Thursday, 23 April 2015

Northern Downhill - Hamsterley Forest TT, 19th April 2015

I was just down the road at Hamsterley Forest this time for the Northern Downhill Time Trial event, opting for my shorter suspension bike as the big FTW is overkill for these events.

Hamsterley is my local riding ground and I was fluent with the track that was being used by the NDH lads so got one practice run in on Sunday morning to see how it all rode and oh boy was it fast!  It was sure going to make for some good racing with tight times.

I made my way up for my race run ten minutes before I was due at the start gate ensuring that I stayed focussed and ready to race. Out of the gate on the first timed run it was going well but not as fast as I'd have liked, a lack of warming up had left my legs feeling dead and I crossed the line bang on four minutes putting me into forth place which wasn't what I was looking for!

Taking the first run into account I mentally prepared myself for the second shot and as soon as I was out of the gate I had the track completely nailed down.  However it didn't last long as I caught up with the rider in front which slowed me down as I struggled to get past. Carl Davison, the event's organiser, had noted this and thankfully allowed me to do a re-run so off I went back up to the top.

It was now all or nothing, out of the gate I kept the bike pinned all the way down and managed to make up that second putting me into third however soon learned that I was just 0.3 of a second from taking the second place, but hey, that's racing for you!

See you all at next race,


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

British Downhill Series - Ae Forest, 4th & 5th April 2015

We’re all going to have a tight squeeze into the Tardis as we travel back in time to the British Downhill Series at Ae Forest.

Lee: I’ve been in the midst of a house move and it’s been crazy, that’s now thankfully all done and dusted so whilst I’m sat here surround by unpacked boxes here are Nick and Tom with their low downs, sadly Nelly didn’t get back to me with his.

Nelly channelling Daft Punk....

Tom: I arrived at Ae after getting a lift up there with my mates in order to get an early track walk in.  The first impressions were that the top and lower sections were looking great, sweeping forest trail with some nice sticky mud to keep things in check.  The middle section after the road crossing looked problematic though, steep off camber root fests….. that was gonna be my challenge!

Nick: I’m getting old guys, I’m now in the Masters!  Spent the best part of winter at Crossfit Jacana in Durham building my strength up although I didn’t get as much riding in I’d have liked.  Anyway, on a totally shallow note, have you seen the team’s new red FTW downhill bikes, exactly how cool?!

From past experiences at Ae there’s little point in running spike tyres despite the mud as there’s a load of rocks and roots to contend with so I stuck with my Michelin Rock R2 tyres, yep, their so-called enduro-specific 27.5 tyres are amazing for downhill, it has to be said.

Tom: We booked in the Travelodge for the weekend, it was way too cold to camp out, respect going out to all of the brave souls who did!  After arriving at the track on Saturday morning and being fuelled by a sausage sandwich from the Ae Café (none of that energy bar crap with me!) I went up top on the first bus.  First run down was good, took it easy to scope the course out especially the off camber sections.  Pretty happy with most of my runs that day and was steadily getting the speed up on my FTW.

Nick: I spent Saturday tagging along with the We Love Mountains Downhill Team, which is run by Lee’s nephew, Stewart.  Me, Tom and Nelly were all on different time-paths which made practicing the course together a faff.  The biggest issue of the morning was dealing with my confidence, where my lack of riding over winter was coming into play, with that said, I was picking up some canny speed as the day progressed and was happy with my runs.  By the afternoon the sun had come out drying the track nicely and I was soon blasting through the rock gardens with aplomb, good times!

Tom: Sunday and another morning fuelled by the Ae Café’s excellent sausage sandwiches!  Queued for the uplift bus which were taking their time, a renown problem at Ae Forest and finally got to the top for my first run down of the day.  The track at the top was pretty much bang on, the FTW was railing it, took a tumble in the middle wood section though, completely over cooked things thankfully there was no damage to either me or the bike!  Got my speed back up and came off again further down, from here on I just cruised back down the course to the pits.

My seeding went OK, had a chilled run, clipped my pedals on a few rocks but crossed the line with a reasonable time.

