Fort William. What a venue, and what a track! Everyone was so relieved to see the good weather forecast for the BDS weekend. It was such a disaster last year for both the BDS and the World Cup! Jack and Will headed up there on Wednesday, with a plan of getting two solid days in on the track before the event started. George was joining them on Friday morning but poor Jamie couldn’t escape work, so had to wait until Saturday morning to get going on the track.
Throughout Thursday and Friday Jack, Will and George did a load of runs testing various settings and lines out. Fort William is such a physically demanding track, it takes a long time to learn how to ride it to your best ability. If you work too hard at the top and waste too much energy being too aggressive, you’ll struggle further down the track in the rough stuff and pedalling sections. However, if you go too easy at the top and save too much energy, you’ll be too far behind by the time you start pushing hard at the bottom. Very few people have the strength and fitness to go 100% from top to bottom on the brutal 5-minute track.The motorway section at the bottom had been revamped again this year, and as you see the lads were having some fun on the jumps!
By the end of the day on Friday the guys were starting to feel comfortable on the track and felt like they had good line choice moving into the race on Sunday. The more they rode the track, the faster they felt they could go and the timed testing they were doing agreed with this. The lads also did a full run on the GoPro for the BDS team to use as their course preview. Here is that run – watch out for some dual action down the motorway!
On Saturday morning the lads worked together to get their lines perfected, and also help Jamie get up to speed who had only just arrived. The Nicolai Geometron DH bikes had been feeling incredible all weekend. The long, low, slack frames were just eating up the rough track making the ride feel so stable for the lads. They were also using the longer travel option on the rear end, upping the travel to 195mm from 180mm, which resulted in the bikes feeling even better on the rough stuff! Timed practice at the end of Saturday went well for Jack. He had a good smooth run and did a 4:52 and was sat in 5th which he was really pleased about. George made a couple of mistakes and did a 4:57, Will did a 5:12 on a steady run and Jamie punctured. The lads were feeling good going into racing!
Jack and Will woke up tired on Sunday. After three full days riding and 16 runs, they were starting to feel it. However it had been a very beneficial weekend moving towards the world cup in three weeks time, so even if they were a bit tired for the race, it had been worth it. All the lads did two practice runs in the morning before qualifying and were feeling good and ready to smash it. They had all decided to take it easy in qualifying to save everything they could for the race run!
Jack was feeling pretty exhausted going up for his run and wasn’t excited to do a full run before his race run later that afternoon. He did his best to keep it smooth and didn’t pedal too hard to save energy. He was super surprised to go four seconds faster than his timed practice run with a 4:48 and qualified 6th! George snapped his gear cable and did a 5:00 dead for 29th with lots left in the tank! Will went steady to save his energy for race run and went three seconds quicker than timed training with a 5:09. Jamie crashed at the top in loose corners so was saving his good run for the race!
Race time and Jamie was first up in expert. On a flier by the time he reached the deer gate which is halfway point, he was pushing hard! Unfortunately, he punctured along one of the rough straights just below due to badly dinging his rim. He pushed on as hard as he could and after riding for another two minutes, at the split which was at the start of the motorway, he was amazingly still sat in 5th only two seconds off the pace. The motorway with a puncture is no fun, and losing a further 10 seconds before the finish he ended up with a 5:19 and 20th place. The win was his for the taking we're so gutted he was done by a puncture!
Will next and with a good run he took another nine seconds off his time to do a 5:00 and finish in 33rd place. Over the course of the weekend we feel he’s done great foundation work moving towards the world cup and he knows what he has to change to get that extra 10 seconds he’s looking for. He’s always struggled at Fort William with bad arm pump in full runs, but on board his Nicolai this year he’s been fine, so he knows he can push even harder at the world cup in the rough stuff and make up time he knows he lost on Sunday playing certain sections safe.
George didn't have the run he was hoping for. His time was still pretty good coming in with a 4:54, but he felt he had more to give and left time on the hill. He's heading back up there before the world cup to make sure he's got his lines right and his head in the right place! Jack was feeling much better at the top before his race run after a long rest throughout the afternoon. After a good warm up he was ready to give it everything and see if he could improve on his qualifying time and stay in the top 10. He was aiming to go three seconds faster and do a 4:45. He had a great run and put everything together how he’d planned, apart from going too big into the finish arena and doing a huge nose dive in front of the crowd! No matter, as he finished with the time he wanted, a 4:45 and 8th place! He was so happy to be back in the mix after the races in April were such a disappointment due to injury.
All round it was a great weekend at Fort William. Great weather and great racing! We're gutted Jamie got a flat tyre in his race run, but he'll be back with a bang for Bala in two weeks as he takes on the next BDS round with the rest of the team! A huge thanks again to all of our great sponsors!
Nicolai, Mojo Suspension, ONeal, Schwalbe, Pacenti Cycle Design, Clif Bar, Hope Technology, MRP, Works Components, Ticky Bikes, Dirt Factory, Stoneswood Construction, East Coast Air Brush, DNA Sports Performance, Rock Guardz, Mango Bikes, Mark Davies, Adey Bennett