Round 2 of the British downhill series at the legendary Fort William was just around the corner. I previously had 2 weekends off riding the downhill bike and parked my bum on the motocross bike, so it was nice to jump back onto the GT Fury feeling fresh to race one of my favourite races of the year.
Saturday’s practice was hot and went well, within the first 2 runs I was happy with my lines and focused on getting down using minimum upper body strength to save my arms from pumping up. I was feeling strong and fit and couldn’t wait to go against the clock. The main contributor to this was my GT Fury. With the big wheels and amazing long geometry this thing is built for this track. Fast, loose and rough.
My seeding run was smooth and a little reserved, I crossed the line in 18th with allot more to give. I was excited to get on track for the race and I knew exactley what I had to do to make up time.
On the start gate I was a little nervous but kept myself calm, before I knew it I was giving it my all along the motorway, my legs were burning and I was clearing the jumps with the finish line in sight. One final push and I crossed the line, 10 seconds faster than my seeding run and was sat in 7th place. After more riders coming down I was pushed back to a respectable 18th in experts and I was very happy with my performance
First race of the 2016 season
First race on the GT aka The Fluro Flasher
First race as an elite!!
The track looked pretty challenging when I walked it on Friday afternoon, a combination of mud, ruts, roots and some big features. Though the top section looked pretty mental with a fast mud chute with some dodgy roots thrown in, this part of the track quickly became my favourite and I really enjoyed just letting the bike do its thing.
Practice day was met with a day of rain, long uplift queues and a passenger coach getting stuck in the fire road ditch. But aside from these minor issues, the day went generally ok though I did manage to puncture on the rock garden and also smash my chain guide casing the step down. Just a mental note for the future.. give a bit of space before sending a drop behind Trick Mick. We both managed to smash our chain guides, but lucky E-13 was on hand to get our bikes up and running. Good egg him. Though I was happy with how I was riding the track, I still felt apprehension about the step down drop nearing the end of the course and knew this would be on my mind the next day.
The rain was still hanging around the morning of race day, and though this is never great for motivation, I was glad that the top section would be staying wet, making it a lot easier to guide the bike through. I decided to do just one practice run before seeding, usually I’ll try and get a couple in but I felt a bit tired and the lure of a brew in a warm caravan won me over. Come seeding run I felt pretty excited, which was really refreshing as I am usually racked with nerves. Rockin my new TRG jersey I was ready to roll. My run was ok, felt a bit like hard work, my arms were hurting and I stacked in on the dreaded rooty corner coming into the lower section. I decided to not do the drop, I just wasn’t feeling it so thought I’d chicken line it. But it’s cool, I knew I could do it, and there’s no way I wasn’t going to do it. Got a time of 3 mins 5 secs, putting me into 5th place.
So my mission for my race run was to take it a bit slowly into the shite corner of roots, pedal like a bastard to get that bloomin step down. Don’t know if it’s becoming obvious, but this drop was soon becoming my thing to conquer!
Race run – went well, tried to keep it flowing and did make a couple of minor mishaps but kept the bike and myself upright so all good. Did some chanting on the lower section and sent the drop – boom… balls to my race time, I did the mutha truckin drop!! Stoked. Anyway I pottered in to 5th with a time of 2 mins 55 sec… just .2 seconds of 4th place, which was pretty darn close.
All in all I had a bloody good weekend on the bike. I came away having learnt a hell of a lot, gaining more confidence and really enjoying riding and racing.
Mick got a podium in his category which was brilliant result, and Liam forever amazes me with his talent on two wheels.
At last after missing a the last few races I was back at a bds race!
The first ever downhill race I competed in was moelfre, and now 5 years later rd5 of the bds was here and I was looking forward to it.
The track by large was the classic moelfre we all now at love with the addition of a few new jumps up top and a slightly reworked switch back section, the lower section remained the same and took in the end of the 4x course before snaking to the finish with a cheeky couple of grass turns.
Saturday’s weather was dry and sunny and the track was dusty and loose and very fast. After a couple of runs with no front brake I finally sorted this and started to get my head round the track, Mick and Hazel we’re loving it too and with the uplift running smoothly we all got plenty of practice runs in.
