Season Recap

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.

HH

What size rubber do you use?

This has always been a good joke down the pub years before new wheel size’s but now 650b and 29ers have added to the banter. Do you go bigger but maybe don’t use it’s full potential or smaller and work on your techniquie to pump it?

I think progression in any sport has got to be the best thing for it and that is the bottom line of competitiveness to want to be better. Whether that’s to beat your mate, main rival or your personal best your trying to find the best way to get more gains so surely new wheel sizes is just that, to get another advantage. People have said if everyone is on 650b(27.5″) then it’ll just be a level playing field again like when everyone was on 26″ so what’s the point, but then everyone could be going faster so isn’t that better to be raising the bar within a sport?

In that last line I said everyone “could” be going faster because I haven’t seen solid proof that 650b is faster in downhill for this example because there’s not been enough race time/racers been on them yet to have any standout results. There is the obvious benefit it will roll over a rock or through a hole better but do the disadvantages out way this and with more development how far could it go? 26″ has been the mountain bike wheel spec for so many years that all the development has been designed around that so when that is changed there’s a whole lot more that needs to adapt than just putting bigger tyres on.

There is some really cleaver people on the computers who have spent alot of time figuring these things out but sometimes in real world situations things can work differently or is that we’ve not seen the full advantages of bigger wheels yet because super freak athletes have just been ripping the 26″ wheels above and beyond and up until now that’s all they have know. Over the next year or so when all the top riders/manufactures have done more back to back testing of all the wheel sizes and had time to fine tune frames, suspension, frame angles, tyres, etc we could see a bigger change but as my dad once said to me change isn’t always bad. In my eyes it’s a pretty cool time for mountain biking right now with trying to find the limits of what a bike can do which is definitely the goal for racing but when your riding for fun size doesn’t matter it’s just whatever floats your boat small, medium or big, swing a leg over.

HH

 

British Downhill Series Round 4 Llangollen, Wales

What a weekend for sport last weekend was! There was the Tour De France, Wimbledon tennis, F1 GP in Germany, Diamond League Athletics in Paris and I was at the BDS in Llangollen, Wales. Not as highly televised but I’m sure there will be more GoPro footage than from any of the other events. Here’s my headcam run of the weekend Llangollen BDS Headcam

Practice was the most fun everyone has had at a race all this season and racing was not far off as much fun. I seeded 5th and had more to give but finished 6th, just 0.2 seconds from the podium. Good weekend for the series points as I’ve moved from 5th to 4th and closed the gap on 3rd.

HH

3 and abit weeks on the road racing the National and World Cup series

Here’s a edit of headcam footage from the races: Fort William/Val Di Sole edit

And a headcam run from Innerleithen BDS: Inners BDS headcam

First stop of the trip was Innerleithen for the third round of the British Downhill Series. Got there early and the sun was out so thought I’d get a loop of the XC done while the weather lasted. Little did I know it was going to be red hot sun the whole 3 weeks!

The downhill track was high speed straights in-between super tight trees then trying to slow down on loose gravel into hairpin turns. Wide bars weren’t invented when that forest was planted. Not much practice saturday due to the uplift but I felt at a decent pace by the end of the day. Sunday was seeding then race run. Had a big crash in seeding which left my shoulder weak Inners BDS Crash. Race run I put in a decent run and took the hot seat for a while finally ending up in 14th within the most stacked World Cup field a British National has ever seen.

Fuelled up with something battered from the chippy, just standard for Scotland then the next stop was Fort William for the first round of the World Cups. Another XC lap tuesday then into the swing of track walk and practice for the weekend. I’d done the national round here a month ago and since then a lot of the holes has been fixed up so it was running fast and being super dry helped as well. Felt like I had no rhythm and was hitting every rock possible all practice but spoke to Steve Peat and Bryceland and they both said it felt the same which made me feel a bit better.

For quali’s I made a plan to brake early for some sections then let off and be smooth as possible for the exit speed, came across the line and went into 11th. So cool to see how many people were happy for me and there to support. Just wanted to repeat that for race run so I tidied a few bits up in practice and got a good final race run going. My first split time I was up on the current leader Greg Minnarr then just before the second split into the jump section at the bottom my front wheel tucked underneath on a flat easy turn. So gutted but happy to be at that pace now and to see and hear everyones support is what Fort William World Cup is about every year.

Big ferry trip from Newcastle to Amsterdam then a big drive all across Germany, bit of Austria and over the Italian mountains to Val Di Sole, Italy for the next round of the World Cup Series. I think everyone forgets how full-on the track is until we come back to race it each year. There wasn’t much time to practice the track with the new schedule and with a lot to learn on the track is was tough to do. I had a steady seeding run and went through in 47th. On race day I found the pace I had been trying to get to all weekend but didn’t link it up as good as wanted in my race run and finished 39th. No as fast as the week before but I’m sitting in 34th in the series so overall it’s my best ever start to a season. Bring it on!

