We’re all going to have a tight squeeze into the Tardis as we travel back in time to the British Downhill Series at Ae Forest.
Lee: I’ve been in the midst of a house move and it’s been crazy, that’s now thankfully all done and dusted so whilst I’m sat here surround by unpacked boxes here are Nick and Tom with their low downs, sadly Nelly didn’t get back to me with his.
Nelly channelling Daft Punk....
Tom: I arrived at Ae after getting a lift up there with my mates in order to get an early track walk in. The first impressions were that the top and lower sections were looking great, sweeping forest trail with some nice sticky mud to keep things in check. The middle section after the road crossing looked problematic though, steep off camber root fests….. that was gonna be my challenge!
Nick: I’m getting old guys, I’m now in the Masters! Spent the best part of winter at Crossfit Jacana in Durham building my strength up although I didn’t get as much riding in I’d have liked. Anyway, on a totally shallow note, have you seen the team’s new red FTW downhill bikes, exactly how cool?!
From past experiences at Ae there’s little point in running spike tyres despite the mud as there’s a load of rocks and roots to contend with so I stuck with my Michelin Rock R2 tyres, yep, their so-called enduro-specific 27.5 tyres are amazing for downhill, it has to be said.
Tom: We booked in the Travelodge for the weekend, it was way too cold to camp out, respect going out to all of the brave souls who did! After arriving at the track on Saturday morning and being fuelled by a sausage sandwich from the Ae Café (none of that energy bar crap with me!) I went up top on the first bus. First run down was good, took it easy to scope the course out especially the off camber sections. Pretty happy with most of my runs that day and was steadily getting the speed up on my FTW.
Nick: I spent Saturday tagging along with the We Love Mountains Downhill Team, which is run by Lee’s nephew, Stewart. Me, Tom and Nelly were all on different time-paths which made practicing the course together a faff. The biggest issue of the morning was dealing with my confidence, where my lack of riding over winter was coming into play, with that said, I was picking up some canny speed as the day progressed and was happy with my runs. By the afternoon the sun had come out drying the track nicely and I was soon blasting through the rock gardens with aplomb, good times!
Tom: Sunday and another morning fuelled by the Ae Café’s excellent sausage sandwiches! Queued for the uplift bus which were taking their time, a renown problem at Ae Forest and finally got to the top for my first run down of the day. The track at the top was pretty much bang on, the FTW was railing it, took a tumble in the middle wood section though, completely over cooked things thankfully there was no damage to either me or the bike! Got my speed back up and came off again further down, from here on I just cruised back down the course to the pits.
My seeding went OK, had a chilled run, clipped my pedals on a few rocks but crossed the line with a reasonable time.
Nick: As with Tom and Nelly the time spent waiting in the queues for the uplifts were a pain in the arse and I only managed one run down before seeding. Although it was good in terms of familiarising myself with the changes in the course, I (and the others) could have done with getting a few more runs under my belt as there were a lot of hold ups on the track.
Being in Masters I was keen to see how I was going to fair against my new competitors. My seeding was good, hitting my lines faster than in practice and totally sailed through the rock gardens. I suddenly realised that my back wheel was slopping about and it dawned on me that I’d flatted, damn it! Up until that point my run had been perfect, I cruised down to the finish line and changed my tyres over.
Tom: My race run started really well despite taking a while to clip in out of the start gate. The top section was totally fluid, the bike was handling like a dream, however come the middle section I came off again in exactly the same place as earlier in the day. Jumped straight back on the bike and got my speed back up but it just wasn’t to be, I crossed the line taking the 33rd place in the youths, balls!
Nick: I got everything race prepped and threw some clean kit on then headed up for my race run. I felt pretty relaxed and knew what I had to do, by now the track was much drier which was great. The top section went pretty much to plan although I stalled after hitting a greasy root, nailed the section where I flatted on in seeding and took 21st, the middling ground, not too chuffed with that! Took away a lot of positives from the event but I am aiming for the top tens from here on in.
Nelly crossed the line taking 15th place in the youths.
All in, a good event but lack lustre results, all of us were blown away with how well the new FTW team bikes are handling though. We’ll be upping the ante for the next event!