It’s all come to a sudden end.. New Zealand is done & now it’s back to the UK for another “summer”. So here is the final instalment of helmet cam footage on Queenstown top track, World Cup, Hobbit & Killer Bee.
Archives: James Swinden
Our World Cup athlete, Swinny, is currently hitting up the other side of the globe in preparation for the 2014 race season.
If you haven’t seen it already, Here’s a trip down one the rad tracks Queenstown bike park has to offer, Vertigo into Grundy. Enjoy!
This is sheffield
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Check out Swinny on TV! Spotted by Rob Jolley. Bar Humps FTW!
It was Combe Syndham, was part of a documentary on the extreme channel called “silent revolution” I believe… It was boring to watch because it was just interviews and people crossing the line rather than race footage, plenty of familiar faces though.
How things have changed over these past few years..
Since This Is Sheffield began, just a handful of us with a camera in some nearby woods on mediocre trails, we within this sport have seen one hell of rise through the ranks.
Me & my good pal Joe have come from dicking about together, to traveling the world, documenting & competing at the highest level in just a few short years.. And its great fun!!
For the last 2 years I have been chasing a bit of a childhood dream, to compete at a World Cup event (and to also catch up with the Steel City media team who have somewhat moved on from humble beginnings to world stardom!) I was given a brief glance at this dream in 2012 when I was called up to the British Cycling team to compete at the final round of the year in Norway, only for the harsh reality of riding a ‘proper race track’ taking its toll on my bike & body. Unprepared? Lack of resources? inexperienced? Naive? All of these & more are a good way to describe how I approached that race.. But this year things are different.
Since that race right at the back end of the year, with a glimpse at that dream, I realised what was possible, And I was going to make that dream happen…
Val Di Sole
Since seeing the coverage of the Worlds 2008, I have longed for this track. After the disappointment of having to miss Fort William World Cup, I was keen to make this event work for me. A real track. Long, physical, demanding, battering, all of which we don’t really have in the surrounding hills of Sheffield.
The opportunity has finally come around, I have worked hard for this moment. With an in-consistent start to my year, I was looking forward to going fast again.
Traveling with the PA & Steel City Media dream team along with Gee Milner, It was good to catch up with everyone & endure a proper Yorkshire trip! Sarcasm & laughs all the way.
On sign on, I was lumbered with the 153 plate. Top 150 racers were in A practice, the rest, B practice. So that instantly ruled out doing laps with the Syndicate boys then!
That decided it then, I was pretty much on my own for this one so that’s how I approached track walk. I have to start making my own mind up about tracks & lines & be able to see what I can ride within my abilities, not just nodding & agreeing with those around me.
Heading up in the lift there isn’t too much to see of the track, just the odd glimpse of sections through the deep trees, then before you know it, the top has arrived & its a little walk down to the start hut.
The track is just how it looks in the videos, brutal rocky with tree roots everywhere, deep loam & dust on some crazy steep gradients. Looks rad! I was enjoying this track walk & eventually caught up with Duncan & Sven as they were snapping away & even got myself a little interview & feature in VitalMTB’s track walk slide-show, which was cool.
This track needed time & care in its assessment, to learn & figure out where your coming from to where you want to be, its great seeing a track wider than the usual 1 line we seem a little used to in the UK. I must have been 3 hours on this one without even realising it!
Day 1 done, back to the hotel for an awesome three course meal with buffet appetizer & salad bar.. So much food eaten.
The heat was blistering all week, struggling to sleep at night followed constant sweating in the day, definitely not used to this!
Practice finally came around & my excitement was brimming! First time down the start ramp & I was thoroughly enjoying being apart of the World Cup scene.
A steady first run, the track seemed to run on forever!
Come second run, a little bit more speed. I heard Sven shout out “take it easy”, but I was enjoying that first testing section too much, it was easier, plus more fun, to go faster and skim the rocks & roots than try & go slow & burying wheels into the holes appearing.
A couple more lengthier runs later & I was starting to feel the effects of the long harsh track. Small mistakes with an unknowingly tired body made it much harder to ride the line in front of you. Only done 4 runs! How can I be tired?! But this track is harsh & could catch you out at any time, as many other riders found out.
Another mornings of practice before qualifying. A long wait from my last run at 10:00 until my qualifying run at 16:00! So a snooze & a little unwind back at the hotel before heading down to ask Greg how the track was running.
The whole Syndicate outfit were so helpful towards me all weekend, Steve, Gregg, Josh. Marshy, Dougie, Tom. Kathy. Rhino & Lars too! cheers guys, really appreciate the help & input!!
Off I went, up for qualifying.