Nick: As with Tom and Nelly the time spent waiting in the queues for the uplifts were a pain in the arse and I only managed one run down before seeding.  Although it was good in terms of familiarising myself with the changes in the course, I (and the others) could have done with getting a few more runs under my belt as there were a lot of hold ups on the track.

Being in Masters I was keen to see how I was going to fair against my new competitors.  My seeding was good, hitting my lines faster than in practice and totally sailed through the rock gardens.  I suddenly realised that my back wheel was slopping about and it dawned on me that I’d flatted, damn it!  Up until that point my run had been perfect, I cruised down to the finish line and changed my tyres over.

Tom: My race run started really well despite taking a while to clip in out of the start gate.  The top section was totally fluid, the bike was handling like a dream, however come the middle section I came off again in exactly the same place as earlier in the day.  Jumped straight back on the bike and got my speed back up but it just wasn’t to be, I crossed the line taking the 33rd place in the youths, balls!

Nick: I got everything race prepped and threw some clean kit on then headed up for my race run.  I felt pretty relaxed and knew what I had to do, by now the track was much drier which was great. The top section went pretty much to plan although I stalled after hitting a greasy root, nailed the section where I flatted on in seeding and took 21st, the middling ground, not too chuffed with that!  Took away a lot of positives from the event but I am aiming for the top tens from here on in.

Nelly crossed the line taking 15th place in the youths.

All in, a good event but lack lustre results, all of us were blown away with how well the new FTW team bikes are handling though.  We’ll be upping the ante for the next event!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

SDA 2015 Series Opener - Innerleithen, 28th - 29th March

Jamie and Tom headed up to Innerleithen last weekend for the opening round of the Scottish Downhill Series, both riders are on a new team and riding new bikes, did it all play to their favour though?  Here's how they got on....

It was time for the first round of the Scottish Downhill Series at Innerleithen in the Tweed Valley.  Although it was exciting to get back into racing again I was feeling nervous having only received my new Development team-issue Frank The Welder bike a week before and indeed having only ridden it once prior.

Saturday, 7:30am and the rain was coming down so heavily that I was reluctant to even get out of bed, a cosy duvet is my best friend!   There’s a race weekend to be had though so I clambered out and got straight into my riding kit, had breakfast, grabbed the bike and then rode along the track to meet up with my mates.  The plan was to get the early uplift and be the first lot down the track. That first run down the course was immense and I was blown away by how well my FTW bike was eating up the rugged terrain, I was progressively gaining more confidence as the day went on and was in love with the track, it was running totally fluidly.

I was raring to go and start practising regardless to the rain.  I took my first run cautiously and cruised down hitting all my lines. The track was challenging and I had to stay 100% focused as it was easy to be caught out.  My second and third runs were much better where it felt like I was riding at a good pace and hitting my lines square on, perfect.  After my last run I was feeling happy and confident with my riding.

Race day

I got up and stuck on my kit for a practise run before the racing got under way, the track had changed a lot with more exposed roots to take into account.  It was just after the first greasy section where I was kicked off my line and hit a tree with the side of my hand, the pain went straight though my palm.  I cruised back down to the pits and got some ice on it to make sure I could try and get a race run in.

Back up and on the start line waiting for the beep.  Off I went on my first run, it was feeling fast and I was nailing my lines.  This was until about half way down when my hand suddenly became very painful, it was hard to hold onto the bars and made me slow down a little.  By the time I was hitting the bottom section of the track I was two-finger braking which was really sketchy however I managed to get a full run in.  Crossed the line with a decent time of 3m 18s, which put me into 8th position in the Juniors.  Due to the pain in my hand I reluctantly pulled out of the second run in case of further injury.

Like Jamie I decided to only do one practice run, saving myself for the races later in the day. I stayed fluid on the bike, the track was nice and sticky giving some good grip in the corners and the exposed roots were not as bad as I was expecting them to be.

My first race run went well; straight out of the gate and sprinting to the first right hander as fast as I could. It all went quickly without any mishap and I crossed the line in fourth place only to be knocked back into fifth by the next rider down and it was there that I remained.

