European Champs, Wisla,Poland; 27/28 August
This weekend was always going to be a tough one. Traveling back from Canada on Monday/Tuesday, having only two days at home with one of those being spent at work, before travelling out to Poland on Thursday all while having a stinking cold. Not ideal. With Andorra next weekend, making sure I was leaving Poland feeling healthy and fit, was strongly on my mind coming into this event. We were here last year and I really like the track! The weather was great all weekend and we had a blast smashing runs out in the dust! As ever our Nicolai Geometron G19s were on point and I was feeling fast going into seeding. My cough and bad chest weren’t making things easy for me but I was going to give it a good go. I had a really smooth solid seeding run with no errors and seeded 4th on a 2.18, 1.2 seconds back from 1st. I knew I could go faster but felt I only had a couple of seconds in me as I wasn’t prepared to ride too wild with Andorra next weekend and world cup finals. I pushed harder in my race run and things got a bit wild! I made a couple of mistakes but still went faster and did a 2.16.6. Times were crazy tight and I finished a disappointing 9th, but only 1.4 off the podium. Funny that 1.4 faster and I would be 3rd and really happy, but as it is, wrong side of the second and I’m a bit annoyed. However a solid result considering I’m still not well and crossing my fingers I’ll be healthy at Andorra this weekend and ready to smash it!! Big shout out to my bro Willz who finished a great 12th and brings home enough UCI points for the whole 2017 world cup season, and young Jim who had a really solid result of 26th and also brings home 20 UCI points towards 2017! Onwards to Andorra!
Crankworx, Canada; 16-20 August
After such a great weekend at MSA, I was super excited to carry on my success in Whistler for Crankworx. Unfortunately I got over excited during the first week before the events started and tired myself out! By the time the Garbanzo DH came around I was starting to get a cold. In this one I went off track at the top, through the tape and the wrong side of a pole. I had to stop, push back up round the pole, and get going again. This was in a really fast section so I lost loads of time. Finishing only 15 seconds off the podium in 11th with that massive time loss was annoying. ALine or ‘Air DH’ was the day after. Having not raced this one for 5 years I was hoping to hate it a little less than last time I raced it, but it wasn’t the case. Pedalling for 4 minutes, mixed with landing jumps to flat and hitting blown out berms isn’t my idea of fun or good racing. 30th in this one and I won’t be doing it again. I should have been saving my energy and focus for my main event, the Canadian Open DH, which is the only UCI points race at Crankworx. However by the time it came around I had a full blown cold and was exhausted. I had to miss Friday practice because I had zero energy, and thought about missing the race entirely, however I love the track, the spectators at Hecklers Rock, and I was on the live stream, so I decided to just cruise it and enjoy the race. I had a smooth run and finished in a respectable 20th having loads of fun on the way down. I’m leaving Whistler fit, despite this cold which I have 4 days to shift, before we land in Poland for European Championships this weekend.
MSA, Canada - World Cup 6; 5/6 August 2016
Every year I get to MSA and after the first practice run find myself surprised about how scary fast, loose and wild the track is. I must delete it from my memory each year or something. They’d made the track even faster this year with a section down a ski run that was just the next level in terms of speed on a push-bike. In all my years racing I’ve never felt a Fox 40 flex anywhere else! I loved practice and my Nicolai Geometron G19 was just amazing on the track, making the rough sections feel smooth, and technical sections easy to maintain flow. In qualifying I had a smooth run with no mistakes and finished in 16th place with a 4.11 which was great as it meant more points on the board towards my overall standing! When I saw the splits it was super exciting as I’d gone through the first split third fastest!! The names went Gwin, Hart, Reading, Bruni… That was cool and exciting to see! I was so up for race day! After narrowly missing out on my first top 20 result in Lenzerheide, I was determined to push as hard as I could for my whole run and do my best to get into the top 20 for the first time! I had a great race run and I pushed that hard I was at the bottom before I knew it. I finished in 19th place and grabbed my first top 20 and was so happy!! When I saw the split times and saw that at the third split, so after almost three minutes of riding I was sitting in 8th, I was shocked. I then lost a lot of time in the bottom minute or so and dropped to 19th. I think this must have simply been fatigue setting in after a hard week, as I made no specific mistakes. Organising everything, mechanicing for myself and Jamie, who was doing his first world cup, and racing had taken its toll. It’s great to see my times starting to enter the top 10 at the splits, and gives me even more motivation to keep working and giving this everything I can! I’m sat 29th going into the final round in Andorra. Wouldn’t my first top 10 just be great!!
