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Pila, Italy - IXS European Cup Round 6, 17 August 2014

I was really excited to go and race Pila, in Italy, for round 6 of the IXS cup DH series this weekend. I was keen to start riding faster and continue building confidence in my shoulder going into the final round of the world cup series next weekend at Meribel.
Pila is well known for being one of the best tracks in the world to ride and race, and from the start of practice it was obvious why. It has everything! Technical sections, fast sections, drops, jumps, rocks… you name it. By the end of practice, for the first time since the middle of June when I reinjured my shoulder at Schladming, I was feeling like I was riding flat out and going for it. It felt awesome! I managed to carry this speed into seeding and finished 4th! It felt so good to be back in the mix again and I knew I could go faster come racing! After more good practice the morning of race day I was ready to go. I had a good race run and gave it everything I had on the day. I went over a second faster than in qualifying and finished 6th, only one place and 0.5 of a second off the podium. I was 3 seconds off the win, and knowing I’m still losing a lot of time due to a lack in fitness and strength off the back of my injury, this result was awesome. A massive confidence boost going into next weekend and world cup finals! Big thanks to SC Intense for the support throughout the weekend.
Photo: Raffi Diewaldfee

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Windham, USA World Cup Round 6 - 9 August 2014

After a successful weekend at Mont Saint Anne, finishing 41st, I was excited to get back on the bike for world cup round 6 in Windham USA. My shoulder was still weak so I was going to have to be extra careful again and keep it off the ground.
The track was dry and very very fast, and rather short for a world cup venue, so race times were going to be very tight! I did some good times in timed practice on the first day and was feeling good. My qualifying run was exactly what I wanted. I rode within myself and did a fast, smooth run to place 46th. I was hoping to go a second or two faster come racing and stay in the top 50. However, I did exactly the same time in my race run on Sunday, again with a smooth fast run with no mistakes. Unfortunately Windham is one of those venues where you have to hang everything out and go wild to get a good result, and I’m just not in a position to do that while desperately trying to recover from this injury. Just one bad crash impact and I’ll be back to square one, miss the rest of the season and have to begin the long healing process once again. I finished 61st and gained 20 points towards my overall ranking score going into the final round in France in two weeks. I’ll continue to work hard on strengthening this shoulder and I feel there is maybe a chance I’ll be back to my normal self come race runs at the final round of the series!
Photo: Duncan Philpott

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MSA, Canada World Cup Round 5 - 2 August 2014

Mont Saint Anne and round 5 of the world cup series. I was simply happy to be there after being off the bike for the last 7 weeks with my shoulder injury. My only aims were to leave healthy after racing and get a top 60 result. I was very nervous at the start of practice but my body felt good and after getting my head in the game I was riding smooth and with confidence. I massively exceeded my expectations in qualifying finishing 32nd! After more good practice on the morning of race day I was ready to go. I put together a really smooth and uneventful race run and finished in 41st place which I am very happy with. I am moving forward to Windham in USA and round 6 this weekend feeling more confident and excited to get back on the bike again! Photo: Duncan Philpott.

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Leogang World Cup Round 4 - 14/15 June

The world cup track at Leogang isn’t one of the best due to it being in a bike park. This year the trail builders had made some changes at the top of the track adding in a few new rock gardens and trying to reduce the number of flat sections. Walking the track it seemed like they had improved things and I was excited to start riding.
Practice on Friday morning was awesome. The track was fast and dry and it didn’t take long before I felt up to speed. It then rained heavily, for about an hour before timed training, and made the track very slick. I didn’t manage to get a full run done because I had an issue in each of my 3 timed runs thanks to the wet conditions. It was such fun though and at least I knew what the track was like in the wet incase it rained for race runs.
On Saturday we were back to a dry track and I almost made a right mess of qualifying! I put a fast smooth run together but didn’t take any unnecessary risks and only just made the cut qualifying 78th. My teammate was even luckier qualifying 80th!
On Sunday I had a look at a few lines in the morning in an attempt to find some more speed. In my race run I gave it 100% and had a really good run. I came into the finish and went into 1st place by over 3 seconds with a time of 3.26 which was over 7 seconds faster than my qualifying time the day before! I was really pleased I’d put a great run together on a track that I don’t really like and feel it doesn’t play to my strengths. I also got to spend about 15 minutes in the hot seat, which was cool. I ended up finishing 34th, which is equal to my best ever result. So I’m really happy with how the weekend went and its now off to Schladming for the 2nd round of the IXS cup series!
Photo by Duncan Philpott

