IXS Cup Brandnertal 2016

 

With no rest for the wicked after Les Gets we were straight off to Austria for an IXS Cup in Brandnertal, it’s always nice to go to a brand new track and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store!

After all the rain of the last 3 weeks I was looking forward to finally getting to ride some dry trails and when we arrived into Brandertal on Friday afternoon it looked like we were going to get just that. Beautiful blue skies and high temperatures meant that I finally had to use my sunscreen which was a welcome change however there was rain in the forecast so I made the most of the beautiful weather early on. Walking the course it looked amazing, technical and fast but not super steep; it was all about carrying your speed and hitting your lines precisely. A fast jump section towards the bottom meant fitness was going to come into play here also and I was amped before my tires had even hit the dirt!

Stunning views in Brandnertal - Pic IXS Downhill Cup/ Sebastian Gruber
Stunning views in Brandnertal – Pic IXS Downhill Cup/ Sebastian Gruber

Initial practice runs confirmed my thoughts on the track with the ability to hold speed being the number one priority. The roots that littered the track were still slick from the previous weeks’ rain which kept you on your toes the whole way down. I was really enjoying the style of track, with the technical sections being interspersed with a few sizeable jumps it meant you really had to focus on more than just one aspect of riding and make sure you were in the right gear to pedal into the features.

Following Louis Hamilton down the Motorway. Pic - IXS Downhill Cup/Sebastian Gruber
Following Louis Hamilton down the Motorway. Pic – IXS Downhill Cup/Sebastian Gruber

Qualifying day dawned sunny. But with some overnight rain the track was a different beast from practice the day before. The roots were suddenly a minefield and anything that had the slightest semblance of clay in it was icy. Thankfully the sun was intense and it wasn’t long before the track was in perfect condition for Qualifying.

Unfortunately my run was a shambles. I wanted to do well at this race so badly and seeding highly seemed like the best way to go about it.  Naturally because of this I got over-aggressive and didn’t ride my usual style crashing 3 times and eventually rolling down the hill just to keep myself in one piece.

Will we ever see the end of the rain . Pic - IXS Downhill Cup/Sebastian Gruber
Will we ever see the end of the rain . Pic – IXS Downhill Cup/Sebastian Gruber

I was pretty gutted about this, I knew it was just qualifying but I wanted to set the tone for Sunday’s race.  Anyway, I went home and studied my helmet cams of the sections that I was struggling with and made a plan of attack for Sunday.

I should mention here that it was hammering it down overnight and when we awoke on Sunday things were not showing any sign of improvement…ohwell another wet one then….As I said I had my plan of attack and set about sorting myself out.  This went well and by the time practice finished I knew where I was going and was ready to race.

Before the rain, Following Louis again
Before the rain, Following Louis again

Having seeded 51st due to my crashes, I knew that I was going to have to put down a stormer of a run to get close to my goal of a podium finish!

Starting with strong pedals out of the gate; I knew the first corner was an important one to get through nicely as it would set the tone for the rest of the run. I nailed it and from then on things went smoothly, I caught the rider in front of me in a good location to pass and he was nice enough to let me through. The only issue I had was trying to scrub one of the jumps a bit hard and coming up pretty short on it. Back on the pedals and over the line 11 seconds up on 2nd place, 3.17.8 was my time and I was caught in two minds. On one hand, I was bummed I had cased the jump on the motorway as it was so important to carry speed through the long section. On the other hand the technical sections went really well and I knew that conditions were treacherous given all the rain. I settled in for a nervous wait in the hot-seat.

Early morning race practice....eyes on the prize. Pic - IXS Downhill cup/Sebastian Gruber
Early morning race practice….eyes on the prize. Pic – IXS Downhill Cup/Sebastian Gruber

As rider after rider came down all outside of my time I was edging closer to my goal of a podium finish…and then I was top 3…and then when the last rider crossed the finish line over 5 seconds down I knew I had done it! I had won the race…I was so, so happy. To put in so much work in the off-season, come over to Europe, ride really well and have all the hard work pay off is enormously gratifying and getting to stand on top of the podium is just the best feeling in the world!

Boom! Pic - IXS Downhill cup/Sebastian Gruber
Boom! Pic – IXS Downhill Cup/Sebastian Gruber

From here we are heading east to the Czech Republic for another IXS cup in Spicak before returning to Switzerland for the Lenzerheide World Cup.

 

 

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Crankworx Europe 2016

 

 

After the World Cup circus had finished up in Austria we jumped in the car for the long haul over to France and our base in Morzine for the next event, Crankworx Europe. Only 5 km down the road from where Crankworx is held in Les Gets,  Morzine is a great place to be based and we couldn’t wait to get riding….except for one thing.