UK National Championship; 16/17 July 2016
Going to Revolution Bike Park for National Champs must have had most people feeling confident. Most of the elites ride there a lot and know the lines, so I wasn’t expecting too much and was just aiming to do my best. I had finished 4th last year narrowly missing the win and even more narrowly the podium, so anything similar was going to be good. Practice was great fun with the guys. The Revo trail builders had done a new section which was tonnes of fun and we did 11 runs on the Saturday! We just couldn’t stop riding! The Nicolai Geometron G19s were on fire all day, and with a bit of moisture on the track, from rain in the week, we were finding confidence with the Schwalbe Dirty Dan tyres with the Procore system fitted. I was feeling good on race day and ready to push! I went well in qualifying and surprised myself finishing 3rd. In the last three national champs I’ve done I’ve qualified 3rd! I pushed even harder in my race run and made one mistake up top that didn’t cost me much, and one mistake at the bottom slipping a pedal coming out of the final fast berm and my leg went under the bike, costing me more time. I finished 6th, and without the pedal slip would have definitely been 4th as I was only 0.5 back. However the podium spots were a couple of seconds in front of me. So once again not quite a national podium, but another top 10 finish! We head to MSA next for the next World Cup!
Lenzerheide, Switzerland - World Cup 5; 9/10 July 16
I was super excited for this one. The track suited me the year before, and I knew that whether they had made changes or not, the terrain suits my riding style well. We got there and the track was identical to the year before, which meant we could get up to speed quickly at the start of practice. It was the first world cup with me, George and Will all being in the same practice session, so it was awesome to have all three of us riding together! I had two good timed practice runs on the Friday, so was feeling confident moving into qualifying. I was riding well on Friday morning and just wanted to get on with the qually run. I had a good run not making any mistakes and qualified in 16th place feeling like I had more to give come finals. I spent Sunday morning trying to find a little bit more time for that all-important finals run in the search for my first top 20 result! I was lucky enough to have good friend, team sponsor and owner of Mango Bikes Ben Harrison with me as our team mechanic for the weekend. Ben had worked tirelessly keeping my Nicolai Geometron G19 running perfectly throughout the weekend, so I was 100% confident the bike was going to the be perfect for my race run. I had a wild race run! I pushed so hard it was a blur to be honest. I made a couple of little mistakes but only because I was trying to go so fast and maybe rushing a few things. I was 7th at the first split so it was looking good! I held things together but narrowly missed out on my first top 20 by 0.5 of a second and finished in 22nd place. A great weekend and I can feel it happening!
Moelfre - BDS 4 - 25/26 June 2016
This weekend became the turning point of my season. Before heading to Moelfre I looked back on the first half of the season, had a long think about how it had gone, and then what I wanted to achieve in the second half and how that was going to be possible. I went to Moelfre with a new mentality and to say it worked was an understatement. I rode hard all of practice and kept pushing all weekend to find more speed. As a result I was first in timed training on Saturday, I then went on to qualify fastest on Sunday morning, which is a career first for me at a BDS. We’d seen the weather forecast and we knew heavy rain was going to roll in after the qualifying which would leave us racing in the wet after no wet practice. I’d decided to prepare for this by running my cut down Schwalbe Dirty Dans in my final practice run and in qualifying, so that I’d be familiar with them when the rain came. When racing came around me and my Nicolai Geometron G19 were ready to get up the hill and tackle the new conditions and try to get that first BDS victory! I had a great run and pushed as hard as I could leaving nothing on the hill! I was beaten narrowly and finished in 2nd place by less than a second! It was my first BDS podium for a number of years and my best ever result, so I was thrilled despite missing out on the win by so little! The race was definitely the turning point of my season and I’d like to think the start of the next phase of my career!
