BDS Round 2 @ Fort William - 11/12 May 2013
The Fort William BDS race is a perfect warm up for the world cup that is always a few weeks after. Therefore I headed up early so that I could spend Friday riding the track to get the most out of the weekend in preparation for the world cup. In previous years this has always been a track I’ve struggled with physically, however as soon as I started practicing on Friday I realized this was no longer going to be an issue. I felt so strong and composed on the track, and with a few extra clicks of my compression damping on my Fox 40s to make them a bit stiffer I was off! The weather didn’t play the game for us, so we were subjected to wind and rain for the entire weekend. Qualifying, or seeding, was shifted to Saturday because of this, and we were all briefed that because of the unpredictable weather Sunday’s race may be cancelled, so to make qualifying count as it could end up being the race result. I didn’t have any specific expectations going into the run, but me and Dad had discussed that considering the stacked Elite field (practically a world cup attendance) a top 20 result would be great. I had a good run and I finished 6th one place behind Greg Minnarr who frequently wins the Fort William world cup, and one place in front of Joe Smith who placed 7th there last year. I’ve done it, my training has worked, I’m on pace with the top 20 this year after all my hard work, maybe even the top 10! However I then had to perform again on Sunday and replicate that result to get a similar race result. I’ve had good qualifiers twice in the past and both times crashed in the race run putting too much pressure on myself and also lacking in fitness by the end of the weekend. The fitness definitely isn’t an issue anymore. I didn’t crash in my race run on Sunday which is great progress and I feel a big step forward – I’m starting to feel like I belong when I’m sat at the start with the best in the world now. However my run was scrappy, with a number of costly mistakes all of which stemmed from being a bit stiff and tense because of the pressure I was putting myself under. I’d also spent the hour before going up for my run fixing my bike after snapping a bash guard on my last practice run which really didn’t help (all the team riders have their mechanics to look after this stuff for them). I still however got a top 20, finishing 18th which is a good result, especially with a very poor run. All in all a good weekend in preparation for the Fort William world cup and I’m excited to keep learning, having fun and moving forward!
Northern Downhill Series Round 1 - Kidland, 5 May 2013
The Northern Downhill Series guys always organise great events so I headed up to Kidland in Northumberland this weekend for Round 1. Before travelling up I heard that the 2011 World Champ Danny Hart was racing, so there was certainly some competition! I was excited to race, as after doing all this training and with the world cups just around the corner, I was keen to know how my pace was compared one of the world’s top riders. Saturday was a great day, riding the steep, tight, technical and dry track with racing buddy Pete Williams. I’m tall and ride an XL bike, so I didn’t feel that the track suited me as well as some of the smaller riders, such as Scott Mears and Danny Hart. However by the end of Saturday I was feeling fast and had all my lines dialed. Sunday morning was good, but with the uplift system running perfectly I got four practice runs done before racing. My aim was as it has been and will be all season – ride well and have fun. I was excited to see how close to Danny I could get. My first race run was good, with two small mistakes I knew I could go a few seconds quicker but that was it. I came across the line with a 1.27 and went into first by 3 seconds. I watched the time screen with everyone else nervously, wondering how much time Danny would put into me. Then to my surprise he came through 0.6 slower than me. Awesome, I’m on pace for the season I thought!! Run two was picture perfect until very close to the bottom. I lost the front wheel in a loose left hander right in front of my Dad and some other friends, who incidently got the crash on video – I lost about 3 seconds. I pushed hard to the bottom getting the final 20 seconds or so really well. I thought I’d thrown it away, especially when I discovered that I’d only gone 0.5 seconds slower than my first time! Without the crash I’d have been on a 1.25! We weren’t reseeded for second runs, so Danny was last rider down. Again I nervously watched the screen waiting to see him destroy my time. But not today, he did a 1.29. Both my times, even with the crash in the second run were the two fastest times of the day and I took the win! Yes the race was only a small event, but to have final confirmation that my winter training has been a success and that I’m on pace with the country’s top riders is really exciting. Bring on the World Cups. Full race report here.
