Interview: 3 Peaks legend Tim Gould

Interview: 3 Peaks legend Tim Gould

Following the Eric Stone interview published yesterday, a second in a series of interviews with some utter legends of cyclocross in general, and the 3 Peaks in particular. Tim Gould was the first to take Eric’s record and better it – winning six events and being the first man to do that. I shared a brief chat with Tim after the race this year when he and I were done. That was followed by a few emails and eventually this interview… We had a bit of a battle, passing each other between Ingleton and Horton until Tim eventually showed his true class, pouring out watts in a cruel but predictable way, culminating in his taking ten places overall in a vicious display of class on Penyghent. 

Tim won 1984 – 89 straight through – I started by asking Tim which was the most satisfying and why.

“Of all the peaks wins I think probably the first and last were the most satisfying. The first because obviously you can’t be sure you can until you actually do it. Although I knew I had a good chance, having finished 2nd the previous year and top ten overall as a junior. After I had won it a couple of times the next target was beating the record number of wins which at that time was 5 by Eric Stone. So that was satisfying to see that through and do it with straight wins. At that time I did not envision anybody beating the record number of wins! I was winning by quite a margin and I felt it was time for somebody else to win even though I was only 25. Fred Salmon gave me one of his wheels on Ingleborough when he was my teammate – sacrificing his chance.”

How does the 3 Peaks Cyclocross stand up against all the international success you had – in terms of personal pride and achievement?

“The 3 Peaks was the first race that I won that is known internationally. Really hilly off road cycle races of about 3 hours are what I excel at. At that time 1984 there was only the peaks I had to wait a few years for MTB races to take off. When I first went to watch the Peaks I think John Rawnsley had ideas of the race becoming a big international event it was sponsored and he was having Swiss riders over. But shortly after that he changed tact or was forced to make the event lower key just to ensure the race carried on. I would have liked to win it as a true international event.

The peaks always came at a time of year you and other big riders were focusing on big MTB races… Would you have won more ‘peaks if you’d have been able to focus on them?

Back in Black: Tim shows the effort on the tough Simon Fell ascent
Pic: Joolze Dymond Photography

“I like to think I would have been able to win more times but after I had won 6 times mountain bike racing quickly began to take off. When I first turned professional for Peugeot UK the British cyclocross champs were televised live on BBC and town center criteriums were televised in the summer. But the emphasis quickly changed to MTB as they were making up virtually all cycle sales in the nineties. Then MTB was recognized by the UCI and the world champs became a fixture generally the week before the 3 Peaks. This stopped any specific peaks training so I was content doing other races like the Roc d’Azur. John R talked me into coming back for the 40th anniversary in 2000 along with the other previous winners. I had not done any racing that summer but did train up for the event and came 2nd to Robb Jebb, who had his first win that year.”

With 149 starters in 1984 and different course, how much has it changed, to you, when you came back this year?

“The race has constantly changed. The first time I watched it the event started and finished in a field in Horton in Ribblesdale. Most, if not all my wins went up and down the same side of Whernside. You can imagine what running down all those steps did to your calves!

“As the years passed, more and more anti erosion paths have been put down. Penyghent was certainly not virtually-rideable-to-the-ridgepath during my first wins. For a couple of years mountain bike racers set off before the main field, too. At one point I was toying with the idea of trying to win the whole thing on one.

“This year the route was the same as my last ride in 2000 but I had forgotten all about the way down Ingleborough to Cold Cotes and the bottom bit of Whernside by the side of the railway. I remembered all the slabs down Whernside well enough. The size of the field now is a shock – the 149 riders in 1984 was still enough to make it the world’s most popular ‘cross. The dibbers are new to me, too – I sailed through the the check point at Ribblehead and had to make a u-turn to dib!”

You rode a measured race and [impressed me when you] took 11 places on aggregate on Penyghent (24th to 13th) – would have been more – what’s the story – how did you think 2014 went?

“Coming back to the event this year was a focus for me to keep cycling the previous nine months. I had started to cycle again regularly during the past two years before that, as two other parents from my children’s school began calling for me to cycle every Sunday morning. They could drop me at first and it took a long time to become half competitive. But on the Matlock cycling club Christmas ride 2013, my brother Julian said he wanted to strengthen his vet50 cyclocross team. I said I wanted to ride the ‘peaks again as a vet50 and Julian got some more Zepnat riders interested.

