Part deux of Ace Woodley’s 2012 Fort William endurance downhill experience!
So part 2, race time, 6 hours to try and hit 15 laps on a world cup track, a heady mix of newbies, hardtails and world cup level riders duke it out, some want the win, most want to survive.The view behind me on the start grid free for all melee. I just stuck my camera up in the air and grabbed a shot. Random story from racing, the fella with the glasses on, left front, bright top, a few runs in he rattled a lenses out of his glasses and was therefore having trouble seeing. He tried a few runs with no glasses then opted that one good eye was better. An indication of the right stuff for this event.Dear Dirt mag, please make some stickers so i can hand them out at races everyone loves stickers.And the view in front of me,midges are in feeding frenzy this year, as we await the countdown and GOoooo run a 1/4 mile for your bike, no ones kicked it over, grab bike jump on, spin off, rear end the slower rider in front and stall….get going again, does this pro-pedal work ? sit and spin in full armour lovely, pass a fair few, spin not sprint, the leaders are gone. I am unsure to the length of ride uphill 2 miles ? i am now overheating and riding with the chap who loses a lenses from his glasses, so far so good, getting really hot so walk, i burnt myself out last year to the point of nearly being sick, take it easy this time, a few others spin past, but mid pack.
Drop the saddle on the move, adjust helmet, goggles ready, reach the wall-ride, goggles on, drop in follow the rider in front down to the gondola.The start is designed to thin out the pack, after the first run you don’t have a queue for the gondola, rack the bikes sit down for a rest, drink,eat and ready yourself for racing. Some bikes have issues already.
Run 1) 8.19.6 top section is fast down to the boardwalks, i am not used to the bike at all, off the boardwalks, first rock garden, steep left turn into the top rocks, i get pinged off line, and lose my line, stall….left or right, get it wrong and crash, left then right over the off camber ramp, into the switch backs, wooooohay scary fast and skimming my way down to the deer fence, lots of heavy braking needed to stay on track, haven’t ridden a suss-er for ages so not used to the lack of feedback. Fighting the bikes speed, it just picks up speed with no input from me, i mean really picks up speed, i am having trouble adjusting to this. Woods to motorway…..fuuuuuck slow down, stop speeding up like that bike, half ass-ed chop at the first new motorway jump, flat land it again not nice, rest is alright, bit boring, tissot jump, skirt round it don’t want the extra boost, the off beat wall, heavy braking, hit the crest spot the line brakes off hang on, slight kick up from the rear ride it out, into the finish, go again. Bit more neck ache.
Run 2) 7.59.6 overcook the first jump really rail it through the berms and remember why i never used the tyres, big gap between centre and side knobs, so slip and grip mid berm, go nuts down to where the off camber ramp is, yellow flags, slow right down, little Roslyn is trying to wrestle her bike off the ramp and rocks, get round go again, fine to the deer fence, scare myself silly down to the woods, really overcook the top of the motorway and fight to scrub speed and stay on the track, get over the first new jump and try another line down the wall.Run 3) 7.53.9 we spot Jesse and the rigid raider coming down below the deer fence crossing, he is a run in front at this point. I am getting the hang of the SX Trail, lack of trail feedback, it just picks up speed, it’s not a DH bike but nothing is slowing it down, i can feel the rear flex and the fork twang but it holds it’s line and goes where i point it, the tyres are sketchy in the fast top berms but no problems further down. We have on-off showers and wearing full length waterproof trousers paid off, the integrated zocchi mudguard is doing a Stella job too. On the way up i saw some track-side fixing flats, i pass others walking down flats or broken wheels, several are now chainless (thats normal) rear brake is not as sharp as it was and neck aches more.Run 4) 8.34.5 see jesse again trying to pass others through the rocks ha ha ha, you have not seen anything like this, nuts truly nuts. More walkers with broken rides. I am starting to have problems with speed as the rear brake is losing power and the bike just wants to go faster (sort of glad i didn’t have a faster DH bike now) muscle it down, pit stop, deep freeze my neck, check the rear brake pads, lever pull is alright i wonder if i have gone through the pads already or if it’s over heating as power drops further into the run i get.By this point i think 8+ have dropped out with medical or mechanical issues. By the entry list numbers 118 entered only 103 are listed in results.The mark of the Enduro’ist, bit early to lose finger skin, bleeding hands by double figure laps is common, spare gloves and plasters are handy….oh you thought this was an easy race did you !