Sunday saw a muddy greasy track for first runs but pretty soon the sun and stif breeze the track was back to its dusty best. Seeding went without a hitch for all of us with Mick seeding 2nd with some work to do improve, Hazel also seeded 2nd but happy she had more to give even though she was pretty beat up after a crash in practice. I was 12 after a steady but enjoyable run.
Race runs: Mick was away first in grand Vets determined to take the top spot and set off and gave it the full beans, crossing the line a good 6 seconds faster unfortunately still wasn’t good enough to beat his rival Steve Falstead – there rivalry continues onto rd6. I was away next and had a fun smooth run, it was great to be back on the bike and back at moelfre, my run was good enough for 11th. Hazel was last of TRG Racing down the hill, her determination and long legs powered her down the track putting her up 2 seconds at the split when disaster struck the drive train on her bike jammed and so from then on the only option was to tuck and pump, coming into the final sprint to the shouts of ‘pedal’ all Hazel could do was keep low and not brake, oh and shout a reply of “I can’t!” – had she done enough? yes! By the slimmest of margins she managed to pip Becci Skelton and take the win! Making that 4 podiums in a row at the BDS(3 wins and a 2nd).
Overall a fantastic weekend and a old school track that still delivered the goods.
Hazel Wakefield (master ladies) 1st 3:18
Mick Waud (Grand Vets) 2nd 3:18
Richie Molloy (vets) 11th 3:47
I caught up with Mick Waud, Grand veteran rider to find out what went down at Bala:
1: The track was pretty good.
2: The uplift was excellent, due to Pearce cycles.
3: The weather was nearly perfect.
4: The new jumps were not needed.
5: The main topic of discussion in the pits – boycott the bds in 2016 due to price increase etc.
6: Finished 2nd
7: Overall pretty good weekend.
8: Hazel smashed it to take 2nd
Yep Mick is a man of few words but apparently this sums the weekend up.
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!
BDS Round 3
The name almost describes where you might end up A&E! Thankfully that wasn’t the case. A new venue, great weather, great company and of course my birthday. All had the making of a fantastic weekend of racing.
Transport as usual, was of course provided by Mick “Rally” Hill and his trusty 3 wheel van, and making sure we had everything on board and to get there safe was in my hands. We convoyed up the M6 with Tony Kay and Becky Skelton before arriving at Ae Forest. We arrived at the forest to see the track and before we even got on the track the midges had taken a pint of my blood….. so we didn’t hang about and headed straight across to the finish line, were what can only be described as a grass wall with 2 lines of ‘HOPE’ tape stretched down either side of it. One good thing about that is we didn’t have to pedal to the finish line! A quick scramble up the steep hill took us up into the bottom forest section to some mega berms and a nice big step down. With all this gravity hard packed track and big corners it had fast written all over it!
Continuing up we eventually met up with the rest of the gang, which were currently eyeing up the large rock garden at the fire road, finally we broke out of the top forest section onto open hillside towards the start line.
We concluded that it was a track that we could learn pretty quick and get the lines nailed, our wish full thinking was soon to come to an end during practice.
We left the track and the monster midges behind and headed off to check ourselves into the B&B, Rich Molly organised for us all- “Thanks Rich” B&B’s don’t usual shock us but this one did, me and Mick Hill shared what can only be described as the antiques roadshow set with 2 beds in the middle and captain Kay and queen Bex slept in the cabin themed room, with its very own ships steering wheel attached to the bed! “If you see the boat rockin’, don’t come knockin’”Apart from the quirky taste in décor it was a 10/10 for everything else. A quick wash and go we hit Dumfries centre for a few pints and pub grub.
