2013 was a big year for me changing from being on a race team to going back to privateer ways living life out of the camper van. Having a house on wheels definitely has its advantages as I loaded it up with all my parts at the start of the year and then I could go anywhere knowing I had everything I needed for battle. Not only touring around the world in the van but just going for long weekends in Wales and Scotland riding different spots has been awesome. Throughout the year I rode a lot at Antur Stiniog DH in Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales which was a really good place to train before Fort William and just generally really fun/testing tracks. These uplift bike parks appearing over the U.K have got to be the way forward for the DH scene in our country and I hope more will be opening up soon.
Race season started well for me with the first round of the British downhill series at Combe Sydenham near Somerset with a 6th place just off the podium. With a strong field of world cup podium riders ahead of me I had a feeling I was on pace for the year which is always good to know that your training has been working towards the correct things. This would be a similar trend for most of the national series missing out on the podium by fractions of seconds and a handful of sixth places. The next national was Fort William, Scotland which has been a big race over the past few years with a lot of international racers turning up to get time in on the track before the world cup. The track was super beat-up from the snow season which made it really physical which suited me. I finished 9th which was in a pack of riders full of most of the top guys and just behind people who’ve had podiums there before so I was excited for the first world cup of the year there a month later.
The week before the first world cup there was another British national race at Innerleithen, Scotland with another big turn out. It was a cool track with some really old school sections which were maybe a bit tight for the new age of wide bars but it made for good racing. I was outside of the top ten but moving up the overall series to 5th.
World cup 2013 number 1. This was a race I had been looking forward to for a while, feeling good on similar tracks and at a good place with my fitness I was up for it. Got my best qualifying result to date which was a 11th and was on track for a repeat in the finals. A really good run was ended by a dumb crash within 40 seconds of the finish and I haven’t heard the end of that race but it’s cool to know so many people were supporting me.
Photo credit: Caldwell Visuals
The next couple of world cups were two legendary tracks, Val Di Sole, Italy which is a oldish track where I finished 38th and Valnorrd, Andorra finishing 37th which was on a brand new track and the best of the year! Both super steep tracks with no let up but Andorra was just so raw and fresh with rocks, roots, roost and serious turns which made it the favourite. Was off the boil on results after starting so strong in the first round and the british national races.
British national championships was a focus for me this year and again we were spoilt with the track. Bala, North Wales is always a top venue with a fresh track this year it was the best national champs I’ve been to. Felt so on form on the bike all weekend, being 8 seconds back in seeding with no chain only added to that. Put in a good run only being 2.something seconds off the title with yet another 6th. A medal would’ve been cool but that race is for the win so I just took the positive that I was happy with the speed I had on the bike.
Mont Saint Anne, Canada and Hafjell, Norway world cups were two of a kind crashing in the final at both after feeling on it all week. Those races are tough ones when you’ve put all the effort in/felt good to then throw it away.
Finally got the chance to get to Whistler for Crankworx which was mental. Everything you see in the videos is true and some, so many events to do, bars to brawl and girls to… talk to. The lifts were open 8 till 8 everyday just blasting runs of huge trains with anyone and everyone then every now and then you’d go up and do a race run. Pretty wild week like that but the races went good too getting 12th in the Canadian open DH and 22nd in Air DH on Aline which everyone in front of me (apart from Sik Mik) was on what us DH riders call a XC bike. I’ll have to remember that one for next year!
Going into the last British National race I was sitting in 4th and could go 2nd overall, wouldn’t say pressure was on but I was for sure happy with where I’d put myself in the series. Seeded 2nd behind the big guy Steve Peat then I blew it in final nearly writing myself off track to come down 2.1 seconds from the win on the day and I was again the winner of 6th leaving me 4th overall.
World cup finals time in Leogang, Austria. Pretty gnarly track in it’s own rights, the mud ealrier in the week made it a bit more technical but other than that it’s just really flat out. Finishing 36th at this race and 38th overall in the series wasn’t ideal and that’s good fuel for the 2014 fire. Got a good off season planned to come back with all cylinders firing. See you at the start line South Africa.