This June has been SERIOUSLY wet in Europe, and once we saw the weather forecast for the week it didn’t look like it was going to get any better. With 6 days of rain on the initial forecast we knew that we were going to be in for a war. The day of riding we did before the event had us absolutely covered in mud and I was hoping that the race- track was going to ride well because otherwise it was going to be a long week.

Track walk was one of the more interesting experiences of the week; having to go up two chairlifts to get to the top was a first and the top lift was so slow it was going to be miserable in the rain.

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Earlier in the week were the European Whip-Off champs. Unfortunately due to some scheduling changes myself and lot of other riders showed up a bit late, however it was still good to go and throw the bike around for a bit! Pic thanks that Klemen Humar
Getting down the hill was essentially like going down a mud-side, the people who walked down before us had turned the track into a complete mess.  Slipping and sliding down the hill was great fun and to give the track-builders credit they had created a great looking line! Fast at the top, technical in the trees and wide open corners at the bottom meant the only option was full mud tires and I was excited to get out and amongst it.

Practice day was wild…..with the B practice riders having already gone through the track was seriously cut up and hilarious to ride.  There aren’t many occasions on a race track where you can be hitting 70km one minute and then be stuck in the mud with your wheels unable to turn the next. You couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy it, though the clean-ups got old pretty dam quickly. Looking back on the day I know I did too many runs but it was just so much fun sliding around in the mud!

Foot out, catch the rut - that was the name of the game all weekend.  Bryn Dickerson demonstrates.
Zach Faulkner caught me sliding around in the mud during practice day!

One thing that was super nice was being able to head back to a nice place to stay, this week we have been staying with Riders Refuge, I have been coming here for the last 3 years and every time it is just as awesome as I remember. It’s so nice being able to come home covered in mud and be able to focus on getting everything ready for the next day while the hosts sort out an awesome dinner for us…actually might go jump in the hot tub after I finish this post up!

Literally the best place to stay in Morzine....
Literally the best place to stay in Morzine….

Qualifying day rolled around and with more intermittent rain and even deeper ruts there weren’t really many lines to choose from. The main aim of the game was to carry speed, no so much for a fast time but just so that your tires cleared enough to keep going. At one point I crashed in practice and the mud was so thick that my tires literally wouldn’t turn. I had to pull all the mud out before I could keep going.

Basically to make it down the hill through the mud with no grip, you couldn’t touch your brakes… seems reasonable.

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Before and after a standard day on the hill.
For qualifying I just wanted to stay upright which was a lot harder than it sounds! That said I had a pretty clean run and found myself in 26th place, I was pretty happy to just be down in one piece by this stage and given the high class field I was looking forward to a good run the next day!

Finals day was more rain…by this stage I was pretty accustomed to it, but was getting sick of the endless cleaning and heavy bike.  The track was getting pretty hammered as well, I think by this stage everybody just wanted to get racing so we could all go home and get away from the mud! As I said before, the track was great fun to ride, but being out in the cold and wet for 3 days isn’t quite as much fun. That said, practice still went pretty well, a couple of good runs and one crash and it was time for racing!

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Dropping in for race run! Pic thanks to Clint Trahan
My race run was an interesting affair, with a couple hours of hot sun the track had started to dry up leaving the top greasy and the woods ultra sticky. I had a reasonably clean run, but something was just missing, I’m not exactly sure what it was, the intent was definitely there but the conditions were seriously challenging and I crossed the line 10 seconds slower than my qually run. I was disappointed to be that much slower than qualifying however it was still good enough for 24th on the day!

From here we have a few more days with Riders refuge’s awesome hospitality before a short drive into Austria to Brandnertal for an IXS cup race this weekend. I’ve never been there before so can’t wait to see what it is all about!

 

 

 

 

Leogang World Cup 2016

The Drive:

After Fort William, We packed up and headed back to Manchester to spend the night with Louis’s family before heading to the continent the following evening. Unfortunately, the amount of traffic leaving the Fort was too much for the wee highland roads to cope with and so we spent an hour and a half in a standstill waiting to get some clear road. Finally free, we made good time but the delay meant we got in at 3am….lovely.

The following evening we got on the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam which was much nicer than having to drive through England. After tucking into the onboard buffet and eating far far too much we got some rest before the big drive through Germany. Stopping off in Salzburg, we spent a few hours wandering around the Red-Bull’s Hangar 7, which is like a museum for all things Red Bull. It’s pretty incredible to see some of their machines up close in person, and to see just how many pies they have had their fingers in.

