The final PMBA round of the year was at Grizedale forest. A place that so far, I have not got on with whether it be punctures, crashes or generally riding like I should be back on stabilisers.
We got to the venue on the Saturday to ride stages 4 & 5. The other 3 were used by walkers so we weren’t able to practise them until Sunday. It had rained bucket loads all week up in the lakes so the two stages were very wet. This meant that if you stuck in the rivers running down the tracks, there was shed loads of grip. Grizedale is known for its technical stages and they sure were that. We managed to get a good few runs of both stages on the Saturday and finished agreeing that rain that night was what we needed. Typically, when you want one sort of weather, another will be what you get!
On Sunday morning we were greeted with beautiful sunshine. I got up to stage 1 before it had opened so I had a little wander down the top half. This was a new stage for the event and it did not disappoint. Flat out rocky singletrack with a couple of decent drops and some deer gates to navigate through but nothing major, just fast!! As I got through that stage and started pedaling up to stage 2 I realised my gears just weren’t shifting right, going from nothing to jumping a handful in one go. With this and the fact I didn’t have a wet tyre on with what were the wettest stages we’ve had all year, I came back to the van having had a shocking practice. No crashes but no speed and having to nurse my gear changing. I managed to borrow a wet front tyre off a mate and put that on but we couldn’t get the gears shifting no matter how hard we tried with the limited time we had. So I headed out thinking just get round safe and think about scoring points for the overall. Stage one couldn’t have gone any better considering I was stuck in a single gear but felt smooth. I was pretty buzzing at the bottom.
Heading up to stage 2 I felt confident that I could put together a safe and solid ride. Stage 2 started brilliantly I hit all the lines and entered the final part knowing I was on a good one then my luck got even worse! Annoyingly, some walkers had got on the track and had their dog off it’s lead. It bolted across the track in front of me with its owners screaming and I slammed on to avoid it! This launched me over the bars and down the muddy track. I quickly jumped up, in a complete daze, got on my bike and finished the stage completely shocked by what had just happened. Being in the last group of riders there wasn’t really an option of a rerun so I checked the bike over and made my way up to the 3rd stage.
The rest of the stages went without incident but I was pretty sore and gear changing was pretty much none existent, there was no speed or fluidity. I got back to the finish and was told I’d finished in 11th. I was pretty disappointed with how my day had gone but 11th was OK on points and put me in 8th overall for the year. I was hoping for a bit higher but it’s only my second year racing and it’s been a huge improvement from last season, scoring twice as many points and really knocking on the door for my first podium. Big lessons have been learnt and I’m really looking forward to next year. Massive thanks goes to the guys at Blazing Saddles for having my back and can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us as a team!!
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