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Three Peaks Pre-Race Report

28 June 2023

Words & Photos: Jimmy Ashby

Three Peaks Bike Race.

Come July I’ll be racing my bike again across another continent - this time Europe.

Twelve months ago I was touring Europe on my ‘Bucket List Bike Tour’ and crossed paths with the 2022 edition of the Three Peaks Bike Race, meeting the race leader and a few other riders on course. That was the first I had heard of the event. I was captivated and it was an easy no brainer decision to put myself on the start line 12 months later.

2022 Bucket List Bike Tour.

So at midday on July 9th, I’ll  depart Vienna with 150 other racers heading west to Barcelona via the Dolomites, Massif Central and Pyrenees.

2023 will be the sixth year for this highly regarded and fiercely competitive unsupported bikepacking race. It's tarmac-based which means I’ll be riding my Belgie Spirit road bike by Curve. The route is slightly different each year with the interesting twist that each rider chooses their own 'shortest distance' between the three peaks - but within the basic principles of unsupported racing.

The Rules
  1. Riders must complete the full course from start to finish on a self planned route between three specified mountain peaks.
  2. Riders must be fully self-supported.
  3. No drafting at any time.
  4. Riders must follow the local laws at any time.
  5. All bikes have to pass a check up before the start.
  6. Riders are required to use a provided GPS tracker if they want to be ranked in the general classification.
  7. No prize money.

The event organisers stipulate three checkpoints and 'parcours' leading to the checkpoint - one in each of the three mountain ranges, hence the title. It's up to you to join the dots and create your own personal route. This means every rider will have a different plan between the peaks. Do you choose further but flatter; shorter but steeper; or some gravel instead of faster rolling on the tarmac? The route options are endless and in turn the planning is a key factor to success.

The three set peaks this year are:

  1. Dolomites - Passo Sella and Timmelsjoch
  2. Massif Central - Puy Mary
  3. Pyrenees - Col de Portet-d'Aspet
My lead up and preparation

In October 2022 I completed my first unsupported bikepacking race in the inaugural Rhino Run across South Africa and Namibia. The things I learnt in that 2750 km off-road race have been pivotal in developing my race craft in the lead up to this next event. In comparison to the Rhino Run, my training has been a much more in-depth, structured and committed process. I’ve shaped my last six months all around being as fit and ready for this race as I can be. Now with the majority of the training behind me I’m feeling fitter, faster and stronger than ever. There’s an overwhelming buzz of excitement to see where that puts me in the race. Being one of the few non-Europeans in the event, hopefully I can be at the pointy end and show them what us Aussies can do!

2022 Rhino Run.

I spent two months training in the northern mountains of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam at the start of the year, and from then have continued to build on that base. As this race is across the three major European mountain ranges you can probably guess there will be a lot of climbing involved… therefore I’ve structured all of my training around going up - logging over to 200,000 vm over the last six months.

SE Asia.

I’ve had two key blocks of time in Bright, Victoria to lap out the iconic climbs of Buffalo, Hotham and Tawonga. I’ve managed to be there for over a month this year - camped out in my tent, living the simple life and riding lots. I was lucky to have the company of Stephen Lane for a week over that time, a friend to chase around the high plains.

When home in South Australia, Old Willunga Hill and Wickham Hill have been my stomping ground. Some say these two climbs are the Swiss Alps of SA! I’ve also been training my stomach with multiple bakery stops enjoying plenty of croissants and pastry treats.

Life in Bright.

The overwhelming focus of my preparation has been route planning and research. I’ve spent countless hours on Google Maps and Komoot diving deep into small European towns, bike path networks and resupply points. Whilst I don’t want to give away what my plan is… trust me that there’s a whole lot of climbing in just over 2000-ish kilometres, with some iconic and breathtaking roads along the way. I know my route is as sharp as it can be, and I’ve just got to trust it once I get over there.

I’ve been very quiet with my training, logging rides in private and keeping it personal. Come Vienna, I can’t wait to give it my all and see what I can do. No matter what happens it’ll be an exciting race to follow. A live tracker link will become available closer to the start date and at midday on July 9th Vienna time I’ll be 'all in' for Barcelona.

RACE UPDATE - Jimmy completed the event in 12th place, 7D 6H 4M.

  • I’ll be riding my Curve Belgie Spirit Titanium road bike with Curve’s G4T rims.
  • I have a K-Lite Dynamo lighting system connected to my front hub.
  • I use handmade Treadlite bike bags.
  • And of course I’ll be kitted out in my Ground Effect clothing and rainwear.

Find more info on the Three Peaks Bike Race website and check out the set parcours via Kamoot.