A two man race and 648 mobile spectators… Keith Murray on #3pcx.

Collegues, CX riders, and rivals… SCOTT sports Keith Murray takes time to talk about his battle with Scot Easter on #3pcx

Keith Murray

The 3 Peaks Cyclo Cross has always been something that had grabbed my attention, as a kid and a cycling fan I’d heard and read about the crazy race that was a mountain bike parcours that you had to ride on a CX bike.

Having grown up as a late starter in cycling terms, in the MTB boom of the late 80’s/90’s my hero was Tim Gould, and he was Mr. 3Px.

Known now as a Time Triallist, I was first a mountain biker like most kids in the North West of England. I started racing bikes in North West League CX races but transitioned to a fairly well known Tester in the mid 90’s; mainly due to the fact there was a thriving TT scene in the Forces. Inter Service glory & Wednesday afternoons off for training was to be gained, so my attention firmly switched to Time Trials, added to the fact ‘back in the day’ the famous Harrogate Nova 50 (the traditional last counting event in the BBAR) was also held on the last Sunday in  September.

Fast forward to about 2000, military career finished and I’m a newbie rep in the cycling trade working for Science in Sport. Visiting about 60 cycling shops in the north and my cyclocross urge started to raise its head again. 

I vaguely remember someone in a gritty Yorkshire cycling shop saying ‘forget your 19min 10’s – you’re not a real man til you’ve done the peaks!’

 Naturally I entered thinking I should easily get round, top 10 & win the 1st timer prize (I got 20th & 2nd 1st timer to Ben Bardsley) and like everyone else who rides it, it started an annual obsession and date in the diary on June 1st to ‘enter the 3PCX.’

 So this year, 2016, the start with probably the most pressure after last year. With 11 starts/ 9 finishes under my belt and a best placing of 13th, the 3 Peaks had become personal. My team-mate (& colleague) Scot ‘One T’ Easter have had banter all year about it, who was going to beat who. For us, the 3 Peaks is simply a 2 man race with 648 mobile spectators. Forget the main event of Oldham v Jebb and Nick ‘Peter Pan’ Craig waiting to pounce if those two mess up, for 8 months the talk had been non stop of how damage was going to be inflicted, where and when the killer blow was to be launched.
Gearing, tyres, nutrition & equipment had been carefully discussed all year, the SCOTT office was awash with talk about who would win. 

The money was probably on One T, slightly younger; the mountain biking, ex marine, pin-up boy, who indeed talks an epic race. Versus me, the Vet Time Triallist, in the form of my life, but not the best off-road bike rider.

 With both of us ex military men thriving in harder conditions, sneaky rain dances had been done in the week prior, so to wake up to damp roads and a compulsory jacket instruction from the organisers, the pre race handshake was a fair one. Both of us shod in new 2017 SCOTT Racing Kit; me on my ‘antique’ cantilevers and clinchers. OneT on the latest & possibly best CX bike money can buy – a SCOTT, New Addict CX Carbon with hydraulic disc brakes & tubeless tyres.

 The race

The gun went bang and to cut a long story short, ‘One T’ had decided to use the “if in doubt – lead it out” strategy. He was 1st man through the farm, hit a pile of cow shit and went down like a long-range sniper had taken him out, not quite game over but advantage MURRAY!

 Like I mentioned, 2016 was much wetter than 2015, whilst the winner Paul Oldham’s time was faster this year than last, 2:58:30 v 2:59:33. Also on board a SCOTT bike!

 

keith-murray-1

Credit – Andy Jones

keith-murray-2

Credit – Andy Jones

 

I found Ingleborough much harder taking 57:16 to the top this year v 51:48 last year. Main thing was I got down well, not falling off in a peat bog, and hit the road in a tidy group about 50th – but more importantly, marginally in front of One T.

 Wearnside was ok, I’d walked it at a brisk pace in July and this year despite some squally rain I was slightly faster, 49:19 to last years 49:40 (ironically the time I won the Seacroft Whs 25m TT 3 weeks prior!) descending a minute slower this year – I chose a crap line and took it steady on the wet rock. I hit the road and latched onto Geoff Beatham & Ryan Henry. They proceeded to destroy me and dropped me at Selside. 

However the moral of my race this year was to take it steady and feed well. Another guy joined me and we worked steady together all the way from Selside to the fingerpost 3/4 way up Pen-y-ghent. The last laugh was mine as my cantilevered 9 speed triple never let me down and I pedalled past Ryan & Geoff, hitting the top of PYG in 35th.

 Now for anyone yet to ride the #3pcx, the 20mins from the top of Pen-y-ghent to the finish in Helwith Bridge is worth the climbs up 3 bloody big hills! 19:21 from top to bottom (again reminiscent to a decent 10m TT time) a tad slower than last years 18:40, but there seemed to be a bit more congestion on the path so I couldn’t quite let it run as free as I wanted. As you come down you pass your fellow riders going up, so as I was making my way down the first part I could see One T, so a safe descent and victory was mine.

The next time we’re in Starbucks he’s paying.

I caught 3 or 4 other riders on the descent as I always give it total commitment on PYG both up and down, and this year was no exception. Rattling down, in my own mind I was Danny Hart on his World Champs winning run!

Exiting the bottom of PYG it’s a fairly straightforward 2-3miles along the road to the finish. I’ve always ridden hard here and always caught someone and been caught! This year same again, I managed to latch on to the back of 3 riders and two guys managed to leap frog me in the final mile. I rounded the final corner in a manner similar to GreenEdge sprinter Caleb Ewen, elbows out and all over my bike, just pipping a guy in a tartan jersey! Dibbing in for the final time in 3:29:57 – 3 seconds inside my target of sub 3:30:00 but more importantly in front of my pal One T, making it 2-0.

Waiting for him and other riders to come in is always good until you get a chill, hearing their stories of what could have happened, ill-timed punctures and crashes! Scot rolled in safely with some nasty cuts and a damaged brake lever from what has now been termed as ‘cowpoomageddon.’ Within 10mins, and a can of coke, the talk was of taking it to a 5th race and changes to training (actually do some) equipment & strategy for next years last Sunday in September.

 

Keith Murray is the UK Bike Sales Manager for SCOTT Sports SA (UK Branch)

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