Had a week after to spend in europe so I went to Lake Garda did some huge XC rides that Sven and Anka Martin showed us. One ride we climbed to 2700m with snow at the top then after a hour and a half downhill we were swimming in the lake in 41.5 C sun! Me and Ben Reid bought some rubber dingy’s for the lake and took them down the river rapids. It was supposed to be a few rest days but it ended up as activities and late night barbecue’s. One day I was so tired after the days ride that I went out on the lake in my boat and fell asleep for a hour until the ferry drove by and woke me up! Was ready to go home but was driving so close past Mozine that it’d be mad not to stop. Said I would do a days riding and get back on the road, that ended up turning into two days it was so fun. Feels like summer has been going a while now but all the ski lift places are just opening for the season which is cool because I normally end up going when they’re nearly closing for the year. Still some snow on the mountains and was really quite in the town, not the normal wild overhaul of Brits aboard. Loving riding my bike and looking forward to smashing more bike parks but first of all some good nights sleep in my own bed.

Northern Downhill Rnd 1 Kidland

GoPro run of the track from the race last weekend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dxA4cYQ5ulQ

Track was crazy tight in parts as you can see in the vid and mega steep at the bottom. Short track so there was no room for mistakes which is what happened come race time! Crashing in the first run and a mechanical and off the track in the second run wasn’t ideal for the result. It is what it is and onto BDS Rnd 2 this weekend at Fort William.

HH Continue reading

BDS Rnd 1 Combe Sydenham

Start of a new season and I’m back from round 1 of the British Downhill Series at Combe Sydenham and everything is cleaned, tuned and ready to go again. It’s always abit hectic the first race of the season getting back into the routine, forgetting the odd thing and I had just got a new race van so I was still figuring that out.

The track was the same as the previous year just more worn in and with a full day of rain and bad weather it got even more cut-in with axle deep ruts ready for sunday. Even in the bad conditions I was riding good and happy to be back racing. Got a sketchy moment in practice and Milky Gibbins got it on film which makes for a good shot.

Race day was pretty tough going with the mud drying out making rolling speed slow in the ruts. I put down a OK seeding run and was in 7th not far off Sam Hill. Got back to the pits did all my jobs then walked the bottom section of the track to change a line for race run. With that sorted I layed down a decent race run finishing 6th and 6.8 seconds from the win. Sam Hill was just in front of me so I’m pretty happy with that start to the new season.

Great to be back at it and can’t wait for round 2 at Fort William, Scotland

Thanks HH

Supported by: Renthal, Five Ten, Schwalbe, Gamut, Sapim Spokes, CycleStore.co.uk, Mojo/Fox Suspension, Devinci/Haven Distribution, Madison Distribution/Shimano and DH Osteopathy.

 

Harry Heath Goes Privateer

With the race season kicking off, Pro-Elite Downhiller Harry Heath has set himself up as a privateer in 2013. Riding the stunning carbon Devinci Wilson and Dixon frames, Harry has gone about putting a package together that will allow him to have the right support needed to achieve his goals.

With further support from Renthal, Five Ten, Schwalbe, Gamut, Sapim spokes, Cyclestore.co.uk, DH osteopathy, Mojo/Fox Suspension, Madison Distribution and Haven Distribution.

These are all companies I really want to work with and it’s awesome to know I’m on the best product out there… That was one of the biggest goals for me when it came round to making up a privateer deal – I had to be on the right tools to get the job done and I couldn’t be happier with my new bikes”.

Harry will be racing the full World Cup Series, British Downhill Series, British National Championships, and with the aim of getting a place on the World Championships squad for Great Britain, later in the year in South Africa.

 Artwork Credit:http://www.nthncreative.co.uk/


Val D’Isere/Pila

Val D’isere was mostly an unknown to everybody apart from the French who had a national race there last year and the head cam that was doing the rounds and making some talk.

Photo: Grega Stopar

I’m a big fan of new tracks to race on, new lines cut in over the weekend as well as the stuff that gets blown out at a world cup anyway so there’s alot going on. This track did have some very funky objects in though. The worst was skinny northshore drop off a building that you had to creep off as to not send it to complete flat. Very French! Didn’t exactly fit in a race track but that was taken out on the first day and from there on it all just kept getting better.

It was pretty high altitude so the air was thin and the previous week I had the flu so I was holding back on the amount of laps I got in on track to save the energy.

Having so much fun on a track makes a big difference and I was doing just that which put me bang up for seeding run. About 15 riders until my start a storm hammered it down so they stopped the race because of the lightening. When I got on track it was abit slick but not too bad and I got a 35th place in.

