Saturday, June 28, 2014

Euro trip Part 2 - Fort William World Cup

After a few days in Edinburgh, soaking up some Scottish history, it was off to Fort William for World Cup #3. 
The Scottish Highlands - Pretty amazing!
The Fort William world cup is arguably one of the best stops on the circuit, with probably on of the largest and roudiest crowds!  Since it was my first time racing Fort William, I was amped to get up on the hill and check out the terrain.  The day after arriving we jumped at the chance to head up for a few fun laps on one of Fort Bill's "red tracks".  It was a great way to familiarize myself with my DH bike and what to expect on course. 
Once again we really lucked out with weather, and despite some high winds and a few sprinkles of rain we were treated to some Scottish sunshine, which apparently is quite rare.
The view from our homestead for the week
On Thursday it was all business and I headed up for course walk, with buddy Matt Beer, in hopes of gaining some extra insight about the course.  The top section was open motorway on gravel terrain which could be pretty tricky to maintain speed and traction.  The course then moves into many variations of rough and rocky sections followed by a couple technical woods sections and finally finishing off with some high speed corners and jumps before coming into the finish.
The step down coming out of the woods
Friday was about getting a feel for how the course ran, and getting my lines dialed in.  Unfortunately on my first lap I got a huge slash in my tire and had to pick my way down the last half of the course.  This left me with much less time to practice and so I opted to hike a few of the tough sections and get things dialed in and hit all the jumps.  Having my husband Sean on course was pretty amazing as he helped me with my bike allowing me to save some energy repeatedly hiking during practice.  He was a great support over the weekend!

The finish...before all the crowds arrived
Despite only getting 2 full laps in, I had a great feeling of the course, and was able to get most of my lines dialed in before qualifications.  I was a bit worried coming into this race with regards to the length and physicality of Fort William, but I'd have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how strong I felt - No arm pump, and no tired legs or lungs.  I have to give it up to my trainer Nicolle Bortolussi of Revolution Sport Conditioning for all the amazing off-season programs!
Photo by: Sarah Barrett
Qualifications run
On qualification day there was a major storm coming in with some super high winds, and so the whole day started off 1.5 hours ahead of regular schedule, to ensure the storm didn't interfere with getting all athletes up the gondola - Practice started at 7am!  After a few coffees I was ready to go and got 2 more full runs in and felt great!  Winds were high up top, and there was one feature I opted not to hit as I had been blown off-course earlier in practice.
Photo by: Sarah Barrett
Qualifications run
During my run I was a little conservative up top on the motorway but felt great on all the rough rock sections. As I came into the first woods section I hit the first crucial line, but then got a bit hung up on the awkward exit. I went to un-clip and "dab" to keep momentum going, but as I put my foot down I realized my shoe was no longer on my foot!  I looked down and saw my shoe still attached to my pedal!  
What athletes were greeted to coming into the finish line!
I tried to just keep going but there were two really rough sections coming up next; I knew I had to pull off track to get my shoe back on.  I wasted about 1.5 minutes at the side of the track after all was said and done - I could not believe my luck!!!  I considered just not finishing, but when I finally got sorted, it was game on.  I figured my chances of qualifying were done, but you just never know, and no racer likes to see a DNF beside their name on the results page.  I finished strong, and really at that point all I could do was laugh at the situation - It was such a horrible yet comical twist of fate.  I now have a new race tradition...tie my shoe laces three times over to make sure they're tight!  

Special edition Santacruz Stella's to help drown my sorrows
Chillin' in the pits with the Juliana Bicycles crew
For finals on Sunday, there was nothing left to do but enjoy the racing action from the sidelines...not exactly how I wanted things to turn out, but there was some amazing racing and at least I now have the experience of racing Fort Bill under my belt for next year. 
Tracey Hanna on her way to 3rd
There were a couple flats in the women's final and so it was pretty exciting racing and a different crew up on the was great to see Tracey Hannah up there on the box.  She's been plagued by injury and it looks like she is coming back to top form!

 The men's final was absolutely mental!  Troy Brosnan taking the win, and going down in the history books as the first racer to have his first world cup win at Fort William.

All-in-all my first Fort William experience, despite some bad luck, was pretty amazing.  I am pretty amped to go back next year and get some redemption!
The infamous "Scotland Arch Jump"
 Thanks again to all my amazing product sponsors...everything is feeling great and the help from my support crew makes all the racing possible!

Until next time...