even less happening on the racing front for me this summer, mostly brought about by a collision of apathy regarding done-it-all-before events/faces, lingering illness/slowness/weakness and a utterly crushing work year, which has crippled any intention i might have had of doing anything about the lingering illness/slowness/weakness. i did do a running race, though, which was fun.
thankfully someone with more sense than i managed to talk me back into the annual pilgrimage to fort william last weekend for a brief interlude of downhilliness.
the format is simple: you have six hours to cram in as many runs of the world cup downhill course (thankfully sans massive gap jump) as you can. up in the gondola, down on the track; up on the gondola, down on the track; and so on. it starts with a le mans sprint (and if you thought they were bad at 24 hour races, then try doing it on a narrow track wearing a full face helmet and armour, shoulder to shoulder with 150 pushing, shoving, giggling blokes), then 1.5 miles uphill on fireroad to join the course (again, hard work on a downhill bike but more fun if you discover that actually you're not as unfit as you thought you were and pass a lot of people), a similarly nose to tail ride down the lower section and then it begins in earnest.
the course is... interesting. fast and swoopy, rough and rocky, tight and rooty, smooth and jumpy by turns. there are high penalties for failure, not least because speed is your friend and the course is hewn out of the side of britain's biggest mountain; hitting it when speed ceases to be your friend and instead is just propulsion, is painful. it's scary enough to cause uncontrollable nervous giggling on both sides of the car when first glimpsed on the drive in but it's just rideable enough that there were still folk there racing on hardtails. impressive. you have to love the british...
needless to say we had a huge amount of fun. the no fuss team excelled themselves once again with the most chilled out atmosphere and even secured the services of the sunshine; the top of the ben was visible almost all weekend, thus dispelling the myth that it's a figment of the tourist board's imagination, and even the midge had the decency to only swarm twice daily. there was spirited heckling, airhorn and trackside flashing by a group who'd travelled all the way from devon to support their riders, good natured jibing in the lifts, and a lovely hour spent red-flagged on top of the mountain (hope the chap they were retrieving is okay), chatting and chilling and soaking up the view. ten runs was enough to fetch second place two minutes behind super smooth angela coates; i was mostly pleased to notice a gradual embravening of the jumping reflex as the day wore on though.
we topped and tailed the racing with a decent amount of warm beer, charred meat products and needless burning of stuff ("to keep the midge away"), and we will of course be back next year for more because if you can actually ride, rather than just pedal your bike around in circles, it's one of, if not the best event in the country.
things to remember for next time:
try and do a little bit more practising of the gnar in the intervening 364 days. simply hopping on a big bike once a year and hoping you'll remember how it works is not good enough, no matter how good the bike is (and it was very good; big thanks to upgrade for the loan of the pivot phoenix skill enabler).
gnocchi is great pre-race brunch food; all races should start at tea time.
buy more armour.