Saturday, 20 October 2012

British Downhill Series 4, Caersws, 5th August 2012

Caersws is a short-course downhill track and that's certainly not a discredit as it's darned fast and keeps you on your toes. Due to the course's short nature the uplifts run really well so you can get plenty of runs in across the weekend. 

Photo courtesy of Andy Whitehouse

Thunderstorms were being forecast for the Saturday which would make riding the course 'interesting' particularly the open grass covered drop into the finish line.  The track was the same route as the previous year taking in the big jumps and the fast-as-hell bus stops, however as the weekend progressed huge braking bumps developed, having said that my X-Fusion shock equipped FB10 was taking it all in its stride, lapping it all up like a kitten with a bowl of cream!

Practise was good, kept my speed up all the way down on most of the runs until later in the day where I hit the tabletop jump a bit too hard resulting in being shot through the following series of s-bends into the lower woods at warp factor 90 where my front wheel washed out.  I kissed the ground really hard, taking a good few fresh mouthfuls of loose dirt, lovely!  Once the stars went out I had pain in my hand and wrist however a few good old painkillers soon sorted that out!

I decided to do one more practise run paying particular care to ensure there was no real damage to my wrist. On the way up I could see the approaching, and predicted, thunderstorm coming in, huge threatening voluminous grey clouds, it was quite a spectacular sight.  I was just hoping upon hoping to get down the course before it hit full on, luckily I did!

Photo by Lucy Drees

After getting back to the pits and cleaning the FB10 the rains came and they were HEAVY! Most of the pits just stood there bemused watching it all fall from the skies.  My thoughts turned to the course and the frustration that after some great practise runs it was now gonna be a wet race, but hey, that's mountain biking for ya, it keeps you fresh!

Sunday morning was pretty damp to say the least so the first run was a steady one.  Where the ground had been really hard the previous day it had developed a layer of slime which would render a spiked mud tyre as useless, the grass section towards the finish line was also challenging.  You had a really fast step-down into a 90 degree berm which shot you out across the off-camber grass section where you could feel your tyres twitching beneath you.  From here it was foot-out-flat-out for a square right corner as the hill steepened and then the opposite foot-out through a left hander before hitting the finish line.  

As the day progressed the track was drying out pretty well, by the time it came to my run it was more or less as dry as the previous day so I was pretty bloody happy about that!  Just before my race run the heaven's opened and the torrential rain hammered down again.  Racing was gonna be exciting no two ways about it, it was now a case of whoever could manage to stay on their bikes, yep, that's how bad it was!  

My god, I took some sketchy lines on my run, scaring myself in places but I knew my bike could handle it.  I shot into the section with the two flat out bus stops, death gripped the bars and tanked down, it was crazy, there was a river of water running down the track!  Slammed myself around the roots in the lower sections, it was a 'do or die', I just cranked it up, hit it and hoped for the best, ended up being thrown all over but stayed upright!  Made it to the field and tried to sprint which was a totally bad idea as the ground was just so sodden, the rear wheel was just churning gloop, spinning out and trying to high-side me.  Once at the fast S-bend, I cranked it hard and it took, got my speed back up and hammered it to the finish line.

I'm still laughing about my race run, it can only be classed as a wild ride, I mean how many races do you do in the middle of a thunderstorm, pure rock'n'roll!  It wasn't a bad run to be honest, I know where I was being cautious and where I was getting on the gas.  In hindsight I was off the pace, being overly cautious in sections where I should have just laid off the brakes and put my full trust into the FB10, those frames can take on anything.  There were several people higher up the results that I normally beat and that little furry highly competitive animal inside me has hit back hard!  

Photo courtesy of Daniel Armishaw

Once the season is over, I have Hamsterley Forest on my doorstep, there's training to be done and I'm going to get very MUDDY!!

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