Run 5) 8.55.9 So far i am getting fairly clean runs, i see large groups coming down the top section in trains, little available overtaking, i pass broken people resting at the deer fence crossing and further up. The track is narrow up top, with no run out, you go off the edge of the track you crash simple as that, no where to go. The rear brake lever is now pulling in, and where is my magic carpet ride ? it’s smoother yes, but it’s harder work, i thought 8″ rotors would be awesome and i could sit down more, i stop for a rest in the pit, re check pads, lever pull seems fine. A few are milling about fixing flats having a little rest etc etc.Mike Sunter from Leyburn bikes, flat tyre wheel swap stock up go again (ta very much for the coffee i scrounged off you pre-race) I re spray with deep freeze and go again when it kicks in.Rachel Walker from Hope tech, my 6th, her 7th about halfway timewise, along with walkers with flats i see Jesse hitting up the motorway jumps….Rachel sees Rob Jarman (Hope as well) shouts out the gondola vent at him, he heard he was looking about, won’t be surprised if he claims a near crash moment because of it
Run 6) 8.51.7 neck muscles give out when i exit the boardwalk into the rocks, so really try to slow down so i don’t get any jolts, Ste on the Hitman hardtail catches me up, i try to get out of the way and he rear ends me, both stay upright i let him pass and follow him down. To eek out performance from the rear brake i try lots of heavy front braking to keep speed in check. I have a fibrax semi pad rear and a RWD sintered pad up front, front brake is working well, but induces brake dive as the old 07 zocchi 66RV is basic on the damping front, i do my best to roll the first motorway jump, don’t want the slam of a flat land and just make it through the off beat wall. 6 down, about 2.45 hours left, in theory time to make at least 10 maybe 12 runs, i have another break. I try to take some photos of race action but instead watch a rider bin it big time on the off beat wall, he is spread over the landing zone, Marshall is up with yellow flag, i jog up drag the bike clear and the rider sort of moves over a bit, riders are being slowed and warned to stay left. After a few minutes rider can move on his own, we where going to red flag it, but he is only winded, i carry the bike over the red fence (this is near the finish) grab the grip thats been ripped off in the crash, the rider makes his own way to the finish, i don’t know what number or if he retired at this point.
I skulk about in the pits and decide to have another run, then Ste rolls in the zocchi 55′s are semi locked, he reckons the cartridge has let go, i wash the fork and spray it in juice lube, it may not have much effect but might help, on seeing the fork juice lube Ste’s mate ask’s for a squirt so i drown his boxxers and shock in it, they both zip off for another go.
Run 7) 9.29.8 i jump on the bike and pedal to the gondola, gears skip so hit the shifter, nothing, hit it again, nothing, punch it up and down nothing. I assume the crash with Ste has taken out my mech, turns out it severed the cable, on post race checking nothing else appears damaged, hanger seems straight, i thought the mech was broken but from checking the paperwork the b-tension adjust is ment to flap about and not sprung like a shimano mech. You don’t need gears or a chain so it can be removed for the rest of race if needed.
This run is a nightmare. I am not even a passenger in places, neck and shoulder muscles are giving up, i try to stay seated and roll down but the bike picks up so much speed, which finishes off the rear brake, lever pulls to the bar now so rely on the front brake, i get out of the way of other riders coming down, twice i nearly lose grip on the bars, not a passenger but barely holding on, i hit the off beat wall and the pain in my neck as you ride through the transition is enough to make me shout. Still about 2 hours left. I could try and rebleed the brake, some others offer me painkillers i decide thats a bad idea and will end in a big off…maybe a race stopper.
