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13th/15th September 2012 - World Cup #7 Hafjell, Norway

   Talkie helmet cam run

The 2012 World Cup season was coming a grande finale at the new venue of Hafjell, Norway, and I was really looking forward to it! After spending over 2 weeks in Whistler riding, racing and training throughout Crankworx, I felt fit and up for the challenge of getting a good result to finish the season. I've had some bad luck on the World Cup circuit this year, and other than my 39th place at Fort William I really don't feel like my results in finals have been reflecting how I'm capable of riding at the moment.

When I arrived in Hafjell and checked out the track I was instantly excited. It was long, had sections of every type of trail you could think of – steep bits, rocky bits, fast and rooty bits, bike park style jumps and berms, tight technical... everything! It looked like the rock gardens would be a real challenge in the wet! I was looking forward to getting started in the morning.

Practice was interesting. When we started riding the track there was a layer of greasy wet mud covering all of the rocks and roots which made grip levels minimal. I had a couple of crashes first thing in the morning trying to figure out my lines and get the track up to speed. I'd spotted that the weather forecast seemed to be saying it was going to be wet for qualifying, so I planned out lines which would be the best options for the forecasted wet weather. By the end of the day I felt like things were flowing well and I was feeling confident for a good qualifying run the following day.

The rain forecast for the Friday came and went overnight and so qualifying day ended up being dry. So the track went from very wet and slippery in the morning, to gradually faster and more manageable throughout the day. I waited until about 11am before getting out there, giving the track maximum amount of time to become less slippery. I left the Schwalbe Muddy Mary tyres on, as they would definitely be the right choice for when the track dried out. However, when I hit the field near the bottom on my first practice run I was sliding around all over the place! It was a good move though, and by the end of the practice session I had grip back and was feeling awesome on the track. The day before conditions were strange, because the grease made it so there was no grip when you felt like you should have it. Today, however, went from no grip at all in the wet, to pretty good as the track became gradually drier.

My qualifying run went well. I was smooth and didn't make any big mistakes. I stalled a couple of times and got a few lines wrong, so there were things to improve on for finals, but overall it felt pretty good. I ended up 24th, and was really happy with that! I'd finally got a world cup result in 2012 that reflected how I felt I was riding. I just needed to stay focused and do the same the day after in the final race. As I said, I knew there was more time to find, so I was feeling confident for a good one.

On race morning I woke up with sore fingers and tired arms. I'd spent too much time during practice doing full fast runs. I'd forgotten my earlier strategy this season of only practising each short section at race speed a couple of times throughout practice to save energy. I did three practice runs that morning and was feeling fast and confident. However thinking back, my bike was getting gradually more difficult to handle in the technical stuff as I got more and more tired. Therefore I'm now not surprised that I crashed in my race run. I was pushing hard and going for that top 20 result I know I'm capable of. Unfortunately I just don't have the fitness at the moment to ride at that pace for a full weekend on a World Cup track. However, at least I know the pace is there, and all I need to do is have a full off-season of hard training to get a major increase in fitness. That way I can hang on to the bike at the speed I want to go at in those all important race runs. I'm getting very bored of knowing I have the pace to knock on the door of the top 20, but not have the consistency or the strength to walk through it. I'm planning to do everything I can to make sure I'm up there at the start of the World Cup season at Fort William next year!

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