Possibly one of the hardest races in the World-6 hours to complete as many runs as you can on the Fort William World Cup track.
Iain “Ace” Woodley rode the event for the third time…on his hardtail…and survived…respect to you Ace…actually respect also to Jesse Wigman who came 4th overall on a hardtail! Bonkers!
Here’s his report:
Here we go again, 3rd time doing this race, the Scots are used to me now and the small Enduro family get together for 6 hours playtime on a World Cup race track. Quite a unique event, dont know of anything like this anywhere else in the world, and this year got harder. It was touch and go if i would get to race this year, and it all happened last minute, i was unprepared and under equipped for the event, although this was the trend with wideopenmag and Singletrack mag as well.
So i get to the Fort friday lunchtime and make straight for Off-beat bikes, my wheel bearings arent to good and i only have a spare front wheel, turns out the Dmr revolver hubs use a larger than normal bearing up front and Off beat didnt have any in stock, after a debate on how much play there was we decided it would be alright, only got to last 6 hours ! the fella in the photo is Jesse Wigman, he came 10th overall last year on a hardtail… Someone somewhere think about giving him a susser to race, i think he would win (if the bike stays in one bit). I also find out that the track has had a makeover and Jesse is racing hardtail again.
So Saturday morning, turn up, sign on, get the lift pass, build the bike up and hope i didnt leave anything important behind, up till now the sun has been out and it looks like a nice day, i go up for a practice run to check out the new sections of track, i have done over 40 runs in the past so know most of it from memory. I have said in the past it is not the most technical track, just brutal, they have changed that. There are some new drops into corners that you need to be spot on with, also the old hot spots are now bedrock and the braking bump sections have moved elsewhere, it is now a bit more technical and it’s raining. I roll down and find some new jumps on the motorway and get in my head which lines to pick.
SPARES SPARES SPARES, i had to travel light this year, the last 2 races this red box was full of spares and food, i had a spare wheelset ready to roll as well, if something goes wrong i will be out of the race.
Now when i signed on i spotted Ran from www.2pure.co.uk and slipped him a bottle of beer (i took a load up from exmoor for the jocks) and asked if he had any spare Cliff Bloks i could scrounge, i got lucky here, as i dumped my empty box in the pit area Ran came over with a bit more than a couple, i ended up with about a dozen Bloks (like jelly babies) and a dozen Cliff Bars so race food is now sorted, i was going to try and get someone to hand me a cheeseburger over the fence (others do it). So all sorted, seen the track, bike as good as it will get, no spares to fuss about with, time to park the bike for the start and have a burger.
The man from Orange, there is a heavy turnout from Orange and Hope (who back the event) think factory teams face off, but not factory race teams, both companies come out in force, management and welders the factory staff, and some bikes that maybe dont exist yet (no photos). When i saw this i thought it was fucked, all zip-tied up, that dont look good…. Trust me, next year everyone will be doing this if they can.
Why then ? well the start of the race is about 2 miles uphill on the fireroads to the big wallride where you cut in to the DH track, first rider to the gondola starts the 6 hour clock, so the race is on to get a good start, a xc race in full armour on a DH bike aint nice, Hope practice this and they all fly off the line, the zip ties then, well you lock out the travel and shock by tying the linkage, in effect a 225 hardtail for the ride up, when you cut in to go down there is a small jump straight away, all the ties (you hope) will snap on the first jump and away you go. I asked later in the bar, and yes it worked very well.
So the start, mass run for your bike then sprint up the hill, having a few months off the bike showed for me and i was quickly coughing up a lung and oozing flem, but was still about mid pack, i get to the bottom and join the queue which is always there at the start, it soon goes as bikes and people break, while waiting the first rescue heli came into land, and thats only the start done ! so get up and bang out the first run, Steve Larkin from Wideopen mag there, he got the snap and was front of the pack on the ride up, then he went over the first jump and the fork went bang, he had to rebuild it to carry on, great start this year, i also bailed out his mate Pete who had a shagged rear Q/R this was one of the few spares i had so Pete got going. I found out after the race that his brother works for Continental and was the one who gave me the tyres to test at this race, karma or what.
