Sunday, June 04, 2006

UCI MTB World Cup at Ft William and ride report.

Dangerous Dave goes to see the UCI Mountain Biking World Cup – and rides FT Bill too.

Ok, so Friday afternoon, we set off North from Leicester at 1:00pm, and after hitting every traffic jam between there and Glasgow, and hitting an average speed of 20mph, with the odd Clio 2.0L Sport fuelled 140mph, we roll up to our caravan site at near 11, to find the rest of the raveracing troop has buggered off to the pub… so we quickly lob all of our kit in the Caravans, and head out to vibrant night life that is Ft William during WC season….

We wake up Saturday morning to the splitting headache of drinking far too much Stella and mixing it with unknown amounts of Vodka and various alcohol…. Looking outside we are greeted by grey, grey, and well, a dash of green: it’s pissing it down. Nice.

Bundling into the back of Beef’s van, we head up to the Nevis range to find all the top Dh guns well into the days practise runs. Your initial reaction to the size of the course is just how big it is. You can just about make the top where the Gondola station drops you off, and the tiny dots of the pros blating down at warp factor 10!

We walked half way up to this rock garden section, and watched dumbstruck for ages as the big guys like Rennie and Peaty just straight lined the whole thing…

Eventually we decided we’d get a Gondola up to the top, where there is a real nice café and oh yea, a bar!!! A few pints later (we decided the best antidote to a hang over was to mask it with yet more alcohol;) ) we moved off to check out the gruelling top section of the course.

To say that the DVD’s do it no justice is an understatement, it’s simply huge, it really boggles the mind that you are standing at the top of the course, and that way down there were you can just about make out the finish line arena is where it finishes…. Epic Dh stuff…

DH practice finished so we wandered off to check out some trials action, and some WC Clas s XC mens racing… Now I’m not sure whether you normally cheer the riders or not, but we were the only ones! Rave Racing, as usual, was THE loudest bunch of the entire day. (And I’m afraid we did boo the riders who walked the DH section! They obviously forgot to bring the mountain bike and were riding the road bike instead, or summat…)

After gulping down our excellent Morrisons Roast Chicken, it was time to hit the streets again… and boy did we feel it Sunday morning!

You could just feel the buzz of the atmosphere as you rolled into the Venue, all hopes were raised high for another brit win after Peaty’s fantastic victory last year….

Nathan Rennie was looking on top form, powering his way and punishing the rocks into submission, claiming the hotseat for what seemed like forever, until Cedric Came hurtling down the hill, putting in the fastest split time of the day at the bottom section… It seemed like the crown was yet again going to the flamboyant Frenchman (you could tell if someone was going to beat the time or not by the time on the clock when they hit the tissot jump) until Sam Hill came flying over it a second before Cedric.. The crow went absolutely crazy, he may not be British, but everyone loves his mad cornering skills and he is just one of those people that looks cool on a bike…. He doesn’t disappoint and takes the win with a second to spare….

Sunday night was spent rubbing shoulders with all the pros, and you know what? They are all just normal, easy going guys. Just they have a hell of a lot of talent and get payed for what they enjoy!

We turn up Monday morning to a light drizzle and the place looking like ghost town… you’d never have thought that there was several thousand people around yesterday and any company that was worth it’s space there.

Having the Gondola is a true god send, no damaged bike, no handlebar jabbing your butt as per normal uplifts, only the thought running through your mind: “shit, did I do my seat collar up tight enough”

The start is a start ramp: this course means business, no dodgey grass patch or fireroad crossing seen at most DH courses. “Holy crap I’m riding the World Cup course!”

All weekend the Rave Racers were trying to explain just how much pain your arms get from arm pump. Remember Coedy? Get any arm pump there? THAT WASN’T ARM PUMP.
You start off on a fairly smooth bit, though it has a lot of loose rocks about, you think to yourself, yeah, my 8” forks are working very well, and the 2.5” tyres are doing a good job of sorting everything else out. Then it all starts. First you realise just how big the rocks are, just how big the ruts are, as you ride into ruts that swallow half your wheel. Then you start noticing that your wheel is being bounced in all directions, mostly opposite ones to the course, then it hits you “OW, OW, EH, AH, OH, AUGH!”

You’re braking to stop it from getting out of control, but braking hurts your arms more. So you let go of the brakes for one second and you accelerate soo quickly you haul the anchors back on again….. We stopped halfway down, and no joke, I peeled my hands off the bars, and the fingers wouldn’t move! Not good.

By my 3rd run however, I was used to the course, and was actually pedalling over stuff, and just letting go of the brakes, jumping everything in sight, loving every minute of it, some aggressive rock music helped a hell of a lot, just made me attack everything. Was great. I did have to stop cos I thought I was going so f ast and mad at everything it was only a time before the adrenaline got to my head and hooned it off the edge of Ft William to Australia or some place… once the party at the top starts, it gets a bit mushy, unfortunaltly the middle section used for the WC has been tapped off and you have to ride down the old switchbacks… which was the walk up track yesterday. I’ll say no more.

After a bit of drifting and sliding in the gloopy shit, you blast across a fire road and drop into a wooded section with some more craters to gobble your front wheel…then some lovely rooty rocky turns and into another rock garden that was almost impossible to get through cleanly.

After catching your breath the fun starts… time for the “Motorway section”.

Basically a whole 2minutes of solid jumping and flat out pedalling to the finish. Yup the Tissot/Redbull jump really is that big! And the bank you come down after is steep as hell, almost vertical, proper tyres buzzing cos they are not quite in contact with the ground moment!

Sum up:
Sam Hill really is the fastest man on a bike around a corner.
Fort William is knarly as f—k
I want to go back – now!


Farqui said...

It sounds like you had a thoroughly enjoyable time up there, apart from the journey ;)

I've been up Ben (ooh-er misses) Nevis long before any cycling courses were created and can confirm that it's got some well steep bits. To ride down 'em must be great fun, I assume that the Gemini was the weapon of choice ?

dozer said...

'as a hatter!' We all have to go up and have a look some time!

daahnhilla said...

The Gemini performed flawlessly, the new BoXXer World cups just fitted did a good job, but I came to realise, even if you had those 2k FOes forks jobbies, you'd still get arm pump unless you went a million mph down there and just jumped over everything - well I'm no Cedric Gracia I'm afraid!

Scotland is definatly worth a trip. Prob best to do as a week, as there are soo many trails (and it's a helluva long way).

All the trails are top class, with most Xc courses bordering on having the technicality of most Dh courses in Shropshire and Wales....

Farqui said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Farqui said...

Now that last bit has got me thinking, "will my 5Spot finally find some terrain up there that too much for her ?" Nah surely not.

For the rider ? "YES", by the sound of it