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James Windley | Race Report

James Windley | Race Report

6/3/2016 - Round 1 Gravity Project - Rogate DH

Last weekend was the first round of the Gravity Project Honey Series at Rogate DH trails in the South Downs National Park.

I haven't really thought about riding too much this year since I signed up to race three of the BDS rounds back in January and because I raced the Honey Series last year I thought it would be good to get my first race of the season under the belt. It's always great fun at these grassroots events, as everybody and anybody turns up and it's generally a lot more relaxed than some of the bigger events.

I've only ridden at Rogate once before, in summer last year, but it's got a couple of great tracks and soil is really quite sandy which means plenty of roost. The ground was almost completely dry and the track chosen for the event was a mixture of existing tracks, linked by some tech off-camber sections. At the moment I'm running the Magic Mary by Schwalbe - it's a cracking tyre and there's always plenty of bite in the site knobs and in this case it was ideal to help the bike grip on some of the newer off camber sections. The bike has been running sweet since TMC mechanic Dave Webb bolted on a shiny new Fox X2 Air shock and added a couple of stem spacers to raise the bar height a little, so for the first time in what seems like years I was pretty happy with it!

Practice got underway at 9am sharp, and lasted until 11:45am so we had a fair chunk of time to get dialled in to the track, which at around a minute in length, meant racking up 6 or 7 practice runs. I always find it hard to strike that perfect balance between getting the time on track in to learn the course, but at the same time not going too gung-ho and knackering myself out pushing back up. I think I got it about right this time.

First race run felt pretty wild actually, bit messy in places although a near-OTB towards the end nearly sent me home early! One problem is that the track evolves between first thing on Sunday morning to your race run, meaning it's a bit of a guessing game as to how hard you push when 150+ riders have been riding down and causing the track to change in certain places. Some corners might bank up more, meaning you can carry more speed through them, whilst others can blow out and suddenly the support isn't there to carry you through like you had been practicing. Turns out the lip of a high speed jump had become boggy, so when I came through at full chat the bike almost stopped dead and nearly sent me out the front door! First run down I was sitting in 8th place.

Second run definitely felt slower than the first, although I did try pedalling harder out the start gate which seemed to help a bit. I got into a real nice rhythm in the early corners, and the bike felt on the 'edge' the whole time, 2 wheels drifting in most places. On such tight and slow tracks like this one I find the front wheel tends to exit the corner before the rear wheel has even got to it - you end up with understeer everywhere with a canal boat of a barge like my extra-slack V10. Anyway I crossed the line 0.6s quicker than my first despite given up on the pedals for the latter half of the track, which put me in 7th place overall in the seniors category.

It was one of those days where I didn?t really feel switched on in my head, yet I think it was a good result given that the top 5 times were taken by riders on enduro bikes rather than full DH rigs, which goes to show how capable they are these days. It?s still early days in the season but with Fort William, Round 2 of the BDS this year, coming up in mid-May, I really need to get on the bike and get sending some proper-sized jumps in preparation. The guys who race dh are incredibly fit and even after spending the winter hitting the gym twice a week and riding the odd enduro lap most weekends, I still don?t feel up to the job of getting through a race weekend at Fort Bill. It?s going to be mega but smashing your way down the 9th largest mountain in the UK is a long way from cruising down a little hillside in the South Downs, that?s for sure.

Onwards and upwards.

Team Mitchell Cycles: Limits: Exceeded.