End of season write up – Part 2
Val di Sol IXS cup
I was lucky enough to chosen by British cycling to represent at Val di Sole World Cup 2013 & it was without doubt the highlight of my short career. What an unreal track! Val di Sole is pretty brutal, ride too conservative & it’s actually more difficult a track to ride.. Push it that bit too much however & the high speeds & nature of the track can bite you in the arse.
It was my second attempt at World Cup qualification & it didn’t go to plan. After being on track to qualify in the first 2 sectors, the brutality of the track got to me & my arms gave up coming into the final steep section of track & down I went. Only 5 secs back off qualifying, I was pretty devastated.
So for 2014 I was out to make amenze. We rolled into the Valley of Sun coming off the back of a couple of disappointing race runs. We scoped out the track & the new section up top was as fresh as could be. Sweeping grass turns up top followed by deep loam sections, a couple of boardwalks, before joining the original track & proceeding to the exciting finish area.
I do enjoy this track. Flat out speed from the word go. I enjoy a good pedal but this place is all about keeping flow & momentum, keeping smooth & building speed as you go. Needless to say I was thoroughly enjoying practice.
The sunshine wasn’t quite with us during the weekend & come seeding it was a little grey & overcast, but no major weather came in. I had a ‘steady run’, found a groove, made no major mistakes & planted myself 17th. It wasn’t a great run by any means but I was pleased not to deck it when the clock was running! All momentum shifted towards race day.
Sunday & the weather had come in. It was pretty grim up top with some low lying cloud, not cold, but wet with the track deteriorating as the racers descend.
I hit the track, after a bit of self chat while waiting for my run I assured myself to ‘respect the track’. So I dropped in, found a flow, pushed on where I thought appropriate & backed off to clean some tougher sections.. I was comfortable. After nailing all of the above the finish arena soon came into sight & before I knew it I was railing that big ass berm before cranking to the line.. Into 2nd place.. Ok, things were maybe looking up! I was elated to not crash & then watch on as rider after rider struggled to turn a strong top sector into a strong result. I sat there as the odd rider came in just ahead of me & then others just behind. It was tense & pretty exciting!
5th place in the end & boy was I happy. My first Elite podium at a big event & rewarded with a big block of cheese & chance to see the crowed cheer us on up there. At one point I forgot I was on the podium & turned to applaud the other racers before remembering & turning back to raise my hands to the crowed.
European Crankworx, Les 2 Alpes IXS
I was keen to keep this positive momentum rolling & as we crossed the boarder into the French Alpes we were stopped by police to check passports. As they were in the back I had to get out & me being me was just in my short shorts while driving, so as I opened the side door & the police had a look in, they had a little personal joke between them, before one of them commenting with a rye smile on his face “ooh sexy sexy truck”. Cheers pal, we definitely made there day as they continued to laugh away as we drove on.
As we arrived I to the town of Les 2 Alpes I was a little confused & thought we had the wrong dates.. The town was very quiet with not much activity on the hillside showing that Crankworx was happening yet.. So I cracked out the road bike & hit a couple of laps of the mountain roads.
Finally things started to gather pace around the event & eventually it was our turn to hit the hill. I was enjoying being on the bike but identified a few pretty sketchy areas of track that could upset things. The track was wide open & flat out up top before narrowing into single track traversing before opening up again at the bottom.
I had a laugh first run as this track was flat out up top. I shared a lift with Mike Day who requested if he could drop in behind me, sure why not! So off we went.. & off track I went. Deciding not to brake off the first wood drop into right berm compression effort, I was boosted out high & far, landing just before the tape as it wrapped itself under my goggles, blinding me before slipping into my mouth, getting tighter & tighter as I streamed uncontrolled down the grass mountain. Eventually I dismounted & tumbled to a stop before the long walk back up. Pretty shook up I cruised down before having a moment to regather myself. That was uncomfortable for sure. A could of steady laps later & the day was done.
Race day & a fresh mind. I hit the hill & dropped in behind Al Bond for a couple of laps, damn that boys fast! Had a rad morning & felt strong again, then it all went tits up. The final jump & a gust of wind took my front wheel away & down I went. Taking the impact hard on my left heel before sliding on my head to a stop. That one hurt, a lot. Was even considering not racing as the pain was shooting through my lower leg.
I decided to go for it anyway & just put in a time. I felt tight on the bike but was getting down, all before that damn wind again took me off track. Off camber flat out section, as I popped off a rock a gust pushed me just enough off to the side to end up tumbling down the hillside. Fortunately for me 2 young trees gathered my bike before it had chance to hit anything else as I cartwheeled through the middle of them. They definitely killed my momentum which I thank them for! Otherwise it would have been a reoccurrence of my 2009 Whistler incident.. It took a while to clamber back up the hill before cruising on to the finish.
I was keen to get out of all race kit & head back to the finish to see how Al Bond would get on. The lad was on fire the last few weeks & a real nice fella to be around, so I wanted to cheer him on.
On the big screen he looked rapid & in total control, just before that bugger that is the wind struck again. Coming through the last flat out section we were all cheering him on, the camera panned with him as he hit the huge table top before the final sprint section. He looked to tuck up with speed style before the landing disappeared between him & he hit the deck head & shoulder first.. Then the screen went to black..
In reality, as Al took off, the wind was behind him so grabbed hold of his real wheel, pushing it & him forward, past the landing & over the bars he went. It was a sickening impact & everything was on hold for some time. I eventually made it back to the van before heading up the hill to where Al was, He was just coming around, it must have been at least some 20 mins later. The poor guy was wrapped up in a blow up body stretcher & drip. It was a pretty scary sight to see the lad in such a way. Fortunately he wasn’t too badly injured, broken collar bone & thumb along with a heafty bit of inner bruising. He’s all good now mind, which is good!
So all in all no the best weekend! We were supposed to be doing the mega the following week, but on arriving at the mountain campsite, the weather was horrific & I was still in a fair amount of pain, so we sacked it off & took to the road for the long drive home..
Part 3 dropping soon!