Biggest trip of the year has gone by in a blur, time does go fast when you’re having fun, racing bikes and driving miles to nonstop – Rock and Roll! Surprised I’ve got any brains left to write this. I got my truck loaded up and sat nav set to Ae forest via the weekend’s team food shop, glad I don’t have to pick up the bill for that.
Orange had sorted me out a new frame before these races and as soon as I got to the race Ben took it off me and started building the beast up for attack. Ae forest had made a good job of the track with a mix of stuff and it was all pretty fast and fun with jumps, berms and some loose off camber turns out of the start which got blown out all weekend. Short track so it was full gas top to bottom, needed a perfect run to take the win. I seeded well then blew some turns on race run.
Team mate Jacob had to head back home after Ae forest national for school but Ben and I carried the party on to Glentress the next day. On the way over there we parked up on the mountains for the night, one of the many cool things about living the bus life out of the VD (team bus) is just parking up wherever and not having to worry about finding a hotel and everything you need is at arm’s length. Tweedlove festival was going on and the EWS round had just been there the same weekend as the national but loads of stuff was still going on the next week. I found a gym early morning got a session done there then dragged the number 69 machine out and raced some dual slalom. Best racing ever! I’d never done a dual before and always wanted too and it lived up to expectations. Ruairidh Cunnigham had built the track with some flat grass turns at the top then into pinned berms, doubles and a sender to flat before the finish which was a sketchy highlight. I got 2nd to Ruairidh so I left buzzing and wanting to build a track. Went out for dinner that night at a Italian restaurant in town and the banter started straight away with Ben asking if the waiter was from France but it didn’t take him long for him to get the joke and he was offering us shots at the bar and telling us how he was a gangster as we tried to haggle him down on the wine price.
A night in the car park campsite then we headed out to ride some of the stages from the enduro at the weekend. After a huge climb, messing around in a huge old reservoir, getting lost and snapping a mech we finally got to ride the downhill and for 6 minutes we were just laughing and blasting some of the best fresh cut loam turns you could dream up. After a feed at the trail centre cafe Ben had his sugar in him ready for the drive to the Fort. Such an amazing drive through the country mind blowing hills and it always makes me want to get back there when there’s no racing on and just go exploring. Traveling around all these places over the world and I’ve still not seen the half of what my own country has got!
We parked up in town so we could get shopping done the next morning and somewhere to get free Wifi, McDonalds car park it was for the evening then. We got the chick flick streaming from Netflix with the generator going outside charging the laptop. People were giving it a good stare as they went past in the drive through while we we’re pissing ourselves half cut on a bottle of red wine. Full on the road tour style and those are the memories that stay with me forever.
Wednesday is always jobs day – getting the food in, washing, pit setup etc. We got the washing in at a campsite down the road and cracked onto the race site to get setup, quite a while later we remembered we still hadn’t gone back to get the washing. I only had a wheel bag instead of a back pack so I set off looking like a ninja turtle, what was 10 mins in the tour bus took a lot longer in cruise mode on the bikes. Back in the day only the bottom jumps section at Fort Bill was called the “motorway” but this year it was pretty much a three laner top to bottom, there was no national speed limit on, this just balls to the wall.
Two of the biggest memories from the World Cup in Scotland is the midges and the fans, crazy how many there is of them. For Saturday there was bad weather reports and a chance the chairlift might have to shut early which meant a super early practice for everyone. Up at 5AM and going pinned on your bike at 6AM gets the system going! After 25th in qualifying I knew I could get more time off and did a track walk leaving me confident with what I had found for Sunday. First run on race day everything I had found worked out mint and I was on form for racing and put in my best run of the year. Closed up the time gap on the win from qualifying but finished 25th again.
Back on the road to Leogang for the next round. It’s a good time on the road with the team some antics go on like danger brews at 80mph and boiling the pasta gets pretty wild when the pot holes happen. We’ve got young Jacob on the team so all the pop songs were on and “Selfie” was the anthem for that trip, should I have said that? It was on his iPod honest. Good to have a young junior on the team to take the blame for the shit songs.
As soon as we got to Leogang I blasted a gym session in and it’s something different to the view at the home gym with mountains every way you look. The next few days are just chill out days, chatting to the local talent, pit setup, that kind of stuff…
Game time Thursday. Track looked sick – shame I was feeling that way as well. Being ill wasn’t going to stop me cutting up some off camber turns though. Woke-up practice day with a head full of mushy peas riding down the track with my eyes rattling in my head. I got a missed call from my mate back home then the next thing he was at the pits totally unexpected. Kind of thing you expect at Scotland but Austria is a bit different, what a lad. Qualifying stole some energy from me for 39th so I had a snooze which lead to sleeping through track walk. Practice run before finals I had no energy and landed off the steep steps near the bottom my body gave way and sent me tomahawking into the berm at the bottom. I battled on doing what I could for finals and finished 43rd. Not a good result but racing was so close all week and I was 9.8 seconds from the win with the flu so just had to look at it like that. Can only do what you can on the day and I made the most of it. Josh Bryce took his first World Cup win that day so needless to say there was going to be no bar the next day. That lived up to expectations and fixed my cold.
We got the chance to ride Schladming the next week. Me and Ben hadn’t been there since 2009 and Jacob had never been there, very excite lots of fun memories from that place. There was an IXS race on the next weekend so loads of the World Cup field was there riding for the week. Doesn’t matter what they do with that place it can’t go wrong it’s got the sickest dirt and perfect gradient every turn is pinned and loose. Last run of the week we had a coffee at the top which started the world’s fastest 40 men (and woman) train and a lot of blown out turns. Cheers Schladming you’re a good’un – no better way to end a trip. On the way home we were trying to make it into Luxembourg on the fuel vapours and ran out just before the border. What do you call an Englishman, Irishman and Welshman ran out of fuel in a truck? Dodgy. There was probably a couple of Romanians on the back axle by that point as well. #UKIP.
I had such a good two weeks with my team it was probably the best 2 weeks of my life, riding some of the best tracks in the world as well. My first World Cup was in fort William and I got 17th with a crash and this made me think I can do better than I thought, it was the best race I have ever done and I learnt a lot from that race. The weekend after Fort Bill we headed over to Leogang, I was really looking forward to this race because it was my first big race overseas, the track was good but pedally so I didn’t think I would have done very well at this race but in qualifying I got 13th and in finals I got 11th with a mechanical. I was happy with my result but knew I could have done better and been right in the mix if not for the mechanical, it was an unreal weekend none the less. After Leogang we headed off to Schladming which I heard from Ben the man himself that it is the best track in the world, when I rode the track that day I couldn’t believe how good it really was and I would recommend it to everyone to go and ride there! After that was all done and dusted we headed home, I would like to thanks everyone who has helped me get this far.
It looks like the boys had a great time. Here’s the gallery of bike-related, and not-so-bike-related, snaps from their travels:
Open Gallery32 Images
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Twitter: @OrangeDirtTeam / @harryheathtalk / @benreidy / @jacobdickson19
Instagram: @OrangeDirtWorldTeam / @harryheathsnap / @benreidy / @jacob_dickson63