Recovering from my Cyprus trip took longer than I had expected. I kept doing a few short rides to test out my legs and only after about 10 days did I finally feel like I had some power again and I could enjoy my rides and not just suffer when I came to any slight rise!
I also had a busy week of media stuff when I returned home. Ever since I decided to go in a different direction this year with my racing I have had loads of interest from magazines and websites wanting to know what I am doing. It’s been great as its created new avenues and opportunities to promote my T-MO racing brand and all the sponsors that are supporting me.
Meeting up with Bikeradar to do some filming and interviews was also a great excuse for me to get chance to ride down in Bristol at the new trails at Ashton Court. It’s years since I have ridden there and it was a treat to not only have a sunny day but also not a muddy puddle or slippery root in sight.
It was also my first ride at a trail centre for months and I had forgotten just how much fun you can have blasting around a man-made loop. With so many rollers and berms it felt like a pump track in places! I also forgot just how tiring it can be and made me realise that trail centres really can offer some great fitness training as its relentless pedalling with the constant twisting and turning that makes you really feel like you have got an all over body workout by the end.
Being back riding off-road and confident that my shoulder was getting stronger by the day also meant I really needed to start working on some technical skills and with the first UK Gravity Enduro only a few weeks away I needed to try out my new bike for my enduro racing.
The Trek Slash is their new 160mm bike and one that is going to be perfect for the enduro racing I am going to be doing in the UK and Europe this year. I decided to take a trip down to the Forest of Dean to test out the bike, with a lap of the new XC trail and a variety of DH runs with climbing back to the top each time. It was a perfect test for the bike and training for the kind of riding I will be doing at the enduros. It was also pretty cool to be able to ride back up to the top of the DH runs, quicker than you could get to the top in the uplift.
With the aim of the next few weeks training to just get some time on off-road, I managed to combine a trip up north for a friend’s wedding with the chance to visit a couple more trail centres, firstly Lee Quarry and then Cannock Chase. Again by this stage my legs were finally coming around and I was starting to feel good again just in time for some hot laps around Cannock which was pretty cool. It is so different to ride around Cannock when its dry and sunny as you don’t feel like you have just destroyed a set of brake pads and your drive train in one ride.
As well as trying to win bike races, one of my roles with my sponsors is one of product testing and feedback. This year I will be using Bontrager tyres for the first time and I had the opportunity to work with Bontrager’s new tyre designer Frank Stacy to help test some new products. Bontrager tyres have never been that competitive across all disciplines against the likes of tyre manufactures Maxxis or Schwable, but now with the input from Frank they have some great options for all types of riding from XC, Enduro and DH.
I had three days in Spain testing some new tyres in dry, rocky conditions looking at different casing options and how resistant to punctures the different tyres are. I really enjoy the testing as you get chance to repeat the same trail so many times that you don’t even need to think about the trail, you can just concentrate on the feeling of the tyres and it’s so interesting to learn so much and feel so much difference in small subtle changes. Not only was I learning but I was also getting in some great training time in technical terrain and putting my Slash through it’s paces in some rougher terrain than the Forest of Dean.
Whilst I was out in Cyprus in February I missed the opportunity to meet up with one of my new sponsors, WildWolf and a number of the athletes that they sponsor. WildWolf is a brand that produces technical sports drinks and they sponsor athletes across a huge range of sports from Moto GP to beach volleyball.
So whilst inSpaintyre testing I took the opportunity to visitAlicantewhere they are based and visited a bike park just outside of Alicante, to do some riding and a photoshoot. The bike park La Fenasosa was an amazing experience in itself. It’s a privately owned bike park, based from a castle on a hunting estate! The park has been developed over the last 5 years and has eight downhill trails, a 4x track, pump track, wooden free ride park and some of the biggest dirt jumps I have ever seen!
The riding was fantastic but the hospitality, location and five star food made it an amazing riding destination. The park is only open at weekends and it’s limited to a maximum of 50 riders, keeping a really great feeling of exclusivity and a perfect number for the lunch break of paella, beers and salad whilst sat outside in the sunshine. It really was one of those perfect days and experiences, all thanks to the mountain bike.
Thanks to WildWolf and to Jean-Michelle and his family for the amazing welcome on my short visit to La Fenasosa bike park. It’s back to good old blighty now, to get the racing season underway…