On the Friday evening before the steel city race. Me, my brother and dad went to have a look at the track and were hoping to find some sneaky lines we could rail the following day. Whilst walking it we noticed that a few berms had been built up and most importantly it was dusty dry!
It was the same track as the previous year so we new we could get straight into hammering it in the morning. I could have probably gone to bed a bit earlier than I did that night to make sure I was rested up for the day ahead but knowing it was only a short track I new I was fit enough to lay down a flyer. The following morning I went for a spin on the xc bike and felt fit for the race. At 8:00 we set off in high spirits. When we arrived I met up with Liam and went to sign on. As soon as practice started I was at the top, buzzing to get riding.
My first practice run was like any other first practice run. Knackering and wobbly! I always try to hit all my lines on the first run so I can get straight into it on the next run. Because there wasn’t many lines I new exactly what I needed to do to bring home the win. 11:30 soon came around and after 3 practice runs I felt ready to race. After heckling louder than ever before at Ben, cath, becci, rich, tony, coops and the micks I set off up for my run. At the top I was pretty confident but starting to overheat as us Brits aren’t used to hot weather. Hearing the beeps I was raring to go. When my run was underway I was trying to go fast but all the heckling at the Jump into the open section made me just want to put on a show. To please all the hecklers I pulled a huge goon which made them go wild! The rest of my run was pretty good but quite chilled. I crossed the line in 1st but was then knocked back to 2nd only 0.3 seconds off. I was surprised I got this close as I was on the downhill bike and everyone else was on all mountain bikes which are more suited to the track. However the super light carbon operator made it as close as I was going to get to an all mountain bike.
Sitting in 2nd I was pretty keen to get back to the top to do my second run. With team mate Liam in the pro category he was still to come after my run. I went up to the hecklers jump to watch Liam compete with the super fast pro category. I could see him flying through the trees to where I was stood. With everyone shouting him on he ripped the carbon kona operator past us, pedalling in the air. He was on a flyer! He went into 11th in a category with quite a few World Cup racers which is pretty impressive! After 1st race runs everyone was up for smashing their times to pieces and were looking forward to 2nd runs. After some dinner and more heckling I went up for my 2nd race run. I knew what I needed to do. I was going to take this one more serious! Very soon I was in the gate and focused on the win.
When the beeps went I exploded out of the start gate, pre-hopping the first jump and getting straight on the pedals. Staying completely off the brakes I was on a flyer. I came up to the hecklers jump and remembered to keep it low on this one. Squashing the jump hard I was into the rough open section where I was doubling up what holes I could. I was soon in the bottom section where the all mountain bikes generally excel so I knew I had to pin it. Fully committing to all the corners I was spat on to the finish straight before the bomb hole drop. Sprinting hard and squashing the bomb hole I tucked over the line. I was relieved to hear a shout through the speakers saying “2 seconds up!” All I had to do know is wait for the last man down.
He crossed the line 1.8 seconds back. Id won! I was relived and I knew I could relax now! It was a great day with some good results throughout the team. In the pro category Liam took 14th place in the end with a storming time. In the masters category tony came away with 8th and coops right behind in 9th. Ben took 17th. In the vets category mick hill came 13th with mick waud right behind him in 14th. Team manager Richie Molloy took 28th. In the women’s category becci came away with a great 5th place and kath behind her in 6th! The next race is for the british national series at AE forest where everyone’s going to smash it!
Race Report – Fort William BDS
To say I was bricking it, going into my first BDS was an understatement! The nerves were matched with excitement, though as I set off early doors on Friday to meet up with the lads and make the long journey up to Fort William. I got to chauffeur the infamous Tony Kay (north west champ) and he didn’t disappoint with tales of cake making, mega ships and earth facts! A low point was his request for Atomic Kitten and Beyoncé…can you get ejector seats for Polos?
