A couple of words used when the good times are going down.
Also, a couple of words used to describe my 8 year old the night before the third round of the Woodland Riders Racing Winter DH Series last weekend. It wasn’t good times that were down in our house that night…more like carrots coming up.
And she didn’t even eat any carrots.
Anyway, with a race on the next day I have to admit to letting the wife sort it out as I really didn’t want to risk catching something and blowing chunks over a marshall mid-run the next day as I’d been looking forward to the race all week! I say looking forward to it (I was), but the weather forecast for heavy rain all day was a bit concerning. Still, with the option of a ‘sick’ day on the bike…or a day being sick, it was a no-brainer.
Arriving at ‘Chipshop’ around 8.45am to get registered I headed to the track to get my walk on. The track being raced today, ‘Fry Hard (With a vengeance)’, was a mash up of ‘The Man’ track at the top into the ‘Deer track’ in the middle and joining the bottom of ‘Gnarkill’ for the finale. At the top, I was greeted by the ‘shiny’ new start ramp built just a few days before which led straight into a small gap jump. With no time to get any speed up, a good ‘pop’ off the ramp was needed to get a smooth start to the run. Another wooden feature followed, a small ladder drop, into a pretty much bermless righthander, quickly followed with a wheel-sized dip/rise and on to an open series of corners down to the first fireroad crossing. After that, it got rooty, off camber and steep through the trees and sometimes a combo of all three. A steep roll-in further down, thanks to all the recent rain, was essentially a mud slide but a decent berm at the bottom caught any wayward riders sending them back on course into more roots manoeuvres. After dealing with that, a final few pedal strokes and rutted turns got everyone to the finish after a minute thirtyish of ‘staying on your bike Danny!’ impressions.
After the track walk, things were looking slippery but as is often the case, once you get the wheels going, there is usually a lot more grip than you initially think. For me, the trickiest part of the track was that small gap jump right off the start. With little speed gained off the start ramp due to the short distance, a good jump technique was a huge benefit to ‘pop it like it’s hot’. I’m an average jumper, who tends to rely on speed to clear gaps so I tended to ‘pop it like it’s not’ resulting in some harsh landings and a not really carrying much speed into the top section. Five full practice runs were smashed in. It would have been six or maybe seven but on run six, my shifter suddenly became looser than an off camera 50/1 shoot so I quickly bailed out at the first fire road crossing, borrowed an allen key off the on-site mechanic (cheers for that) and pushed back to the top, sneaking in just before practice closed. Looking to get another smooth run in – start ramp, gap, ladder drop, flat berm (now with a handy enough rut carved in) and then my front wheel went on a root in the wheel-sized dip/rise, sending me earthbound for a little lie down in the Devon dirt. After increasing confidence and speed through the first five runs, practice ended on a bit of a downer. Literally.
A change of jersey, out came the goggles and into the race runs and as always, two timed runs with your fastest time counting. That forecast heavy rain never showed up thankfully and the track was now quite rutted in places from the middle third down. I went early in the Masters cat and a had a pretty good run with no major issues, breaking the timing beam with a time of 1:17:730, good for 9th after the first runs. Although no major mistakes, I was sure I could knock some time off in the top and bottom third of the track so was looking forward to run 2. Unfortunately, my lack of pop off that first gap jump came to bite me on the ass with a slowish snap off the ramp, meaning an attempt to pop off the gap led to an accidental lean to the left on landing, towards a tree and needing a handful of brake to avoid smacking into it. After that, a couple of silly little mistakes happened in the top third and I knew the second run wasn’t going to be any quicker, so backed off a little and just enjoyed the rest of the ride, finishing with a time of 1:20:052. With a few riders putting in quicker second runs, my first run ended up 12th fastest in a smaller than usual turn out in Masters of just 24 riders.
Checking Roots and Rain after is always interesting to see how you stack up against mates, your ‘nemeses’ and how far off the overall fastest time you were, and it would seem I was a little off the pace this time, being 26% off the winning time when I’ve been about 17% in the first two rounds. Bothered?….naahhhhh…just another fun day on the bike and despite the conditions, the track was awesome.
I’ve got to say that I’ve really been enjoying doing the Woodland Riders Winter DH Series; the atmosphere is always great and the tracks are fun to ride whatever the weather, especially at Chipshop where they’re more ‘natural’ than Gawton, although shorter and not as steep. The thing that impresses me most, is the turn-out though. Even though the shitty weather forecast seemed to put a lot of riders off coming on the day, there were still 100ish riders battling the mud, and I’m in awe of the ‘kids’ who turn up and send it down some pretty gnarly terrain with no fear. Looking at some of their times, faster than many ‘grown-ups’ in some cases, there’s some seriously impressive talent brewing right there!
Round 3 is on the 4 March and switches back to Gawton, but does unfortunately clash with the first round of the Welsh Gravity Enduro Series, which I might be doing. Either way, it’ll be a race day. And race days are ‘sick’.
Fortunately on this race day, I wasn’t.