Sunday, 13 April 2014

Technical Nightmare..... Scottish Downhill Series Season Opener, Innerleithen, 22nd-23rd March 2014.

Hey everyone, it's Lee here, I’ll let Nick open the blog up and then we’ll all hear from both Nick and Zak as we go along…

So it was exciting times, first race of the year, first race with the new strips, first race with new toys and first race with a new team mate Zak.  I’ll let him give you a low down, welcome to the team Zak!

Hey thank you Nick, it’s Zak here and none of you out there know me, “Hi there!”.  I’m one of The Development’s new riders and this is my first blog update so here goes…..

As one of the newest members of The Development the Scottish Downhill Series 2014 season opener race at Innerleithen was the first opportunity to prove my worth.  A new team with an awesome new bike and not to mention the first time on an actual bike in months!  In fact my FTW Industries baby has only been built a day, yes, I know that that was certainly cutting it tight and that this race was going to be rather interesting!  I’m ‘FB10’ mounted, opting for 26” wheels for the time being, the bike is unlike anything I have ridden before, Frank Wadelton certainly knows his stuff.  I’ve watched Nick race on these frames over the past few seasons and would never have thought I’d be on one too, what are the chances eh?!

Zak's 26" wheeled FTW Industries 'FB10' set up

Nick's 27.5" wheel adjusted 'Odysseus' FTW Industries set up

Being sans bike in the off season meant searching for alternative ways to keep race fit, both Nick and me have been doing a ton of Crossfit classes with the aim to improve our strength and endurance.  Still early days yet though we can both certainly feel the benefits already, time now to put the theory into practice!

Travelled up on Friday evening, as soon as we got there the snow began to fall, winter arrives in March, brilliant!  Saturday morning dawns and it’s all looking rather picturesque to put it politely.  Up we both went for the a morning track walk and thankfully despite the snow laying on the top half of the hill it didn’t affect the track, phew!

With that out of the way, grabbed some scran, got changed and back off on the bikes for some practice.  In order to get to the uplifts you had to ride for about a mile along the road where you’re then faced with massive queue which is a bit of a bad mark for a premiere series such as the SDA to be honest.   Although I do understand and appreciate the issues with closing the lower road for an event weekend, ah well.

When I got to the top it was time to test my bike out for the first time with my first practice run, this was its maiden voyage.  Although the track felt great, I had a few unfortunate mechanical issues which continued throughout the day.  Spent more time fixing the problems than being on the course, my own fault though as had rushed to get the bike built and ready only the day before, so can’t complain, I know.  Nick was having a better time of it, I’ll pass you all over….

Innerleithen’s harsh on kit, no two ways about it and this track was a great way to get used to the new Michelin Grip R Descend tyres and Dorado forks, a perfect assault course with all of the changes in terrain on the way down.  I found out the Michy’s not only have superb grip but roll amazing well.  I was catching people up for most of the way down, couldn’t fault the tyres or my suspension system, all working in conjunction flawlessly, superb.  Our bikes were garnering a lot of attention, my fitness however was letting me down.  As Zak’s said crossfit is helping a lot, everyone raising the bar, you need to be totally on the ball, and we will be!

(Nick in practice, photo copyright of Ian Linton)

There was a big hoo-haa this weekend with British Cycling banning action camera filming and thus neither me or Zak were able to fit our cameras.  This is a massive step backwards for the sport (since the race British Cycling have back tracked and now allow cameras in practice but not race runs) so we have no onboard coverage, sorry guys and gals.

The track was really good, it’s hard to go wrong at a place like Inners, the top was quite pedally (which is not my cup of tea) however the bottom nice, fast and tight with some big deep soft ruts which were fun but damned hard to nail.

I’m getting a coffee, back to Zak…..

On Sunday, both of us took the morning’s practice as a fresh start. This was when I could started to get the feel of my new bike, the Michelin tyres came into their own in the tighter sections at the bottom of the course, they aided my confidence, especially through the loose rocks.  My Manitou suspension was pretty much dialled, I’d spent a wee while the previous day working on the settings getting the Revox and Dorado set up running sweet.

(Photo copyright of Andrew Brandon)

I had people complimenting me with the bike asking questions about where it came from, we will add a link at the end of the blog for FTW’s website.

Race head now on!  My first run came with a load of mistakes and a fair few crashes, crossed the line with a 4:11.67 which isn’t good, at all. The perils of trying too hard.  Nick had a slightly better run but he too made mistakes, very disappointing, so sorry!

(Photo copyright of Ian Linton)

Back up for my second run, took it steadier, still made a few mistakes but nothing as bad as the first run, crossed the line with a 3:54 placing me 20th which was deflating as I was just outside the top ten last season. Argh!

I headed back, got changed then walked up the track to meet my mates and watch Nick go past on his run, the setting sun was giving everything a golden glow.  Back over to Nick, good coffee?

Damn fine coffee fella.... after the shitty first run I was keen to make up some time on my second one.  Everything suddenly went monochrome!  The sun was dropping, the dark woods were getting darker and I really should have remembered Tom Barker’s sage words from the 90’s; …”get some lights fitted for the early season races lad!”…  isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing, pah!  I pushed hard in the low visibility but as soon as my eyes adjusted to the dark I was hit square on with sunshine in the open sections, swearing blue murder (apologies to the spectators for my foul language were you in earshot!).  Made far too many mistakes and had to resign to the fact I wasn’t going to hit the podium, not even close to it.

(Photo copyright of Barry Primrose)

So…. Zak?  Overall the whole weekend was a huge learning curve for me the new bike set up necessitates a different riding style which I’m not used to yet.  I’m going to getting myself over to Hamsterley pretty sharpish to rail the trails.  Want to get back on top of my results and build on the work I’d achieved last season, I don’t want to let anyone down.  I will be riding a lot more with the other team riders too so lots to learn.

Finally, a huge thanks to Lee for taking me on and giving me this new experience along with getting everything together for this season and a big thanks to all the sponsors!

If you’d like an FTW frame all the contact information is here: Frank The Welder Website

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