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Photo by Lauren Beaty
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Well, where to begin?!..

A few weeks ago I bought a Carbon GT Fury frame from Gee Atherton; Andy Lund was a legend and built it up for me, transferring all the parts off my Commencal frame. I finally got the bike a week ago and decided to sacrifice racing Innerleithen BDS National, and instead I rode local tracks, including Antur Stiniog to try and get used to my bike and save some money. So glad I did, as I realised my forks were barely working, this gave me time to get them to J-tech Suspension for a full service before the World Cup.


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Wednesday

I packed up my bike and hit the road to Fort William to compete in my first ever World Cup race. Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling; it had been the only thing on my mind for weeks leading up to it. 
 
The past 3 years I have travelled up to Fort William to watch the World Cup, and last year I watched my brother compete. So I knew how it worked, what the schedule would be and the vibe of the place, so I was super excited. But I had also seen the track, I remember seeing the road gap last year and thinking, “holey crap that’s huge, I’d never be able to do that!” Thankfully my riding has improved heeeaps since then and I’ve done bigger things, however, I had built it up in my head so much I imagined it being 10x the size. The days leading up to the race it was all I could think about. 
 
After an 8 hour drive I arrived in Fort Bill and took cover from the midges whilst staring at an amazing sunset over the Loch!

PictureGood Morning Fort Bill
Thursday

Woke up to an incredible view of the Loch; sun was shining, skies were blue, on form for a top weekend! I headed to the track to sign on and do a track walk with my New Zealand buddies, Allana, Stout and Andy. Track looked awesome, all the ruts from the BDS were smoothed out and Bill was looking fast!

The road gap didn’t look as daunting as I remember but I couldn’t get all the nervous thoughts out of my head. After walking the track I went around the venue catching up with everyone. Hadn’t seen Casey Brown since New Zealand, that was an exciting reunion. Casey and I decided to get a B&B on the Thursday night instead of camping, be good to get at least one good night’s sleep.

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Track walk with Madam
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Friday

Practice day!! Casey and I got up early and headed to the track, ready for practice at 8.30am. I loved the top section of the track and felt awesome on it, however as soon as I hit the woods I crumbled, didn’t know where I was going and kept thinking about the road gap coming up. I knew I could do it, but I let it build up in my head for way too long. I kept going round it, with the intention of doing it on the 'next run'. Then I tackled the creek gap at the bottom of the woods .. I must have hesitated slightly, and cased it; it is not a jump you want to be casing. Thankfully I made it to the other side, but the impact from casing it went straight to my right knee. I managed to stay on the bike, it bucked me forwards and slammed my seat down but I felt the pain instantly in my knee. I chucked my bike to the side with fear of someone jumping on me, as I’ve seen World Cup riders don’t really take note of the marshal’s flags, ha. I sat on the side of the track in quite a bit of pain and the medics came over pretty sharpish. I couldn’t put any weight on my knee so they helped me to the ambulance, checked it over and said I’d damaged the cartilage in my knee. Thankfully riding shouldn’t make it worse, would just be quite painful, so they gave me 5 painkillers and sent me off .. Boom! My new saint lever had got damaged somehow, but I took it to Shimano and they sorted it out while my painkillers kicked in. After that I managed one steady run down before 4x quali. Today was a bit of a write off, fresh start in the morning.

We headed over to the camp site and met my parents, brother, cousin and little dog after they’d travelled all day from Shrewsbury. It was great to have them there for support and I already felt more relaxed.

PictureMum very emotional after my qualifying run
Saturday

I got up early and was on one of the first lifts up, I wanted to get in 2 good runs .. both with doing the road gap. I was feeling much more relaxed, I hadn’t taken any painkillers so my knee was really sore the whole way down, I managed to stop in the woods and I knew the marshal there so he gave me a bunch of painkillers and I trucked on. I stopped just before the road gap, made sure it was clear and went for it. It was all good, looks pretty scary but it’s absolutely fine, and super fun. I was stoked and went straight back up for another run, second run felt awesome and I was on a massive high and ready for qualifying. I didn’t realise the wait would be quite so long. My qualifying run was 4 hours later. So I put on a nice summery dress and chilled with everyone in the beautiful sunshine.

The girls runs started at 2.30, in qualifying it goes in order of highest UCI points first. So Rachel Atherton was first down and I was one of the last. I went up to the top with Joel and Stout, they set up a turbo trainer and did a few warm up exercises with me. I have never done this before a race as I thought I would just psych myself out putting the pressure on, but seeing as this was a big race all it could do was help. I also had no expectations with it being my first World Cup.

When it actually came to the race I wasn’t nervous, I was just so excited to ride the track again, when I set off it was awesome, there were people dotted all the way down the track cheering me on. I love the top section but flats are not the way to go for riding it at race pace. My feet kept sliding off the pedals and I constantly had to slow down so I could readjust them, I still had an amazing time on the track and by the time I hit the woods it was all good. I smashed the road gap and sprinted to the finish. It was such an awesome feeling, I was out of breathe and rather sweaty but I wasn’t very tired, my arms and legs were fine, I don’t know if this is a result of warming up or I’ve got stronger since the BDS a month ago, or the new bike; probably a combination of them all. Unfortunately I just missed qualifying, but I was really pleased with my result. I came 26th out of 40 top world class riders. My parents came running over, extremely proud, it was a good job Mum had sunnies on because she was crying her eyes out. I was buzzing from the whole thing, I couldn’t be happier. My first experience of competing in a World Cup was epic! I cannot wait to enter more of them. I’ve learnt so much from this weekend and I know what I need to do to get through, so for now I shall start riding DH in clips and just keep riding, running and loving life on the wild side.

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Me and Mum watching the race on Sunday
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Running Renthals Proto stem
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Joel and Madam catching some roof rays
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Thank you

Massive thank you to Smouse (Jon Stout) for doing the mechanics on my bike, I could not have done it without you. The support from my family was amazing and I was so happy they were there experiencing it with me. Thanks to my sponsors Renthal and Blackspire. 

My mission now is to find myself a few more sponsors to help me get to more World Cup races.. 

Wish me luck :-)

Hitting the Road Gap

 


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    Traharn (Arnold) Chidley
    Simply informing you of my racing experiences.