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12th - 19th August 2012 - Whistler Crankworx, Canada

   Helmet camera run

Crankworx Whistler 2012. Another year has flown by and this events marks its passing almost as significantly as my own birthday. This would be my 5th trip to Whistler for Crankworx in as many years and as ever I couldn't wait to get back out there and see all my friends. I was making the trip with my pal Jamie Hinde who was going to try the Garbanzo DH event and do some leisure riding, and also Gee Milner who was heading out to get loads of footage for his mountain bike movie Boundless, and also cover Crankworx for VitalMTB.

We were staying in Jamie's family condo, which was right in the village so made for a perfect basecamp. The Garbanzo DH event was on the first weekend, so I spent most of my time on the hill during those first 5 days preparing for and racing that. I was 3rd in this event last year, and brought home $1000 prize money which was cool. This year I felt like I was strong enough to improve on that result, and with the addition of the Trek 9.9 as my new race machine, I felt like I could even win the race.

I put quite a lot of pressure on myself before the race run. I had the attitude of all or nothing, and really wanted to win. Unfortunately this meant that I was uncharacteristically a bit tense leaving the start gate. Consequently, while riding tracks that I know like the back of my hand, I made mistakes and found rocks and holes to hit that I've never even seen before. I came to a stop about 4 times on the way down that run, blowing out corners and hitting trees, then I also had a big crash at the bottom, leaving the bike in a high speed section.

When I'd not been making these mistakes I was riding very very fast as I'd put my heart and soul into that run. That was the problem, I've never tried so hard in my life, and I simply wasn't relaxed enough. I ended up finishing 6th, 10 seconds off the podium and 25 seconds of the win, with a time of 12.58, a full minute quicker than last year because it was so dry on the hill. I'm confident that without the crash I would have been 3rd again, and without all the mistakes I would have been very close to the winning time, which side of it who knows! I now know that I'll have the speed and the fitness to try to win the event next year. So I just need to relax and ride smooth, and its mine. I'm almost glad that I haven't won it yet, because I still have it on my tick list to chase down next year!

There was a full week before my next event which was the Canadian Open Downhill, so we took the opportunity to enjoy Whistler and Crankworx with a few nights on the town causing trouble, a number of trips to Lost Lake for swimming and sun bathing sessions in the cool glacial water, and of course some fun riding on the mountain. I did however find myself getting a little bored this year because it was so dry. I've decided that next year I'll take my xc stuff so that I can mix it up a bit during that middle week and fill my time slightly differently to keep myself better entertained. I'm also hoping to persuade my beautiful girlfriend to come with me, as almost 3 weeks apart isn't much fun for either of us!

By the following weekend I was keen to get back to racing and welcomed the start of the first practice session on the Canadian Open track. This track is one of the best downhill race tracks in the world, including all of the world cup tracks, as it has everything. Rocks, roots, big jumps, fast sections, steep sections, technical sections, and then to top it off a crowd to rival the Fort William World Cup masses. Specifically Hecklers Rock – a big rock feature, after a large step up jump a quarter of the way down the track, which on race day is littered with people all with their shirts off going absolutely mental to support the racers. It makes the event so amazing and one of my favourites of the whole season.

By race run I was feeling amazing on the track. Unfortunately I'd had an equipment failure halfway down on my final practice run of the morning before the race, which meant I had to change a significant part on the bike and the new part was different structurally to the old one. I went and did a warm up run to get used to the change on a different track, but my race run on the rough Canadian Open track was going to be my first following this change. However, I put that out of my mind and looked forward to the racing.

My race run went well. I made no mistakes and was fast and smooth. Thinking back I lost some time due to the changes I'd had to make to the bike before the run, but not much. I came down into 3rd place with a 2.55 and was initially dismayed to hear the time and the position. Before I'd gone up for my run the leading time was a 2.55, so to not beat that being seeded so much higher than that person, was disappointing and I thought not a good sign for things to come, with so many big time pros left on the hill. However I waited it out to end up in a sold 13th place. I finished 13th in 2010, but this time there were far more pros in the elite field, so it was a better result this year. Looking into the times I was only 1.9 seconds off 6th place, and 5 seconds off the podium, so not at all bad. Without the problems with the bike right before the race I'd hope my result would have been up nearer 6th spot!

So after the Canadian Open that was that for Crankworx and Whistler village went back to normality. I spent the next 3 days filming with Gee Milner for my segment in his film, and for another video for a new sponsor. We got some amazing shots up there so watch out for some good action when Gee publishes the stuff. He's a great videographer to work with who uses his own unique style to create amazing shots. And I really don't know how he gets so many of them right first time when he makes it so tricky for himself!

I'm now sat at home in rainy Manchester reflecting on the trip and already looking forward to the final World Cup in Norway. Last year the best I qualified was 12th at the final World Cup in Val d'Sole, I'm currently stronger after my time in Whistler, so hopefully this year I can do something similar but this time also smash it in my race run as well!

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