Just returned from one of the best events of the year, the Fort William 6 hour downhill endurance race.
It all started with a Le Mans style start, where riders run half a mile up a hill to find their bikes. Then its a further 15 minutes of climbing on the bikes, to split the men from the boys, until we finally reach the lower 1/4 of the DH course. From there on its 6 hours of downhill racing. Well that’s if you don’t break yourself or even worse your bike!
Being in the senior men’s category amongst some of the latest elite riders, I was hoping for a possible top ten. My race plan was to set off steady on the run and once on the bike try and pull a few places back so that by the time I’m onto the first DH run I’m somewhere near the top group.
So as the start pistol fired I somehow found myself in third, the pace wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, maybe they knew something I didn’t! They did! By the time I got to my bike I was amazed by how steep the climb looked and how bad my downhill bike was at going up hill! 1st and 2nd positions were on a mission to kill each other so I left them to it and dropped back a few places into 5th to try and catch a few breaths, whilst keeping the front few in my sights.
The downhill track couldn’t have come any sooner, but it was no rest. Fort William is one of the roughest tracks on the World cup circuit and it eats up tired arms and legs for fun. Luckily I wasn’t alone as we all made our way down like a bunch of first time mountain bikers. Over the next six hours I managed to complete 15 runs back to back without any stops or mechanicals. To put it into reality and average UK downhiller would need at least one stop half way down the track to rest his/her arms due to the relentless pounding from the rocks and drops. Its high speed, its steep and its as rough as a bears arse from top to bottom.
By half time there were riders scattered everywhere with broken bikes, punctures and broken collarbones, it was like a war zone!
At this point I could no longer feel my arms at all and the only thing that was griping me to the bike was my clip in pedals and my knees clamping like a vice to either side of the saddle. It was pain like id never experienced before!
Slowly but surely I was making progress and before I knew it I was in a podium position. The front two were still trying to kill each other within view and I just left them to it knowing that eventually one of them would come unstuck.
My predictions were right! On the penultimate lap one of them destroyed their back wheels and the bike stopped in its tracks leaving the door wide open for me to cruise past and into 2nd place, “thank you!”
With only one more run to do I was never going to make up the time to compete for the number one spot and I’m not the kind of sportsman that would pray for them to have a serious mechanical or injury but funnily enough it did start raining!
One run later I crossed the finish line to take 2nd place. I was an amazed and broken man, what an event!
Not far behind me (not that I was constantly checking over my shoulder) was my team mate Rachael Walker, who dominated the Senior girls race from start to finish having completed 13 runs in the 6 hours. A great achievement for her considering it was her first event back after a broken wrist.
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Roll on the next race!
Also check out my Olympic torch shot from Eastenders, not exactly a stunt day, but it will pay for all my future pains.
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