Facebook Pixel Image


  • Three Peaks cyclo-cross: The Dalesman

    Posted on

    The toughest – and to our minds – greatest ‘cross race on the calendar scales the highest peaks in Yorkshire. Its existence is due to one man – John Rawnsley

    Photographs: Sam Needham

    On June 21, 1960, the letters page of Cycling magazine featured a letter from WH Paul. Mr Paul – William to his friends, Bill to close ones – was founder of the Rough-Stuff Fellowship, an organisation dedicated to off-road riding but strictly opposed to racing anywhere other than on tarmac.


    Turned out he’d got wind of the plan to run a cyclo-cross race over Yorkshire’s three highest peaks and was not impressed.


    Actually he was nothing short of “dismayed” that a route he regularly rode was to be turned into “another race route, possibly 100 riders riding, running, jumping and stumbling in a mad scramble to be the first across.”


    A few weeks later, the magazine published a response to Mr Paul’s letter. It was from Mr John Rawnsley of Bradford RCC, the club planning to organise the event.


    In reassuring tones, he argues that there is absolutely no risk of 100 racing cyclists hitting the Peaks, in part because “we very much doubt if there are 30 riders in the country who will be prepared to climb three 2,500 foot mountains in just under four hours, with a total distance of 25 miles.”


    John Rawnsley is a man of many talents but I guess clairvoyance isn’t one of them. To be fair, back in 1960 it was likely unimaginable that the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross race would continue into the next century and attract 600 riders each year. But it did and it does.


    The concept is simple enough: traverse the peaks of Ingleborough (723 metres), Whernside (736 metres) and Pen-y-Ghent (694 metres). The execution is anything but, both for the organisers and for the competitors.


    Nowadays the route is 38 miles long – 17 of them on the road, 21 unsurfaced, three to five unrideable. Only ‘cross bikes with drop handlebars are permitted. WH Paul’s vision of hundreds of riders running, jumping and scrambling ultimately wasn’t far off the mark.
    But for the first year at least, concerns of a mass of riders disturbing the peace of the Peaks were unfounded (though even then John had slightly underestimated – 35 competitors lined up rather than 30).


    One of those at the start line on Sunday 1 October, 1961 was a Martin ‘Ginger’ Garwood. A 27-year-old plumber, he hailed from Clapham in London and had made a 480 mile round trip to compete. It was the first time he had seen the Yorkshire Dales or taken part in a mountain race and it all came as a bit of a shock.


    “We do a bit of riding down there you know, but this is different,” he told a journalist after the race. “It’s more of an endurance test.” Despite this and a few trips over the handlebars, Ginger finished third overall. He was asked whether he’d be back the following year. “It’ll need a bit of thinking about,” he said.


    After half a century, in 2013 John Rawnsley handed over the reins of the race organisation. “I can’t go on organising it forever,” he says. “And 50 years is a milestone.”


    I find myself committing what I’ve always felt is a cardinal journalistic sin and asking him a question about how he feels – what his emotions are as he prepares to hand over the race.


    “Well, it’s mixed feelings, really,” he says.”Erm…” He trails off and then lets out a sigh which is audible even on my recording of our conversation, made on the cheapest digital voice recorder that Argos sell.


    This isn’t the first goodbye John has had to say to the race. In 2006 he had to retire from competing due to a breathing problem. “I know through bad health he can’t do it any more but he’d still be doing it this year if he could,” Nick Craig tells me. “He did every one of them, didn’t he, and he just kept doing it.”
    I don’t have to ask how John feels about not competing any more. It’s obvious. He still walks the Dales and still rides with a local group and still enjoys it. But when we talk about it, I sense a simultaneous sadness that he can no longer compete in the tough, long distance events he so loved.


    “They were just a challenge, a sporting challenge,” he says. “That’s why I miss it so much now; I can’t do them anymore. I have to moderate. I’m with the Leyburn Cycling Group. I don’t go out every week but I’m still riding.


    “It’s mostly elderly people in this group. I think there’s 13 members now, we’ve got three women and ten men. We always go out and have a café stop or pub stop at lunchtime. It’s just…” He doesn’t finish the thought but I sort of sense where it’s going.