Leogang, Austria - World Cup 4; 11/12 June 2016
My least favourite world cup track. In fact the only one I actively dislike. I like technical, hard, challenging tracks, and this one in my opinion is pretty boring and all about flow and carrying speed through relatively easy sections. The race is always super close so tiny mistakes can cost you 10 places which you can’t seem to make back by finding any ‘big’ lines. Practice was wet so quite fun. I qualified comfortably in 31st place and as usual felt like I had a lot more to give come finals. Finals day was a weird one because it had rained over night so the morning practice session was super wild in the wet slippery conditions. The sun then came out and the track got drier and drier. It was back to dry tyres for race runs and I just didn’t push hard enough as well as making a couple of little costly errors. I slipped back into 38th place and again feeling like I hadn’t given everything I could have at a world cup. Changes were definitely needed moving forward, but I was now down to 43rd in the overall.
Fort Wiliam, Scotland - World Cup 3; 4/5 June 2016
The one we all look forward to as British racers! And the weather was turning up for us as well, with high temperatures and sunny skies forecast for the entire week! After such a great weekend at the BDS I was feeling very confident and excited to see if I could finally get that first top 20 result I’ve been after! Practice went really well and we had Chris Porter of Mojo Suspension helping us do some testing with our Nicolai Geometron G19s to get the setup dialed in for racing to make the bikes as fast as possible down the fast rough track! Qualifying went well and I was 28th with a smooth run feeling like I had much more to give come finals day! Big shout out to my team mate George Gannicott who smashed it and qualified 10th!! Finals morning went well and I was feeling great and ready to give my all! For some reason the run never really got going and I didn’t find myself pushing as hard as I wanted to. I did go quicker than in qualifying, but only by a little bit which left me in 28th place. After evaluating I was obviously worried that after such poor results in Lourdes and Cairns and being down in the overall, I was riding for points rather than the result I wanted. This pulled me down to 49th in the overall and in the right direction!
Bala - BDS3; 28/29 May 2016
Definitely a rider favorite in terms of track and venue. The uplift works well so we can always get lots of runs in during practice, and the track is loads of fun and a good challenge. The weather was great and we all had a blast on the Saturday during practice. I was just loving smashing out the runs on my Nicolai Goemetron G19 and did over 10 runs by the end of practice. My best timed practice time was a 3.20 a bit off the pace, so I was going to need to turn it up come racing on Sunday! After more good practice runs on Sunday morning we were ready for qualifying. I felt like I had a really good smooth run with no mistakes, and was pretty angry when I came down to see the same time that I’d done three times the day before in timed practice. I really couldn’t understand why the time wasn’t faster. I had a long think about the run and how I’d been riding, and decided I was just being too smooth and it wasn’t fast enough, and for the race run I was going to have to get back into the habit of pushing as hard as I dared through every section. I was pretty fired up at the top before racing after massively underachieving in qualifying. I set off like a bull after a red rag and was half way down before I knew it. I made a huge mistake in the open section, having to go the wrong side a big tree stump and losing at least a second. I pushed on regardless and crossed the line 7 seconds faster than my seeding run despite the big error, and dragged myself up to 10th place. It just shows that smooth isn’t always fast like people say! So two good BDS results left me feeling positive moving forward into the next two world cups at Fort William and Leogang.
Fort William - BDS2; 14-15 May 16
I was only home for 3 days from Cairns before travelling up to Fort Bill for this one. After such a disappointing start to my world cup and BDS seasons, due to the leg injury I picked up at Ae Forest at the first BDS, I was intent on getting a good result here to kick start my season again! I traveled up on Wednesday so that I could do two days on the track before the BDS started and get comfortable. The weather was fantastic with beautiful clear skies and high temperatures so we had such a good time blasting runs and testing settings on our Nicolai Geometron G19s. By the end of Friday we’d already done 12 runs! Saturday was another good day and the whole trip was proving to be such a good confidence boost for me. In qualifying on Sunday I had a good run and finished in 6th place which was a really nice surprise and meant I was back on pace moving forward for the rest of the season. In finals I wanted to push as hard as I could and aimed to go 3 seconds faster. I did just that and it was good enough for 8th place, my best ever BDS result at Fort William so I was super excited to come back for the world cup. Great to have my season back on track and get a really good result on the new bike!