We arrived in convoy at a Fort Bill and cracked on with a track walk. I’d rode the track last year but forgot how massive it was. Considering there had been quite a bit of rainfall, first impressions on the condition of the track were great! As we got closer to the wood section, however, we were greeted by a few worried faces, head shakes and ‘it’s crazy in there, man!’ We weren’t disappointed, the woods were slop mixed with roots, stumps, off camber hell and a bit more slop! Awesome! The rest of the track looked like its usual gnarly goodness, with the ‘experienced’ lads showing their years of riding knowledge, picking up some sweet lines! At this point, Rich’s belly was rumbling so we headed back down and got to the hotel just in time for tea and a few steady pints!
Saturdays practice came and a slightly thick head was not helping my nerves of tackling this massive track! It was the first time I’d rode with my kenda nexcavator tires so was interested to see how they held on the loose berms at the top of the course…they worked a treat and I soon got into my flow. Following the lads down, I was pretty stoked to be keeping with them, might have been a different story if Tony didn’t have a gammy hand, (he made me put that bit in) but confidence was growing with every run.
I really wanted to hit the Hazzard Hoofer river gap and pretty sure I could have nailed it but with no spare wheels (or limbs) I couldn’t afford the risk. The wood section however, was a nightmare. Loads seemed to be struggling with it’s delightful maze of stumps, roots and mud and only got one clean run through it all day, but it was only a small portion of the track so tried not to get too worked up about it. The motorway section was, as expected, ridiculously massive but mega fun. Even pedalling my head off…I was nowhere near clearing the tables! I got the hip jump (kinda) so was pleased with my efforts! Practise day over and despite an over the bars from Mick Hill, all remained pretty much unscathed. Food and beer required.
Race Day arrived and we all got a decent practise in early doors to settle the nerves. Tony, Mick Waud and Mick Hill all put in good seeding times. Team captain Rich had watch issues(!) and I think Liam had a mechanical, but got down safe. I finished my seeding run 20 seconds down from Bev Barnes in top spot. I wasn’t too disappointed as I knew I’d made a few mistakes at the top, and wasn’t pushing as hard as I knew I could. I made it through the woods cleanly though (even though a rut upto your handle bars had appeared)!
It was a long wait until the race runs and rain had become torrential so I settled down for a little kip in the Polo. Awesome race prep! After a bit of food, we headed up for our race run…only to have a delay of about 40 mins, I think there was a timing issue, I’m sure it couldn’t be helped but waiting around does naff all for nerves! The lads went down first. It was great to see them setting off but would have loved to see them smashing it into the arena!
It was my turn to head down, and whilst I tried to remain calm and chilled on the outside…internally I was a bag of nerves. A deep breath and I was off. First bermy section and the rock gardens went ok. I knew I wasn’t going as fast as I was in practise but I just kept reassuring myself I was doing ok…just stay confident! Everything was going well until I got to the nightmare woods. I slip on an off camber root and I was down in the mud! I picked myself up as quick as I could and pointed my bike in the direction of the rut hoping it would guide me down. It did the trick and I was back on it. I felt quick past the silver line wall ride and down to the Hazzard hoofer….for a split second I thought ‘go for the glory shot’ but bottled it and splashed through the river. I carried my speed well into the final wood section and then onto the motorway, a deep breath and I was over the bridge heading for the loose berm into the hip jump. I over took a couple of girls on the tables and was desperate to cross the finish line. I let off the brakes as much as my lady balls would let me on the mega steep log drop and came into the arena and crossed the line. Knackered! Bev Barnes crossed the line and she looked quick! Panic! I looked up and saw Tony and Mick Hill looking at the results monitor. They had a big grin on their faces and TK was holding one finger up! I’d bloody done it!
It got a bit messy after this…champagne, beer, whiskey, wrestling and rum make for an interesting evening!
Liam and Coupes put in solid performances, as did the Micks and Rich (no watch issues). Unfortunately, Tony crashed out in the woods…twice…and got beat by a girl.
Thanks to all the mega sponsors, and event organisers, but especially to my TRG team mates. You were awesome all weekend and your support really helped me get to that top spot. Massive fist bump to you all
lots of Photos of Fort william and all our races by Ian Britton Photography here: https://www.facebook.com/TeamRockGardener/photos_stream