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RoostDH Training and Portugal National DH Race, March 2013

   

After 5 weeks at home following my February trip to RoostDH in Malaga it was great to head back out there again. This time I was traveling with my training/racing buddy Will Jones, and our ladies Sarah and Annie. We arrived on the Monday and had 3 days riding ahead of us before driving to Portugal for the National race at Gouveia.

We had an early morning flight so we could get a full afternoon of riding done on the first day. The weather when we arrived at the RoostDH villa at noon was fantastic. Bright blue skies, 20+ degrees and not a bit of wind, so me and Will took the opportunity to jump in the Roost pool.  This was freezing but nice to cool off in after building the bikes. After some lunch we left the girls at the villa to enjoy the sun and headed off to get the riding started.

We decided to ride two tracks called Sram and Shimano on the first day as we know them well so they would a great warm up venue. They both have race track characteristics, unlike many of the trails out in Malaga which are more natural and longer. We took the opportunity to use our Freelap timing poles and did some timed training throughout the afternoon. After 8 runs of each it was approaching 6pm so we headed up to the top of the mountain in the Roost uplift vehicle to the Antennas to finish the day with a run down my favourite Malaga trail, aptly named, Antenna Trail. After this we were both suitably tired for the end of the first day and ready to head back to the villa.

That night we drove down to the seaside town of Benalmadena to visit the best steak restaurant there is, the Rodeo Steak House. Seriously if you like lots of meat and are ever in the area hit this steak bar, the portions are ginormous!

Unfortunately day two was hampered by rain and colder temperatures. We headed over to a new venue near Granada and the girls came along with us. We left them to do a morning of exploration in the village at the bottom of the track while we went off to ride. The track proved to be great fun even though the weather wasn’t. It was predominantly smooth with a few rocky sections and some awesome hip jumps. I’m told that the track was built by Greg Minnaar back in 2001, so there’s no surprise that it was great fun! After a lunch stop and picking up the girls we finished the day with a few more wet runs before heading back to the villa for the evening.

Blessed with another sunny day we headed to Torrox for our final day of training. This venue finishes on the beach and has some really challenging tracks. It starts off being fast and rocky with a constant battle against a right camber trying to pull you off the track. It then splits half way down into two different tracks. We spent the morning riding the more challenging of the two bottom sections, this involves a very steep section of trail. We had the timing poles going again and did some useful testing with the race in mind on the coming weekend in Portugal.

After a nice lunch on the beach with the girls we headed back up the hill for an afternoon of riding. The girls had spent the morning sun bathing on the beach, but as the wind had increased they came with us. They walked the track and got some video for us in the afternoon. I took that afternoon pretty easy because I’d finished the morning with some great timed runs and was feeling very confident for the weekend.  I didn’t want to push my luck at the end of three days training, crashing and picking up an injury.

On Thursday we had to drive to Portugal and that took 10 hours. Not much more to say about that really, it sucked.

Friday started with a track walk. I’ve never been to Gouveia before but in previous years a bedded-in, fast and rocky track has been used. This year we arrived to find a new line had been dug for the race and initially we weren’t overly impressed. The top section looked good, rocky and then fast with some jumps. However, it then went into a long flat section, followed by an equally long flat but off camber section, both of which didn’t look great. The bottom looked great fun with fast loose straights into flat corners that would hopefully rut up well, before a series of fun jumps to finish. I try to never take a view on a track before riding it, but I wasn’t overly hopeful, especially if the weather forecast was right and it was going to rain all weekend.

We had practice on Friday afternoon when me and Will managed to get 4 good runs done without any rain.  We were pretty familiar with the track by the end of the day. It rode much better than we initially expected and was really enjoyable to ride. There was a boggy section in the middle that was horrendous, and should really have had a bridge over it, but it was the same for everyone. The bottom section was absolutely awesome, fast and loose with great jumps. The weekend was looking good.

The weather forecast said rain showers for Saturday and dry for Sunday, but it ended up being the other way round. We did 5 runs throughout Saturday and not a drop of rain fell. The track was running really well and I was feeling great on the bike and confident for a good race run the next day. There were some really good World Cup athletes in attendance but I was feeling confident that I could get amongst them and finish in the top 10 somewhere.

On Sunday morning we woke up to torrential rain and it didn’t let up. I did two practice runs in the morning and got completely soaked. The track was destroyed as well. There were holes everywhere in the top and bottom sections, and the flat middle section and the off-camber section were so boggy you simply had to pedal the whole way through them to keep moving. It sucked. However the biggest problem was that I hadn’t packed any wet tyres, expecting dry sunny conditions! What I would have given for a set of Schwalbe Dirty Dans that day!

In my qualifying run I didn’t pedal that hard because it was so physical I wanted to save as much energy as possible for my race run. I was in 9th place 13 seconds behind Matt Simmonds who was in first place. I knew I was going to be limited not having proper wet tyres, but hoped to move slightly higher up the top 10 in the race run that afternoon.

It rained constantly all afternoon but luckily just stopped before I was to leave for my race run. Very lucky because the uplift involved sitting in the back of a pickup truck for 15 minutes with no shelter. I had a fairly decent race run considering I wasn’t on proper wet tyres. I pedalled as hard as I could the whole way down and only made two mistakes. I finished in 9th place, this time only 8 seconds behind first place and 5 seconds behind third, a time I think I could have achieved with the right tyres for the conditions.

So a great training and racing trip was completed. I’d had three good days riding in Malaga, followed by a successful race getting some UCI world ranking points and a top 10 in a national event. I’m feeling great on my bike and things are looking good for the season. Back to training now before the first UK national in three weeks’ time!

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