    “My club is the Bradford RCC,” he later emphasises. “I’ve been a member since 1960.” (He sweetly wears its jersey when he comes to pick me up at Skipton station, so that I can recognise him.)


    We talk a lot about the sense of community in cycling, how many people he’s got to know through the sport, the enjoyment of being part of a club or group. We talk too about the camaraderie of the Three Peaks race, part of my ongoing attempt to define why the event is special. John agrees that there is a particularly high level of support and encouragement.


    “When we go up and down Pen-y-Ghent at the end, riders are passing you as you are going up,” he says. “And I’ll never forget in 2006, when I rode for the last time, everybody recognised me and shouted encouragement, you know, because I was one of the slower ones.” I notice he lets out another sigh.

    I’ve heard a story via Rouleur editor and dedicated Three Peaks-er Ian Cleverly. A couple of years back, Ian wrote on the Rouleur blog about a very special surprise Fred Salmon gave [ten-time Three Peaks winner] Rob Jebb back in the 2010 race.


    Rob was going for a record seventh win and three-time victor Salmon had promised him a shock during the race. If Ian’s version of events were to be believed, he got it, in the form of Salmon springing from behind a wall, naked except for a blond wig.


    “I can’t remember what year it was but, yeah, he jumped out on top of Pen-y-Ghent stark naked,” confirms Rob when I ask him about it. “Made me go over the handlebars!” he says, laughing. Between giggles, I suggest this sort of thing might be another part of what makes the race so special. “Yeah, I think he could get away with it on that hill!”


    Nick Craig, a three-time winner of the race, is quick to relate this incident too when I ask him for his favourite Three Peaks tales. He prefaces it with: “I don’t know if you could even possibly put it in to Rouleur magazine.”

    Once I assure him that our standards are much lower than he had assumed, he regales me with his version of the story and promises to get me a photo of the moment, taken by a friend of his. “I used it in a presentation at work,” he laughs. “I love the Three Peaks,” continues Nick. “Absolutely love it.”


    Lots of people do, I’m realising, not least its organiser and rider of 45 editions of it.


    Edited extract from issue 34 of Rouleur


    Rouleur + Santini cyclo-cross zip-off tights
    Rouleur + Santini cyclo-cross zip-off tights



    228 thoughts on “Three Peaks cyclo-cross: The Dalesman”

    1. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Outstanding work!

    2. Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I have found out so far. However, what concerning the bottom line? Are you certain concerning the source?

    3. Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

    4. Awesome website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get suggestions from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

    5. great post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector don’t notice this. You must continue your writing. I’m sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

    6. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I’m hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing skills has encouraged me to get my own site now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

    7. Excellent site you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about here? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get opinions from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks!

    8. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll appreciate if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    9. Thanks for another informative blog. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I am just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.

    10. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful information particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

    11. I have read some good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you put to create such a excellent informative web site.

    12. I will immediately snatch your rss as I can’t in finding your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please let me recognize so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

    13. Asking questions are in fact good thing if you are not
      understanding something totally, however this post presents
      pleasant understanding even.

    14. When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a means you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!

    15. Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains. If you know of any please share. Kudos!

    16. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that
      you shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this.
      Thank you for sharing.

    17. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
      Very helpful info particularly the last part :
      ) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular information for
      a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

    18. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d
      most certainly donate to this fantastic blog!
      I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google
      account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this
      site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

    19. What’s up to every body, it’s my first pay a quick visit of this blog; this
      blog contains remarkable and actually fine stuff in support of

    20. Hey There. I discovered your weblog the use of msn. That is an extremely smartly written article.
      I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read
      more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

    21. It’s wonderful that you are getting thoughts from this
      article as well as from our discussion made at this time.

    22. Hi! I know this is kind of off-topic however I needed to
      ask. Does operating a well-established website such as yours take a massive
      amount work? I’m completely new to writing a
      blog but I do write in my journal everyday. I’d like to start a
      blog so I will be able to share my personal experience and thoughts
      online. Please let me know if you have any recommendations or tips
      for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!