Strangely, no nerves what so every in the start gate. I had headed up early to have a glimpse of a few other riders & how they approached the first section, which gave me confidence as knew I could ride that section strongly.
Things started well, fast through the first 2 tech sections before a stall in an awkward flat left before pressing on through the next rocks & across the bridge.
I backed off through the next section as a few tight flat steep corners had exposed some deep roots & I wasn’t sure of the conditions so was playing it a little safe before opening up again & into the final section.
That braking may have turned out to be my downfall, this track is harsh & soon realised I couldn’t actually tell weather I was braking or not.. Turns out I was, perhaps too harshly as a slow tight right caught me out & over the bars I went. Lodged behind a tree I struggled to get going again before finishing off the run.
What an experience! despite the crash I thoroughly enjoyed that! It was so cool to hear my name being shouted a couple of times down the track as well as learning I was within throwing distance of qualifying for my first major finals. 39th at the first split, 50th at the second, 109th the final result, 5 seconds off that elusive top 80 place.
Such a shame but what fun. Yeah im pissed off, but not going to let it dampen the experience. I have rode a World Cup track, raced & was competitive (for the most part!) That’s more than I could have asked for merely a year ago.
So missing out on finals was a bummer yeah, but I enjoyed being their & watching too, plus we had a good laugh with Gregg & the marshals post race (hitting the big time! Now I know how Joe must feel!?)
Time to head home & prep for the next Nationals before Andorra World Cup. Not done yet!!
Our Man Swinny’s hard work has paid off and he is riding World Cups this year. He missed out on Fort Bill due to the UCIs inability to process his points in time, however, he’s out in Italy for the second round with the Steel City Media Whores.
See and hear the man himself (and plenty of Joe and Duncans self promotion) on slide 16 of this brilliant Vital Slideshow. Lets hope the nepotism continues and we get more Vital coverage of our lad.
Gwarn Swinny! We’re all rooting for you lad. What a track to start his world cup campaign on, but then again, have you seen his guns? VDS’ rocks had better watch out!
So a mixed start to the 2013 season is the best way to describe my season so far. A couple of good results to kick things off from the Steel City round & BDS rd 1 was followed by a heavy crash at Fort William then achieving a life long goal of gaining enough points to compete at World Cups, all before a huge eye opener at Innerleithen last weekend.
I came into the weekend looking to build on my early form. Iv felt strong, fit & fast so far this season but something just didn’t click for me here. Maybe a few factors out of my power were playing on my mind a bit too much. Firstly the disappointment of not being picked by the British Cycling team to represent at The first World Cup of the year in Fort William, something I have been lusting for these past couple of seasons, then achieving my points, getting overly excited only to be told by the UCI I was not allowed to compete due to not achieving points in time. Steve tried so hard to get me involved in the event, but it was not to be. I cant thank you enough for your efforts dude!
Then, regretably, I had to make a tough desicion to miss out on the SPS training week in the build up to Inners, as valuable holiday allowance from work meant I needed to save days in order to compete at other events through the year.
These training days are part of what makes the SPS so unique, the chance to really see into what it takes to compete at the top level, seeing how Steve approaches his Job & takes on the terrain is a huge boost in both confidence & information, so valuable in this sport.
So without an extra couple of days on the hill, I joined my fellow SPS boys & got to work.
A few laps following James Ramsey down the tight & fast Inners track soon made me realise just what I had missed earlier on in the week. He was riding so solid & smooth, I was struggling to keep up!
The smallest of mistakes on this track pretty much ended your run, the tight trees & off camber gradient, mixed with flat out to tight slow turns made for a really challenging race track. I was struggling to get up to pace.
After 4 runs though I was starting to feel at home, that was before I took the opportunity to do a couple of laps with Steve. Now this was where my eyes were fully jammed open.. The speed, the flow, the smoothness, the control. Yes I kept up, but what a pace. I soon realised I was from from a competitive race pace here. Another lap with Steve & I felt a lot better. Smoother & more in control whilst finding it easier to keep up.
Saturday ended good, the Sun was shining & I felt fast, I was keen for racing now.
Sunday soon rolled around & I was up early to get on the hill in time to get 2 practice runs in. The uplifts were just shocking, a 2 mile ride before waiting in what seemed to be a line involving every rider at the event. Just not enough wagons to cope with the demands.
So, back on the hill & first run leading out Josh Lewis. Things were going pretty good for a first run, until I hit the deck hard. Taking a beating on my right side of my body, arm & hip taking the brunt of the force. A steep chute that dropped onto a fire road was catching a few people out over the weekend. I should have know better though, the cold air at night mixed with warm morning meant for some dew around, this part of the track was so firm being a fire road, a little bit of moisture on the polished rocks & it was like an ice rink if caught wrong.. Which is exactly what I did, hitting the floor hard before I even knew what was happening.
