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BDS Round 2 - Fort William, 16/17 May 2015

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Fort William - what a venue for downhill mountain bike racing. If the weather doesn’t get you, with the race venue being in such a remote location right on the west coast of Scotland, the track itself will do its best to chew you up and spit you out. The track is one of the fastest and rockiest on the circuit and is world renown for being the toughest to race. Last weekend saw the team travel up for the second round of the British Downhill Series, and because the weather forecast didn’t look great, we all made the effort to be there a day early so we could ride on the Friday to get some extra practice runs done.
The weather on Friday wasn’t bad, with patches of clear sky and the wind wasn’t too strong. We all took advantage of this and put in 5 practice runs each throughout the morning and early afternoon. We all played with different lines, used our helmet cameras to see what was fast and what wasn’t, and experimented with different settings on our Trek Session 9.9s to get them dialed in for the track. Jack finds he has to run his bike so much stiffer at Fort William compared with most other race venues to cope with the high speed, and rough nature of the track. He was also running the new 2016 Fox 40 up front, which proved to be a really useful update and made his Session feel even faster than it had done the weekend before when the team was up testing.
Tyre set up is always something that is important at Fort William. Pressures in the high 20’s proves to give good grip and rolling speed on the track, but leaves you vulnerable to punctures if you catch a rock badly. Running a pressure in the low 30’s in the rear reduces that risk of a snake bite, but grip is sacrificed in the fast turns. Jack experimented with tubeless at the weekend but couldn’t get it working for him in his back tyre, as the rocky track dings rims too much and he was losing air. On the front there was more success with tubeless, and it also made the bike feel less harsh on the rough sections of the course.
We woke up on Saturday to what we expected given the weather forecast. No chair operating, and the track only open from a quarter of the way up, with just push up access - rubbish! We decided that we weren’t going to get anything from that, so we got our Trek Slash XC bikes out of the race van and went off for the day to play on the local XC trails, which proved to be a great laugh. The word in the pits was that the lift would open on Sunday and the race would be from the top, so we all went to bed hopeful.
When we got up in the morning the weather looked much better than Saturday and the wind didn’t seem as strong. However, this didn’t mean that was the case up on Aonach Mor, where the track comes down. Sure enough there was an update on the internet saying that the race would start at the fire road next to the world cup road gap and finish at the bottom, which is only about a quarter of the whole track, and we would have to push up to the start. Not an ideal situation but we all gritted our teeth and got on with the task at hand – we still had a race to do!
Jamie was fired up and ready to go when his race run came around. He knew it was going to be a sprint with the track being so short, so it was going to be 100% from the gate to the bottom. He had a great run with a time of 1.29 and was unlucky to miss out on the podium by just 0.7 seconds, finishing in 6th place, right in with all of the top UK junior riders. Great work Jamie!
Next up were Pete and Jack in elite. Both feeling strong in practice and ready to give it everything, and they were going to have to with so many world class elite riders in attendance. Unfortunately Pete made a mistake in the more technical section of the track which cost him crucial time. He did a 1.27 and finished in 47th place. Jack had a really solid run with no mistakes and crossed the line with a 1.23.5 and went into third place. After all the elites were down he ended up in 19th place with times very tight. He was 2.6 off the win and about 1 second off the top 10.
So the team made a good weekend out of a bad situation with the chair lift not opening and the bad weather. Everyone has a couple of weeks to prepare for the next BDS at Llangollen which we’re all really excited for.

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