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Hamsterley Transmission Trail, 17 February 2013

After a long winter of hard training it was finally time get back against the clock and start the 2013 race season. However, not on my downhill bike, that has to wait until this coming weekend at Innerleithen! On Sunday 17 February I was at the Hamsterley TT, which is a race on XC bikes down the Transmission Trail. It consists of jumps, berms and lots of pedalling in between!! I decided this would be a good training day, along with getting the racing started nice and early in the year! I was also meeting up with my good mate Matt Hurst for a good ol’ day on the bikes!
After an early start, and a two hour drive, I rolled up at a chilly but bright Hamsterley Forest and waited for 30 minutes for Matt to arrive who only lives 18 miles away – you lazy git Matt ;-) We signed on and headed up the climb to the top of the downhill. The climb was about 15 minutes if you cruised up spinning in middle ring, and it was that cold in the valley the effort to get to the top was very welcome.
The trail was running quite well. The cold weather had kept the bottom section nicely frozen so it was rolling well. Even though the top was a bit softer out in the sun, my Schwalbe Black Jack tyres that I’d fitted specifically for the race had excellent rolling speed and still gripped well on the trail centre dirt. I’d also stiffened up my Fox/Mojo suspension front and back so that the bike would skip over all the bumps and rocks keeping the speed up. After 3 practice runs with Matt we were enjoying the track and I was feeling the benefit of all the winter training, feeling very powerful in the sprinting sections. However, I knew doing a full run would be a different story – pedaling hard for over 3 minutes out of the saddle isn’t easy!!
I had a long wait before my first race run, with me and Danny Hart being the last two guys down.  So I pulled my DH bike out of the van and went for a run in the Descend Hamsterley DH bike park run by Craig. It was very strange riding on tacky soft smooth dirt, after being in the rocky, sandy and rough terrain of Malaga only a few days earlier!
There had been some timing issues, so we were delayed by an hour before we set off on our first runs. I didn’t actually set off at all though. NOT having a great start to my 2013 race season! I powered out of the gate only to snap my chain and almost go over the handlebars, and so not able to do my first run - brilliant! After rolling down the fire road and fixing it, I decided to go for a pedal up to the top of the DH tracks to do a proper run, I’d now been off the bike for a few hours. I kept telling myself the bad luck for the season was out of the way now, and not that this was the start of bad luck that was going to continue throughout the year….
By the time I got to the top of the race track again I was starting to feel pretty tired. It had been a hard day to balance, I wanted to race well, but I also wanted to use the day as a good training opportunity. Consequently I’d done too much riding throughout the day to still be fresh enough to get the best out of myself in the race. However, I did have enough riding to call it a great training day. I took the preparation for the run seriously. I finished last season with lots of crashes in race runs, so I wanted to make sure I started this season properly and successfully. I was fired up by the time I was in the gate. It’s hard not to be when the 2011 World Champ is sat behind you and about to chase you down the hill!
The run was one of the hardest race runs I’ve ever done. Because the track was so simple, you just had to pedal the whole way down, and pedalling constantly for 3 and a half minutes is very painful! I made a couple of big mistakes on the way down, as I didn’t know the track very well to start with, but because I’d missed my first run I’d been off the track for about 5 hours, so remembering what came after the first corner was difficult.
I finished in 2nd place behind Danny Hart, which is where I’d expected to come so I was happy. I was slightly further behind than I think I would have been if I’d taken the day a bit more seriously and not been as tired at the start of the race run, but overall the day was a success. A weekend feeling strong on the bike, starting the season with a podium, no crashes in the race run and some prize money! I’m already looking forward to my first DH race this weekend at Innerleithen.

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