So it was back to the pits & an attempt at a quick patch up so I could get another run in. I was keen to try to block out the pain, think no pain, feel no pain, but things were definitely stiffening up & my confidence had took a knock.
Quali began & I wasn’t riding smooth at all. The light piercing through the trees made for really challenging conditions with vision being interrupted by the intermittent light & shadow effect. I crossed the line after a bit of stop stalling in the lower woods & waited to see where I had placed. 26th.
Their was so much talk surrounding how ‘stacked’ the field was with World Cup contenders, all keen to get a bit of race practice in before the following weekends opening World Cup round, but this doesn’t matter. If I want to compete at World Cup level I need to be able to compete with the top guys time. It doesn’t matter to me who goes fastest or who is attending, its about getting as close as possible to that winning time, & 9 seconds is far to far back for me to be competitive at the highest level.
I was however confident of a big improvement in time, It was not a good run, full of tiny errors & mini stalls, I was sure of taking a good chunk of time off.
But it wasn’t really the case, Race run began & I felt reasonable up top, A solid middle section before again a little struggle in the lower woods before over the line. An improvement on my quali time but by no where near as much as needed, 2.5secs quicker & I ended up 30th, again 9 seconds back on the win.
Needles to say I was pretty pissed off by the result, a safe run the weekend before in Norway lead me to a top ten, but a safe run here put me no where. You cant just be a little quick anymore, you have to flat out from the word go, precise, delicate, accurate, aggressive, confident & consistent, all of which I was just lacking a little come race time. Something I definitely need to work on & quickly!
Next up is World Cup rd.2, Val di Sole, Exciting!
This past weekend I headed abroad once more on the quest my those oh so valuable UCI points.. So here’s what happened..
The plan was crack out a top ten at the Norges Cup in Drammen, Norway. A quick Bank holiday weekend trip with a happy ending.. Well, it nearly wasn’t..
I had planned everything to run quick & smooth without taking any more time off work, who have so supportive of me these past two seasons, so I could save that valuable holiday allowance to book time off for the World Cup rounds I was hoping to head off to..
Friday night ship out, me & Mari (PA/wag) were on the road to the airport for 17:30, loads of time to get stuck in traffic in Glossop & still make our 20:45 flight. Easy done as it turned out Glossop was not even that bad! (For a first) Everything was going according to plan, on time, organized, right up until check in. Lost wallet. Uh oh. Hadn’t a clue where it could be. Last I remember I had it at the bus stop, damn. A quick call to the bus company but no sign of it. A 45 minute round trip with only 45 minutes to our flight time.. even bigger uh oh.. Jet Parks plus were awesome, they sent me a personal pick up from an Irish fella named Willy, top guy, cant thank him enough for ragging that bus around getting me back to the car park to search foe the wallet. But no joy. It must be either checked in with my bag.. or someone has it. Hoping for the former i was rushed back to the airport, bouncing over kerbs & worrying other drivers as we sped back to the terminal. Dropped as close as possible i ran to meet Mari, picked up both hand luggage bags & sprinted to the gate, girlfriend in tow. Just in time we made it to are gate, only to find the flight itself had been delayed slightly, which was nice. A bit more time to add that bit of worry as to where the wallet actually was..
A few anxious hours later & the time had come to collect baggage & see what situation we were in… was good news? At first no, no signs of the little fella. oh bugger, my heart sank a little, then success! Nestled away in between my shoes, there he was, sneaky thing! relief..
So, on we pressed. Rent-a-car, then hotel for a sound nights sleep.
Again all was running smooth but time was really getting on. Gone 01:00 in the morning & still traveling, I had been up since 04:30 am the day before! Starting to feel tired & really want sleep we pulled up at the hotel, Which turns out they mixed up our booking with another hotel some 15 minutes back up the road. So off we went again. 03:30 am we eventually got our heads down. 23 hours awake in total, great.
Up at 07:45 am for breakfast. An all you can eat mix of hot & cold buffet style delights & those that know me when it comes to food know this is never a ‘quick feed’. A little insight into how I ate..
It started with a large warm plate, A large helping (and large means what you would imagine as large, plus more) of eggs, beans, meatballs, little sausages, some onion omelet things & potato chunks, with a side helping of a couple of sizeable hand cut slices of seeded bread & coffee. The size of meal you’d normally look & think, ‘Wow, I’m gonna feel full after this!’