“So I could remember most of the things I used to do to prepare and set about stepping up training.

I had read some where that Matt Bottrill (who is also a postman) does 8 hrs training a week, I thought that sounded quite manageable so I tried to do that. I could not manage it at first-  all sorts of reasons… not being able to breathe not getting heart rate up etc. but gradually little things came back.

Pouring watts: Tim gets his teeth stuck into Penyghent
Pic: Alan Dorrington, FluentInCross

“I started running for the ‘peaks early in the summer and eventually got to be doing a 50 min run a couple of times a week, plus some slogging up a steep bank at the end of a cycle ride. It was all going pretty well and I probably lost two stones and I started to feel something like I should – and began tackling some steep climbs that are normally best avoided. This gave me a problem in my left knee which was probably cartilage trouble from when I fractured my patella round about 1990. This was early September so I was ready to go but had to drastically reduce training I could cycle but then I would need 3 days before I could go again.

“The week before the ‘peaks I did a 4 hour ride on the Wednesday that set my knee off badly –  and wasn’t able to cycle again until the morning of the event. So when it came to race day I knew I should not really be riding but did not want to waste all the preparation. In my mind I thought that if I could get up Simon Fell without knee trouble then I could manage Whernside on a wing and a prayer and PYG would be too close to the finish to pack.

“So I set about the race and was pleased to be called up to the grid – albeit about the last person. Having not raced for about 14 years. I was pleased the first part on the road was supposed to be neutralized. Neutralized is not really how I would describe it, but I held my position without to much trouble. When we first hit the offroad the racing really begins and I tried to hold position without digging too deep. So I went over the top of Ingleborough in about 30th place and along the road to the bottom of Whernside I rode conservatively concentrating on eating and drinking picking up the pace to take a tow as some riders came by.

“I had taken some paracetamol along the road and my knee was feeling as though I could finish so I started to half run (shuffle?) up Whernside. This was fast enough to maybe gain 10 places on the ascent [including me – and I assure you it was no shuffle, readers!] and I probably got five more on the way down via other peoples punctures.

“When it came to the ascent of Penyghent I was feeling better than when I took my victories having only gone at my own pace this year and being on a bike that was probably 4lbs lighter. I think I rode the most I have ever helped by the dry summer and passed about 10 riders [including me again].

One of my friends was tracking me and he said I was top 10 at the top of PYG but I had a few difficulties with a puncture and a twisted chain on the descent and had to ride out of my skin to hold 13th along the road to the finish.
That was enough to give me the first vet50 position which I later learned was a new record for the category.”

What conditions did you hope for on race day – what do you do best in? [I’m a foul weather man, personally!]

“Conditions wise, I prefer nice days for the 3 peaks – I think it is hard enough as it is. Other ‘crosses suit me if the going is tough. I rode in 1981 when there was sleet and fog and I managed to come down the ridge path off Penyghent and not turn left to Penyghent lane. Perhaps I am to skinny for the cold days!”

Any other tips will you share with the readers and other ‘peaks obsessives?

“The 3 peaks is a cycle race – the most important prep is to be able to cycle more than the length of time you think you can complete the race in. Running on the flat is not much help – try to find the steepest bank in your locality – preferably so steep that it is impossible to run (at first). Do plenty of calf and quad stretches.

“On the day, plan to drink a bottle for every hour of the ‘peaks. This year I used a handlebar mounted cage to make picking up the bike easier. Take some food or energy bars.

“Equipment-wise I think tubulars give more puncture resistance – especially to pinch flats. I weigh 10 stone and put 60 psi in mine. A lower gear than for regular cyclocross is required – mainly for Penyghent – and a bit on the top of Whernside. This year I used 34 front 28 rear.  I found that just right and it has the advantage of being workable with a standard road rear mech. I used disc brakes for the first time this year and would recommend them for anyone making a ‘peaks-specific machine.

It’s great to have bike racer Tim back….!


  1. Brilliant interview. A true leg-end of the sport. A real good insight.

  2. Great I/w , reminds me of my 2x 3peaks succesess(not) I mean completions, totally agree preparation is key plus nutrition & hydration. You can never do enough.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr> tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.