Whilst Angie was getting set to blast down some French mountainsides in preparation for the Alpes d'Huez Megavalanche event, Nick took the trip up to Fort Billy for the Scottish Downhill Champs.....
Fort William, let me hear ya, I'm BACK! This time for the Scottish Champs. I am absolutely in love with this track, like most people, because it's as tough and as mean as hell, no let up at any point. Unfortunately I was full of man-flu (Lee: ahhh, he's going for the sympathy vote....it won't work!!) but wasn't going to let that put a downer on things.
Saturday morning came with the scent of frying bacon in the air and the sun was kind of shining whilst the rest of the country was still being flooded out! I was eager to get up the hill and put the FTW through its paces again, that bike is simply MADE for this course, mark my words! I took my usual plan-of-action for Fort Bill cruising the first run down to get warmed up and spy some lines as not a lot changes on the track, apart from different routes through the woods. I was expecting the course to be a little beat up from the previous World Cup there as well.
Nick in practise, photo copyright of Ian Linton
My run through the open top section was good, it's nice and flowing although I paid particular care on some of the dust strewn corners, I didn't want to wash out again!. Hit the beginning of the rocky section dead on, the bike was soaking it all up, thought 'Sod It' and got some more cranks into it to pick the speed up even more, the bike could take it easily. Unfortunately I couldn't though, took a spill and gashed my knee, that was clever of me wasn't it!? Jumped back on and a bit further down there were a load of riders stood about checking out the second of two drops. I scrubbed a little speed off here and took off as I normally would, my front wheel landed in the only soft patch on the track behind a rock which catapulted me over the bars landing on my head hard! You know those old Tom & Jerry/Roadrunner cartoons when one of them gets whacked.....well this time it was me seeing stars! I thank god for my Urge lid, seriously, that was a big stack!
Knee-sy does it!
I chilled out by the trackside for a little while to get myself back together, as well as my helmet my own mojo had taken a dent, it also allowed me to scope out that part of the track on foot and I noted a good few other riders having problems there. Got back on the bike and carried on down the hill, when I got to the bottom I chilled out with some mates for a while till I felt back up to 100%.
Photo copyright of Ian Linton
The new 'motorway' section at the bottom of the course that was built up for the World Cup was absolutely AMAZING! Where, in the past, the sprint along the motorway was an utter killer, now we have the new massive table-top jumps to help you to carry speed, it's so much better. I did six runs on Saturday and really felt it the next day as the track was rough as hell, this was also apparent from the number of punctures and broken wheels I was witnessing, although thankfully not my own Sun-Ringles.....Thank you! *Touch wood*
Come race day the combination of my man flu (Lee: that excuse is still not gonna work!) and the number of runs on Saturday had me feeling pretty shattered. So I just put a single practice run in to refresh my memory and to keep check on where the track was getting cut up.
Photo copyright of Ian Linton
First run was plain sailing taking into consideration the slight downpour of rain, which actually had a more positive effect on the track, the tyres' grip increased as the rain packed the dust down nicely. Went a bit squirrelly and nearly over shot a corner in the bottom section, made mental notes not to do that again on the following run, pulled it back in and got on with it. Not too bad going. Second run came and I pushed myself through the rest of the top corners, nice, smooth and fast, did I tell you that I love this course?! Further down I nearly over shot the same bloody corner as before, got my head screwed straight back on and hauled it. Took ten seconds off my first run time and was told that I finished in the top ten of the Experts category, not bad for a man-flu ridden bugger eh?!