    23. I all the time emailed this blog post page to all my contacts, for the reason that if like to read it after
      that my contacts will too.

    24. You will find on our sites distinctive no deposit bonuses,no deposit casino , no deposit poker , no deposit bingo , no deposit forex and all the very best deposit bonuses

    25. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this information for my mission.

    26. Yet another issue is that video gaming has become one of the all-time most important forms of fun for people spanning various ages. Kids engage in video games, and also adults do, too. The XBox 360 is probably the favorite games systems for people who love to have hundreds of video games available to them, plus who like to learn live with other people all over the world. Many thanks for sharing your thinking.

    27. One more issue is that video games are normally serious anyway with the main focus on understanding rather than entertainment. Although, it has an entertainment facet to keep your sons or daughters engaged, every single game is generally designed to work with a specific set of skills or curriculum, such as numbers or scientific discipline. Thanks for your publication.

    28. Pretty part of content. I simply stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to claim that I get in fact enjoyed account your weblog posts. Any way I will be subscribing on your augment or even I fulfillment you get entry to consistently rapidly.

    29. Hey there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic.
      Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird
      when browsing from my apple iphone. I’m trying
      to find a template or plugin that might be able to fix this issue.
      If you have any suggestions, please share.

      Thank you!

    30. Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO?
      I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted
      keywords but I’m not seeing very good success. If you know of any please share.

    31. “Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!”

    32. Everything published made a lot of sense. However, think on this, suppose you composed
      a catchier title? I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your blog,
      but suppose you added something that makes people want more?
      I mean Three Peaks cyclo-cross: The Dalesman – Journal is
      kinda boring. You ought to peek at Yahoo’s home page and see
      how they create article headlines to get people to open the links.
      You might try adding a video or a pic or two to get people
      interested about everything’ve got to say. In my opinion, it might bring your posts a
      little bit more interesting.

    33. Hi I am so grateful I found your blog page, I really found you by error, while I was
      searching on Askjeeve for something else, Regardless I am here
      now and would just like to say kudos for a fantastic post and a all
      round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time
      to read through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also included your
      RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the
      superb b.

    34. I pay a visit every day some sites and blogs to read
      posts, except this weblog gives feature based articles.
      natalielise pof

    35. I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning
      this blog. I am hoping to check out the same
      high-grade blog posts from you later on as well.
      In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated
      me to get my very own website now 😉

    36. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in truth was a entertainment account
      it. Glance complex to far added agreeable from you!

      By the way, how can we keep up a correspondence?

    37. Hi there everybody, here every one is sharing such know-how, thus it’s nice to read this weblog, and
      I used to pay a quick visit this weblog all the time.

    38. We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community.
      Your web site provided us with valuable information to work
      on. You have performed a formidable activity and our entire community
      can be grateful to you.

    39. I’m really impressed with your services as well as with the layout on your blog. The overall look of your website is magnificent, as well as the content. I can not wait to read far more from you.

    40. Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
      you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is wonderful,
      as well as the content!

    41. Hey! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through
      some of the post I realized it’s new to me.

      Anyhow, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll
      be bookmarking and checking back often!

    42. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
      It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here
      and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
      Outstanding work!

    43. Hi, I’ve been visiting your website a few times and decided to give you some positive feedback because I find it very useful. Well done. I was wondering if you as someone with experience of creating a useful website could help me out with my new site by giving some feedback about what I could improve? You can find my site by searching for “redaktionstest net casino” in Google. I would appreciate if you could check it out quickly and tell me what you think. -> info@redaktionstest.net – Thank you for help and I wish you a great week!

    44. When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked the
      -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same
      comment. Is there a means you can remove me from that service?

    45. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your
      sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future.

    46. CLOUD-MINING 94TB/s BITCOIN SHA256, Instant payment mining reward – no fee, 24 hours mining contract 0.0015 BTC, 7 days mining contract 0.0096 BTC, 30 days mining contract 0.0339 BTC.

    47. Hello! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues
      with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I
      ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no back up.
      Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

    48. Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
      you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is excellent, as well as the content!

    49. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make
      your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

    Leave a Reply

    Your e-mail address will not be published.