to be defeated by such meagre illness and so soon into the race, but my legs, body and heart just weren't there.
I gradually slipped back through the field, watching others set out on conquering the fells. As others swept through, Cold Cotes, at the bottom of Ingleborough, was where my race ended. I greeted the support team of my mum, Bridget, and girlfriend, Ellie, with a hug and tears of disappointment; the bottles of energy drink and gels now lying redundant. Heavy hearted, I got back into the van and contemplated all the hard training I’d accomplished that had amounted to nothing.
After a few days, the red mist had passed and I was able to look back at the race with a bit more clarity. I soon realised there was no use in beating myself up about something I couldn't have controlled. These things happen to the best of people and no one is immune to the odd illness every now and again.
However disappointing my race was, it was awesome to be clad in the brand new cyclocrossrider.com Race Team kit, which was kindly supplied by Spin11 clothing, based over in Ireland. The team is also supported by 4iiii innovations, BETD components, Ribble Cycles. All of these companies have offered their support to the team and I am very thankful. After all, there is still a long season ahead..."