The British Downhill Series (BDS) has gained a reputation over the years for being a pretty bad ass series with stacked competition so I thought I would give it a go...I have been to the US Open so many times, change is good. It is only 30 minutes from Fort William, the venue for the World Cup next weekend so logicistically it is pretty good, also a good warm up to the european World Cup rounds...
The Scottish Highlands are beautiful...very green, lots of lakes, lots of steep mountain, lots of sheep...and lots of storms rolling in and out. Makes me want to buy a pair or wellies and a wool sweater and go for a little trek and then go inside to drink a bit of tea and sit around the fire. ha.
Anyway the turn out was real good, I guess its been sold out for awhile now, all the rounds sell out which is pretty cool. Luckily they leave some extra spots for elite riders so I managed to squeeze myself in there. The series is well organized, well marketed and they run sick courses. The British love their racing...pretty obvious with the number or rippers on the World Cup circuit. Lets just say these British folks make all of us Americans look like a load of softies. I would say the vast majority of the racers were camping in some form (tents, campers, rv's or sleeping in thier cars) and thats what they do every round.Let me just add that it was bloody freezing, soooooo cold. You go out, have practice is 32/0 degree weather in the pissing rain/sleet/hail...and then camp with no real place to warm up or wash your clothes. Luckily, I was staying in the BK Lounge so we had a nice place to go back to but it was nearly impossible to clean up and get your stuff dry. It's good though, I think I got a little tougher this week. :)
The track was pretty rad. I think it was defiently one of the steeper, gnarlier courses I have ridden. The mountains here are steep, they don’t mellow out at all really and underneath all that grass is rock so the course was pretty much a steep rock garden the whole way down. Add a bit of rain in there (or a lot) and it is a muddy mess the whole way down. The rocks were actually reasonably grippy, the thing that made the course tricky was the blind nature of it and a bunch of wheel swallowing holes that had developed.
Practice was a bit of a shit show. We walked the course on Friday and then woke up Saturday to pissing rain and blowing wind. We decided to lay low in the morning as the course was open all day for practice and its not like we were going to take a run every hour for 8 hours, whatever we did we were gonna just pound ‘em out one after another to stay out of the elements. Well we cruised up early afternoon...first run was good. I stopped a bunch to check things out as the course changed so much between walking it and that first run, didn’t look the same at all. I was well impressed though, such a sick track!!! I got to the bottom and stood in line to go up for another. The wind had really picked up at this point, they kept pausing the upload as the gusts were knocking chairs into the lift towers....ummm, sketchy. Anyway, we got up to the top...freeeeeeeeezing. On the way up we were getting pissed on by rain and blown by gusts of 60ish mph winds, I was not loving that. I couldn’t even feel my fingers and I was soaking wet....same story for everyone. A big crew of us went and took shelter for awhile to warm up, during that time they closed the lift a few times because it was so windy. After about 15 minutes or so I got it together and decided to go for it. I got about 1/4 of the way down and the red flags were up. Basically someone got hurt so the medics had to carry them down...there were no access roads on the mountain so all the medics had to be taken from thier posts to carry the guy down which meant no one was allowed to practice so we all had to walk down. Got to the bottom and I was kinda over it by that point, cold, wet, freezing...and the lifts were shut anyway. So yah, got one practice run in. Normally I would be kinda stressed out but I didn’t really feel too much pressure...its one of those courses you have just gotta flow and stay off the brakes as much as you can, my kinda course.
The talk of the afternoon was whether or not the race was going to be canceled as the wind was only supposed to get worse on Sunday. Given the conditions of Saturday, there seemed to be a very high probability that it would indeed be canceled. Instead of hanging about in the cold we cruised up to Fort William to meet up with my friends Dave and Sam...they are my good friends from Whistler that live just outside London. They came out to Fort William for the weekend, but didn't really get to ride because the lifts were shut there too. Anyway, we had a pretty good night, lots of chatting and catching up and a few bevys. We even faced time out BFF Carlos... :)
We woke up Sunday morning to pissing rain and blowing wind again. Holy shit was it blowing. I got suited up to ride but just as we were about to go up, the lift shut and the race was called. And that was that. Would have been nice to get a result out there but I am least happy I got to see what the BDS rounds are all about, ride a new track and meet lots of new friends!!