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RACE REPORT - Portuguese National DH Round 1

"The first race of the year in the 'elite' category started off in the deep end with a national race abroad. I had my doubts coming into the race as firstly I felt I had bitten off more than I could chew with being in the elite category. At the same time I was approaching the race to gauge how I would get on over the year ahead!

I had been staying in Ride Portugal all week, getting some pre season & pre race training in. For those of you who haven't had chance to ride their tracks I would highly recommend going.

Friday morning the race venue was attended to set up the pit area and walk the track. As it is Portugal you would obviously expect glorious sunshine and warm weather?! On this occasion, due to British competitors arrival we had also seemed to bring the British weather with us with heavy winds and rain! Luckily I had been slightly prepared with a mudguard, a waterproof jacket and some trousers!
Once the pit was set up a track walk was in order, luckily the rain had stopped by this point!
The track itself wasn't overly technical or steep. It was a track which required speed to be maintained and pedalling, with some jumps thrown in, along with a rock garden for good measure. Once the track walk was complete I was looking forward to riding as the weather had held off apart from the gusts of wind, which would make the jumps and drop interesting!

At 1400hrs we hit the track to get a sighting in and a feel of the track. It was good fun, a lot different to what I had ridden before as in places it was fairly flat. Staying consistent and smooth was the definite key. After getting three runs in we headed back early to clean our mud plastered bikes and kit ready to face another day of British weather!
Saturday practise started off weather wise very much in the same way. So much so I waited around for an hour before I got out on my bike. In that hour I probably moaned constantly about the rain and how it should be sunny abroad!
In the morning it was nice to see some familiar faces as I bumped into Aston Tutt, Franki Evans and Sumayyah Green. It was nice to chill and chat to them as it settled me in and made me feel at home.
Once the rain cleared I head up to the uplift which I must admit was probably more terrifying then doing the track! The first two runs were a sighting and gauging speed to hit the jumps in the hope a gust wouldn't take you off of the landing! I managed to squeeze in 5 runs in, with a few crashes, but non the less undeterred and looking forward to hitting the track again! Unfortunately I couldn't get any more in as I managed to put a flat spot in my rim! Amazingly it wasn't through casing a jump! As a result I packed up early and left for my bike to have some TLC and to rest up before Sunday's antics.

Sunday morning and feeling tired as I hadn't had my 12hr sleep (Unfortunately only those who know me would be able to relate to that 😳) Off early and keen to get going. The practise for the uplift was only open for an hour so we needed to get there sharpish as the uplift was fairly slow to be able to get at least one run in. The weather was consistent and yet again we had rain but on the plus side not as much wind!

On arrival, kit on bike off, go!
The first run of the day was a chilled one and it was abit slick in places! 1st run was good lines were all hit so onto the next. Second run crashed no surprise, although the rest of the run was spot on. I couldn't get another before qualifying but didn't feel to bad otherwise. A spare jersey would have probably been better to take as I definitely could have one a muddy t shirt competition!
With an hour and a half wait, I chilled out with the British girls where we talked the time by! At the top I felt good and was relaxed, even the weather was cheering up with was awesome. Not too good that it would warrant tints yet! In the start box I was keen to get another run in as the track was enjoyable. The dreaded count down starts from 10s and the heart starts going, 5s and we're green, deep breath and off. Out the gate crank up two gears and into the first corner. I defeat my nemesis which I was took victim to in my practise run! Cranking to the left hip and get caught up awkwardly on the landing and high side! I side to a stop and scramble up clearing my googles. Jump back on my bike and crack on with trying to keep the rest of the run smooth and nail my lines to try and take something through for my race run. The rest of the run was ace and the Portuguese crowd are wild. I cross the line and I manage third with a 3:13. I'm annoyed with myself as I made a stupid mistake which sacrificed a lot of time but the positive I took from the rest of the run with the lines being the best I had hit them all weekend!

After washing my bike off I discover I have put another dent and flat spot in my rim! I couldn't even tell you how I managed it! Back in the pits the command decision is made to run a tube to hope the tyre stays inflated and to get the race run done. The spokes are tightened and there is a rough attempt to true the wheel slightly. However the thing was still like a Pringle! I rode it around the pits a little to try and play about getting used to it.
On to race run and I was chilled again and had a plan of attack to chill the first section where I crashed and then hit the rest of the run as I did in the qualifying. I felt positive as I knew I would be capable of pulling off such a task. My focus was the line through the rock garden to as I needed my rear tyre to stay inflated to get the run completed.
In the gate and instant nerves kick in, which is ridiculous as the only thing I'm going to be doing is riding down a track! 5s approaches, same routine, deep breath, and two cranks in! Hit the left hander and slide round the off camber to the deck! Clamber up fuming and crank on to continue through the run. The rest of the run was amazing, well it felt it anyway. I felt smooth and hit all my lines better than I had all weekend. The race run I managed to improve my time my run by 8s including another crash, which I was chuffed with.

Overall I managed to maintain my third position in the rank so happy with that.
The whole experience has been a huge learning curve for me and I am going to take a lot away from it.
On to the the first British national in Nant G and let's see how I tackle that! Hopefully I don't live up to Crasher Crellin there !

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