Tracy spent the weekend soaking up the atmosphere at the final downhill world championships of her long and storied career. But first, with an eye on her future, she spent some time learning to teach mountain bike skills.
One of my plans over the next couple of years is to get more involved in coaching, helping inspire the next generation of mountain bikers and put something back into the sport that has given me so much.
I have over the last few years been on a few different coaching and guiding courses including the Scottish mountain bike leader’s awards and British Cycling’s mountain bike courses and I have really enjoyed learning how to teach people skills and how to lead groups safely.
People often think “why would I need to go on a course as I can ride a bike probably better than many of the people teaching the courses?" but being able to ride a bike is one thing; being able to teach people and explain how you ride a bike is the hard part!
I have never been taught how to ride a bike, so when someone asks you how you do a drop or a corner, it’s often really hard to break down the skill and explain step by step what you need to do to execute the different moves. That’s why I am still keen to take more courses as I really want to be able to teach well and not just be able to do great demonstrations of the skills.
Shaums March was a top downhill racer from the USA when I was first racing World Cups in the late 1990s and back then he was already helping out young riders and running camps. Since retiring he has focused on his coaching and has now set up the International Mountain Bike Instructors Course based out in Whistler, Canada.
I was pretty keen to do the course and see him teaching and also see how a course based out in such a big bike park destination like Whistler would be. Shaums is expanding his courses outside of North America and came across to the Forest of Dean in August to run his first course in the UK.
It was a basic level instructors' course and only covered basic skills but I really enjoyed the course and learnt a lot. Taking most riders back to the real fundamentals of riding a bike is the best way to improve their riding and Shaums’ experience of teaching and correcting people’s technique was amazing.
I found myself riding around a flat turn on a fire road for ages trying to work out my weight distribution, some physics and feet positions. It was a tiring few days with all the thinking but I really enjoyed, learnt a lot and feel I am a little better equipped to for my future coaching plans.
Alongside the course in the evening we also did some downhill runs at the Forest of Dean on the new jump track which is good fun and all good time on my downhill bike.
Prepping for World’s at Ludlow
Before World’s my plan was to race a national series downhill race at Ludlow, my first of the year. It did feel a little strange being back on the UK downhill scene as it seemed like there were a lot of new faces that I didn’t recognise. It was also great to see so many new girls racing.
Sadly after a nice week of weather the forecast was not looking good for the weekend but I thought some rain would be good practice as Leogang, the venue for World’s, is always wet.
With Pearce Cycles running the uplifts there was never a queue of more than ten minutes and I got six practice runs in before 3pm and before the biggest thunderstorm hit the venue.
Bringewood is always a track I enjoy riding as it’s tight and twisty and feels like a downhill pump track. However when it rains it turns into an ice rink and all weekend it was a pretty slippery affair.
Race day came and the sun did come out and start to dry the track, but it just turned to really sticky porridge. My first run was pretty poor, coming to a near stop on a few occasions at the top.
I definitely felt out of race practice and I was glad on the second run I felt better and managed to go faster, fast enough to take the Elite Women’s win. But my time was not that great compared to the guys, so I knew I would have some work to do at World’s to get up to speed.
World’s: a big bike park
Being part of the GB team for my fifteenth world champs was pretty cool. I always love representing my country and world’s is always such a great race.
Having finally achieved my goal of becoming World Champion in 2010 I really felt as though I could enjoy this year without any pressure and expectation. Having only done a handful of downhill races I knew it was going to be hard to get back to where I was last year but I was keen to see how well I could do.
During the first day of practice I had my reality check. A year of cross-country racing and enduro racing was not going to cut it at the downhill World’s on a track that was a flat out bike park. My first run, just rolling down behind Junior rider Tahnee Seagrave, already felt fast enough for me.
I really struggled to enjoy my riding as I was lacking in confidence and frustrated that I couldn’t just ride like I had been all last year. Thankfully the rain I had predicted came down in full force on Friday, slowed the track down massively and made some interesting holes and ruts, so it felt a lot more natural and less like a bike park. I started to enjoy practice and my confidence gradually improved during the day.
Sadly at the World’s the practice is so limited with only one-hour slots. I really would have loved more time to get up to speed. Every run I did I felt better on my bike and when timed training came along I really enjoyed my run. I ended up seventh and was satisfied with that result. I was still a long way off the top few girls but happy to have enjoyed it and been riding better.
By race day the track was drying out and the holes were growing. By this stage I knew I didn’t have the pace to challenge for a medal and just tried to enjoy my last Downhill World’s watching the juniors and soaking up the amazing atmosphere that only a World Championship can create.
I was excited to go up for my race run and proudly pinned my number on to my GB jersey. World Champs number 15 with race number 15 and all I wanted to do was enjoy it and not disgrace myself.
I put together a decent run, gave it my all and enjoyed the crowd and atmosphere and managed to finish with a tenth place finish. My twelfth top-ten World’s finish in thirteen Elite World Champs.
It was a great day to see a real change in the women’s field, to see myself and Sabrina leaving the sport where we have competed against each other since 1996 and see the next generation of talent from our countries take to the stage.
For Sabrina she saw a young French rider Morgane Charre take the biggest surprise win of the weekend and probably her career to become the new Women’s World Champion and I saw the next British star in the making, Manon Carpenter claim the bronze medal and stamp her place in the top of the women’s field.
I am confident that Manon will go on to a very fine future in the sport and I hope she will get the same enjoyment, success and great experiences I have had over the last 17 years of racing downhill.