UK National - Combe Sydenham, 13/14 April 2013
This weekend I was down at the first round of the British Downhill Series at Combe Sydenham. I arrived on the Friday and following a course walk discovered a relatively easy track that was also quite flat. The weather forecast was for rain all weekend and this would turn the track into a flat bog… brilliant. I was first rider down on Saturday morning at the start of practice as I wanted to get a good feel of the course before everyone started to destroy it with the help of the rain. I enjoyed that first run but an hour or so later the track was completely different. Ruts were starting to form in the trees and it became impossible to carry speed because of the thick mud. The rain continued throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning, and to add to this annoyance, the uplift for the morning practice session was so poor riders were lucky to get one run done never mind two – typical BDS style! Thankfully the rain stopped mid morning and the track started to dry up. For seeding runs it was in a really sticky-mud stage and it was difficult to carry speed, but the ruts had improved from the morning and had become more predictable. I seeded in 8th place with a good smooth run and was really pleased with how I rode and the result. I wanted to stay in the top 10 come race runs, but most importantly wanted to ride well again. Consistency is a big aim for me this year. I had a wicked race run right until the last rutted corner only yards from the finish where I over steered and went straight into a tree after it. I was 8th at the first split but this momentary lapse of concentration cost me that top 10 and dropped me to 12th place, only 2 seconds behind 7th. I’m still really pleased with the result, and especially excited by how well I’m riding, and that lesson has been learnt!
New Video of pre-season training
When young videographer Sam Gladstone contacted me a few weeks back about getting together to shoot a video it very much reminded me of when I first worked with Gee Milner 3 long years ago. And now look at Gee... filming all round the world for his film 'Boundless'. Going off the edit, 16 year old Sam and his filming buddy Euan have put together following our day's shooting at Farmer John's on Friday, I think they can go far! Excellent camera angles and great editing skills, have resulted in one of my favourite edits out of all the ones I've done. It's always good to help out people who are excited about the sport and looking to make something of themselves within it, whether it be on or off a bike. So I'm really pleased the day was such a success in terms of the quality of the video they've produced, I've even put it at the top of my home page. Have a watch and I hope you agree!
North West Series 1st Round - 31 March 2013
Racing at Farmer John’s is always something I look forward to. It’s close to home so I see and ride with lots of mates, as well as having a good laugh at a more relaxed event. This time it was for the North West Series first round and the competition was a bit more challenging than usual in the form of world top 10 world cup rider Josh Bryceland. Not one to turn down a challenge, and on board my enduro bike against Josh’s V10 race bike, I gave it my all. My second race run was a real good one and I finished in 2nd place only 3 seconds behind Josh and 4 seconds ahead of the other elites, a result which I was very happy with. The weather was good for a change, so we had a wicked day relaxing in the sun between racing. I have taken some more positives from the event as I move forwards towards the first British Downhill series event next weekend. See the full report here.
Portugal National DH Race - Gouviea, 24 March 2013
A new track had been prepared for this year so it was very fresh and loamy, whereas in previous years I’d been told it was rocky and fast. Unfortunately the weather forecast wasn’t great and the track didn’t look like it would ride well in the rain. We walked the track on Friday morning before an afternoon of practice. Luckily the rain held off and we got 4 good runs done and really enjoyed the track, even though when we walked it we thought it was too flat. Throughout Saturday I worked on my lines and was feeling good by the end of the day and confident that I would ride well come race runs the following day. Unfortunately the weather for race day was horrendous. Torrential rain came down relentlessly all day and ruined the track. It became so boggy and you simply had to pedal the whole way down to keep moving. I’d not packed any Schwalbe Dirty Dan’s, and I really needed them in the very wet conditions, so I definitely lost time in my race run using the Muddy Mary (which is my chosen dry tyre). However, I managed to ride well and finished in the top 10 with a 9th place. I was really happy with the result as I was only 5 seconds off third place and feel that with the right tyres I wouldn’t have been far off this. So a great weekend of racing, feeling good on my bike and coming home with a great result in very difficult conditions.
