Fort William and Round 2 of the BDS was the destination for Joe, Meghan and Ellen this weekend. All three of them had never been there before so they decided to go early and make good use of the extra practice day on the Friday.
Anyone that has ever driven there from down south knows how long the drive is. 10 hours but the scenery for the last part of the journey makes it worthwhile. Driving though Glencoe is unreal.
Friday morning as the pits were starting to take shape the weather gods were shining at a sunny Fort William. It was just like a mini World Cup with over 100 pro riders getting in practice for the upcoming World Cup. Talk in the pits was “29er’s” but the team were there to ride and race not worry about wheel size.
Going up on the gondola the enormity of the track soon dawned upon you. The motorway section with its massive tables and ‘Tissot’ jump that launched you into space. The woods section was hidden from view so that surprise was to come, and then the steep rocky track came into full focus. Snow on the top of mountains, wind blowing we had arrived at the top.
The 1st run down was a sighting lap, roll down, stop, check out the features and continue. It all looked so simple but this was a harsh track. Ellen soon found out how harsh after missing a line and going straight over the bars and meeting the rock for the 1st time. She brushed herself off and carried on.
Meghan, who loves jumping, had her eye on the motorway section. She sent the jumps with little effort but cased the last jump and went over the bars with a big crash. Like Ellen she just got up and got on with it.
The track was so dry and dusty the top section had to be treated with care or you were off. Fast was an understatement but the rocks were rough and the more you rode them they seemed to just grow in size.
Friday practice done and the real business was to start the next day.
Saturday was the official practice day and the team went up early to make good use of the hour before the elite riders were let loose. It was still dry but rain was in the air. The wood section for now was fresh loam, but roots were appearing and every run got harder to hold a line in there. Joe was having a battle with the motorway jumps; an early near over the bars didn’t help the confidence so he left them for now.
Saturday practice went well and the team were happy. No punctures or mechanicals helped progress. Late afternoon the rain came, this helped with the top section but the woods were slippery. Luckily the team had finished their runs before it really came down. The rain continued hard overnight. How would the track be in the morning?
Sunday race day and it was damp, windy but the sun was out. The track was running fast and apart from the woods it was perfect. One practice run completed to dial the final lines and it was then time for seeding and racing.
I had not done a full run in practice so it was now time to see how it would feel. The beeps set me off and I departed the gate trying not to expel all my energy in the top section. Into the 1st rock garden and it was feeling good, as I was nearing ‘Deer gate’ the body was starting to feel it but there was no stopping at the usual rest point. Entering the next section it was greasy and my body was now screaming at me. The woods were round the next corner and it was a mud fest, slipping my way down to the exit drop I missed the turn. As I descended down the roller coaster drop I relaxed and felt a great sense of relief. It was the final push to the end and with only the motorway section I was feeling good. The finish was in sight and I crossed the line in 8th. What a feeling to actually complete a full run at this famous track.
Time to check the bike over and chill before my race run. The time flew by and it was time to go up. The wind was howling. Leaving the start hut the wind had an instant impact nearly blowing me off the board walk. Keeping the wheels firmly on the floor I worked my way through the drops and rocks. Although I missed a few lines the energy level was good. A couple of near OTB’s but it was still all good. Into the woods and again I missed the exit. Hazard hoofer sent and it was into the XC section, even managing a few pedals. The finish was in site a last big push and I had crossed the line faster than seeding. I was overjoyed and relieved. What a weekend, no punctures, no crashes and the Orange 324 never missed a beat.