Monday, 1 August 2011

Fort William Downhill Mountain Bike Enduro 24 July 2011

.....and this is the second part of the same 'National Champs' weekend racing strategy...... simply put, Angela kicked arse! I'll let her take over.....

If there is one race that is highlighted in my calendar, it has to be the Downhill Endurance at Fort William. There is something very special about this event, it's just so incredibly hard yet it makes you keep going back for more. This is one of my extreme addictions, I love it!

It was my third time participating in this event and I was hoping for a 'third time lucky' but wanted to make it with my own luck so I changed a few things from the last two years where I'd had a 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

Firstly, I warmed up for the 'Le Mans' style sprint to your bike, (which in hindsight is something I should do a lot more of), secondly I fitted a quick release seat post as there's a 2 mile uphill slog along a fire-road at the start to the 'Big Wall Ride'. And finally I wound the compression right down on my forks to stiffen up the suspension, this helped a lot and I wasn't bobbing around as much when pedalling. Oh yes, and another thing, I've been consciously trying to ride uphill on my downhill bike whenever I can to get a bit more power into these thighs of mine, spinning classes have worked a treat too.

I managed to pedal 90% of the climb which is a massive improvement to previous times and I was the 2nd lady to the Gondola, most chuffed!

All I can describe of the climb is "painful"..... it's so hard pedalling a 43lb bike up a hill with only 9 gears, a full face helmet on, plus the body armour and a bag full of fuel and spares. Oh my god, it really did feel like someone had rubbed away on the back of my throat with sandpaper!

As soon as I got to the 'Wall Ride' I jumped on my bike and got down the gondola as quick as I could as I was dying for a rest on the way up.

(Hitting the berms with aplomb Photo courtesy of David Lund)

On my first run down I could feel something wasn't right, I had a quick check and my chain was sagging all the way down, my rear mech was f*cked but it wasn't posing any problems so I did another two runs with it like that and thought it would be ok.

On my 4th run, as I was coming past the deer gate up on the moor, I heard the awful sound of spokes being snapped. I had to stop and found my rear mech was hanging off and that my chain was wrapped around the chain device. I grabbed the chain tool quickly but had massive arm pump and was in a state of blind panic, the bloody midges weren't helping matters much either! I managed to get it sorted however was well aware that people were passing me including two girls which took me out of the lead. Damnit!

I threw the mech to the side and the chain went the distance too, my rear mech hanger was bent all out of shape too. My lovely new Sun-Ringle rear wheel wasn't looking too pretty with 9 spokes ripped out and 7 loose as fook! *Sad face* As soon as I got to the bottom I popped another wheel on and from here on out it was a lovely quiet bike again. I knew I had to catch Jen Hopkins up to take the lead back. It didn't make a great difference with no chain apart from the motorway section where I found myself pumping more and braking less, excellent!

(Photo courtesy of David Lund)

Anyway, about an hour was left and there was a red flag on track, rider down. I'd been getting closer and closer to Jen and she was only 2 people infront. We got set off in 30 second intervals and we were told that this was our last run, I knew I had to get past her on this run to make it count, it was all or nothing, and near the 'Big Wall Ride' I saw her, took my chance and passed to take the win ...YEEEEEESSSSSSSS! *Mega happy face*

(Even Mother Nature was impressed with Angela it seems! Photo courtesy of Paul Cram)

At last, 6 hours later and I could finally chill out. I'd won and I was so, so, soooooooo happy, I had wanted to win this event for the last 2 years! The trophy is huge, it weighs 1 stone and I could hardly lift it above my head on the podium.

(One very happy bunny!)

Absolutely FANTASTIC weekend!

2011 British National Championships, Llangollen, Wales 23/24 July 2011

This weekend was all about strategy!

The National Champs took in a combination of the venue's two tracks and it was as steep as you like, bang on perfect for the FB10! Friday's track walk was good, great banter with my mates scoping out the lines and it was pretty damned wet with an inch of slop on top of the shiny roots thrown in for good measure. Tyre choices were gonna be interesting.

I have to say that none of the videos nor any of the photo's do the track justice..... walking up or down was nigh on impossible, thankfully the course builders had put in ropes between the trees to help spectators get around!

As soon as I got up on Saturday for practice, the Maxxis 'Wet Screams' were on without a moment's hesitation! The first run was so bloody hard going, trying to hit the lines you wanted in the gloop resulted in some almost-out-of-control sliding down the hill for everyone. Once it came to the flat section it was a big relief knowing that from there on it was flat out on to the older track.

Each run got better and better with more and more grip. After 3 runs I decided to throw on some Maxxis 'Minions' as the track was drying out fast. Although the course was great fun, due to the hang-on-for-the-ride nature of
it I dont think it's the best kind of course for a full bore race track, now please don't get me wrong here as it is such a challenging track regardless.

(...I like my wheels fast and my crouch down low.... Photo courtesy of Alex Tyler)

Come race day I managed to squeeze in two practice runs which went well. Had my seeding run which went frickin' awesome at the top, absolutely pinned it, the spectators could probably hear me laughing and whooping as I went past! Further down though some of the corners had started to be blown apart by this time and I had to pull back hard to make it through. Ended up in the middle of my field which I wasn't too mad about but really motivated for my race run. 

I was feeling really good on the bike, the top seemed to flow so much quicker and I put everything in. As I approached one of the blown out corners that caused me grief in the seeding I came in with a bit of caution and unfortunately I did the same thing again, pulled back way too hard. Kept my cool this time as I knew where to make up the time. I knocked off 10 seconds which I was happy with however disappointed I made the same mistake.

(Photo courtesy of Alex Tyler)

A big SHOUT OUT going to the boys at SRAM for replacing the damaged rebound damper and seal in my RockShox Boxxers quick sharp on race day, you guys rocked, thank you so much!