Back to RoostDH - March 2013
Malaga for my third time this winter! I can’t get enough of the place! I was with my training/racing buddy Will Jones and our girlfriends this trip. We had three days training planned before a national race in Portugal. The first day was awesome with an afternoon doing some timed training on some typical race-track-style descents We then finished the day with a run down the natural Antenna descent, which is very long and a personal favourite. We headed to a new venue near Granada on the second day which was much smoother and had some great jumps to play on. A nice venue for a more relaxed middle day. Our final day of training was at the beach venue of Torrox. This track is about 2 minutes long and starts off fast, rocky and off-camber before a very steep bottom section. The track is very loose, because the ground is so dry, which makes for challenging riding conditions. This video shows this well. We were feeling great after the three days training and ready for some racing! Catch the video on this link: https://vimeo.com/62494663
Jerseys printed-up for the seasonBig thanks to all my sponsors for supporting me this year! Just had my race jerseys printed up with all their logos by the guys at www.FusionMX.co.uk who have done an awesome job! Thanks guys I'm really happy with them. I'm heading off to Spain and Portugal next Monday for 3 days training with the guys at RoostDH in Malaga before heading to Gouveia to compete in the UCI event there. 2013 is bubbling away nicely! Wish me luck :-)
Day/Night Enduro, Innerleithen - Saturday 2 March 2013
Enduro racing is something I haven’t tried my hand at before, but the general concept seemed pretty simple to me. Save as much energy as you can on the way to the top, as this part isn’t timed, then ride hard to the bottom as if it’s a downhill race track - simples. However, I hadn’t spent the week leading up to this event preparing for it, like I normally would for a DH event, so I was already feeling pretty beat up when I got out of bed on the Saturday morning. After walking both tracks and pedalling to the top of the hill twice, for practice runs, my legs were feeling it even more. Unfortunately the event wasn’t seeded, and my main competitor Joe Barnes, who is experienced in the enduro racing scene, made sure he was first rider down the first stage and got a clean run without any other riders in his way. I however set off in the middle of the pack and had a very entertaining run, passing between 10 to 15 people on the way down which cost me lots of time! I felt strong throughout the day, which consisted of racing each of two stages twice, each in the day and then each in the dark with bike lights attached. To my surprise and despite having to pass lots of people in both my first and third stage runs I finished in 2nd place overall with a time of 22 minutes in total. Not bad for a downhiller using the event as a training day, and that’s 3 out of 3 podiums since the 2013 race season started.
Friday 1 March 2013 - on the way to Innerleithen
This weekend I went back up to Scotland for a 3 day training trip. Friday started well with a fantastic highland adventure! I’ve always looked up the valley off the Moffat road where the ‘Grey Mare’s Tail’ trail leads into the wilderness thinking, I have to head up there sometime! I wasn’t meeting buddy, Pete Williams, in Innerleithen until 1.30, so I left home at 7.30am and was setting off up this beautiful valley by 11, after the 3 hour drive. I didn’t realise how much of a treat I was in for! Firstly I didn’t know there was a beautiful waterfall right there, and secondly I didn’t know there is an even more beautiful highland loch at the top of the climb. There is nothing better than being out in the middle of nowhere with beautiful scenery and not a sound to be heard. Of course I took my bike up and enjoyed the ride back down afterwards!! The whole thing was topped off when a fighter jet came screaming through the valley just metres above my head when I arrived back at the van! I love that sort of stuff. I then added a great finish to the day with a 15 mile XC ride around the great Innerleithen trails with my buddy Pete. Training day one was complete and I was absolutely knackered… not great considering my next day of training was to be the day/night enduro event at Innerleithen.
