Photo by Lauren Beaty
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.
Wednesday Good Morning Fort Bill
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!
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
Friday Mum very emotional after my qualifying run
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.
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.
Me and Mum watching the race on Sunday
Running Renthals Proto stem
Joel and Madam catching some roof rays
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
The next race I had on my agenda was the BDS National at Fort William .. now, I have a few issues with this track, the first time I “raced” it was last years BDS. First practice run I got half way down the top open section, hit my front wheel on a rock and went straight over the bars landing on my head and both wrists. I got up, shook it off, found my bike, but as I picked it out of the soggy marshy bushes I realised I’d completely folded my front wheel. It wouldn’t even turn though the forks, the Marshal at ‘point 7’ said I’d be better off taking the bike back up to the gondola rather than pushing it to the bottom. It was one HELL of a push to the top, took just under an hour and I kept tripping over my feet. I couldn’t actually push my bike as the front wheel wouldn’t roll. I tried rolling it on the back wheel keeping the front wheel up, but the ground was so boggy and uneven it was proving to be an extremely hard challenge indeed. So I ended up carrying my bike to the top.
When I got to the bottom, the Leisure Lakes Bikes crew built me a new wheel a sap so I could head straight back up. On my second attempt of a first run, the rocks were shaking me about to the point where I lost my vision. I stopped at marshal point 7.. again as I couldn’t see anything. I’d clearly got concussed when I hit my head and it was getting worse. I walked down with the medics to the ambulance and waited for my vision to come back. By this point it was time for seeding runs so I was already out of the game with not even managing one complete run.
So this year it’s safe to say I was fairly nervous, a little fearful of the track and in the Elite category. I looked at the start list and pretty much crapped myself, there were 11 girls in Elite, at least 5 of them were the top 5 in the World, and all 10 of them competed seriously in the World Cups.. then there was little old me, Eeeeeek!!
The weather was awful, I only had 2 race kits and wanted to save one for the Sunday as I was camping with Mr Shmouse (Jon Stout) and his lovely Mum, who both looked after me with food and mechanics. However, I spent all day Saturday soaked through and shivering. I wasn’t feeling the track as my nerves were getting in the way of just having fun.
Seeding run was on Saturday afternoon, there were loads of red flags which made the whole of the masters category rerun their race. This put the times back by an hour, as the girls were after masters we were already at the top waiting for our runs. I was so cold and kept my helmet on for warmth. I was the first Elite down and just wanted to get it over with. There was a minute gap after the senior girls, then I set off, I just didn’t want the girl behind me to catch me up. As I was riding I felt my helmet wasn’t actually done up, I’d been so cold and desperate to get down it completely slipped my mind. I thought it would be ok, kept going, then the wiser side took over and said ‘stop you idiot, this is not the track to ride without your helmet done up!’ So I listened and pulled over, did it up and cracked on. After that point I was pretty much laughing at myself the whole way down and finally relaxed and actually loved the track. I got to the woods and stumbled across one of the senior girls in a heap, so waited for her to get off the track because I couldn’t get round her.. This clearly wasn’t a winning run so I was in no rush. Just before I got to the motorway I caught up with another senior girl, she was only 13 and a hero for racing this track, so I didn’t want to startle her and just held back till there was room to pass. With all this happening I still beat all the senior girls by quite some time, and my time was up there with the Elites. I was stoked and couldn’t wait to ride it again on Sunday.
As soon as I got to the bottom I had a nice hot shower at the venue, it was like a dream!! Finally got warm again and spent the rest of the evening chilling with a cool bunch of Scots. Come bed time I piled on the layers, including: Knee high socks, fluffy socks, jeans, t-shirt, 2 jumpers aaand my onesie. Only thing that was cold was my nose.
On Sunday Shmouse and I did a few runs together then I went up for my race run, Craig Munro was a star and came up with a drink and a jacket to keep me warm. Come race run I was more with it, did up my helmet and set off. The run felt good, no massive mistakes, felt heavy coming out of corners and on the motorway but I had so much fun and smiled the whole way down. When I hit the woods I could feel my arms and legs burning but soldiered through. Ending up with 7th place, and beating the senior winner by over a minute.
As the seeding runs were done on Saturday, all racing was over by 2pm. I helped the GT team start packing away and then jumped in Gee’s van to get a lift back to Shrewsbury. Bryceland over took Gee on the little Scottish roads, so Gee retaliated and I was stuck in a battle. It was hilarious, weaving in and out of traffic on tiny roads, oddly I felt safe through it all, and got home in record time.
I’d raced Fort Bill, and was tucked up in my nice warm bed before 11pm on the same day.
After having so much fun at Fort Bill I decided I would race the World Cup in less than a month. So now I need to do a lot a push ups and squats, and heaps of riding on the hardtail. Bring it on!
Bringewood - Pearce Cycles
I’d been home from New Zealand for a matter of days and realised Pearce Cycles had a race at the weekend at Bringewood. I LOVE Pearce races and was pretty stoked I could do it!
I got all my stuff together and hit the road early hours of Saturday morning. I was quite nervous, anxious and excited; this is my first race in the UK and in my new Elite category title since being in New Zealand. I knew I had improved but this would determine how much, as I would be competing with all the girls I raced with last year. It was pretty weird having all the gear with me. In New Zealand I just took myself and my bike to the races, didn’t need spare kit, tyres etc. I was also missing Joel and Emma. Since I started racing in 2011, I’ve done most of the UK races with these 2, they keep me happy and relaxed, which helps with “trying” to have a chilled fun run; Alas, Joel is cracking on with his Masters Degree and Emma is having a break from DH, trying a variety of races, including; xc, enduro, triathlons etc. But as soon as I got to Bringewood I saw soooo many people that I hadn’t seen over the winter and was stoked to catch up with everyone, they’d all been keeping up to date with my NZ adventures via facebook and were looking forward to seeing some fast NZ riding .. no pressure!! HA!
The track was running so well, I really did bring the weather back with me, hadn’t rained since I got home making the tracks perfect. I was smashing out the runs all day Saturday and didn’t get tired. It really made me realise how I may not have intentionally done training over the winter, but just by being somewhere where riding is so accessible with such long tracks my body was conditioned to do lots of riding in a short time.
The bottom section of Bringewood is probably one of my favourite sections of a track ever. It always seems to be dry, even if the top part of the track is a mud bath. It’s full of trees and heaps of bumps; you come flying through at full speed weaving through the trees, jumping, whooping, ducking and diving. It feels like no one could possibly go faster than you at that time. I did all the jumps on the track which I’d never done before, so I was feeling good.
The whole weekend was so much fun, everyone was happy, I saw loads of good friends and the riding was epic. When it came to race runs I was so chilled from having fun that it barely felt like a race run, the pressure I usually feel was gone. Both my race runs were good, no crashes, and it felt pretty smooth, the open section dragged as I could feel the weight of my bike sucking me into the ground and adding seconds onto my time, but I didn’t care.. that’ll get sorted with a new bike I’m sure.
I still compared my time to the senior girls as it was only a few months ago that I was battling against them, I beat the senior winner by 10 seconds, and came 2nd in Elite. I was buzzing and stoked to be home.
Photo by Dan.Armishaw