While looking for a challenge back in December 2017, I came across a story about the world’s toughest cyclo-cross race which has taken place every year since 1961 in my home county of North Yorkshire. As a committed bike rider and frequent racer I just had to give it a shot.
Participating in the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross requires gritting your teeth to ride and hike three of England’s highest peaks before careering back down and along connecting roads in a 61km circuit-of-pain featuring more than 1,500 metres of climbing on some of the UK’s toughest terrain.
A brief investigation of these famous hills - Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-Y-Gent - makes it clear that a mountain bike is a much better option - however, the race rules are very strict and MTBs are simply not permitted.
Never having tried cyclocross before, it was obvious that I needed a new bike (surely the best reason for entering the race in the first place)! So I took the plunge and purchased a reasonably priced carbon Cube cyclo-cross bike.
With skinny tyres and zero suspension, I would be at the mercy of the muddy terrain and the rapidly changing weather. This was going to be a challenge of the highest order - both for my fitness and for my equipment.
The right gear is key to avoiding mistakes when riding in rugged mountain terrain and the rest of my kit was adapted from mountain biking, with the addition of thermals and a waterproof jacket, plus a whistle and survival bag (both required by the organizers) to help cope with any eventuality.
Having grown up in nearby Skipton, I knew the importance of managing variable weather conditions which range from rain to fog, mist, sunshine and even occasional hail storms. To ensure no loss of focus during the event I needed versatile eye protection and chose a pair of AMO Typhoon series sunglasses with NXT polarised lenses.
These are tough, lightweight glasses that provide great protection against flying mud and stones and come with lenses that respond rapidly to changes in light intensity to provide maximum protection in bright sunlight as well as cloudy conditions.
I finally made it through the race in a respectable time of 4 hours and 50 minutes with my energy levels completely drained - but at least there were no falls to report despite plenty of mud and open water in the moorland wilderness.
Although I faced constantly changing, blustery damp conditions, my AMO sunglasses didn’t mist up once during the long and arduous course and I enjoyed clear visibility throughout. Just as importantly, they stayed firmly in place thanks to the customisable soft rubber nose piece while descending the precipitous boggy slopes on each of the three high peaks.
The Three Peaks Cyclo-cross is a unique event and highly recommended to any adventurous cross or MTB bike rider. Next time, I hope to repeat the experience of running tubeless tyres (ideally Schwalbe X-One with the maximum width of 35mm) at a fairly low pressure of around 40-50 psi for maximum comfort and trust myself to avoid the worst of the sharp rocks along the way.
The other key component to successfully surviving the world’s hardest cyclo-cross race was undoubtedly my pair of AMO sunglasses!
Thank you for reading this blog and as a reward for reading this far, AMO sunglasses are offering you an additional 10% discount if you purchase a new pair of AMO sports sunglasses. Just enter discount code "BLOG1080" at the AMO Shop.