See ya later England!
See ya later England!
I'm an athlete I swear....
I’m an athlete I swear….
Daily driver
Daily driver
Shuttle wagon?
Shuttle wagon?

Leogang:

Arriving to a pretty gloomy day with the forecast not supposed to improve. Trackwalk was a pretty miserable affair, lots of rain in the preceding days had turned parts of the track into a bog and this coupled with some average taping decisions looked like it was going to be pretty hard to ride.

Picking up some supplies thanks to Maxxis Germany! -Photo: Duncan Philpott
Picking up some supplies thanks to Maxxis Germany! -Photo: Duncan Philpott

Practice:

Despite the initial average forecast, practice was a gorgeous day, and following feedback from some of the teams the UCI had adjusted some of the more average taping decisions and opened up the course allowing it to flow much nicer and with the boggy sections drying up it was quickly turning into a great track. I was having a great time on course, loving the technical aspects mixed with the high speed and jumps. At the end of practice I was absolutely fizzing, my bike set-up was perfect, I was feeling fit and strong, I felt like I had good lines sorted and I couldn’t wait for Qualifying

 

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This is pretty common at downhill races…standing there and looking at things….Photo- Raffi Diewaldfee

 

Qualifying:

Unfortunately the weather gods came to play for Qualifying and we woke up to a wet, grey day.  Luckily with some opportune parking we snuck ourselves onto the back of one of the parking garages so we had some shelter. The track itself was a slippery affair but it had enough rain that meant the surface was fully wet rather than greasy which kept it quite ride-able. I knew I had the speed to qualify here and so was just focused on staying upright in my run as I knew that if I did that I would be safely through. I put together a solid run and crossed the line into 42nd position. My best ever Qualifying result and safely through to the big show! Stoked!

Qualifying day practice..full rain gear! Photo - Sebastian Sterneman
Qualifying day practice..full rain gear! Photo – Sebastian Sterneman

Race:

With overnight rain and the weather supposed to be pretty average again for race day I was picturing a hard day on the hill. Though by the time we got to the tack the clouds were lifting and we were seeing the odd section of blue skies here and there, while it was nice to be riding in the sun again, it made the track unbelievably greasy. It’s not often that the track sweeper has to stop on their course clearing run for riders, but on this day he had to wait for a good 5 minutes at one of the technical sections while about 20 riders (Including the big dogs) were trying to pick their way through, it was a war…

Race day practice - Photo- Raffi Diewaldfee
Race day practice – Photo- Raffi Diewaldfee

With the rain looking like it was going to hold off for race, the next question was how dry was the track going to be. I figured that given how fast things dry it was going to be awesome and shifted my focus to riding the technical sections well. The thing with Leogang though is that times here are so tight this approach turned into a double edged sword, I rode the technical sections really well but I was overly aggressive in the simpler turns, blowing my feet of the pedals and just not riding 100% smooth I forced myself to calm down and things picked up from here, I felt good through the middle section of the track and coming into the final rocks I hit my line spot on and was so surprised I actually over braked into the next section. Cleanly through onto the final straight, I kept it low over the jump to cross the line into 48th place. My best ever finish at a world cup race.

Yeow! whipping it out - Photo: Boris Beyer
Yeow! whipping it out – Photo: Boris Beyer

I’m in two minds about this, on one hand, I really wanted a top 45 finish and I am a bit annoyed that I let the nerves get to me and I rode overly aggressive at the top which cost me some time. However on the other hand, 48th is my best ever finish, it is only just outside the top 45, it is another consistent result in the bag, it’s good for the World Cup overall and also pushes my case further for World Champs selection which I will hopefully know about in the next day or so!

From Leogang we have driven over to Morzine, France for Crankworx Europe where (weather permitting) we will have a few events to compete in this weekend! So stay tuned for the next update!

Welcome to 2016! Gun’s, Ferrari’s, a World Cup and more!

 

While that title could be the headline of the next James Bond movie, I feel lucky enough to be able to say that I haven’t been running from any super-villains or assassins.  Instead, I’ve been having an epic start to my 2016 international racing season. For those who haven’t been keeping up to date, I’ll give you a brief rundown of the goings on so far.

 

Oceania Champs:

After a fairly average 2015 international season, I raced a few rounds of the New Zealand National series to have some fun and get back to having fun on the bike with my mates.  As the races went by I started really enjoying myself again and my riding improved greatly. I raced the Oceania champs in Queenstown at the end of March and had a great weekend winning the race and the title of Oceania Champion. Good times!