My second run started almost as well, I pinned the technical section that everyone was struggling with and carried on down the track however mis-judged a corner and lost a load of time.  Got back on the bike and up to speed, the adrenaline had kicked in and I was trying too hard resulting in a second mishap on the lower steep corners resulting in a much slower time to my first run and I dropped down to the 13th place in the Youths.

Despite the outcome of this weekend it was a great experience of getting the new FTW bike up to race pace, all in it was good weekend and has set me in good stead for the BDS at Ae Forest.

Overall it was a 50/50 weekend for me, I was happy about coming 8th in a strong field of juniors but the ‘what could have been’ nagged somewhat.  There are however many positives to take away from this race and I am determined to get to the next race and push harder.

We would both like to thank Lee Walker at The Development Racing and Stewart Wood at We Love Mountains Ltd, and not forgetting the legend that is Frank The Welder, for all of their help in the off-season with getting our FTW bikes put together.

Onto the next race!

You can follow The Development's shenanigans on their Facebook here; The Development Racing Team

Thursday, 26 March 2015

One Industries Mini-Enduro Round 1, Bike Park Wales, 14th March 2015

Photo copyright of e11evens

*Alarm Buzzing* 

It was an early 5:30am departure, tunes on in the car and cruising to Merthyr Tydfil just next to the Brecon Beacons for the exciting planned stages at Bike Park Wales. I have had a great winter of riding and cross training, as the 2015 race season begins to kick in I am feeling privileged to be riding for The Development Racing Team. There have been a few races this season already and it seems that everyone is picking up their standards, pushing that bit harder on the stages and challenging for every second!

After signing on and picking up my number board I pedalled off along the trails to ride the entire course before my first stage time of 2:41. The scenery was beautiful with the distant snow-topped hills glittering in the sunshine, I was pleased to have my layers on however soon warmed up during the forty-minute climb to the top.  I always like to know what is on each stage to plan changes in seat height and gear changes, optimising my performance.

After completing the course and having two hours to spare (and trying to keep on top of my nerves, it has to said) I sat in front of the fire at the wonderful BPW café reading The Mountain Bike Magazine and chatted away with a few other competitors.  It’s a joy meeting new people at races and hearing about their own adventures.  With time now ticking on I re-fuelled and checked the bike over. One of the hardest things about multi-stage racing is keeping on top of your own psychology, you want to be performing at an optimum and from this I mentally break everything down into the individual stages.

Messin' abahhht......

Stage one was the black route ‘Dai Hard’, this trail was awesome, full of roots, mud and tight turns. I would have to be in the zone on this stage to make a good time and was pleased with how well my 27.5 wheels were eating up the course, they were a boon and I was hopped and popped down the trail.  Despite over-shooting the track into the wooded section it was a pretty clean run, no chain drops or flat tyres but best not tempt fate.

The second stage was a mixture of the ‘Wibbly Wobbly’ and ‘Rim Dinger’ red routes, this was the longest stage of the day and as their names suggest it involved a pedalling section into wind at the top and then down through the rock gardens, which were no problem for my Orange Five Diva I shall have you know. I had another clean run however suffered with a bit of cramp during this stage, I’ve decided to ride clipped in this season and it’s a challenge but I’m gaining confidence with each race.

By the time I was on the final stage I had climbed the hill six times in one day and despite the fitness my legs were beginning to feel fatigued.  Despite re-fuelling 15 minutes into my riding I was suffering from a fair bit of cramp and it was exceptionally painful at times, in hindsight I think my knee pads were too tight.  

Top spot, get in!

I was delighted to take the first position in the women’s category, very closely followed by Beverley Barnes and Anna Walter.  It was another great day on the bike, Bike Park Wales is a brilliant place to race with excellent marshalling, a top-notch first aid team and the eclectic bunch of riders I got to know on the climbs.  Looks set to be a great year of racing, see you at the next event.


(Note from Lee: Hi, unfortunately action photography of this event's female riders have been very few and far between which has been both disappointing and a great shame especially considering how many photographs were taken of the male riders.   Hopefully this issue rectifies itself before the next enduro event).