The first of a series of exclusive Three Peaks interviews for the blog. Who better to start with than John Rawnsley, event organiser since the race’s inception, and the first winner of the race. Everyone knows this, but it’s worth saying again: John has completed every single edition of the race.
The Three Peaks is undoubtedly a special event, but what one thing makes it special to you?
It’s the tremendous pysical challenge on bike and on foot over the toughest terrain in the Yorkshire Dales. Also, the diversity: it allows hundreds of other cyclists, runners, triathletes etc to enjoy this special event.
From your experience of the race, tell us who you think has done themost impressive ride in the history of the race.
In 1980 the race was International with a GB team and a Swiss team aswell as 217 other competitors. The race was won by John North age 37 ridingfor GB, Richard Bates also GB was second. In 3rd place one of Switzerlandstop young riders Peter Hagi followed by the other Swiss Richard Steiner and Carlo Lafranchi, these two had riden the previous World Cyclo-Cross Championship.
Do you have any regrets about barring MTBs from the race?
No – I have no regrets in barring MTBs from the 3 Peaks. We barred them in1989 after they had riden from 1984 – 1988 with a seperate prize list. In1989 we were informed on good authority that MTB riders were causing problems in the Yorkshire Dales [at the time] with landowners and farmers. There were allegations of abuse and even assault. We were told that the future of our race could be at risk if we continued accepting MTBs. Also, wide MTB tyres cause more damage to the ground than cyclo-cross tyres with a 35mm limit and we did not need them as entries were already very high.
Which of your 44 races have you enjoyed the least and why?
The race I enjoyed the least was this year  when I did my slowest time – 48 minutes slower than last year when I was very pleased with 5 hours 9 minutesfor 200th place.
… and which was the most rewarding?
There are four that have been the most rewarding: 1961 when I won. 1966, when I outsprinted National Champiojn John Atkins for 3rd place. 1972, when I did my fastest time of 2 hours 5o minutes for 3rd place. 1974 (aged 37) when I finished 2nd, 10 years after my last 2nd place.
Pick three significant events from the race’s history that typify howthe race is unique.
The first is the sheer challenge of the event. There’s also popularity – having to close the entry this year 3 weeks before the closing date with 350 and 12 reserves. Finally, the high percentage of finishers which is always over 90% – showing the determination to finish no matter what position in the race.
And finally… what are the worst conditions you’ve raced the three peaks in?
The worse conditions were in 1981. The race started in heavy rain, galeforce winds and low cloud, temperature was very low. On Whernside the first of the Peaks the rain turned to sleet; in Chapel-le-Dale a lot of ridersretired including Graham Obree riding as a junior. In Horton before the 3rd peak Pen-y-Ghent, the stop time was brought forward eliminating many riders, because of the risk of hyperthermia.