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Fort William World Cup - 7/8 June 2014

After 6 weeks of struggling with a shoulder injury Fort William world cup was to be my first race back being fully fit. I took it steady in practice to gradually build up speed and confidence in my shoulder. In timed practice at the end of the first day I was 34th and felt pretty good, so was feeling confident for qualifying.
Due to high winds being forecast for Saturday the schedule was changed meaning we had a crazy early start. Practice was from 7am until 9am, and ALL of the riders had to be at the TOP of the gondola by 10.30am for qualifying to start at 11am. This was because there were fears the wind would cause the gondola to close and leaving it any later would mean riders wouldn’t be able to get to the top of the track.
I put a fast but scrappy qualifying run together and did a 4.57 and placed 43rd. I was feeling good going into race day knowing I could go a lot faster and a top 30 was a real possibility. I walked the track after qualifying and found some new lines that felt great during the Sunday morning practice session.
I gave 100% in my race run, but unfortunately I had a bit of bad luck with the weather. It rained for about 20 minutes during finals and stopped just as I got in the gate to set off. As I didn’t actually ride in the rain, by the time I reached the wooded section at the bottom of the track I’d forgotten it had rained! I came out of the final corner in the woods, before the road gap, and went to put some big pedal strokes in across the off camber which had been grippy in the dry all weekend. It had turned very slick and before I knew it I was on the ground. I lost loads of time not only with the crash, but also the loss in momentum down the rest of the track. I ended up unhappy with a time of 5.03 and 70th place.
There were positives to take from the race. My shoulder is back to full strength, and I gave 100% in my race run and was feeling great before I crashed. Chin up and onto Leogang for round 4!
Photo by Duncan Philpott

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Pietermaritzburg World Cup - 10/12 April 2014

Well what a weekend to start my 2014 world cup campaign with! Ups and downs from start to finish. Practice started well on Thursday with my buddy Matt Stuttard pulling me over the two big jumps, that I never managed to get over in 2012, on the first run of the day. By the afternoon I was up to speed and feeling good on my Intense M9 with a Schwalbe Magic Mary on the front and a Rock Razor (semi slick) on the back which was running very fast. In timed practice I was 22nd with a crash that cost me about 10 seconds, so I was up to speed. Unfortunately I then crashed very hard in my final practice run of the day and damaged my shoulder. I was in a lot of pain and by Friday morning I could barely hold myself up on the bike. I got my shoulder taped up by a local guy and did a practice run which was agony. I stopped about 10 times and my speed was very poor. When I got to the bottom I went through the pits to find a physio. Thankfully I was pointed in the direction of Greg Minnaar’s physio. He treated my shoulder and knew exactly what he was doing. Thirty minutes later and lots of supporting tape I was in better shape and was ready to give qualifying a go. Because there is always a smaller field of riders in Africa I knew I had a chance of qualifying with a steadier than normal run. I did just that and qualified in 55th place with a 4.25 – the relief! Race day and it started with more treatment from Laurence on my shoulder. He did an amazing job and in my following practice run I felt like I was back to good strength and managed to hit all of the lines I was hitting on Friday before the injury. Racing went very well considering my injury and that my gear cable snapped and I was stuck in hardest gear for the entire run! I came into 2nd place with a 4.15 and at the end of racing I finished 40th place, which I’m so happy with all things considered! What a weekend! Thanks to everybody that helped me especially my team SC Intense for the support over the weekend, and Laurence for the awesome physio.

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SC-INTENSE HQ on the way to South Africa - 7 April 2014

After the recent successful racing trip in Portugal, I’ve spent the last 3 weeks training as hard as possible in preparation for South Africa and the start of the world cup calendar. This included winning an Enduro race on my DH bike for training. I am currently sat in Switzerland at the SC Intense headquarters relaxing before we leave for our long journey to Pietermaritzburg this evening. I’ve been reflecting on the winter and how hard I’ve worked to get in shape for this season and I don’t feel I could have done more. I feel great: stronger, fitter and more powerful than I ever have. I love my Intense M9 that I’m riding this year and the SC Intense team is great to be part of. I’m prepared, I’m massively fired up for this year and I have the support. It’s time to get after it!!