Saturday was the most fun day, it rained hard overnight and the blown out turns rutted up and everything was hero dirt so it was just a morning of railing turns. Sunday was drying up alot and by the time I was in my race run some turns were completely gone and blown out which caught alot of people out. I put down a time and 30th on the day. Still off my goals but the best one of the season as of yet, France seems to be good to me at the World Cups.

Photo: Grega Stopar

Next me and my team mate went to Pila in Italy for the week riding before the IXS cup there at the weekend. I had never rode there before and it’s safe to say it’s one of if not my favourite place to ride. There is a track from the top of the mountain to the bottom of Aosta city which is half an hour of pure downhill. The second half of it was the best and it’s just back to back sections of the best turns you’ll ever ride. The MS Mondraker team was there so the week was spent blasting out runs with those guys which was a right laugh and then mid week we had to do abit of celebrating for Brook MacDonalds first World Cup win that he took in Val D’Isere. Down in the city there was a pool party so a crew of us went, when downhillers party I don’t think anyone else know’s how to react to the kaos, haha.

Race weekend at Pila got going and I had only done one run of the race track in the week so it was cool to ride something different. Fast, rough track so bike setup was pretty important. Saturday seeding the same thing happened as the week before with it starting to rain with a good few riders to go. It got sketchy real fast with some people going down hard because it was still hard pack so you could carry speed but then slowing down just didn’t work.

Sunday practice it rained hard and was super wet but the sandy dirt dries out so fast that by the time the elite men started it was not far off dusty again. It just wasn’t to be though. With just under a hour from my run it was the worst storm of the weekend and the track had a river flowing down it, comedy to see but then you remember you’ve still got to do your run! I got to the chair lift all prepped for the wet and they had shut the chairlift because it can’t be run in the lightening. I missed my race run but was allowed to race at the end. On a wicked run despite the conditions only to have a massive crash with about 25 seconds to the finish. Very eventful birthday.

A pit stop at Riders Refuge in Morzine (thanks guys) one night out (bouncers still don’t like me) then a 24 hour drive home and I’m more than ready for the next one.

Canada World Cup Ehhh

My favourite trip every year is this one. Big tracks, trucks and hucks then wash it all down with a litre of beer. Standard!

On the way to the race I had just fallen to sleep then got a rude awakening to the judder of ABS trying it’s best not to lock-up shortly followed by the thud of smashing a deer and sending it over the highway barrier. Didn’t think it would have done much but the front right quarter was fully stoved in.

It’s only radiator coolant on the floor not bambi blood.

The cops turned up wrapped the deer up in a bag and took it away which was pretty mad. They’ve deffo got a good few weeks of venison burgers to get through.

So after a few wrong turns and the new hire car breaking down we all finally got to the race. I had never seen the track so dusty top to bottom. The first two days a line didn’t really cut in because the dust and rocks were getting blown-up and sprayed everywhere. I had a mechanical near the bottom of the track in seeding but still got through to the big game on Sunday.

After that loads of us headed down to the waterfalls to catch the last of the sun. Later that evening it rained pretty hard so on Saturday the morning practice was moved to the afternoon to save the track and by the time we got riding it was perfect hero dirt in the open sections. Some bits cut in better and nothing got to wet. It did the same after practice when me and Greg Minnaar went to walk the track. After slipping down the track we got the line sorted and it was on for race day.

Riding race day I was only going to do two runs I did some runs with Baltic (Ben Reid) and just blasting out trains with a few wild blind lines was too much fun to be sensible and stop riding. Race run I was feeling good and apart from some two big ball rides through the top rock garden woods it was a solid run. After being in the hot seat for a while I finished 32nd with something to build on this weekend at Windham World Cup.

Double H

Pre Mid Season

3 World Cups are done and dusted already this year and the all important few minutes on those three Sundays so far haven’t exactly gone to plan for me. It’s not the half way point yet so with four more to go it’s all to play for.
My mate Dogman who races bmx comes out with the saying “marginal gains” alot, even though he said he hates the phrase. Well I’ve been working on it and riding better than ever and putting that into my race runs up until the point I’ve had a “marginal error”! So when I say hasn’t quite gone to plan it’s only been something small gone wrong just with biggish outcomes like a crash or mechanical.
The last two weeks away with the team have been such a good time. It’s the first time this year we have all been together at the races as some of the crew couldn’t make it to round one of the World Cup series in SA. Few newbies along with my new mechanic Ben Evans who is half of the running of Roost DH in Spain. You can have a good bit of banter with the Euro guys on the team and they tell me stuff to say that I haven’t got a clue what it means. One thing I miss out on going to see this time of year is the Isle of Man TT which has landed on the same time as Fort Bill for the last few years. One year I’ll get over there to see it, looks absolutely mental.

I’m getting better with taking pictures to post on all the cool media sites I’m supposed to post on but then I get excited show the pictures to people and then delete them in the moment. Will have some for next time for the time being here’s one the team photog Grega Stopar took of me giving it a big inside on the second to last turn at Val Di Sole.