Founder of Three Peaks Cyclocross John Rawnsley has died

The first winner of the race passed away on Christmas day

(Image credit: Andy Jones)

The founder of the iconic Three Peaks Cyclocross event, John Rawnsley, has died.

Mr Rawnsley, the race founder who won the first edition all the way back in 1961, died on Christmas day after suffering from cancer.

Three Peaks is an annual cyclocross race held in Yorkshire on the daunting peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent, organised by Bradford Racing Cycling Club.

A statement from Three Peaks Cylocross, posted on New Year’s Eve, said: “It is with great sadness to announce that John Rawnsley, race founder, first winner and organiser of the first fifty editions passed away on Christmas Day following an illness with cancer.

“John organised fifty Three Peaks races and rode forty-five himself, before handing over to the present organising committee in 2013, aged 75. He remained deeply involved with the race even to this year, despite fighting cancer for the past few months.

“The family have requested no personal contact at this present time, other than cards of condolence. We will share funeral arrangements as soon as they are available.

“Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to Brigitte and family.”

The race organisers have shared details of Mr Rawnsley’s funeral (opens in new tab), which will be held on January 15 in Cottingley.

Crossing the three peaks in a 40km loop was a rite of passage for hikers ever since 1887, but it wasn’t until 1959 that a 14-year-old schoolboy, Kevin Watson, rode the route in six hours and 45 minutes.

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Mr Rawnsley then read about Watson’s ride in the local paper and he and group of friends made their own attempt in 1960 and again the following year.

On October 1, 1961, Mr Rawnsley organised the first Three Peaks Cyclocross race with 35 starters.

In total he organised 50 editions of the famous race and rode 45, stepping down in 2012 at the age of 75.

He also took up running to do the Three Peaks fell race 30 times and even hiked the route as well.

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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.