Manon Carpenter: Fort Bill chronicles 2011

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Manon Carpenter: Fort Bill chronicles 2011

Madison/Saracen World Cup junior rider Manon Carpenter continues her World Cup diary with news from Glencoe, Fort William and A Level exams!

Manon Carpenter

Fort Bill and Legoland

I’ve only just sat down to write this report after watching the Leogang finals on Freecaster at home in Wales. I couldn’t make it out there as I had an A level exam on the Friday, so instead I spent the week revising and doing exams… and getting distracted by videos on Dirt!

The Fort William trip started the previous weekend as we were travelling up to Scotland to race Glencoe. We left on the Thursday evening after school to break the journey up a bit with a stop overnight on the way up. It felt like ages since we’d last travelled to a race and felt good to be on the road again with my Dad going to a race. I was excited to ride Glencoe to see what the track was like and we had Kasabian blasting to keep us both awake!

Glencoe in the Rain

I had seen the weather forecast before we left and knew it was going to be a grim weekend, but I didn’t realise how grim until Jase told me the gondola didn’t have any rain covers… We arrived on Friday afternoon and went to check the track out.

Luckily Jase was too tight to pay the ten pound for us to get the gondola to the top because we got warm walking up the track whereas everyone who took the gondola ended up frozen! It was cold and wet and very windy. First disaster of the trip struck when we went to the B&B where we were supposed to be staying; they didn’t have any recollection of our booking, they were full, it was 8 o’clock at night and I was hungry and not very pleased!

Fortunately for my Dad, after about an hour of looking for somewhere to stay we found a cottage in Glencoe where we ended up staying for the whole trip. This might have had something to do with the fact that he had brought the XBOX and MX vs. ATV live and could play it as much as he wanted in the cottage!

As you all know the weather deteriorated throughout the weekend, some riders were getting to the top covered in snow and ice and the hail was coming in horizontally, hitting you in the face. I was lucky and had plenty of waterproofs to keep me dry but some unfortunate or crazy people were going up the gondola with just jerseys on!

Someone trying to keep warm on the gondola in what looks like a dry spell.

Walking the track on Saturday after practice I think with Josh Lowe and Harry Molloy (Madison Saracen) and my dad. Umbrellas, plastic gloves and full on waterproofs needed all round!

In the end the race got cancelled which was disappointing as I was really enjoying getting down the track but it obviously wasn’t very safe on the gondola and even on the track people were saying that they were struggling to ride in a straight line.

We spent the morning dismantling the Madison Saracen pits in the wind and rain and hail which was a team building exercise to say the least, and then everyone came back to the cottage to dry off and resume the race on the XBOX.

We had taken the BMX bikes up to ride Glasgow Skatepark, Unit 23 the UK’s largest skatepark, in the week before Fort William and as we didn’t want to play XBOX all day and I’d just got my new Hardtail we dragged Harry off to the skatepark with us!

Milky (Jacob Gibbins) was scared we might show him up so he stayed at the cottage to get the team video from Glencoe finished…

XC in the rain

The whole week leading up to Fort William was pretty grim weather-wise. On Monday we rode the World Champs XC loop with Harry, Jack Geoghegan, Andy Ayers (Team Manager) and Gibbins after getting a bit lost and making the mistake of riding down a natural descent Jack found off the side of the path. After all the wet weather the track was about a foot deep in sludge most of the way down – you can see why most of Fort William is built out of rock! After drying off, watching Harry doing sprints up and down the car park in the rain and skipping competitions in the car park me and Jase went home to play XBOX whilst the others we to find their campsite! I never really play computer games but I had had a few go’s on MX vs. ATV because it was a bit more interesting than Call of Duty, but after about an hour of coming last in every race and over shooting every corner because I was going too fast I got so annoyed I gave up and went to upstairs to revise!

Trek were the first to arrive at Fort William. At some point after XC in the rain the clouds cleared revealing all the snow on the top of the mountain.

Red Route in the Rain

On Tuesday we decided to have a blast down the Red Route at Fort William – a long, rocky descent that uses the gondola uplift. The boys were going to make their way down slowly to get some photos on the Ariel’s, but Jase didn’t fancy hanging around in the wind and rain because he’s a lightweight and had had enough of getting cold and wet at Glencoe! So we got a day pass for the gondola so I could get some runs in on my bike before the World Cup.

We took the XC bikes up first run which was a big mistake! First run down and about 2 minutes into the descent Jason got a puncture and we didn’t have any tubes or tools or anything with us so I had to ride down to get some from the van to come back up to rescue him. He wasn’t very happy to start with and was even grumpier when he knew he had to wait halfway up a mountain in the cold for me to go all the way down and back up again! I rode back down taking it steady to avoid getting a puncture myself, grabbed everything he needed to fix the puncture and got back on the gondola as quickly as I could and rode to the top of the track… About twenty seconds in to my second run I managed to get a rear puncture as well, nightmare! Especially as I didn’t have the tools I needed to take my back wheel out, a grumpy Jase was still quite a way down the track, didn’t have his phone on him and it had just started raining.

