This would be my first race of 2017 after the most riding and prep I have ever done over winter. Excitement was high and my nerves even more so. My challenge was to keep calm and relaxed. It’s always good to start off the race weekend with friends, food and giggles. I think the most popular checks come Saturday morning were weather reports and tyre choice. We picked the weather report that looked most favourable and I was lazy and kept my good ol’ Valley mud-loving tyres on.
After a fun filled practice day in the sun I was feeling confident going into race day. Fort William presented us with a good mixture of stages each with its own challenges. Stage one went super smooth for me. It was a mixture of the DH track and some fast flowy trail centre turns. Great fun confidence boosting stage to start the race with!
The second stage was more of an endurance challenge for me. It weaved its way down the XC Worlds Champs track for a good eight minutes. Fitness and cornering were key here and my tyres were not loving the sandy rocky trail centre hard pack. However, my race day stage time was a huge 48 seconds faster than the same stage from the previous year, I’m pretty chuffed with this, fitter than last year! By this time the weather had closed in and a continuous drizzle began. My two layers of FINDRA kept my temperature steady – no damp cold shivers for me!
Stage three had to be my favourite of this race. This was the revamped Blue Crane/Ridge Run track with a good mixture of rocks, roots, drops, mud (all the fun stuff!) plus a couple of cheeky sprint climbs! After 600 plus wheels had descended on it on practise day my mud loving tyres finally had some work to do! After hitting some remembered high lines and a couple of stalls in a sticky rut I was happy with my race run.
Then there was stage four – part of me just wanted to get this stage over and done with having tri-podded down a rut within a sloppy rut the previous day. Another hopeful part of me thought maybe it had changed overnight and was now ridable! The first half went well, skipping and splashing through the slop but as soon as the steep crevasse of a rut began my feet were off and the sliding began. This stage was a bit of a survival one for me with a big over the bars moment and I was relieved most other riders were the same. Grins and high fives all round at the bottom! Coming forth in this stage was a surprise as well.
Stage five was of similar style to the first. A nice mix of the DH again, some gondola red route and some of the 4X track. My aim for this stage was to keep it all smooth and flowing and after a slight bumble of a mistake over the 4X rock garden the race was finished!
The stages and tracks at Fort ‘Bill had worked us all hard but were full of fun! Having ridden my bike all through winter and having gained some much needed upper body strength my racing has become more controlled, confident and fun. I’m over the moon with my 6th place and only 16 seconds behind 5th. I’m finally in sniffing distance of the fast ladies at the top of the SES! It was awesome to see even more women racing at this round – our field is getting stronger! Bring on round two at Pitfichie!!