24 February 2013, Borderline Downhill @ Innerleithen
2013 racing started well last weekend at the Hamsterley enduro, so I was excited to get the DH racing started this weekend at Innerleithen. The weather was due to be cold and possibly snowy so that would spice things up! The track was awesome, fast, flowing and great fun to ride. I was feeling confident on the track by the end of practice and ready to race. All the winter training I’ve been doing had me feeling strong and powerful on the bike. It was snowing on us at the top while we waited for our first race runs! The top of the track proved to be a challenge due to the snow and frozen ground so I took it carefully. Then I really got into it lower down where the grip improved. I crossed the line and went into 1st by about 5 seconds with a 2.57, with only local Lewis Buchanan who’d taped the track, and Hope’s new factory rider Adam Brayton left on the hill. Lewis went a second quicker than me to take 1st but Adam slotted into 3rd with a 3.01. Second race runs were again subject to heavy snow at the top and difficult riding conditions, so the running order didn’t change. I am very happy to have finished my first race of the season in 2nd place and so close to Lewis on his home track! I also have massive respect for Adam as a racer, and to start the season beating him is great. Training will continue as we move into the race season and hopefully some good performances as well! Full race report here.
17 February 2013, The Hamsterley Transmission Trail
The 2013 race season is GO! Things got going for me at the Hamsterley Transmission Trail race event this weekend. A slightly unorthodox start to the season, as I was racing my 6” travel Trek Slash instead of my DH bike and there was no uplift. But it was nice to get racing again and it proved to be a great training day as well! After doing a few practice runs in the morning I had a couple of hours to wait before my first race run. Luckily for me it was a two run event, fastest run counting, because I snapped my chain attempting to blast out of the start gate for my first run. At the time I was thinking what a start to my race season!! I was hoping that was all the bad luck out of the way. Hanging around before my second run meant I hadn’t been on the track for about 5 hours and I couldn’t remember much after the first corner. Although I didn’t snap my chain off the start this time, I made a couple of mistakes hitting some corners too fast because I forgot how tight they were. I was also pretty tired after all the pedalling around I’d done all day. However, I worked hard on the pedals and managed to save 2nd place in behind the 2011 World Champion and Hamsterley local Danny Hart. So in the end a good start to my racing season, and I’m feeling great on my bikes going into the first downhill race next weekend at Innerleithen!! Full report.
Loving Living Life!
I’m having a great time at the moment. All the hard work finishing my masters degree has paid off and I’m reaping the rewards! Now I’m a qualified optometrist my timetable is very relaxed, giving me the flexibility to train for the 2013 race season.
I’m working around 8 days a month, which is enough to pay for general life, as well as put money aside to pay for the coming season. This is giving me the necessary time to train and ride. And it’s awesome!! I’m loving life at the moment, and it makes all the hard times at Uni worthwhile! All my efforts between September and June, that I’ve had to focus on my degree, I can now channeling into my riding and strength training.
I’m currently riding my Trek Slash on the local all-mountain trails in the hills of the Peak District 4 or 5 times a week, and going in my upstairs gym 3 or 4 times a week. The physical benefits have been excellent since I started this timetable in October and my fitness is right where I want it. The main thing though is that life is great fun at the moment with no stress! And fun is good!
I’ve got a couple of foreign training trips planned on the DH bike in the next two months, one involving a race in Portugal. At the start of February I’m heading out to Malaga to the camp of the RoostDH guys for 4 days DH riding in the sun, because I’m sick of the snow and rain at home (check out the headcam of the recent snow biking!). Then in the middle of March I’m heading back to Malaga and RoostDH for 3 days with Will Jones and our girls Sarah and Annie, before hiring a van and driving up to Gouveia in Portugal for the UCI DH event on the 23/24th of March. Then when we get home the UK races kick off in April.
Training is going well, I’m having fun, loving riding bikes, and am getting ready for 2013!