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Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, World Cup Race 5 - 2 August 2014

After doing further damage to the rotator cuff muscles in my already injured right shoulder at Schladming in June, Mont Saint Anne was going to be my first weekend back on the DH bike in 7 weeks! I have to say a massive thank you my physio Nick Hodgson and sports masseur Mike Clowes for spending so much of their time throughout July to get me back on the bike! Without those two guys there is no way I would have been riding this world cup!

However, my shoulder was still very weak going into the weekend, so I was very nervous about how well I’d be able to ride and whether it would hold out for the entire weekend. Mont Saint Anne is probably the most physically challenging track on the circuit, so it was going to be a challenge.

My racing buddy Matty Stuttard and teammate Joe Connell helped me out at the start of practice by giving me a tow down the track. It would have taken me a lot longer to get some speed up if I hadn’t had those guys to follow. It turned out I felt fine physically which was a massive relief. However I knew, from what my physios had told me, I needed to avoid crashing on it again for the rest of the season, as it is too weak to take any sort of impact.

By the end of practice I was feeling good and riding at a confortable pace. I was holding well short of full pace, riding nice and smooth to make sure I didn’t have any big crashes. I was nervous going in to the qualifying run wondering if I’d have enough speed to make the top 80 and finals. As I was going up for the qualifying run the heavens opened and a really heavy rain shower blew through the valley. It stopped minutes before the start of qualifying but the track was now wet!

I kept a calm head despite the sudden change in conditions and rode well. The top half of the track was wet but as I popped out into the fast open section it was suddenly bone dry due to the hot sun and I started pushing a bit harder as there would be more grip. I qualified 32nd which I was really shocked by! I wasn’t expecting to be much higher than 60th this weekend, so things were looking good for racing!!

On race day I had two good practice runs in the morning and was feeling really confident for racing. On my second practice run I started to ride really aggressively as the adrenaline of race day was kicking in. However, I stopped and calmed myself down and went back to riding a little bit slower and smoother. My only real priority this race was to finish the weekend healthy, with my shoulder in one piece, and continue the efforts to get stronger.

The track was bone dry for racing and running really fast. I knew it was going be very physical and there would be loads of holes. I did exactly what I planned to and had a really smooth fast run and was really happy when I came through the finish and saw I’d gone 12 seconds faster than in the wet qualifying conditions. I could have gone much quicker if I’d gone for it, but at the moment I just don’t have the strength to be riding with an aggressive attitude. My time was good enough for 41st place and I am really happy everything considered!

We’re onto the next round this weekend in Windham, USA, and I’m hoping I’ll be even stronger by the time practice starts on Thursday. I’ll still be playing things carefully and doing my best to keep upright and my shoulder off the ground, but my confidence is growing and hopefully I’ll be even faster this weekend! Big thanks to Team SC Intense, my manager Lars Peyer for running around after us all weekend, and my physios, for all of their help towards my success this weekend!

Photos: Duncan Philpott

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