The World’s Toughest Cyclocross race

Down to Ribblehead by geoff waugh


Why would anybody climb on a bike clearly not suited for the purpose and then ride, run, walk, stumble, grovel for 38 miles on a course that goes 5000ft over North Yorkshire’s three highest peaks? That was the question I asked myself as I stepped out of the car and took my first glimpse of the first of the three peaks, Ingleborough. I could see the summit because it was an unseasonal day but even so, what the…? I had wanted to shoot this race for a while and was cued up last year but the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak meant it was canceled for the first time in its near 50 year history. Did I say history? Well, the race began after a hyperactive 14-year-old local school kid took his bike around the course which previously had been the sole domain of fell runners: hill runners with beardy faces, small shorts and huge lungs (!) Now the race is sold out way before time. This year 600 riders lined up to climb Ingleborough (2373ft), Whernside (2419ft) and Pen Y Ghent (2273ft). Crazy fools. Most seemed relatively happy at the staging point, however, sipping tea and exchanging greetings, talking about tires and gear ratios. That would change to a silence broken by the odd grunt, heavy breathing and cussing as a rider hit some unseen rock in the long grass. In the end, the race was won by the favorite. A skinny bloke called Rob Jebb. Not a bad cyclist but a world class hill runner. He won for the seventh time in a row and broke the course record with a staggering time of two hours 52 minutes. I was beat just watching. Enjoy the images.