Its been a confusing season so far to say the least. Things couldn’t have started better way back in February when i finished 7th in my first Expert race at Nant Gwrtheyrn on my Pitch, only a few seconds from a podium on a course which far from suited a short travel bike. Then things continued to roll forward when in March, i finished 2nd to Peaty at the incredible Steel City race.
Since that confidence inspiring start, things haven’t exactly gone to plan.
Rd.1 Nant G – March 20th
Only a month had passed since i rode my Pitch to 7th on exactly the same track, i was feeling quietly confident yet reserved about the weekend ahead. It was a wet one to say the least and the track was changing yet holding up, with mud parting way for more of the rock that lay under it.
Saturday – went as standard, clean with the odd crash but nothing major, just getting into the swing of things and dialing in my lines before race day.
Sunday rolled around and the weather was bleak, a couple of practice runs in the morning and i was feeling good. Quali then came around and as i sat in the van keeping warm and waiting for my time to ride, an incident occurred to one of the riders on course causing Quali to be red flagged for a while, not to worry i thought, keep warm and things will be under way again soon. This was not to be the case as the rider had hurt himself more than we at the top were told and he was trapped on track.
The organizers then had to make a big decision to cancel Quali and go straight into race runs. With the weather being so bad the light was already fading so this surely was the best option. Unfortunately i let this affect me too much, i snoozed a bit to much and got comfortable in my warm environment. Once my race run came around i had to try and wake myself up and get back into the mood. i struggled to do this and as a consequence i failed in hitting my high line in the devil rock section, causing me to tumble over the bars and rip my mech into my spokes. End of. I pushed to the bottom as there was no other way to get off the track. 47th was the end result, last place.
Rd.2 Moelfre – 10th April.
A track that has treat me kind in the past, my first UK win came at this venue and i was feeling confident to banish Rd.1 from my mind.
It was a scorching weekend with the sun out both days. I had Joe Bow and Duncan in support taking snaps and cheering me on so that was a nice plus.
Saturday – Went well, a flat rear tyre but that was all. Just out enjoying ridding in the sunshine.
Sunday – A couple more practice runs to dial in my line and ready for Quali. Which went well, 12th place after not pedaling the whole top/mid part of the track. On a track which is pretty basic flat out riding/pedaling. I have been working hard on my fitness over the winter and felt good on the pedals after a whole bunch of xc ragging.
Race run started great, hit all my lines and pedaled hard. I cleaned the top part of the track and carried good speed through the tight switchbacks, shot over the crossing and headed along the traverse pedaling hard all the way. It felt like i was carrying good speed and i shot off the last drop only to find myself land a lot further out than i had planned, front wheel landed right on a pointy rock and that was that, a flat front tyre. I was devastated as it was the last harsh place i could have had such a problem. DNF end result.
Rd.3 Glencoe – 29th May
What a venue! a track i hadnt previously done and on arrival i was instantly excited. From the bottom you could see nearly the whole track on the steep hillside facing you. It looked incredible, steep and rocky and very, very wet.
Saturday – Managed 2 runs due to some bad timing! i arrived in time for some one to fall and hurt themselves, this delayed things, did a run, someone else got hurt, did another run, wind caused havoc, went to to do another and noticed a cascade of yellow florescent jackets coming down the hill. was practice over? yes it was. oh well. i Enjoyed the track and looked forward to Sunday.
Sunday – One more practice run and i was buzzing. the track was very technical and difficult to clean top to bottom without a scary moment but i felt good and happy on the bike. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas, the wind picked up and the chairlift looked to be struggling. riders getting blown harshly from side to side, some heard to have come in contact with the Pillars. A meeting was held and the decision to cancel the event was confirmed. A real shame but probably the right thing to do.
Rd.4 LLangollen – 26th June
Not a track i have enjoyed in the past for some reason i have no idea why.. its a brilliant venue and you can see riders from top to bottom as the tumble down the steep hillside. there isn’t a whole lot to the track, no real tree roots, no big rocks, pretty smooth compared to other tracks, just very steep. why i haven’t enjoyed this in the past is beyond me.. this time however i was having great fun! loving the steeps and trying to flow as best as possible from top to bottom.
Saturday – things started wet and muddy but so much fun, sliding down the hillside pretty uncontrollably was a real challenge but a laugh non the less. i had one big crash on the fast traverse, things were roughing up down there and before i knew it my hand was off the bars and in front of me, then i hit the ground pretty hard. fortunately for me iv had some good practice when it comes to crashing so was able to comfortably tuck and roll out of it before i got too hurt.. for the speed of the crash damage was very minimal.
Sunday – The sun had been out since late on Saturday and continued to shine all Sunday. The track went from slightly moist slippy dirt to dust in places! A real contrast from Saturday morning but again as loose but this time even faster! I had felt good During practice, Put 6 runs in Saturday and was 2nd an down the hill on Sunday and went on to do 2 more practice runs, i had my lines comfortable, no big risks, just wanted to clean this track. Quali came around and things were really hot by this time. i was keeping cool hiding out in the wagon waiting for my time to come. Quali went well, i made one or two minor errors, one being scrubbing the banking on the top pedal traverse causing me to loose my momentum. This wasn’t too bad as i qualified 6th, only 1.8 seconds back. was my luck starting to change? I went back to the wagon happy with my time and thought about my race tun ahead. i was confident of a top 5 podium finish.
Race run started good, i didn’t pedal as hard as quali as i wanted to avoid scrubbing the banking again, top went smooth, dropped into the first steep, went pretty good, nailed the traverse pretty fast, cleaned the bottom steep, sent the drops and pedaled hard to line. 3.6 seconds back?! what?! that was a clean run and i went slower than quali! i ended up 4 seconds down on first place. Pretty disappointed with myself as i felt i should really have done much better than that. Thinking back i just didnt attack enough on the steeps, i comfortably rode them with no major force being put through myself or bike. 21st end result.
And thats that for now, looking forward to a short break from the bike and going to aim to come back strong for Fort William.
Thanks to all those who have supported me this season, sorry for the lack of top results!
Special thanks to:
Duncan Philpot for all his amazing pictures www.duncanphilpott.com
and especially Ma and Pa Swinden and Marian (for putting up with my moaning all season)