Last weekend, I took the long 12-hour journey from Plymouth to Fort William, Scotland. I have ridden Fort ‘Bill’, twice before and raced 8 times in Scotland, but never in such glorious weather! It reminded me of summer shredding in the Alps with the parents (always the parents!!). It made life so much easier! Rain and muddy do not ruin the fun of riding, but it makes camping a lot less enjoyable (especially for my parents aka my pit crew, coaches, financial backers, nutritionists, kit cleaners, supporters and general dog's bodies to Team Maya;)).
Setting up the tent in the sunshine was fun, my family makes a game out setting up the tent. My dad treats us like a military team and we all work hard and fast as we can! The sooner we are done, the sooner we can chill out, is his motto. After setting up the tent and the event shelter (dining room and kitchen), we had a nice dinner and played Frisbee in the campsite park. Then it was off to bed.
Saturday morning started surprisingly cold. After Friday’s beautiful sunshine, it was a surprise to see frost on the ground. After a good breakfast we headed off to Fort Bill, which was about a 15min drive from the campsite. Once at the track, I picked up my new racing jersey from the Ranger's office and kitted up and got ready to ride. thank you Will, Hammoon Cycles, for the very pink jersey to match my match my pink Orange bike.
First thing I noticed was how much easier the rocky section was on my Orange 324, compared to my old bike. I love my new bike, especially my Fox 40’s, they are so forgiving. Practice continued and it was obvious to me what my weakness was. I can do all the drops on the BDS, I can do small jumps and table tops, but my technique is not good enough to hit big kickers. I am like Sherlock Holmes; I am always on the case! In biking, casing means that you are not clearing the jumps and usually land with a horrendous thud on the edge of the landing. My poor wheels were taking a beating. This is the area where the boys of my age are so much quicker than me. They fly off the jumps and soar through the air with style and grace. I get small air and then land with grace of penguin on land. After practice, I went and watched the professionals hit the big jumps. The WHIPs were epic!!! I watched them with sooo much envy. I was lucky enough to see Brendog (Brendon Fairclough), who is one of the UK’s best Free-riders.
Also present were the Specialised Gravity Team! They are, in my opinion the coolest team in the world, led by the current men’s World Champion, Loic Bruni! I was trying to focus on the race, but it is difficult when there is so many superstars around. It was not just me fan girl-ling! I saw Bruni and before I had a chance to get a photo he was surrounded by twenty young male bikers, who were so stoked to see him. Well enough of fan talk!
After practice day, my dad dragged me and my mum to the Spean Bridge Commando Memorial. After a day of hard riding, I was keen to just go back to the campsite, have a shower and dinner. After a short drive we arrived there and it was actually pretty inspirational. My dad told me a few stories about the origin of the memorial. The memorial consists of three soldiers, standing back to back and looking out at the mountains. Underneath is written “United we conquer.”, it made think about how much support are required and my how my parents have sacrificed so much of their time and money, to support me.
Race day started with an another cold morning and frost in the campsite. I had learnt from previous races and I ensured I was fully hydrated before going to bed the night before. This made race day breakfast a lot easier to get down. After a few practice runs, it was time for qualifying. I was a little nervous coming out of the starting gate and made a few minor mistakes, but as per yesterday, the big jumps were my nemeses and the proof is how ‘loose’ my back wheels were when I got down. I qualified second fastest, but my position did not feel satisfied, I felt like a failure for not being confident enough to hit the Hazard Hoofer and the big kickers. After some delays, due people being injured, it was time for the race run! My race run started off well and I was flying until I hit the woods, I had done so well in my previous runs… Not this time, I went into the woods wrong and lost control of my bike. After some ‘brown pants moments’, I regained composure and the rest of my run went well, but not great. I finished in 5th, a disappointing result, but worse was my failure to attempt the river gap known as the Hazard Hoofer. I had promised myself last year that I would hit it.
Overall, it was a great weekend and I would like to thank Hammoon Cycles for all their help. I would like to finish with a few things I have learned:
- I am still growing up and I can still get a little overwhelmed meeting my heros.
- I am extremely grateful for the sacrifices my parents have made for me.
- I need to learn to do big jumps. I have organised jump lessons with one of Southern England’s best free riders.
Thank you for reading.
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