As Cath and I had never ridden Fort William we decided to go for it and signed up for Round 6 of SDA.
After a rather eventful start to our road trip involving moving a sofa for my mum, a flat tyre, my van breaking down and rental car we arrived in town and met with Andy Cody of NX2.
All of us sat down with a pint and we speculated on the race weekend’s events to come. Getting to the site we were full of nerves and excitement, on the gondola we headed up the mountain watching other riders come down through the motorway, doubt of my ability to ride the track at began to creep in. As we moved across the middle wooded section we were treated to snippets of the track all looking tight and fast. Continuing up the mountain we came to the infamous top section and it looked as fast and technical as it did watching it on TV.
My doubt of being able the track had gone from creeping to full scale disbelief!!! Practice went better than expected and we studied other racers lines and slowly put together our own. Only managing 4 runs total my body was ruined and wasn’t even able to put a full run together. Warnings of the tracks length had not been exaggerated and it was tough, putting a decent race run down felt impossible.
Race day began with nerves that I had never felt before but we pushed on and were on the track for practice. Only managing 2 runs both of these resulted in many stops and lots of reassessing lines as the woods had been pulled apart and a last minute track walk the evening before had revealed yet more lines to be had.
My 1st race run consisted of far too much braking, squaring off corners and then some more braking. I had to take several rests (not stationary of course) through the woods just get some feeling back in my arms, this was proven by a very close call mashing my head over the bars in the woods off the side of the boardwalk to flat. Coming into the motor way I pedalled as hard as could to make up for my mistakes I managed a time of 6.24.
My second run I was totally drained, stood at the top I ran through my critical lines I needed to make and rest points were going to be minimal. I dropped in and went for it pedalling at every opportunity I smashed into the rough stuff but had lost all energy by the dear gate, so having to dial it in I regained some energy for the woods and motorway. Through possibly my favourite part of the track I went into the speed trap clocking about 45kph into hip/transfer slightly over shooting it I was in the loose stuff at full pace. Regaining grip I pushed through the motorway and dropping into the elevator I was greeted with screams of “DON’T BRAKE” from the side lines, I flew in the finish with possibly the biggest grin ever!!! My final time was 6:19 and with it being my first time at Fort William I was definitely pleased with that.
The absolute highlight to the weekend was traveling up in the gondola and watching my wife Cath pin it down the mountain, what a buzz that was! Sadly Cath’s runs did not go so well and her second run she ripped her mech off taking her chance to make up for a steady 1st run but again we both walked away happy that we had just ridden Fort William. Bad luck to Andy for his crash in his 1st run and shredding his hand on the rocks, gutted bud you were flying.
Cheers to all the lads at We love mountains and Cycopath for making it a cracking weekend. And of course TRG and our sponsors.
Watch one of Bens practice runs here
I’d never been to BPW so was unsure what to expect and after the track walk, I wasn’t disappointed. It looked awesome!
It wasn’t overly technical or steep but with plenty of big man made jumps, step downs and swooping berms it was clearly going to be a super fast and fun track! Saturdays practise went well, no offs and I felt good on my bike. Even though I wasn’t making all of them, I was hitting all the big jumps and felt good through the majority of the track. There were some rapid girls in my category but I felt pretty confident going into race day.
We only had time for one practise run on the Sunday and obviously I couldn’t stay rubber side down for the full weekend. With confidence running high, I got a bit excited going over the big step down, nose dived and went over the bars. I was quite surprised to see my helmet and body pretty much intact. I then proceeded to fall off about four more times on my practise run!
A steady seeding run with a few small mistakes saw me place 3rd, I was pretty pleased as I knew I had a lot left in the tank for my race run. I had an hours attempted chill and got up to the start early to watch the old boys go down. I was 3rd to last down with Rona and Hazel behind me. I always get mega nervous before race runs but as soon as I was out of the gates and off the first drop, the nerves disappeared and I settled into race pace. I was cranking hard over the first jumps and felt quick going into the wood section. It wasn’t the quickest I’d been through the woods but it felt ok and was soon out in the open. I pushed hard for the next jumps but was slightly hesitant of the big step down where I stacked it in practise. I got over it, and the following jumps cleanly and was soon heading for the rock garden. I felt my bike doing her job as I tried to keep smooth and fast through the puzzle of jagged rocks. I came out puncture free and was on the home straight and crossed the line in 1st place with only Rona and Hazel behind me.
I gave the hot seat a quick hug and waited for the girls to come down. Hazel was on fire and took first place, with myself in 2nd and Rona coming in 3rd. I was pretty stoked with the result! I hadn’t really thought about overall standings until this point, I knew I was up there but had no idea on point standings. It turned out I took the overall win by a very tight 4 points from Bev Barnes. STOKED!
I know I’ve got a lot to work on but in my first year of racing, I don’t think it’s too much of a shabby result!
A huge thanks to my team mates at TRG, plus all the rad sponsors for their support over the year! Bring on next year!