Run 2, bit foggy up top but went rather well, slight neck ache already. I ment to get a neck roll this year, i will be taking one next year, see if it helps with ache.
Run 3, really foggy up top, i make it as far as the first marshall point and join Matt (think thats his name) as we get held under a red flag.
There was a new timing system this year and run 3 was to cause problems. I log a 47 minute time for this run, and the race is stopped for 37 minutes with about 40 riders trapped on the track under a red flag, there has been a crash on the offbeat wall section of track, a very high speed section. The rider down is a K.O. and he is out cold for some time, this is treated as a serious head injury, another heli comes back. This is the nature of what we do, the medics dont muck about, it takes as long as it takes to carry out the injured rider, this is what we have paid for, medics if we get it wrong. The weather changes fast up top, from fairly clear in the photo to heavy fog and only being able to see about 20meters, we get cold and jump about to keep warm. Riders are stopped from getting on the gondola and anyone at the top will have a 15 second gap when we go again. Some riders on track try to walk down to the next marshall point, this is of course cheating, and we here over the radio whats going on. The restart is coming, we are told the times will be adjusted for those held under a red flag. GO GO GO, as Matt is quicker than me i jump on his wheel, i soon lose him in the fog, i get overtaken by 4 others before i get to the bottom. I break out the deep heat for my hands and the deep freeze for my neck.
Run 4, heavy fog at top, quite scary, cant judge where i am on track and whats coming, this clears by the deer crossing, things are starting to hurt. I enter the woods, down the bedrock, hard right, hairpin left and hit the 3 steps into the woods, and crash badly, being vocal the marshall above looks down to see if i am ok, i crawl off the line and drag the bike clear “Riders” incoming, i get up and straighten my bars as 2 go past, i get clearance to go from the marshall and head off.
Runs 5/6/7 on 5 and 6 i crash in the same place on the steps, i put this down to being to slow as i am really beaten up at this point, the deer crossing and entry to the woods are full of people who have to stop for a rest, i am not stopping unless i fall off, i need to keep the lap times down. In 7 i go round the steps, much slower but faster than a crash, the marshall above cracks a joke “thats the first time that nutters cleared it without crashing” my wife is stood next to him and points out the nutter is hers… Top marks to all the marshalls, without them there would be no racing, as this fella is parked in Midge central and is all netted up for the 6 hours. I get past the big wallride, over the small jump into the small narrow boulder gully and have a tankslapper and smash my right knee into the boulders, feels like i have broken 2 toes on my right foot, get some go again, i get to the bottom and try to find out how the other Hardtails are doing (4 of us) apart from being lapped by Jesse i havent seen the other 2.
I snapped this on the way up, this is the exit from the woods and the start of the motorway, the 2 riders trying to overtake are coming out of a rock/bouldergarden.
Run 8/9/10 while loading my bike for 8 i slip and my foot goes between the guide rails for the gondola, i feel nothing until i hit the first hip jump at the very top, it feels like my left ankle just broke, i nurse it down and feel every single hit, the slower you go up here the worse it gets, you have to attack the track, the faster you go the more rocks you skim over. Heavy fog and bodies everywhere, people are tired and getting lost and just going straight off the track, lot of people with flat tyres as well, again i put this down to going slower and whacking more rocks. I however am rimming the living piss out of the rear wheel, several times every run but the Test tyres Continental Der Kaiser’s are holding up to the abuse very well, so far they havent pinch flatted and have stayed on the rim (problems in past races with other tyres). I get to the bottom and hobble over the line, as i can still walk i decide i havent broken my ankle and go again. I have a good look on the way up and have a lump the size of half a golf ball on my ankle, fill up with cliff bars and try not to think about the pain. Run 9 was just pain all the way, hated it. i have time for one more, it’s 9.10 the gondola cut off is 9.30, anyone on there way up will get another run, i wont make it back down in time to get another run. i get a 10.26 for my last run, i dont care about this one, there are still loads of try-hards trying to get down for the last uplift, they dont know it’s shut, i just get out of there way, the pain is something else and the bikes not to good, i can feel the rattle in the wheel bearings, the drivetrain was screwed by run 8, it’s been stuck in 1 gear since then, i can only cruise the motorway cant spin up, this is really nice, i have it to myself and just areo-tuck to carry speed, come up to the off-beat wall, heavy braking, clear the crest let the brakes go and death grip the bars, i stay on through the rocks and tuck in to the arena. It’s over, i feel like crying and limp off.