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Credit: Si Williams

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Carins World Cup:

After the success of the Oceania champs, I found myself on an unplanned adventure to Cairns all of a sudden to race the second round of the 2016 UCI World Cup.

Having never been to the tropics before, it’s fair to say it was a new experience trying to function in 32 degree heat with 90% humidity and racing wasn’t exactly any easier.  Despite this I made the best of the conditions and had a great weekend, qualifying and finishing 50th on the day.

_52G7620 carins bryn
Credit: Boris Beyer

Between the Win at the Oceania’s and the strong finish in Cairns, I was feeling really good heading into the overseas adventures and with some good travel buddies lined up in Louis Hamilton/Connor Sandri and an itinerary sorted, I couldn’t wait to get into it!

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Credit: Downhill247.com

Arriving in the Uk:

After a HECTIC final month before I left getting everything organised before I headed off, it was quite nice to finally get on the plane and just relax knowing that all I have to focus on for the next 3 ½ months is riding my bike!

My set-
My setup for this year, head over to the sponsors page and click the links to check out all the rad people behind me!

However the rest was short lived, after we arrived in the UK we spent the first 5 days with Louis’ family in Bradford, and his uncle happens to own a Ferrari 458 spyder, one of the best super-cars out there, this thing is incredible to look at and indescribable to go for a ride in and Ali (Louis’ uncle) isn’t afraid to give it the beans which is the most amazing feeling…I think I’m addicted…bugger

This car = insane speed
This car = insane speed

 

Tires in the dirt!

After a few days of falling asleep on the floor at random times and waking up at 5.30 am , we decided it was time to go and actually do some riding. Luckily Louis and Connor had a friend who lived nearby called Andy who was looking for some people to ride with.  We went to a place called hamsterly Forsest, not a big hill but it was a great day out and just nice to get some tires in the ground finally!

 

Ralph’s in Scotland!

Luckily, one of Louis’s other uncles (they’re a big family) owns a van rental company  (Ex-fleet vans 😉 ) and so we packed up Ralph the rental Renault and headed on our first adventure up to Fort William for the 3rd round of the UCI World Cup in Fort William!

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Guns and big hills:

We had a bit of time before the race kicked off and so we went and spent a few days with my friend Fraser Coates out in Mallaig, it’s always a great time staying with Fraser, greeted with Buckfast (tonic wine made by monks), Bramble juice (basically Scottish moonshine) and Guns it was a good few days! Fraser also lives at the bottom of some pretty impressive hills, so we went for a wander and swam in a loch which surprisingly wasn’t that cold!

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DCIM999GOPRO

 

More bikes:

For a final hit out before the World Cup, we went to a local hill just outside of Fort William called Glencoe.  The track there was rough and steep like the Ft Will track and the loose gravel surface was a great mirror to the conditions of the race-track, we had a great day smashing it down the hill  there and it was a great last ride before things kicked off properly!

The Race:

Finally to the race itself!

Looking at the track during course walk, I felt confident that I could ride well; the track hadn’t changed too much since last year so I knew it suited me well and the new sections in the woods looked like they would be a great challenge.

Practice went well, for this race I was bestowed with number 69, which, aside from inspiring amazing quantities of inappropriate jokes, also meant that I was in timed-training for the first time ever. Having that extra 1 ½ hours of training is awesome, it just takes a  little bit of pressure off you and lets you focus more on what you are doing rather than constantly looking at your watch.

I got up to speed quickly and focused on improving my lines, holding consistent speed throughout the run and making sure my bike was set up for the physicality of a full run.

For qualifying my aim was to finish top 60, I knew this was achievable and I was looking to put the final nail in the coffin of my qualifying demons.  A good clean run had me safely through in 56th so job done there and it was onto the finals.

For finals I just wanted to lay down a good run, stay off the brakes and pedal like a mad man. I’ve never been a particularly fast starter and so I got into my groove early on and let it rip once I got to the rocks.

Everything went well until the woods where I got off line and had a small crash just at the end of the roots.  Losing 4 seconds while I got myself back on the track, I had a great bottom section clawing back 14 places to finish in 51st, with the 7th fastest speed-trap and  16th fastest final sector. This was particularly satisfying at the end of a 4 ½ minute run as it shows that my training is paying off and with more time on the bike I am confident I will continue to improve from here!

Heading forward to Leogang this weekend I have gained 9 places to sit 60th overall in the World Cup standings and am looking for another strong result, hopefully this time inside the top 45!

Stay tuned for the next installement on #racingformydinner !