Thursday, 26 September 2013

Under the shadow of the mighty Aonach Mòr.... Scottish Downhill Series, Fort William, 8th September.

Oh summer please come back, you weren't meant to leave us all so suddenly, what is this deluge of water from the skies that we're all caught up in?! 

First thing's first, my new FTW Industries Odysseus is built and ready to rock, quite literally across this weekend.  Excited?  Much!  Time to give the new ride a shake down.

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

All kitted up I grabbed the gondola and took the steady ascent to the start gate, 1,221 metres further up the mountain, my plan was more or less straight forward; first few runs taking it easy and just cruising down, scoping the course out as I went.  As expected the track was pretty cut up after all the abuse it had seen through the season, and with that said, the bike was riding smoother than one of Ella Fitzgerald's songs!  

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Fort William in a nutshell is brutal, flat out and rough, it separates the wheat from the chaff. The wooded section was an eye-opener, some damned slippy roots in there to catch out the unwary and a million lines to choose from.  It was largely a case of point and shoot towards the big drop at the end which was causing a lot of issues for people resulting in a bottle neck. This made practice tough going, out of my six runs I only managed to hit it twice as there was always someone in the way.  Here's an idea guys..... stand back and let riders on the course past instead of standing in the middle of the track! With that section out of the way it became easier, I say this loosely, it's a big pedal fest, totally flat out up the big wall ride followed by the infamous Hazard Hoofer which was a gap jump over a stream. From there you take the death grip onto your bars, slam down onto the jump strewn motorway section and pedal like a demon possessed to the finish line. 

Practice was simply awesome fun, the new bike was amazing to ride, Frank's moved the pivot point and beefed it all up resulting in a totally solid as plush as you like no flex back end, totally confidence inspiring!  A little while later a red flag popped up whilst a rider was being scraped off the track so me and my mates took the Red Route down to the bottom which was great fun too.  All in all practice went very well with no real drama.

Come Sunday we decided to head up on the early gondola lifts which gave us a clear view of the track below, we were watching an old friend who just got back into racing again, Zac Hubery, and previous World Champ Danny Hart.  Shame I couldn't keep up with Danny long enough to steal some sneaky lines though, damn!

Photo copyright of Ian Porter

Back at the pits I got the bike primed up for my race runs, the new Goodridge hydraulic hose was worth its weight in gold, Hayes Prime Pro brakes are a great at the best of times but once you add these babies into the equation you're totally dialled in.  Grabbed another gondola and chilled out for a bit, soon in the start gate with the 15 seconds being called and then hearing the dreaded "RED FLAG!" over the radio, it's total head fuck when that happens, you lose your mental preparation.  After a slight delay I was off out the gate and it was me against the mighty Aonach Mor!  The top section was clean and so damned fast, got into the woods hit the drop, lost control and got up, close and personal with a tree trunk, balls!  I was soon back on the gas and sprinting down the mountainside, the bike was quite literally swallowing all of the jumps, I was loving it.

Second run was a simple case of making no cock ups!  Out of the gate and going hell for leather, not bad going, berm, rocks, platform, berm, rocks, berm, berm, rocks, hit the top of one of the faster corners too hard, brake, brake, brake, stayed on, phew....lost speed, bugger!  Literally screaming at myself "GET ON IT!", straight into the woods, stayed smooth off the big drop and took a new line which although a little slower gave me more control.  Carried on pushing, 'bam-bam-bam', the bike was ploughing through everything in its wake, hit the motorway my thighs were screaming with lactic acid build up, I had to keep sprinting, struggling through the pain and clearing the jumps, down the final drops and across the finish line to pure relief.  That course is pure punishment, no two ways about it.

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

This was my last race before I tie the knot in October.  I want to take some time here to thank all of the team's sponsors without which I would not be able to do all of this.  First and foremost to Frank for the amazing frames, Dave Keningale for the awesome team strip design, Sun-Ringle wheels, Silverfish, The Hive, Decade Europe, Hayes brakes, Goodridge hose, Burgtec pedals and bars, Powa Products Dfender mud guards, Urge helmets, Thomson stems and posts, SDG saddles. RockShox forks, Oury grips, Ride 100 Percent goggles, the fantastic support from Berghaus outdoorwear and last but by no means least the guys at TF Tuned for their technical support throughout the season.  Oh, and that Lee Walker geezer doesn't do a bad job either ;)


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

UK Gravity Enduro Round 5 - Dyfi, 18th August 2013

Steve and I first raced at Dyfi last year for the final round of the UK Gravity Enduro!   The track compared to the rest of the rounds with it being pretty damn fast and loose, sick!  We liked it so much that we headed back down there in February for Steve's 30th Birthday Bash. But, sshhh!

We rocked into the venue on Thursday evening and it didn't half piss it down all through the night.  Met up with Helen Gaskell and Sarah Newman who had brought along Helen's little sister Bex Baroana who turned out to be the secret missile of the weekend!  I have to say that one of my favourite bits of the weekend was following Bex down Stage 3 and hoping to god I wasn't going to follow her over the side of the cliff!  One word for Bex: 'Loose'!

We all rode together on the Friday to practice the stages and my legs just felt dead, I had changed my whole group set to Shimano which meant I was pushing a harder gear, good for the long term though I must admit!

Practice went well, some of the stages were brand new and we sectioned some of the lines which seemed to be getting a bit blown out from the rain. Steve Parr and his merry men fixed it all up for race day though, hats off to those guys.

On Saturday we took it easy and just practiced Stage 5 which was also the qualification track.  It was really grim during the quali's though, incessant rain and windy.  I didn't seed that well, I didn't really have the best of tyre choice considering the course conditions to be honest.  The track consisted of a lot of flat grassy turns.  Steve seeded OK but again similar issue with tyres.  

Photo copyright of Doc Ward

Here's Steve with a run down: qualifying was on the crazy side especially due to our tyre choices. The track was super wet and down a field so you can imagine the battle on a worn out daft tyre... nonetheless I scrapped my way to the bottom a little sideways.  Think I qualified somewhere in the top 15, further back than I would have liked as this kinda track usually suits my riding. .....

(Angie) Race day came around and Steve felt he had his work cut out, originally his aim for the weekend was a top 10 but after qualifying he knew he would be happy with a finish in the top 25.  It would be hard though as much as we both love riding at Dyfi, we both knew that the race pace was gonna be off the map!

Stage 1 was cancelled for us due to some dude breaking his hip or something along those lines, poor bugger!  Wishing him well.  This kinda played in Steve's favour because that particular stage a had a pretty big pedally section and like me his legs were knackered!

This was also Steve's first time using the new Thomson dropper seatpost and he was getting some envious stares from other riders, ha!

Sunday is an early start for the girls, we're always off first but it does mean we get to watch everyone finishing which is cool.  My first three stages were OK however on Stage 4 my chain came off, then after hearing a 'Pppppssssttt....' noise and thinking it to be a flat tyre I stopped, got out all my puncture repair kit stuff and then realised it was just water hitting the hot disk brake rotors!  Looking back I can laugh about it but at that point in time I was fuming! Gggrrr!  

Photo copyright of Doc Ward

Still on Stage 4 I trucked on and came into a fast left hand berm, it was here that the bike stopped dead and I went face first mouth open into the biggest puddle ever. I kid you not it was huge.  (Think of those old Thelwell horse cartoons and you're not far off!)  My goggles filled up with water and I couldn't do anything but jump back on my bike with twisted bars and laugh manically the rest of the way down!

Copyright of Thelwell

(Steve:) I was super happy with the rest of the event, everything was going well and I managed to keep smooth solid runs throughout three of the stages.  I finally found myself at the top of the final stage, soaking wet through with the rain, willing myself to stay on the bike and finish off what could have been prefect day... hahahahhaha, spoke too soon, It wasn't to be.  I was all over the place, drifting uncontrollably everywhere and stacked it twice, once into the only tree on the track and the other towards the bottom, slap bang on the floor!!  Shit happens eh!  It's funny really and I still laugh my arse off thinking about it.  I need to crash more, it keeps ya honest, only joking but I loved it!  

Photo copyright of Doc Ward

So that was our last UK Gravity Enduro of the season.  Helen Gaskell took the win for the Elite women with Sarah in 2nd.  For the season overall Steve finished up 9th and I was in 6th, not too shabby, we're both chuffed with that.

Next race is the infamous Tour De Ben!

Durty Events, the Aviemore Triathlon, 11th August 2013

.....Looking back, I remember standing at the side of the loch on that Sunday morning thinking "Who the hell's crazy idea was this?" and then I realised..... it was mine!!......

It all started with a conversation at work over lunch when a few of us decided we might give the Aviemore Triathlon a go.  We are all fairly sporty in some way or another from Donna who is massively into Cross-Fit to my good friend Helen who practically has 2 wheels attached to her and proved to be somewhat of an underdog when it came to the swim.  If there was one place to do your first ever Triathlon why not travel 5 hours to beautiful Aviemore and do it properly!  Oh yes!

L-R Dan, Donna, Jenni, Helen and Angie... all set!

We road tripped it up there on Friday night and arrived at the lodge fairly late after a 5hr drive but still managed to watch ‘Dirty Dancing’ on VHS, which was a great start to the weekend in my book!

.... "Nobody puts Baby in a corner"....

Saturday morning we grabbed our wet suits and made our way to the Badaguish Outdoor Centre race venue at the foot of the Cairngorms.  Since none of us bar Jenni had ever swam properly in open water, or for that matter in a wet suit, we thought it best to dip our toes first.  For some reason I hadn’t thought about the fact that it would be so dark when I put my head in the water, I was used to the clear blue chlorinated water of swimming pools so that was a shock to the system.

The X-Men!


The bike course had been marked out and the eager beavers that we are wanted to suss it out see what we had to contend with the next day.  I’d decided to take my hardtail and hoped I had made the right choice.  Donna at heart is a roadie and was braving it on a borrowed mountain bike.  We rode the 14km course and most of it was fire-road however there was a sweet bit of technical and rooty singletrack through the woods where I hoped I would be able to make up time on my race run.

The early morning Sunday start soon came around, the weather was good and we were all raring to go. We lined our bikes up at the edge of the loch and stepped into our wetsuits, suddenly it all felt very 'real' as I looked around to see lots of uber-serious athletes, some who were obviously in it for the win! It was at this point where the old nerves started to kick in for us all and there were lots of toilet trips, which is pretty annoying when you're wearing a full wetsuit I must add!

The swim was a deep water start which meant that you had to swim out till you couldn’t touch the bottom.  The whistle went and there was a whole lot of splashing, I lost sight of Helen, Jenni and Dan, in fact I lost sight of everything whilst I fought to take my steamed-up goggles off, flapping around like a seal.  Maybe it was a bad idea to start at the very front when you can’t swim for shit!  

You can't deny the scenery.....

Half a mile through the water later my feet touched the bed of the loch, up I stood and quickly scrambled over to my bike feeling unbalanced and delirious, peeling my Speedo wetsuit off and grabbing my helmet.  I could hear Donna next to me getting changed as well but the others were long gone.  This was my only chance to pull any time back and I started to pass a good few riders.  

Photo copyright of Peter Diender

Only a 6k run left and then it was all over, yes, six more kilometers left, oh my legs!  Some how I managed to get lost with another girl near the end and lost a load of time, later it turned out that Jenni did this as well, the route obviously needed better sign posting!

C'mon Angie.......

I crossed the line, utterly spent, cheered on by my buddies at the finish!  The swim had to be the hardest but we were all buzzing and can’t wait to do another one!  The results came out and Helen ‘underdog’ Gaskell totally smashed it taking a podium with her 3rd place position! 

Well done to Helen for her first Triathlon, so happy for her!  

The results within category’s are below:

Helen 3rd out of 32
Jenni  6th out of 32
Angela  11th out of 32
Donna 21st out of 32
Dan 23rd out of 34

All over, still smiling!