The pain thing, on the first event film someone tries to describe the pain level, there is nothing else like it. The pain of arm pump, you get claw finger, neck ache, pain deep in your bodies core, my shoulders hurt, but not the outside muscles, it’s the bones the sockets that hurt, and NO it isnt much nicer on a susser, it’s not a hardtail thing. Then there is the chaffing, really bad this year, that granite sand gets everywhere, my inner thighs and scrote are red raw, it really hurts to fart, yeah if you cant dig pain dont do this race. The world cup race footage does not show how rough this track is, factor in 1249 laps where done in this race alone, the WC/SDA/BDA have all had there fun before we got to it super beat up, riders and bikes fail from the first lap with a steady stream of people bailing out. Strangely 4 hardtails started this year and we all lasted to the end.
A Chance encounter.
I packed up the car and headed up to the snowgoose for the awards, i went to the toilet to wash the sand and mud off myface. This fella walks in behind me. Now i had seen him racing and knew the face but couldnt place it, hate it when that happens, he talks to me ” your that nutter on the hardtail arent you” the voice i know the voice… “are you that nutter that does the TT racing”…. holy crap its Guy Martin, we have a chat, i cant belive what he does and think he is mad, he pretty much says the same about me, we are scared of each other and i am not the one who fireballs superbikes at 180mph, all the nutters race this race. check this out www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhA_U6LStQA
Run 3 comes back to haunt us, At the time we thought everything had been adjusted. However due to a new timing system and not having the software to make all the adjustments to a lot of times, No Fuss decided to run with the results as they stood and do a revised list later when it could be done. I dont think this affected the trophys too much and saw a reshuffle in overall ranking. I can say i am slightly pissed at that, but i can see that they couldnt sort it out there and then, a manual recalculation of 40 or so times, then reshuffle everyones times to the new order an hour before the awards, no chance. This will be factored in for the next race.
This is a unique race format and the first time it has been stopped midrace. I think No-fuss did the right thing, a trophy is just a bit of metal, we heard the status of the 2 in hospital and yeah down but not out, they will be back which is the important bit. A tough race, harder track, crap weather lots going on, they did good and will tweak the setup for next year. I will be back (maybe on a susser next year).
Overall top 4 1st James Shirley 14 runs in 1.23.19 2nd Huw Oliver 14 runs in 1.28.31 3rd James Scott 13 runs in 1.18.17 4th Jesse Wigman 13 runs in 1.27.17 on an old Spesh P3 hardtail !
Guy Martin 37th with 12 runs in 1.37.31
Ace (me) 77th 10 runs in 1.34 Matt Simpson HT 83rd 10 runs in 2.05
I got 3rd on the night after the adjusted time i am 2nd, Sorry Matt i beat you. Not sure i think about 140 started and i think about 127 logged race times so i am midpack, not bad going really.
Really crazy race this year, the toughest of all 3, there is now a hard core family of racers, they loves us nutbars on hardtail, last year Jesse got 10th overall, this year he got 4th, i guess he is made out of something special to pull that off. I always vow never again at the finish and always go back, thinking about maybe using the SX, maybe just one more on HT, will be taking more spares next time as i cut it really fine, one heavy landing away from unfixable damage and race over. Still can’t get over no flats, nearly every run i saw others trying to fix trackside, some rolled down on the rims. This should go on your list of races to do, even if only one time, then again you have to pretty hard to finish it.