UCI World Cup Round 2 Fort William, Scotland
8th June 2011

finish jumpFort William World cup. I've dreamed of representing myself and my country at this race for many years. When I first started racing downhill back in 2007 I never thought in a million years it would happen. However, 4 years down the line and lots of good decisions later the time has come. The track is world famous, the world cup crowd is the best bar none and the thought of a race run on world cup Sunday gives me shivers down the back of my neck and up my arms.

We, being me and my Dad, arrived in Fort William on Thursday in time for sign on and course walk. I was feeling confident looking on at the weekend ahead of me. Although I've been working a 9-5 since the start of February I've been finding a good amount of time to train and get the fitness up as much as possible specifically for this event. The most horrible thought is that of going to a world cup and not qualifying for the final on Sunday, but when that world cup is Fort William, it is 10 times worse.

The bulk of this training has been xc riding at Hamsterley forest twice a week in the evening after work with my buddy Matt Hirst who has shown me round all the trails so big thanks to him for helping me get in shape!! I've felt myself getting more and more powerful over the past couple of months so arrived in Fort William feeling good about what I could achieve.

Friday practise was great. The track was riding real fast as it was bone dry! As this was my first world cup of the season I was seeded out of the top 80 so only had until 2pm to smash the runs out. I did 6 in total, which maybe turned out to be one too many as I had a couple of crashes on the last one tweaking my right hand and right shoulder. However I finished the session on a high and headed off for a track walk.

bottom crowdThe weather had originally been forecast to deteriorate on Saturday and Sunday bringing rain. However it just seemed to be getting better and better. Saturday started a little windy up top, but this settled towards the end of the morning. I did two practise runs finishing the session at 11.30, then had a very long wait for my critical qualifying run which was at 3.30. My Ellsworth had been feeling awesome on the track since the start, seeming to eat up all the holes, bumps and rocks which Fort William is famous for, giving me a smooth ride! The very short wooded section just over half way down had been getting worse and worse throughout practise, with huge roots and holes coming out and trying to eat riders and their bikes and doing a pretty good job of it. On my final practise run I stopped to check out the size of the holes and WOW! And they were only going to get deeper by the time I would pass through on my qualifying run. Complete commitment and a bit of luck would be essential for survival!

The time leading up to your qualifying run is the hardest period of the whole weekend. The top 20 riders are 'protected', so if they mess up or have a mechanical they are racing on Sunday regardless. The rest of us have to fight it out for the top 80 places and the ones that miss out go home. And it's this very fear of going home which is so hard to overcome. Last year at the Austrian world cup I wasn't in great shape after a long period of revision and exams at university and I let these nerves get the better of me and my subconscious convinced itself I couldn't qualify, resulting in me riding like a real tit! Not this time!!! I had the self believe the overcome it along with the constant reminder I give myself which is that I'm there to have fun!

Qualifying was a war zone. The track had developed some huge holes in the 4 hours I'd been away from it and the woods were a state! However I hung on to my Ellsworth Dare as hard as I could and sprinted like mad at the bottom and smashed into the finish arena with the 137 seeding number to take 39th in qualifying with a 5.05! To say I was happy would be an understatement. When you realise you've made the cut and will be racing the next day everything changes. Th cloud of qualifying drifts off and you instantly feel so relaxed and excited about what lies ahead – well I do anyway!
Sunday again escaped typical Scottish weather and the rain and wind stayed away! Practise was great. The track was littered with spectators and the finish arena just got busier and busier making for quite an atmosphere by the time I finished my final practise run! I was aiming for top 40 in the final. I knew it would be tough as Fort William is so fitness orientated and I just simply don't have the time to train as much as the other guys who get in the top 40, but I was ready to lay it all on the line for it!!

to the finishBy the time it came to head up the mountain the crowd was huge. Who knows how big it actually is but it sure was exciting to think they'd all be cheering for me in less than an hour! I fueled up on Science in Sport energy gels during the build up to the run. I have a Go gel every 15 minutes throughout the 45 minutes before and a SMART gel 10 minutes before. By the time I'm in the gate, this along with listening to my favourite music which is a good old Dire Straits guitar rift I'm well in the zone and ready to perform!

I don't remember much of my run. But I do remember getting just below the deer fence and thinking two things which were 1/ 'fuck I'm going fast' and 2/ 'this is awesome keep it going'! Apparently after the second split which was over 3 and a half minutes of riding I was in second place only 1 second behind the current hot seat sitter, Austrian Mick Hannah. I pushed as hard as I could on the bottom pedally section! I really worked my ass off but when I blasted into the finish arena I'd slipped back into 16th place. However I'd done a 4.59 – 6 seconds quicker than my qualifying run and I was pretty much guaranteed a top 50 result, so I was over the moon! The crowd were amazing, big thanks to everyone for making so much noise for my run, it really does help you dig deep knowing how many people are willing you to do well!

After a very exciting race and everyone down it was Greg Minaar who took the victory. Massive massive well done to Danny Hart who came second – amazing effort. I just held on to top 50 and placed 49th which I'm very happy with. Just outside my top 40 aim but on the track which is most about fitness and strength, given my current situation I'm very happy with it.

Big thanks to all my sponsors – Ellsworth for a great bike, ONeal for lots of fantastic kit, Science in Sport for fueling me so well with energy products which help out soooo much throughout these weekends, Loaded precision products for components – especially lots of rims as Fort William just gobbles wheels, and finally Mojo Fox Suspension for providing me with the best suspension in the business!

I'm back at work in the hospital Monday and Tuesday before we get back in the van and head to Austria for the next round!!! Bring it on :-)