I’m just on the road down to catch a flight from Vancouver driving away from my Crankworx 2011 effort. This was my fourth visit to Whistler for the competition and has been my most successful yet. My Dad made the trip out with me to provide race support and do some riding himself, although that did get cut short for him when he got a bit too aggressive with the jumps and had a nasty crash picking up a shoulder injury.
I arrived in Whistler three days before the first race, just enough time to get back into riding the mountain I know and love as well as recover from the jet lag. With a re-organised Crankworx, meaning I had two downhill races stretched over four consecutive days, I was conscious that it would be a real challenge to get my body and my bike through the entire effort.
First up was the Canadian Open Downhill which races down a traditional downhill style course that is rough, fast and technical lasting just over 3 minutes. The track is amazing and easily comparable with some of the World Cup venues. I was 13th in this one last year and was aiming for a top 10 this time. The weather wasn’t typical for a Whistler summer, which made racing more of a challenge than usual with wet slippery conditions. I only take dry tyres to Whistler because it is usually all that is needed, and then even when it rains there is so much rock that spikes would probably be more sketchy. In some places the dry tyres really were crazy wild and I had to be very conscious of these spots come my race run.
I went well with a fast, wild run to come down into 2nd place with a 3.10 and only 2 seconds off the pace. This was good enough for 8th place overall when all the riders were down and I was 2nd Brit behind Danny Hart in 5th. So I got off to a great start and was feeling confident going into the second race.
I was 7th in the Garbanzo downhill last year and have been gradually getting closer to a podium finish over the past 3 years. It’s a race from the top of the bike park which takes about 14 minutes if you’re pinned and when you finish you can barely stand. This year was going to be a wet one and again I was aiming for a top 10 finish, and hopefully an improvement on last year’s 7th. Ellsworth were back in Whistler for Crankworx so I was really pumped up to perform with the added pressure to produce in front of the team.
I had a really great run and when I came through the finish I went into the hot seat by about 10 seconds with a time of 13.58. It’s such a strange race because when you’re on the way down it’s so hard that you feel like you’re about to come last! Until the final rider came down I was in 2nd, only 1 second from the win and it would have been such a disappointment to lose out by that much if it had stayed that way. However it didn’t, and Sam Blenkinsop went fastest with a 13.46, so I was 3rd and claimed my first Crankworx podium and $1000 prize money. I can’t use words to describe the feeling, only seeing my face on the podium tells you how chuffed I was!
Over the last month I have been thinking a lot about how I have been attacking my races. By mid season I had got myself into a rhythm whereby I was riding well within my limits, going for OK results and smooth race runs. Not only is this not my style, it is also a fantastically good way to limit my progression. I had been frequently going to big races like world cups, seeing lines that I would like to do and know that I could do, but deciding not to have a go at them. These lines would be the crazy ones that I know in my head I am capable of, but gave myself the excuses not to do them which would be – ‘you’re not here to win’, and limited training time means ‘you’re not as strong as the top guys’. Then a handful of the top guys would send these lines come race runs, and in the back of my mind I would be thinking, ‘man, you know you could do that’.
I have just had an amazing Crankworx, with results right up their with the full time professionals. I had the old feeling back from when I was the wild expert in 2009 who was mixing it with the elites in the UK. I felt fast and loose and sometimes out of control, but it pays off. I am now leaving Canada after two weeks solid training and racing in the best shape I have ever been in and a confidence level which has gone through the roof. I see a line I want to hit and I hit it. In previous years I have left Whistler at the end of season in fantastic shape but with no big races left. This year thanks to an early Crankworx I will be rolling to the French world cup in a week’s time. I’m not saying that thanks to this new attitude and a great riding/racing period I will be bringing home an amazing result, because who can predict racing, anything can happen. However I am saying that I have a plan to turn up and perform at the very highest level I can, in an attempt to prolong this successful period after Crankworx has shut up shop!
I’ll keep you posted!