After a couple of minutes of (a bit of) despair I realised I had a puncture repair kit in the camelback which was a relief ‘cos otherwise I don’t know what I would have done. After a quick puncture repair I carried on to rescue Jason and we went down to get the proper bikes out!

One of the shorter traffic queues we got stuck in!

Road works had started the week before I think between Fort William town and the venue, and every time we drove over to the venue it ended up taking us about half an hour extra because of the convoy system they had going on due to the road works. Luckily they stopped the work when the race was on otherwise it would have been chaos, one time when we were stuck in the massive queue I counted over 175 cars going past us before we could go – I was that bored!!

Skatepark in the dry!

Even by Tuesday everyone was pretty bored. We saw Matt Simmonds along with loads of other people walking the world cup track at the start of the week just because there wasn’t much else to do!

It was raining pretty heavy on Wednesday morning so Jase persuaded me to go back to Glasgow with him to ride Unit 23 again. There was a lot to ride and we spent a good few hours riding the park before hitting up the foam pit. I’ve never learnt to do tricks on my bike but I have always wanted to be able to do tuck no handers so I tried a few out, although I think if I’d tried them to Dirt it might have hurt… Jase showed up all the local kids landing a backflip perfectly into the foam, but I couldn’t persuade him to try one over the jump box!

There was also a 9 year old kid with a multicoloured Mohican on his helmet sending perfect 720s and backflips into the foam pit on a micro scooter!

Not bad for a veteran eh?


After a whole week of checking the weather constantly to see what it was going to do on the weekend and whether the wind was going to die down or not, on the Thursday before the race the weather finally sorted itself out! After sign on we went to walk the track and it looked pretty mint.

There were a few new, natural sections in the woods to mix it up a bit and of course the new step down. After last year it felt strange to be going to a World Cup where I pretty much knew the track already because I had had to learn almost every track by scratch at each race, and I enjoy anticipation of seeing a new track for the first time.

Thursday evening we went to the 3 Minute Gaps premiere – It’s such an amazing film and the perfect way to start a race weekend. I don’t think you could have watched that film as a rider and not get ridiculously excited about racing Fort William that weekend.

It was also amazing to see just how much the top racers ride their bikes and it made me think about my own riding and how much I can’t wait to fully concentrate on my riding this winter ready for next season. What shocked me most about the film was Peaty’s section – he started racing World Cups in 1993, the year that I was born! It’s crazy he’s been racing at such a high level for so long.

Friday, first day of practise.

Ready to go up for practise run #1 in the sun.

I love the top section of Fort William so much, it’s rough, rocky and fast as you like. There’s not a hell of a lot to worry about except staying off the brakes and making it around each corner. I did get pretty frustrated with myself however on the bottom half of the track; I spent literally hours messing around on the drop off a wooden boardwalk and the step down.

I watched so many girls clear the step down easy but I still hadn’t done it, although I knew it was simple and the chicken line was much harder! One of the marshals even told me I needed a slap and he was right – when I eventually got round to doing both drops they were they easiest things in the world. Once I’d sorted myself out I felt much better, although I was feeling nervous about qualifying the next day because I knew that although I felt fast, everyone would be going fast and I didn’t really know what to expect.

There’s always certain aspects of a race track that play on your mind, you’ve just gotta get it done… And usually it’s a lot simpler than you thought!

Saturday – Qualifying

Saturday morning before qualifying I did three runs in the morning and the first two went well so I waited until right before the end of practise to do my last run – which ended up being a really good decision. In my last practise run I was planning on doing a steady full run until I nearly disappeared into a massive hole in the wooded section! I almost went over the bars as I hit it so I stopped to look for a better way through and saw lots of riders going over the bars including Gwin so I found a safer line around the outside just to make sure I got through with a good time in qualifying.

Going up for qualifying.

Qualifying was crazy. I was nervous on the way up in the gondola, but I had some coke (coca cola!) and warmed up on the turbo trainer that Andy brought up.

It was the first time I’ve had a turbo trainer before at the top of a race and it was a good opportunity to go through the track in my head, although it was pretty hard to concentrate with the crowd of people that had gathered around us watching everyone warm up!

I guess the race hadn’t started yet so they had nothing better to do but I can’t imagine its very exciting watching people warming up. I put quite a bit of effort in on my qualifying run just to see how I could do, but I was pretty surprised to see 2nd position next to my time, only 7 seconds off Tracy’s time.

It turned out Sabrina and Floriane had to have re-runs because Emmeline had crashed but I ended up in fifth which I was pleased with nonetheless. Emily Horridge who was staying with us in the cottage also made it through to the finals which was wicked as it was the first world cup she’d done in a year or two!

