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BDS Round 3 - Llangollen, 30/31 May 2015

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After a disappointing trip to Fort William for round 2 of the BDS, where the weather resulted in a push up race from a quarter of the way up the hill, it was time for round 3 of the series at Llangollen. The race was to be on the infamous ‘woods’ track, which is without doubt one of most steep and technically challenging tracks I’ve ever raced. We were all feeling great and really excited to get down there and race.
Jack had some new additions to his Trek Session 9.9 thanks to the guys at Fox and Mojo suspension. He had switched onto the 2016 Fox 40 for Fort William two weeks ago, and now new for this weekend, he was running the new 2016 Fox DHX2 rear shock which he was really excited about. It is much lighter than the DHXRC4, and hopefully performance would be superior as well! Cheers Fox and Mojo for the great support!
The team arrived on Friday and got set up. Everyone was really excited and headed off to walk the track to see what they were up against. The bottom section is fast and loose, with some tight turns thrown in there, and with the odd steep chute for good measure. The top section was in the woods and words can’t describe how steep it is up there! It’s one chute after another to start with, and if you let the speed get out of control at all you’re crashing. Then it’s tight switchbacks to safety!
After a restless night’s sleep, excited to get up and ride, it was Saturday morning and Jack, James and Pete headed off on the first uplift of the day to get started on the track. They were one of the first teams down the hill, which was great because it meant there was no traffic on the track and they all got a nice clean run to start the day off. The rest of the day was spent queuing at the top of the track because there were so many hold ups with the track being so difficult. However the lads still managed to do 7 runs and they were all feeling great on the track.
The weather was due to take a turn for the worst overnight, with heavy rain due to fall into the early hours of the morning. The rain actually stayed around longer and lingered throughout most of practice. The track was very tricky in the morning practice session. The steep woods were very greasy, and the bottom section was even more treacherous with the hard ground having a layer of wet slick mud on top of it. The changing weather conditions were making tyre choice tricky for the guys. Jamie and Pete were running the Bontrager GMud tyre and having great success with it in whatever conditions the weather was throwing at them. Jack was rolling on the Schwalbe Dirty Dan, but using it with the nobbles slightly cut down to increase grip on the harder ground, but it still gave more braking grip than a dry tyre would provide.
By seeding the weather had calmed and the rain had stopped. The track was progressively drying out and everyone had their fingers crossed for bone dry racing later that afternoon. James was first up in seeding, and with crashes in the top and bottom sectors, he was disappointed with 14th place, knowing he could improve on this massively in his race run. Pete was next and again with crashes top and bottom, he was disappointed and in 22nd place. Jack made a right mess of the first chute going straight on into the catch netting after clipping a tree half way down it. He pushed on after this and with a flying bottom sector with the 5th fastest time, he managed to save the run and seed in 13th place, knowing a podium was on the cards if all went to plan.
By the time racing came the track was dry again, but it was really blown out in places. James headed off for his race run with Jack reminding him to keep his head, and importantly keep the bike rubber side down. The track is such an easy one to mess things up on by getting carried away trying to go too fast. James’ top split came up on the timing board at the bottom and he was over 3 seconds faster than everyone else so far and was clearly on a flyer. Unfortunately in one of the last turns he lost the front end and flipped over the handlebars for us all to see. He lost an age of time and ended up 10th. He was 2nd fastest through the top sector and was clearly on for a podium before the crash, maybe even the win! Next time James, the speed is there!
Pete was next and had been looking pinned in practice but just needed to stay smooth and again attached to his bike to get a good result. With a reserved smooth top section and a flying bottom section with the 6th fastest bottom split of the day, Pete finished an impressive 16th place right in the mix and his best BDS result of the season so far. Great work Pistol!
So Jack’s turn. He kept his head in the first chute and got the run off to good start. Unfortunately he ran wide on a tight turn half way down the wooded section having to slow right down and go around the back of a tree loosing a couple of seconds, but apart from that he was on a good run when he went through the split. He entered the bottom section determined to make up for the time he’d lost at the top, but it wasn’t to be. Again bad luck struck and a couple of turns into the bottom section he got a rear flat tyre. Despite this and knowing ranking points were to be lost he pushed onto the bottom as hard as he could with no air in the rear tyre. He ended up in 21st place and disappointed again. That’s 3 races and 2 punctures in race runs – the luck has to change soon Jack!
So the Llangollen BDS was an eventful one for the team, with lots of positives to take from it and importantly everyone coming out fighting fit considering the track is so brutal! Only 2 days to recover before heading up to Fort William for the second round of the World Cup Series and the most anticipated race of 2015 for every UK based downhill racer! Fingers crossed for some good luck, good racing and awesome results for the team!

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