My plan for this season was to slowly reduce the amount of downhill racing I do and at the same time increase my participation in enduro races. That meant some downhill racing, though, so last weekend it was time for head to France for the downhill World Cup.
Downhill World Cup, Val d’Isere, July 29, 2012
With a solid six weeks of enduro racing done it was now time to take part in my second downhill World Cup race of the season in Val d’Isere, France. I had been keeping an eye on the World Cup series and had been really impressed with the girls. The standard of the girls really does seem to increase year on year and the top five have been pushing each other all season long.
I was pretty excited to get back on the downhill bike as I felt a lot more prepared for this World Cup than I did forFortWilliam! I had just spent six weeks racing down 20-minute tracks at the enduro races so I knew my upper body strength and downhill fitness would be good.
Val d’Isere was a new venue for the World Cup. Although it had been used for a couple of French nationals, it was not a permanent track and the grass had to be cut to reveal a vague goat track which was to be our race course. It was a pretty unique course with some flat drops and a lot of high speed, narrow traverses linked up by some awkward tight corners.
It definitely took me a while to get into the course and get used to my downhill bike again but I was enjoying it.
I also took the opportunity to do a run with my career-long rival, Sabrina Jonnier. Only a few weeks ago Sabrina announced her retirement from World Cup Downhill racing and it was nice to ride with her at what would be her last World Cup race. I have had a great career racing with Sabrina and she has been a true champion of our sport and has pushed me all the way to every win I have had.
Sadly however, my second World Cup of the year did not go to plan as a crash in my qualification race left me with some very sore ribs and no place in the final.
I was disappointed not to make the final but I was really uncomfortable with my ribs, so trying to race at my best would have been impossible. I did take some satisfaction away in knowing that I was sixth at the first split before I crashed so I was still within shout of a podium finish.
Fortunately my ribs will heal and my fifth place atFortWilliamhas given me a place to ride at the World Championships in Leogang in September which will now be my focus for the next five weeks.
UK Gravity Enduro Series, Eastridge, August 4-5
Just before I could fully focus on the World Championships I had the fourth round of the UK Gravity Enduro race to contest. I was unable to ride all week because of my sore ribs, so I was not sure how I would fare trying to race. I managed to do the minimum of practice – just enough to learn the trails – and then just tried to rest as much as possible.
Having been racing out in Europe for six weeks I really did think it would be a massive let down coming back to racing in the UK on such short tracks with no chairlifts, but I am pleased to say I really enjoyed the weekend.
Eastridge was also a great place to return to, as I have so many great memories from racing my first ever National Champs there back in 1994! It was a great trip down memory lane to ride those trails again on bikes with so much more travel! Once again there was a great turnout for enduro racing and it’s exciting to see the enthusiasm for these races.
There were five stages spread out throughout the forest and the time schedule set out by organiser Steve Parr meant that on race day we all had our work cut out to make the transition between stages on time. A couple of them were pretty tight and it really did not give you much time to recover between stages, so fitness would be important for this race.
The on and off showers over the weekend had just damped the scattered rocks in the soil at Eastridge and I felt very out of control all day just sliding on the surface of the trails.
I managed to make very few major mistakes, made all the transitions on time and had no mechanical issues over the three hours out on the trails, so a successful day at an enduro race! I finished with a time of 15 minutes 15 seconds for my six timed stages, good enough to take the win by 55 seconds ahead of Helen Gaskell, Sarah Newman and Aimee Dix who were all within a few seconds of each other. It’s now given me the series lead with just one round to go in September.