Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Northern Downhill Series Finals - Kidland

This was the final eound of the Northern Downhill Series and it was back up to Rothbury and back to the track at Kidland. This is a typically English tight, technical and twisty track.

Can you imagine my surprise when it was actually DRY on the Saturday, I kid you not, wow! I can do further and say that the course was mega dusty in places too but that would be bragging! T
ook it steady on Saturday, just building my speed up and putting full runs together. Couldn't fault the uplifts, absolutely spot on, and although not as big a turn out as a National, this weekend was organised really well. Full compliments are going to Carl Davison for putting such a good race series together. It's really great to see a full downhill series back in the North to continue where both the NEMBA and NAMBS series of old left off, so well done Carl, hats off.

The track was mega tight in some areas, one in particular section was the "V Tree". Coming round some loose rocky corners and there was a V shaped tree you that you jumped through the middle of. Cue: plentiful clipping of people's bars and on one occasion I managed to rip my bar-end out! Hitting that flat out was pretty scary and the adrenalin was certainly pumping. After this you went around a right-hander into a big open left hander with a number of lines to choose from. I was railing the main berms rollercoaster stylee and clearing the tree roots that followed, drifitng nicely after landing around another tree before hip jumping to the right and through the finish line.

(Photo courtesy of

Rain over Saturday/Sunday night meant all of the exposed roots, of which there were plenty, were now as greasy as hell making things more difficult.
My race run was pretty relaxed and I was really happy with practice. At the start of my run I tried to avoid a big rut that had developed on the course and you know what they say, the more you stare at it the more likely you're gonna hit it - and guess what? I did, which sent me off the side of the track! Got straight back on and thankfully managed to make my time up with no further issues. Kept it smooth and flat out, hit all my lines perfectly, pretty much nailed everything else and came across the line leading the Experts category, awesome!

Obviously I knew that the other guys were gonna be pushing harder on the second runs. however I thought I could make up a few more seconds on the track. Had a great start and everything was going good until about half way down. Going round one of the fast loose corners my front wheel washed out on a root and sent me toward a tree I went over the bars. Absolutely gutted and knew I couldn't make this time up, it was sooooooooooooooooo close damnit.

Once at the bottom I was desperate to see the race's overall results, unfortunately the computer timing screen had crashed so no-one knew the overall results, argh! After a seeming eternity everything was back up and running, Liam Little beat me at the line on the second run which put me in second place. However, I got my own back as I took the Northern Downhill Series overall Expert Category Series Winner title, my first overall title win in the Experts, rock on. The beers were on me!

Scottish Downhill Series Finals - Fort William

This is the track that my FTW's FB10 was built for, period! It's the ultimate test for any bike component with it being the UK's longest and most most brutal course, and the FB10 came into its own.

Woke up on Saturday morning to be greeted by lashing rain, it wasnt a huge surprise mind you and I was pretty much ready for it with a fresh pair of Maxxis 'Minion' tyres strapped on. Couldn't see the point of running a full bore set of mud tyres on this track, the Minions offered a plentiful amount of grip in the wet. Granted that there was one small section in the woods which was muddy in parts with some tricky roots to throw into the mix, no problem at all for the FB10, skipped and danced all the way through it. It's very unusual for me to be puncture free up at the Fort, one full weekend with no flats, hell yeah, suspension totally dialled in, felt a bit smug when seeing other riders come down air-less! That said, I still see this bike as an 'experiment' in a way, I want Frank to get the best feedback possible, as it stands, and yes I'm biased, I can't see how it can really be improved, it's bang-on. Can't help but feel that the combination of the front and rear Rock Shox suspension really compliments the frame as well. It's just awesome, it totally blew me away at Fort William. Bike set up is absolutely perfect, no faults with anything all weekend.

(Photo courtesy of the Ian Linton)

Saturday's practice went really well, squeezed in five or six runs, could have done more but didnt want to wear myself out. Come race day and I decided to put two practice runs in and kept it steady. I was absolutely belting it on the race run at the top and nailed all my lines. Let myself down on the bottom sections though as that's where the top fitness comes into play and I know I'm not at my peak this season as mentioned in previous blogs. Let it be said that I have already started rectifying this for 2011!

First run down came across the line in 7th place, pretty happy with that. Excited about second run however on the gondola going up we were being seriously buffeted by the wind and I knew it was gonna be hard going as the top of the course is completely exposed. On the course I stupidly pulled back, it was insane, came across the line in 10th place. In future I'll be going all out at the top. Still, 10th place ain't bad.

(Photo courtesy of Ian Linton)

The bike was completely unreal up there and cant wait to go play on that course again next year. Really chuffed with the brake set up as well, no arm pump all weekend of which I'm pleased about.

I've finished the Scottish Downhill Series in 11th Overall for 2010. That's OK, I know where my weaknesses are and the winter's training has already started. Gonna get a new road bike sorted soon too, whether I dabble in cyclocross over winter however remains to be seen!

Full race report of the SDA Final at Fort William can be found on Descent World: