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.
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!
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.
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 ;)
THANK YOU SO MUCH YOU GUYS!