I don’t retire as such, i play the press card ” going to take some photos” ahem may have another run in a bit if i fancy it, and spray up with deep freeze again. By now from 118 on list starters there are maybe 41 off track unable to continue. From looking at the results which only list 103 as finished thats 26 out, Ben Cathro a contender for the win (who i beat in 08) is also out on lap 7 with a time of 15.03 so the bike must have let go as Ben appears to have logged the fastest time of a 5.14.2 thats 10 seconds faster than the winners best lap time, i beat him before as the bike let go, so my 7 runs aren’t too shabby when you look at it that way, would a full on world cup factory bike last the distance ? doing 15 back to back 5.30 runtimes ?A crash on the finish line, couldn’t work out what happened, he rolled in then was on the floor, marshalls started shouting, dragged the bike clear and the medic dashed across. We saw Owain Jones at the end it was him. He lost it on the off camber ramp up top and whacked/twisted his knee, he managed to make it down but couldn’t stand up by then. Straight down the hospital, one x-ray later no obvious damage, nothing broken but a very swelling knee to take back to Wales, Owain binned it on lap 5, speedy healing as thats going to hurt a lot for a while.I love this photo, i was lucky to get it and Jesse styled it up a bit too, on the final jumps to the finish line on the rigid raider, pure quality riding and 40th overall, fastest lap 8.43.5The last 4 races i got a second wind, others get this too, not this year, by now James Shirly is heading up for his 15th run the race is over at that point, i have time to suit up and go up for an 8th lap before James get down, i decide thats a run too far and call it, maybe washing the bike before the queue begins is a good plan. Go for my bike WHICH IS NOT WHERE I LEFT IT ! fucking hell my bikes been nicked….i rush about looking and it’s been moved….don’t know who ? or why, thats too much excitement for one day now, i go find 50p and hose the bike off as i am sharing my little camper-car with it, get semi clean, changed and order food and await the final awards.The seniors and over all winner James Shirley, in 2nd on the left Rob Jarman, in 3rd on the right Ash Mullane. In overall standings 1st James, 2nd Rob, 3rd Alastair Maclennan, in 4th Ash and in 5th place Tom Gooch, also the only 5 riders to hit 15 laps.That should make sense, i took a snap of Frazers winners list, we have laps in the circle and time elapsed so James did 15laps in 5hours53mins52secs. Another nice touch was the Hardtail trophy, still not an official entry class, you let Frazer know your mental on arrival and they run a “specials” award which after the first race in 08 after me and Steve Larkin scared everyone they decided that was for us. You have to be special to have a go anyway as the whole concept is a bit out there, whats seen as the harshest world cup out there, which gets harder every year, quite different to any other DH race in the UK, can you do this on other world cup tracks ? Hardtailers (mentalists) 1st Jesse Wigman 13 laps on a rigid raider ! on the left and 2nd Joe Krejbich, on the right and 3rd James Simpson.
Chipps from Singletrack survived intact….and by what he said in the bar is planning next years attack.
I reckon i got another go at hardtail before it beats me up too much. It wasn’t as comfy/easy as i expected on the SX, but the bike held up fine, and it looks like when i change brake pads i then have to re-bleed it, i did try to borrow some other brakes as i wasn’t that confident in them from the start so something to sort out there.
What got me was the manner in which the SX gains speed, only 170mm rear travel and 160mm up front, how much faster is a full on DH bike ? some of my problems i think are down to basic front damper, dive in berms and heavy braking, loads of grip, maybe more track time and i could ride within it’s limits better, add some air preload, maybe heavier oil. Still i wanted a soft ride, i got that, the bike only got lairy in the fast turns. Is the old SX really old suspension wise or just from a marketing point. Anyway it will be going back in storage for a bit, find some newer bits(brakes) and give it another go, the days of hardtail aren’t over just yet but i may have the odd day off in the future
Big thanks to no fuss events for doing mad races, long may they continue.