Watching the men’s was exciting and depressing at the same time. So many riders didn’t make it through but then there were some awesome results like Troy Brosnan coming 8th. I was pleased coming fifth in the women’s but in the men’s it is so much harder, and junior rider coming top ten in qualifying is just crazy – and after watching Leogang it’s obviously not going to be long before Troy gets a top ten in the finals!

After qualifying I walked the track with Emily, Olly Hopkinson and my mum and dad. It was funny seeing my mum’s reaction to some sections of the track who kept asking me ‘you don’t ride down that do you?!’, and by the time we got to the new step down she didn’t really have much left to say!

We got down just in time to watch the 4x racing which was just as exciting as the downhill, it was good to see so many British riders there especially Joey Gough who came second in the women’s!

Props to Jack Hall as well, a 16 year old BMX racer who has started racing 4x, he was in front down the first two straights in front of Alvarez and someone else pretty quick in his first moto, he just lost out in the corners by the more experienced racers and narrowly avoided a punch up with Alvarez at the bottom… I don’t think he liked being gated by a 16 year old!

Women’s 4X podium.

After qualifying we went to check out the Dirt party for a bit, but had to leave before everything kicked off to go get some pre-race sleep but we did have time to raid the bank of Dirt and nick some Dirt money, and Emily found two red and green men!

Emily and me with a mouthful of pre-race food Chinese takeaway!

Zeb representing with the Welsh Flag on the right!

Dirt money!

Race Day

I woke up early on the Sunday for once; I was so excited for race day I couldn’t sleep. When we arrived I had to have a quick interview with BBC Scotland (I think) before heading up for practise.

The woods had changed again and they had filled in the huge hole with rocks so I changed my line once again for the faster line straight through the middle. I made it through smooth in both my practise runs so I didn’t bother pushing up too much which turned out to be a big mistake. Second run down I had a crash on a small drop halfway down the track.

Thinking back it was a pretty funny crash but at the time I wasn’t too impressed with myself making mistakes right before my race run! I came round the corner before it way too fast and I must have still been braking as I went off it so I landed heavily on my front wheel. My hands slipped off my bars and I ended up riding along for a good few seconds with my chest on my stem, hands dangling over my handle bars and looking at my front wheel wondering what was going on until I came to a stop in the corner after it and toppled over!

I was fairly embarrassed at having such a stupid crash and confused as to how it happened, then to top it off I heard someone who’d been watching say ‘I’ve never seen someone do a no-hander off that before!’. I guess I haven’t really got my no-handers dialled yet!!

Huge crowds in the finish arena

My race run was feeling really good and I could hear everyone going mental cheering at the top of the track but it all went a bit wrong in the woods. I ended up slightly too far right of where I wanted to be and my back wheel just slid out on a root, landing me sideways on the floor and wishing I had pushed up more in practise to get the line dialled. I didn’t lose too much time but it was enough to drop me back a couple of places in the results, and I was disappointed because I had gone 3 seconds faster than in qualifying with a bit of a crash.

Tracy and Rachel were so close all weekend so it was a good race in the women’s with a British 1 and 2.

The men’s was also crazy with Hart and MacDonald making it onto the podium and Gwin 5 seconds up until he crashed, this year’s world cup series is turning out to be pretty mental!

My mum told me I never stay long enough on the podium but it’s pretty scary being up there on your own looking at all the people looking at you! I can’t wait to get on the proper podium with the other girls.


The week after Fort William was spent revising and sitting exams and trying my hardest to resist videos from Fort William on Dirt, and then towards the end of the week trying to avoid videos from Leogang!

So if I fail my exams this summer I’m blaming it on Dirt.

Apparently the key to success is organisation…

Obviously there was still time for a quick XC ride in between exams!

The track at Leogang looked so much fun and I wished I was there! I really enjoyed it last year but instead I had to spend Practise on Friday doing my Geology A-level, Qualifying riding Redhill Bike Park near the Forest of Dean (so I’m not complaining too much) and race day watching the race on Freecaster, doing sprints in the pouring rain and writing this!

Leogang was just as crazy as Fort William and I can’t wait to see what happens in Mont St. Anne. I didn’t get to race there last year because I broke my arm (not my elbow!) the weekend before at Windham so I’m really looking forward to riding and learning a new track, I can’t wait!

The next few months are going to be pretty hectic, I finish my A levels at the end of the month then go straight to Llangollen BDS before heading off to MSA the next day.

Then there’s Windham, Whistler and the National Champs before heading off to Europe for the summer. It’s all kicking off ☺

Bits and bobs from Dirt we’d managed to pick up over the weekend, including free magazines!

Thanks to everyone at Madison Saracen, Andy and Jack for looking after our bikes all weekend and Kellie, my Mum and Dad and Granjan for coming all the way up to watch the race and everyone else who makes the races happen!!

Also to everyone who I scrounged photos off for this blog as I didn’t get round to taking many myself! Emily Horridge, my Dad, Jacob Gibbins and Paul Cram

Manon Carpenter


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