Aonach Mor is a formidable opponent, the rugged, and often windswept track has been used for countless World Cup, national and regional events, its brutality is highly regarded.
It was here that the Scottish Downhill Series team decided to hold their final round, I guess it was a fitting punishment to end their successful season with!
Perfect weather, no midges and nothing could go wrong.........yeah, right!
I got on one of the first gondolas that morning, the plan was simple: to bash out a load of runs. I'd just fitted the team's new 650b ADD Pro wheels and wanted to see how they compared to the 26" ones, I was surprised, not just damn fast on the smooth sections but rolled superbly across the rocks, yeah, I guess I was hooked after that. Took a pit stop at the Deer Gate watching the lines some other guys were taking and mentally plotting the course out. Back on the bike, up to speed and then *BANG*, the front tyre blew out and flattened my wheel's rim. It's a long walk of shame from the top of the course let me tell you.
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Switched the wheels back over to my 26" set and headed back up. On the next run I was held back by a few slower riders but I got down in one piece. Third run down was good, just wished I had the bigger wheels as they're so at home on this type of course. The fourth run down was deja vu, right on the same section as earlier, *BOOM*, another tyre blow out and another walk of shame. Down the bottom I was actually relieved to note that I was in the majority, there were other victims not just with flats but smashed rear mechs, the old volcano was fighting back.
So did I manage to get a tonne of runs in? Did I hell! Two half-decent runs, crap!
Sunday, race day, up early again to scope the course out and was pretty much on it, got through the section that was giving me grief without any issues. Railed the woods section perfectly and got it on down the Motorway, hit the hip, the step down and then suddenly I was slowing up.... double flatted, how the hell had I double flatted? At least this time it wasn't so far to push! Obviously I didn't manage the second run and my language was as blue as the sky! Tyres swapped, bike given a once over and then a mad dash to get the gondola again.
*BEEP* I was out of the start gate and sailed the hip jump a bit wide granted, the top of the course felt great though it was certainly pushing me to the limit in some of the sections. Passed the Deer Gate and through the jagged bedrock, I didn't hold back this time and got over it perfectly. Straight into the woods section and I felt a loss of tyre pressure, kept on it but then at the start of the Motorway it was the dreaded *BANG* again and the front tyre just went. I wasn't gonna risk wrecking my wheels riding sans tyre so it was a DNF for me. Bollocks!
Here's Tom...... my first run on this track and it was living up to the hype, at exactly the same spot as where Nick was blowing his tyres out I did a great impression of a drunken gymnast, straight over the bars, snapped my chain and got a flat. Not the best start to the day. The rest of the day was stop and start practice as I was held up by slower riders, there were a lot of riders crashing and puncturing, a fair bit of pandemonium. By the end of the day I'd pulled five runs out of the bag although didn't manage any full ones. I'd worked my lines out and was ready to get on it come Sunday.
My first practice run went to plan, lines looked pretty good and I was ready for the race runs my bike was railing it, this type of course suits Frank's frames perfectly. Out of the start gate I was hauling it nice and smooth, well that was until I got a puncture just before the Deer Gate! After another long slug down and a quick snack it was time to head back up again.
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Second run was mental, after coming off the track twice and having to let a rider past I knew the result wasn't going to be a good one so I rode the rest of the course within my limits. Came across the line in 26th place which I wasn't happy with.
That's the end of the main 2014 season for me, didn't finish with where I wished to be, now I will be seeing what's on in my area for winter races and taking them as they come. All eyes are now on Megan with her cyclocross racing across the winter months.
Roll on the 2015 season, I'm waiting for you!