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Pampilhosa UCI Cat 1 National DH Race - 16 March

Our hotel for this event was a stones-throw away from the bottom of the track and the SC Intense pit, which was very convenient. We could see the entire track from our balcony and it looked to be a very direct line down a mostly open hillside with a short wooded section at the bottom. I wasn’t convinced with the track after my first practice run. However after my second I thought it was awesome. As soon as you were up to speed it flowed really well and apart from some tight rutted switchbacks at the top it was very very fast!
I was working with team manager and experienced Fox suspension mechanic Gery Peyer with suspension settings throughout practice to make sure we had the bike dialed in for racing. I tried a number of different settings that Gery gave me, and by mid morning on Saturday we had the bike feeling really planted and stable on the fast rough track. It’s amazing the difference the correct tune can make to the feel of your bike! By the end of practice I couldn’t wait for seeding. My Intense M9 was feeling incredible and I felt like I was ready to put some really good times in down the track.
My seeding run went well and I came through the finish and went into 1st place by 4 seconds with a time of 2.46.31, and with only four riders left on the hill. I didn’t think it would hold considering who those four riders were (Pardal, Ferreiro, Dale and Simmonds) but it did and I qualified in 1st place going into racing which was very exciting!
Our team mechanics Gery and Gavin did an amazing job looking after us all weekend and going into race run I couldn’t have been feeling better. My bike was in perfect condition thanks to Gery building me a fresh rear wheel for the race run and I couldn’t wait to get on with it! I pushed as hard as I could from the start gate and all the way to the finish. I knew the others would be doing the same and to win I was going to have to give it everything I had. I crossed the line and knew I’d had a great run. I finished in 2nd place with a time of 2.46.06 only a mere 0.18 of a second behind Matt Simmonds who took the win. I wasn’t disappointed at all, I felt like I ridden so well.
I feel strong moving into the world cup and IXS cup races and losing to Matt by only 0.18 who is an amazing athlete who finished 5th at world championships last season is certainly something I’m proud of! Home time now and back to hard training!

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2014 is GO – Ponte De Lima Bike Park Race - 9 March

After a long off-season training hard to prepare for 2014, racing was finally underway, and as a bonus, in sunny Portugal. I met up with my new team SC Intense on Thursday, and was welcomed with my new bike and all my new kit, which was very exciting.
Practice started on Friday at the Ponte De Lima bike park and the race track didn’t disappoint. It was unreal! Fast at the top, then very twisty lower down and very very long! After more practice on Saturday my new Intense M9 was feeling great and I was so excited to get racing started!
We’d had excellent weather all weekend and apart from a bit of wind, race day was no different. Seeding was first and I had a good run with only one small mistake towards the end of the track in a loose left hand corner getting a bit too wild! I seeded in 5th place with a time of 4.19 behind fellow Brits Bryceland, Simmonds and Dale, and Spaniard Pardal in 4th. I was 8 seconds off the pace of 1st place and this was out of reach. However I was only 2 seconds off 4th, and 5 seconds off 3rd, so I knew with a great run I had a good chance of moving up into one of these positions.
I did just that and had an awesome race run! I pushed as hard as I could and only made one mistake which didn’t really cost me much time, although if I hadn’t saved it, I would have had a HUGE crash and been in lots of pain! I came down with a time of 4.15 and finished in fourth place behind Simmonds in 1st, Bryceland in 2nd and Dale in 3rd. Again I was 8 seconds off the winning time and I was really pleased with how I’d raced and my result. I now had 3 days training in the bike park before we moved onto the next race, which was a Portugal National Series race and more point up for grabs!

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6th - 12th March 2014 Training Camp and Media work

After a really good start to my 2014 racing campaign with my new SC Intense team, I had three days to relax and do some fun riding on the new bike. We also had some media work to do with our awesome camera man Benny Klose to get a load of stuff for the SC Intense website (and not to mention my website!). I spent Monday morning filming with Benny in the bike park and we got some fabulous shots in the sun and dust. I then spent the afternoon having some good fun ripping the bike park trails with my teammates.
Tuesday was my day off-duty so I got to ride the bike park all day and check out a load of the trails that I hadn’t yet seen. The place is awesome and I’ll definitely be heading back there and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes riding DH! The runs vary between 5 and 8 minutes and it offers everything from smooth berms and jumps to crazy fast rocky sections. I loved it!
By Wednesday I was knackered and well in need of a day off the bike. We did a short photo shoot in the morning and then called it a day so we could head back to the villa for a relaxing afternoon.
On Thursday morning we headed off in the vehicles to Pampilhosa and the next event. Not however before a quick team trip the Viana Go Karting track! This was a real blast and the perfect way to end the first half of the trip.

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