RoostDH Training and Portugal National DH Race, March 2013
After 5 weeks at home following my February trip to RoostDH in Malaga it was great to head back out there again. This time I was traveling with my training/racing buddy Will Jones, and our ladies Sarah and Annie. We arrived on the Monday and had 3 days riding ahead of us before driving to Portugal for the National race at Gouveia.
We had an early morning flight so we could get a full afternoon of riding done on the first day. The weather when we arrived at the RoostDH villa at noon was fantastic. Bright blue skies, 20+ degrees and not a bit of wind, so me and Will took the opportunity to jump in the Roost pool. This was freezing but nice to cool off in after building the bikes. After some lunch we left the girls at the villa to enjoy the sun and headed off to get the riding started.
We decided to ride two tracks called Sram and Shimano on the first day as we know them well so they would a great warm up venue. They both have race track characteristics, unlike many of the trails out in Malaga which are more natural and longer. We took the opportunity to use our Freelap timing poles and did some timed training throughout the afternoon. After 8 runs of each it was approaching 6pm so we headed up to the top of the mountain in the Roost uplift vehicle to the Antennas to finish the day with a run down my favourite Malaga trail, aptly named, Antenna Trail. After this we were both suitably tired for the end of the first day and ready to head back to the villa.
That night we drove down to the seaside town of Benalmadena to visit the best steak restaurant there is, the Rodeo Steak House. Seriously if you like lots of meat and are ever in the area hit this steak bar, the portions are ginormous!
Unfortunately day two was hampered by rain and colder temperatures. We headed over to a new venue near Granada and the girls came along with us. We left them to do a morning of exploration in the village at the bottom of the track while we went off to ride. The track proved to be great fun even though the weather wasn’t. It was predominantly smooth with a few rocky sections and some awesome hip jumps. I’m told that the track was built by Greg Minnaar back in 2001, so there’s no surprise that it was great fun! After a lunch stop and picking up the girls we finished the day with a few more wet runs before heading back to the villa for the evening.
Blessed with another sunny day we headed to Torrox for our final day of training. This venue finishes on the beach and has some really challenging tracks. It starts off being fast and rocky with a constant battle against a right camber trying to pull you off the track. It then splits half way down into two different tracks. We spent the morning riding the more challenging of the two bottom sections, this involves a very steep section of trail. We had the timing poles going again and did some useful testing with the race in mind on the coming weekend in Portugal.
After a nice lunch on the beach with the girls we headed back up the hill for an afternoon of riding. The girls had spent the morning sun bathing on the beach, but as the wind had increased they came with us. They walked the track and got some video for us in the afternoon. I took that afternoon pretty easy because I’d finished the morning with some great timed runs and was feeling very confident for the weekend. I didn’t want to push my luck at the end of three days training, crashing and picking up an injury.
On Thursday we had to drive to Portugal and that took 10 hours. Not much more to say about that really, it sucked.
Friday started with a track walk. I’ve never been to Gouveia before but in previous years a bedded-in, fast and rocky track has been used. This year we arrived to find a new line had been dug for the race and initially we weren’t overly impressed. The top section looked good, rocky and then fast with some jumps. However, it then went into a long flat section, followed by an equally long flat but off camber section, both of which didn’t look great. The bottom looked great fun with fast loose straights into flat corners that would hopefully rut up well, before a series of fun jumps to finish. I try to never take a view on a track before riding it, but I wasn’t overly hopeful, especially if the weather forecast was right and it was going to rain all weekend.
We had practice on Friday afternoon when me and Will managed to get 4 good runs done without any rain. We were pretty familiar with the track by the end of the day. It rode much better than we initially expected and was really enjoyable to ride. There was a boggy section in the middle that was horrendous, and should really have had a bridge over it, but it was the same for everyone. The bottom section was absolutely awesome, fast and loose with great jumps. The weekend was looking good.
The weather forecast said rain showers for Saturday and dry for Sunday, but it ended up being the other way round. We did 5 runs throughout Saturday and not a drop of rain fell. The track was running really well and I was feeling great on the bike and confident for a good race run the next day. There were some really good World Cup athletes in attendance but I was feeling confident that I could get amongst them and finish in the top 10 somewhere.
On Sunday morning we woke up to torrential rain and it didn’t let up. I did two practice runs in the morning and got completely soaked. The track was destroyed as well. There were holes everywhere in the top and bottom sections, and the flat middle section and the off-camber section were so boggy you simply had to pedal the whole way through them to keep moving. It sucked. However the biggest problem was that I hadn’t packed any wet tyres, expecting dry sunny conditions! What I would have given for a set of Schwalbe Dirty Dans that day!
In my qualifying run I didn’t pedal that hard because it was so physical I wanted to save as much energy as possible for my race run. I was in 9th place 13 seconds behind Matt Simmonds who was in first place. I knew I was going to be limited not having proper wet tyres, but hoped to move slightly higher up the top 10 in the race run that afternoon.
It rained constantly all afternoon but luckily just stopped before I was to leave for my race run. Very lucky because the uplift involved sitting in the back of a pickup truck for 15 minutes with no shelter. I had a fairly decent race run considering I wasn’t on proper wet tyres. I pedalled as hard as I could the whole way down and only made two mistakes. I finished in 9th place, this time only 8 seconds behind first place and 5 seconds behind third, a time I think I could have achieved with the right tyres for the conditions.
