A few people have joked with me recently saying they thought that retiring from downhill racing would mean that I would be taking it a bit easier and doing less events, but I just doesn’t seem to have worked out quite like that. I am doing such much variety in my riding and races now that I am busy but I am having so much fun with it.
Mojo Trail Diaries
Straight after the enduro race in Afan I stayed in South Wales and spent three days filming with the guys from Eyesdown films making the next Mojo trail diary video. That weekend was the one when it snowed like crazy, so the first day filming and riding in the Brecon Beacons was absolutely freezing and somewhat snowy under tyre… Although a very cold three days I got to ride in some great locations around South Wales, all within a very short distance from Mojo’s headquarters in Risca. I spent time at Mojo and got to ride with some amazing riders from all different disciplines. Sam Blake from the dirt jump world, Martyn Ashton the legendary trials rider and Tim Ponting, an amazing DH rider from the late 90s. All lovely guys with so much talent on a bike it was a great privilege to spend some time riding and filming with them. I also got to ride with boss of Mojo Chris Porter and a few local guys and staff from Mojo. It was such a fun few days getting to ride new trails and having a great laugh with a lovely bunch of people.
FOD DH Summer Series
From there I had a few days at home (finally) to recover and get some training in for the fast approaching season. As I was heading out to race at the Sea Otter Classic later in the month I thought I should get a little time in riding downhill, so I went to the first round of the Forest of Dean Summer Series. The forest is such a great location now for riding and the choice of DH tracks is brilliant. The race was on one of the newest tracks called GBU. It’s pretty much a jumps, berms and pedalling track from top to bottom, perfect preparation for the Sea Otter Downhill. I took my Trek Slash and decided to use the day as great training not only on the downhill but also some quality uphill work too. I just put on my (Osprey) pack so I could have food and water and was also able to attach my full face helmet to it on the way up and just spent the morning riding up and then back down the hill. I could do runs quicker than getting an uplift. 10 min pedal to the top and then two back down! I did about 6 runs and then I was ready for racing. I forgot to take my pack off for my first race run, so ended up racing DH with my pack on, which caused a stir amongst the DH crew! I am going to have to race enduros out in Europe like that so I guess it was good practice. I had a good race, taking the women’s win ahead of Jess Stone and recording the ninth fastest time of the day. Happy with that and a great training day done.
From DH racing I then went to XC racing to take part in the second round of the Midlands XC series in Chesterfield. It was a pretty fun little course once you got in to the woods, but the first section was just horrendous. A gradual climb on grass that was as soft as a sponge into a massive headwind. It was so hard just to move forward and it was a tough start to each lap. I found myself in second place fairly soon after the start behind Jessie Roberts who won the first midlands race I did a few weeks ago. I really wanted to try and stay in touch with her this week but I just couldn’t seem to close the gap. Every lap ended with some downhill sections and I felt as though I kept making time, but would then lose it on the climb out of the start. At the start of the last lap I really had closed in and I dug deep to try closing the gap. Slowly as the lap went on I was getting closer and closer and it took me almost the entire lap to finally get back to her and I was able to pass her just as we entered the last descent with about 1km to go. I just put my head down and managed to stay away to the finish line to take the win! I was happy as I had worked really hard all race to stay in touch and definitely got a good work out!
Straight from the race I drove home and quickly packed my bags ready to leave for San Francisco the next morning. The Sea Otter Classic is a season opener bike festival in America and a race I haven’t been to for a few years, so I was excited that Trek wanted me to be there. This year I was doing something a little different and taking on the cross country, the short track and the downhill race… All good training for the upcoming World Enduro Series, that’s what I was telling myself at least.
The short track race was a short 1km loop around the pit area of the venue with some tight turns, a few rocks and a 50m section of sand to try and ride through. It’s a mass start race and you race for 20mins plus 3 laps. I had no idea what to expect from this, as I had never done anything like it. I had a great start and went from the back of the grid to about 10th place after the first corner, but soon the speed of the girls was too much for me and within half a lap I had already dropped off the front group and just found myself slowly going backwards and trying to stick to the wheel of the next person that came by me on the flat. I felt great around the corners, but as soon as it opened out they just sprinted flat out. I lasted for about 14mins and 21st position. It was quite an experience and highlighted just how much work I need to do to improve my speed on the flat for XC racing.
Next up was the XC race the following day. This one was just one big lap of around 20miles, so there was no chance of getting lapped or pulled from the race! Again I had a good start and stayed with the front group until it started to climb off-road and then the pace just increased and I found my legs and lungs unable to maintain their pace. I need a downhill section to recover after every few minutes at that speed! I completed the course and finished 33rd out of around 45 starters, so I was again happy with that as it was a pretty stacked top part of the field with legendary female road and cyclocross racer Marianne Vos taking the win both days. I actually lined up next to her at the start which was pretty amazing. I just wish someone had taken a picture.
My final day of racing was the downhill. What should be back in my comfort zone, but having spent very little time actually riding downhill this winter I felt a bit rusty. I had only done a few runs of practice on the first day I arrived due to my XC races so needed to get a few more in before the race on the Sunday morning. I managed to take 2nd place behind one very motivated Jill Kintner, who I think will have a great season on the DH World Cup circuit. I definitely did not get the jumps that good at the top of the course so I think lost some valuable time to Jill there but I was happy with a podium to round out my busy weekend of racing.
UK Gravity Enduro Innerleithen
From the sun of California it was then back home to the rain/hailstone showers and sunshine of Innerleithen for round 2 of the UK Gravity Enduro series. My busy few weeks of racing and travelling finally got the better of me and I spent the weekend with a sore throat and full-on cold, so not feeling me best. Sadly the on and off rain and some freshly cut tracks also made for some very muddy tough conditions just to make things harder for me. It is always going to be the hardest enduro of the year in the UK as the hill at Innerleithen is a good one, so transitions between stages were 40-plus minutes. I set off at 9am and got the finish at 2pm, so it was a big morning out with five tough stages. I managed to be pretty consistent all day, only making a few mistakes on stage 4 and managed to keep my bike running well all day. Continuous mud removal with a stick was the key I think!
I was happy to take the win and finish the day knowing I could now take a few days off to get rid of my cold and get ready for my trip to Europe for the first World Enduro Series race in Italy, which takes place at the end of this week.
Read my last blog here.