After a ridiculously long wait in the uplift queue we were ready for our first run down, the first obstacle was a slippy off camber section across the hillside, before dropping down steep into the forest, Which looked easy but let me tell you it wasn’t! Once picking up speed before dropping into the next technical section the bars were too wide, the tress to narrow but we managed to squeeze through. Once out of the mayhem, speed picked up again and we were then ready to take on the step up and dreaded big rock garden. Were we then stopped before tackling the coffin jump and massive step down. Once I made it to the finish line I waited for the others to come down to see how everyone had got on. Mick Hill was the first one down behind me, he came down the finish so fast that he had to use his extra ball sack break, in absolute agony rolling around on the floor we gave him some TRG sympathy and raced back to the uplift queue. With 6 practice runs completed it was time to head back.
We aimed to get to the track as soon as possible but only managed to get 1 practice run due to us being late! (Nothing knew there!) Once on the track we realised just how slippy it was considering it hadn’t rained. With not having as many practice runs as I would have liked I decided to take it steady and try and get all the lines pinned. We headed off to the tent to find our seeding times and chilled out until we had to go.
Right it was that time already off I go, with a good strategy in place I completed the seeding run confidently. Now time for the main run, with the threat of rain, nerves were kicking in and we were all hoping the track would stay dry. Knowing I had 8+ seconds to gain to get anywhere near a podium I had to keep my cool and concentrate on hitting the correct lines. The bleeps of the timer sounded and I was off, slipping on the off camber section disturbing my speed, instantly causing me to push harder in the next section which then caused me to make yet more mistakes- things weren’t looking good!
I managed to pull this back into shape and get down in a respectable time, finishing 9th.
Taking the podium in 3rd place for TRG was Becky Skelton not only did she win for the team again but she also made a fab birthday cake that we all tucked into at the end of the day.
Just when we thought all the fun had finished driving home Mick Hills van developed an unusual burning smell and flashing ABS warning light a few miles later we found ourselves on the hard shoulder with a knackered wheel bearing- finishing the day off on the back of a RAC van! The Joys of racing
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
Grab a brew and enjoy the tale of BDS Rd1 – Liam McDermotts race report:
Well the winter is coming to an end and it’s time to get the gloves out and battle with the big boy’s. BDS round 1 had us in the welsh hills at Antur Stiniog for the first round out of 5.
From seeing videos of the track we was racing I imagined it to be a pedal fest and wasn’t looking forward to it too much, but I was wrong. Infact the only major pedally bit was a long stretch to the finish, the rest of the track was, well rather steep an rocky. The slippery welsh slate claimed many victims aswell as both rock drops did. This is a track you really didn’t want to crash on.
I pulled the Kona out of the van and went hillside for practice. The 1st and 2nd run was very stop start with red flags and line checking. Run 3 on the other hand wasn’t so easy going. I took a huge crash over the bars from and amateur mistake on the big boulder drop at the bottom. After a trip to see the medics with a swollen elbow, hand and head ache I was told not to ride again and to rest untill race day. But I wasn’t the only one to stack it, Rich, Michael Coupes and James hurst had a tumble too which resulted in Rich being patched up by the medics. Infact the only person still going strong was Mick Waud!
Feeling fresh but rather achey Sunday morning the team only put in one run for practice, James hurst looked super smooth and I had a good feeling he would do well on his 1st race on the new Kona. Unfortunately Michael Coupes had to miss out on race day due to an injured shoulder. But the rest of us were ready to race.
My seeding was a steady run just to get another feel of the track but on my race run I knew I had to step things up. Due to my crash the day before I felt like I hadn’t practiced the track enough and descided to miss out the boulder drop at the bottom. This probably cost me around 2 seconds but I wasn’t feeling too confident physically or mentally to hit it again.
On my race run I felt quick through the top but in the middle I got a few wrong lines and along the bottom I couldn’t get clipped in. I jumped into the finish arena a little dis heartened knowing that I hadn’t done enough.
I finished 35th out of 50 in the experts category with 9 seconds off a podium spot.
James came 22nd in juniors, who also felt he could of done better. Rich placed 22nd in the veteran category along side Micheal Waud in 21st
|Michael Coupe: British Downhill Series Round 5 Bringewood 24th/25th AugustAfter an eventful start to the season with either injury or crashing out, It was our time to take on the final BDS & I was eager to give it my all. We arrived Friday to do the all important track walk, to my surprise the track seemed quiet tame compared to some of the other rounds & to top it all off it was dry too. Whoooo!! Well that was until the next day at least.