So a great training and racing trip was completed. I’d had three good days riding in Malaga, followed by a successful race getting some UCI world ranking points and a top 10 in a national event. I’m feeling great on my bike and things are looking good for the season. Back to training now before the first UK national in three weeks’ time!
A Weekend of Fun at Innerleithen - 1st to 3rd March 2013
After a successful weekend racing downhill at Innerleithen, I was only home for 4 days before heading back there again. This time for a 3 day training trip combined with doing the enduro event on the Saturday. I hadn’t taken the preparation for the race too seriously, as I wasn’t going to have any time before the event off the bike. I still wanted to ride really well and get a good result. Racing is racing after all! Enduro isn’t my main priority this year, so the focus of the trip was to do lots of riding, as well as to get against the clock and work on my riding in a competitive environment.
I left home at 7am on Friday morning and made my way up the M6. I reached the Moffat junction and was heading into the Scottish highlands by 10.30am. I wasn’t meeting DH buddy Pete Williams until 1.30pm, so I had time for a little adventure before arriving at Innerleithen. One of the many big hills in the beautiful valley on the way to Innerleithen has a trail up it leading off into the wilderness. I’ve always fancied heading up with the bike to see what’s at the top. When I arrived at the car park it turned out this trail is called the Grey Mare’s Tail, which some of you may have heard of, or been up.
It’s named after the massive waterfall just around the corner from the car park. You can actually see it from the road if you look back on yourself. The weather was bright and sunny and it made for a wicked hike. I really enjoyed walking up the hillside round the back the falls to follow the river up onto the moorland. At the top I found a highland loch which proved to be one of the most beautiful spots I think I’ve ever seen.
After enjoying the scenery for long enough it was time to have some fun and blast back down to the van! An hour and a half of hiking uphill, all for less than 10 minutes of downhill. Well worth it though! The whole experience was topped off perfectly when a fighter jet came smashing through the valley only metres above my head when I got back to the van.
Next I headed on up the road to Innerleithen for an afternoon of XC with Pete. Strava tells me we rode 12 miles of XC on the technical, natural trails in the woods above the village. It was a cracking afternoon to finish a great day and I was absolutely knackered by the end of it. I hadn’t had a day off the bike for over a week and I was starting to feel it getting the better of me. Not great considering I had the enduro to tackle the next day!
Pete couldn’t race the enduro because he was off to do a MTB course, so he dropped me in Innerleithen for 9am. This was a bit earlier than neccessary as the enduro practice didn’t start until 11am. I decided to walk up one of the two enduro tracks and then down the other, before practice started, so that I would know where I was going when practice got underway. This proved to be very helpful as there was a lot of track to learn and not much practice time, especially with no uplift and having to pedal or push your bike to the top.
The event consisted of 2 tracks but 4 timed stages. This was possible because we were to race each stage twice, once in the daylight and then once after the sun went down with the bike lights attached. So all in all with two practice runs in the morning I was going to have to pedal to the top of Innerleithen 6 times that day. Now that’s what I call good training!
My main rival for the event’s top spot was going to be Joe Barnes, who turned his attention from DH to enduro racing at the start of 2012. He used his experience to gain an advantage over me from the very start. This was because the event wasn’t seeded, so riders would just turn up at the top and set off in any random order, but Joe made sure he was there first to get himself a clean run! I on the other hand went down in the middle of the pack and ended up having to pass about 15 people on the way down! I hadn’t thought that one through had I, and consequently lost loads of time. On the other hand the run was great fun having to pass lots of people, most of them being fantastic and allowed passing moves!
My second and fourth stages went well without having to pass anyone, but my third stage was similar to my first having to pass 10 people this time. As far as I was made aware, Joe had pretty clean runs each time. When all the times were presented at the end I’d finished in 2nd place and was really happy with that, considering how tired I was coming into the event and it was my first enduro. Alex Stock was third and he is a great enduro rider so it was awesome to beat him. It turned out that me and Joe had exactly the same combined times from our second and fourth stages, it was just on the first and third stages where I’d got held up by other riders that he’d made the 35 seconds on me for his victory. I think some of this time also came from my tiredness, because this was the more pedally, longer stage of the two. So another podium for me, that’s 3 out of 3 since the 2013 season started, and long may it continue!!
The plan for Sunday was to ride some downhill, hopefully using my van for uplift before heading home. I was going to be riding with Lewis Buchanan, but he had a sore foot and bailed last minute. I therefore headed to the XC trails at Glentress in the morning as I’ve never ridden there. I did a steady but full run of the red route. I was surprised by it because it wasn’t like other trail centers I’ve ridden, which are very up and down the whole way round. This was made up of one very long climb for over an hour, then a descent all the way back to the car. Not as good as Gisburn I’m afraid Glentress! I finished the trip with a couple of hours of push up DH back at Innerleithen before the long slog home in the van.
So that was another great weekend all in all. Some fantastic training done. I feel great on my bikes. Achieved another podium finish. And 2013 is going be a great one, I can feel it!!