Welcome to 2017, a fresh start!

Hello and welcome to 2017, as luck would have it I am still racing for my dinner so the blog is back! I do know that I am a bit late to party with this one but as that famous saying goes; “Better late than never”. Now while I feel like this applies to my life quite generally it is even more appropriate for this post. Given that it has taken me this long to get blogging, there is quite a lot to cover and so I’ve split the first half of this season into two posts with the 2nd part to follow along soon!

So, 2017…where to start? Well first of all, after a hectic 2016, I took some time off to rest up and start planning for a fresh approach to 2017, the last 5 years had been awesome but I wanted to try and make things less sressful for myself and to avoid getting stuck in a rut of repetition.

The easiest way to go about this was to change the way I funded my seasons, for the last 7 years I have been working as a trail builder all over the world with a couple of different companies.  This has been a fantastic experience and the stories I was lucky to be a part of during this time will be re-told well into the future. However at the same time, with my current lifestyle I didn’t see any real development in the job and this along with long hours meant a change was inevitable.

I’ve seen some awesome views from the digger!

Despite my detest for school I have always seemed to have a talent for explaining things, and what better to explain than the one thing I do every day! I had previously done some coaching as a wee nipper but decided now was the time to have a proper crack at it and so Fluid Lines Coaching was born. With a fresh approach and a desire to see people improve I launched Fluid Lines at the end of January. I figured as long as it was reasonably successful I could just keep trail building and coach on the side. However after 2 weeks the demand for courses was that high that I had to pull the pin on trail building and begin coaching full time!

Smiles for miles with the Burkes Cycles lads!
Teaching an old dog new tricks!

Fast forward 5 months and in-between various racing commitments and trips around, I had coached over 130 people and had an amazing time whilst doing so. It’s been such an awesome change and I can’t wait to get back and pick up where it all left off!

So with a little less financial pressure I could focus more time to my training. I worked with my long time coach Adrian Armstrong again and also Malcolm Toeaina from Centurion Athletic Performance.  I want to say a massive thank you to both of these guys, this year I am the fittest I have ever been without a doubt and without them I would be nowhere!

So onto the riding, after 2016, the other aspect of my life I wanted to make easier was the sponsorship side of things. With a solid season behind me I was lucky enough to secure a ride on the FS Patrol Funn team.  With UK based World Cup racer Harry Molloy managing the team and Italian National Champion Veronika Widmann as a team mate, I was excited to get into things and take my racing to the next level.

3…2…1 Sunburnt
Ready to go and do bikes!
The trails in Lousa were siiiick!

The first time we met as a team was in Lousa, Portugal for pre season testing, it was an awesome week staying at Wheelers Mtb holidays and getting stuck in to some fantastic trails, I felt good at the end of the week and ready to hit the first World Cup in Lourdes, France with momentum.

After our testing wrapped up we headed across Spain to Lourdes for the first World Cup of 2017. My first time in Lourdes, I struggled to find the speed required to get properly up to pace on such an intense track in a short amount of time and struggled with suspension set-up. Nevertheless I pushed on and felt ready to go for qualifying, unfortunately 25 seconds out of the gate I hit a rock hard and detonated my front wheel.  To go all the way to Europe for one World Cup and have that happen was massively deflating (pun intended) and a shocking way to start the season.

I’ve always got time for jumps!
Rocks everywhere was the theme for Lourdes.

I headed home and jumped straight back into training and coaching to make the most of the 3 weeks I had before going back over. Fluid Lines continued to grow and I had some great training sessions, getting to come back between World Cups gave me a chance to evaluate the aspects that went well and what I needed to work on and to be able to round off my training gave my plenty of confidence heading back to Fort William, I knew it was a track I could ride fast and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.  On our arrival we saw there had been some much needed changes to the track and I felt like I had the speed to get myself back into contention for a top 40 overall placing.

Trackwalk was a wet and cold affair filled with midges….why do we keep going to Ft William again?
Fort William was a tough weekend.

Fort William is a rough and brutal track, the addition of a new woods section making things even harder. I pushed hard in my qualifying run but was still struggling with suspension set-up and in addition to this I had a big old crash in the woods section leaving me 0-2 for the season. Leogang was next up after a massive drive down from Fort William the previous weekend. Why the UCI schedule such a big gap and then have two World cups in consecutive weekends always amazes me. Anyways, we were greeted with a very different track in Leogang from Fort William, another one that I enjoyed riding; I had a solid practice session and was looking forward to getting myself on the board! When qualifying came around I had a great start to the race, feeling good out of the gate hitting the lines I picked out and then my fork pushed through a rut and down I went… 0-3.

Going mach chicken on the wall!
Practicing with Harry in tow.

By this point I was ready to race something other than a World Cup and the European cup in Schladming was the answer. While I have enjoyed riding in Fort William and Leogang, I LOVE Schladming, it is just one of those tracks that are awesome from start to finish and I thought this was going to be good weekend!

 

Look out for part 2 in couple of days!

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