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Fort William: Manon Chronicles-Da Bill

We’re following the progress of young Welsh Junior rider Manon Carpenter this year as she embarks on her first World Cup season.

Here’s the Fort Will chapter written by dad Jason.

Manon Chronicles – Da Bill

Finally got a bit of work on the track building front again so I’ve been a bit busy recently and had to rush around a lot to get everything together for this race. We got Manons leaders Jersey printed up just in time, picked it up the night before we left.

Manons UCI Junior DHi Leaders Jersey

Just about got it all in the van

We headed up there the Wednesday before the event via Liverpool to drop Big/little sister off at Uni for a busy night out with her suitcase.  The plan was to stop somewhere else on the way to break up the journey, but hey the wheels were turning fine so we just rolled all the way there.

Looks like I got my third speeding ticket in Scotland inside three trips when I went past the rozzers on the M74 at 80 when they were pointing something suspiciously like a speed camera at me.  Being on the big 9 points already I s**t myself, slammed on the anchors, got a big wobble on and nearly crashed….so much for road safety.  I heard they switched the speed cameras off in Swindon with no increase in crashes.

Flippin speed cameras

Despite the speed issues, the drive through the Highlands was as amazing as usual, bright sunshine and dramatic scenery and cloudscape.

We were hoping that this was a good sign for the weather over the weekend to come.

Thursday

We turned up at the venue, signed Manon on, helped setup the 661/Royal pits and secured ourselves the required passes for a trouble free weekend.  Best news was Manon was in the top 20 ladies after finishing 14th at Maribor, this meant more time for practice = more relaxed weekend and timed practice on the Friday.

Once all the formalities were done we got on the Gondola for the initial track walk.  Manon walked down with Joel Moore, Al (Eco) Bond, Emyr and a whole bunch of other folk who sped past us because we were so slow.  I shot a sequence of pics of the track (in and out of every corner) to put on a slideshow that was regularly referred to over the weekend.   It’s a big job learning the sequence of corners on a track like Fort William so any help is good.  Manon had only been up there once before at the National in 2009.  The top half of the track had seen some major changes and I thought it looked amazing, much more fun to ride, much more ‘natural’ in a very unnatural kind of way.

No sign of the midges although at one point Manon started shouting and jumping up and down due to some huge Scottish highland insect attaching itself to her hair.

Just time for a short XC ride before hotel and an early night ready for practice on Friday.
Our Pro Pit courtesy MMA Sports, Manon just off out for an XC spin to warm up.

Friday

A more relaxed start for us than at Maribor because Manon had got into the top 20 ladies.  Practice is really quite limited if you are a newcomer to WC events, if kit starts breaking or other problems then you can easily struggle to get the runs in you need.  We did however, get there too late to park, despite having the right passes, doh.

Manon did four or five runs throughout the day then timed practice, She was fourth or fifth in timed practice with a 5.37 run.  Not many girls did timed runs but we thought it was useful to get a feel for what a full run felt like.

Then back to the hotel for fish and chips, bath and revision.

Saturday

An early start today so we could get into the pits and park in a decent place (close to our pits).  Then off to the food emporiums for the morning three bowls of Porridge (thats £12 please), oh well..  We were trying to keep Manons weight up this weekend  by feeding her regularly.  Other races we have done were not so good for food, diet, eating.  At Fafe she lost ½ a stone due to the concussion vomiting and heat vomiting etc etc.

yum yum, in my tum ( thats one of her angry looks btw)

Lots more practice, no real drama, no crashes, no punctures phew.

Qualification went well, actually went really well, Manon qualified 8th overall and the only Junior Girl to make the final.

Pro Mum, Lynettes first WC race (only her second race since the Dragons finished) and very exciting she found it too!

Manon after Saturdays qualification run

Race Day

No real nerves on Race day, Manons main goal was to qualify and she’s done that so now all she had to do was fly down the hill and enjoy it.  Manon did two practice runs.  I went up in the Gondola for her second practice run and watched her ride down the whole top section with my critical eye on and had to admit at the bottom that I was impressed.  Not super fast, but good pace and good control, just how we like it.

Lynette had the pasta ready just in time then it was 30 minutes of rest then gear up for the race runs.

We went to the stands to watch the final so we could see the finish arena and the big screen.  When it came to Manons run the commentator announce Manon was slowest at the first split so we got a bit worried something was up, then a few minutes later she flashed into view on the big screen jumped into the motorway section, sat down and coasted down the first section and I suspected the worst….then she went through split two and was over a second up!!  VERY exciting for us I can tell you.  Fair play to Manon she hit the gas and did some serious pedalling along the finish straight, didn’t clear all the jumps, but kept her speed real well and finished in 1st place, thats FIRST PLACE, you get it?  Manons mum Lynette was positively bouncing.

So Manon went into the hot seat with 8th place guaranteed, wow.  As expected, all seven riders after Manon went faster, but hey they are all pro or semi professional.  Manon had been revising Friday and Saturday nights for a Chemistry A level on Monday morning.

Anyway I got the hotseat photo so here it is.

Thank god they didn’t get the greasy rocker out for the girls, look what Danny Hart had to put up with for his stint in the Hotseat. (Editor: I thought the axeman was amazing!)

Manon kept the lead in the Junior Womens race and extended her lead to nearly 100 points

Thats our story anyway, someone had to tell it, all this Sabrina this and Gee that should be available elsewhere.  Perfect weather, fun track, good result, good organising made for a top weekend.  It was nearly spoilt by an idiot security guard refusing to let us and a load of visiting International racers out of the pit area in our vans until ALL the buses had gone.  It took me to ask for Mr Jardine to be called before they would accept that the vans could fit through a gap left by three buses with a little bit of marshalling.  Classic ‘Door Man’ speak.  “Don’t argue with me, you’re not leaving until I say so” what a t**t!  Still he couldn’t ruin our weekend!

Manon on the way home while I might have lost my driving licence, seriously hope not tho.

Laters

Jason and Manon (Lynette too), written by Jason this time because she’s revising for a Biology exam now.

Check out www.Manon Carpenter.com

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