Saturday morning we didn’t hang around and got straight onto the uplift ,which apart from being crammed into the back of a land rover like sardines turned out to be a far more effective way of keeping the riders moving and getting to the top of the course quicker. ‘Good work to all the organisers for that’ by the end of the day I was feeling really confident with the track.
Our recovering team mate Mick Hill had been on track surveillance duties looking out for new lines that could prove useful to us all. At the end of the practice me and Mick walked the track yet again which did turn out to be a very useful thing to do although you wouldn’t think so with the results that followed the next day.
RACE DAY: No rain, No mechanical problems, No injuries and No issues with practice runs it was almost beginning to sound to perfect.
SEEDING RUN: all ran pretty smooth, picked up all the lines I wanted & came through the finish with a 2.19. I was confident at this point I could knock a lot more off the time so fuelled myself up ready to hit the race run hard.
RACE RUN: The lights hit green & I was off hard on the cranks straight into the first set of tight berms, when disaster happened & my front wheel washed out sending me towards my beloved tree friends, luckily they helped keep me upright. I was back on the pedals pushing even harder to try & make up for lost time, but that proved to be a big mistake sending me off the bike yet again, this time upside down in the dreaded bramble patch. It was clear that I wouldn’t make the time back so I pushed on to the finish and still enjoyed every minute.
Team manager Rich had a few tricky moments at the top of the course but came down safe And we had a very disappointed Liam who had a big off at the bottom of the track on his final run too. But after this disappointment we put our bikes to bed, united as a team, held our heads high and continued to watch the race to see how the professionals do it!
If our hosts at the Bateman Arms B&B read this page we would like to thank you for the great hospitality and food, but do need to apologise for the mess left on the restaurant floor from Liam & Blake, if they could eat as well as they ride it would be an achievement and the heavy hand mob Mick & Rich for breaking the priceless Aston Martin model car.
Despite a bit of doom & gloom over our results we still had a fantastic weekend and can’t wait to get to the next event and do it all over again.
A HUGE get well soon goes out to Jamie Scott who is still recovering from injury. And a big thanks to all organisers for putting on a brilliant event & to all our sponsors.
|After breaking my collar bone, so putting an end to my race session, the only things I can do is support my fellow team members or have a lie in for once at week end.
Up at 5.30 I was and ready for Coopy to take me to Mc Donalds, Oops Llangollen I meant to meet up with the rest of the team. Every one seemed in good spirit and wasn’t long before I was walking up the squirrel track and the lads on their up lift.
There wasn’t much line choice on the dry steep twisty track except at the old oak tree (sing if your old enough). The teams main choice of tyre was the kenda nexavator. Practice seemed to go well, coopy nearly going over the bars bringing back memories for me. Seeing a couple of good lines from some of the fast riders and reporting them back to the team. Coopy had some un finished work to do back home so we headed back home early and the rest of the team got about nine runs in.
Sunday 5.30 then Mc Donalds again and back up the hill, to watch some more practice runs and then seeding.
Everyone seemed to get through seeding ok, well they all got to the bottom, Coopy had a few moments and knew he could do a better/cleaner run, Liam went over the bars and injured his hamstring and Jamie was hitting the berms too hard and stalling in them and losing a lot of time, but it was only seeding.
So now the one that counts Danny just wanted to get another good run in, Jamie knew what he had to do, so did Coopy. Little Liam needed his hand holding and some girly chit chat, as Richard and Lauren wasn’t there, I stepped in and it seemed to work with no mishaps just a little slow through the top switchbacks and finished with a time of 2.16. Danny was next with a good clean run, well done Danny 2.25 as he had never been her before. Coopy smoothed his run out with a team wining time of 2.15, well Mr Scott smash the course till the last dusty corner, enough said about that 2.20.
All in all was a great week end, could have been better if I was racing but still had a great time and was really good seeing people and spending time with them on the track and in the paddock.
Thanks again to all our sponsors, it’s so wonderful to be involved with such a team.
Michael Hill (team coach)