But that’s not all.. Onto a helping of porridge & more coffee, before helping myself to the cold buffet, a couple of bread cob sandwiches stacked with hams, cheeses & salads before heading back for another plate of warm. Not as much as first time around admittedly but considering the size of round one, even half that portion size was still pretty sizable.
Not done yet, a bowl of cereal & yoghurt, more coffee before another sandwich & a take away coffee.. That just about covered it I reckon.
Enough about food, Time to ride!
30 minutes down the road we arrived at Drammen Skisenter. Pulling into the car park a noticeable in feel between British rounds & this one. So much more relaxed, no one rushing about, no struggling to squeeze runs in, just calm & welcoming. The chairlift probably helped a lot, set just off the road, such easy access.
We set up our pits for the day, built the bike up & headed to the lift, around 11:00 for first runs.
The track was cool, a huge rock slab to build speed before dropping into a very loamy section. Due to pretty severe weather in the build up to the race, this section as littered with thick deep mud bogs that killed your flow, but as more riders descended, soon dispersed the most & dug down to the bare rock.
A tricky switchback before a large rock roller to build speed! A couple switchbacks later before opening up a bit. Building speed was fun on this track! Smashing through 2 very soft turns, easy to bury the front end & get pitched forward before opening up over large rolly rocks again. 1 more tricky wooded section before exiting onto the ski slope to the finish line turns & jump.
A rad track. so enjoyable it didn’t feel anywhere near as long as the race times suggest.
I headed straight back up.. no queue, at most it was 3 people deep, just pleasant.
Unfortunately this time around I clipped a rock in the high speed rock roll section, got bucked pretty bad but held her down! Determined not to crash! (it pays off being strong!!) damn rock though bent my pedal pretty bad, too bad to be able to ride it.
A quick call at the Norwegian Santa Cruz & one of their riders sorted me out with a fresh set of pedals, cheers guys! would have been really stuck without you!
New pedals fitted & back up the hill. 2 more runs but was starting to struggle with fatigue & tiredness. So headed back to pits for a lie down.
So, 4 runs, a lengthy pit stop & it was still barely 14:00!
A lie down turned into a nap.. nap turned into a sleep.. so I called it a day & went for a track walk. 17:45 & still riders on track, Norwegians have riding priorities dialed!
A couple of fresh lines had appeared in the tech sections, something I was keen to try out in Sunday mornings practice.
We headed back to our hotel, passed out pretty early on after scouring what delights Norway had to offer on telly. Why oh why do you guys seem to have a channel dedicated to breast feeding?! Its just creepy!
Back up for more breakfast (see above for portions) Before arriving for 09:00.
To the the lift for 9:30, practice closed.. oops.
So, First run Sunday with trying new lines would be seeding run, not the best prep but that’s the position I got myself in!
A gentle run scoping things out. Over the line & in 10th place. Pretty positive.
Top ten was the goal for the weekend, this would give me the points needed to compete at World Cups this year.
Off for race runs.
A bit different to what I’m used to this year, no trainer, no music, just myself & my thoughts.
Its easy to over think things & get wound up before a race run, something I have struggled with greatly in the past. So for now its off for a walk, a bit off warming up whilst picturing back to back clean runs of the track.
Into the start gate & a sudden flutter of nerves, before being able to shut them out with some clean thinking.
Onto the pedals & away! cranking hard I could feel I was under power from fatigue but no excuses, time to race.
A small error into the first woods dropped me off line slightly, not loosing too much time though as moment was kept.
Onto the open section & time to open up, some stiff pedal strokes before nearly ditching it in the soft switchbacks. Thrown over the front wheel as it dug in, foot dab to hold upright, before getting back on with it.
The final wood section was clean & smooth before smoothing out the final turns, squashing the last jump before crossing the line.
Slightly nervous as id crossed the line in 2nd & waited for the next man down to see where id end up.. A chance of missing out on that top ten was a possibility.
Fortunately for me that didn’t happen! 7th the end result, a little further back than id have liked but still, job done! Happy with the result & 100Euros better off! Cheers Norway!
So, back off to pack up with smiles on our faces. A good weekend of sun & bikes with a result that would give a life long ambition of competing in World Cups a reality.
Duncan has been working for the SPS all season filming them at every race. Its been a successful season for the Steve Peat Syndicate with several of the lads, including our own Swinny, hitting up their first World Cups and many good results in the BDS.
Watch the celebration of the end of the season with a team day out at the latest addition to Sheffields trail network, Parkwood Springs. Ratboy joins Peaty and the team wearing out the inside lines of the newly finished berms. This is followed by wet weather outdoor go karting and a BBQ and Fire Chez Peat. Looks like a right laugh.