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Race Report – Pearce Downhill Series, Rounds 2 & 3, Kinsham – Rebecca Smith


Stormy and contrary; the “I’m not racing” race

I was really looking forward to Pearce rounds 2 and 3; I was intrigued to see how racing two tracks in one weekend would be and was excited to catch up with friends. I’d briefly glanced at the weather forecast and knew it was going to rain so I packed my brolly, waterproofs and wellies and set off.

Driving over I was watching the clouds build and hoping to get there and get my tent up before the rain started. If I could get a dry track walk in that would be even better! Not far from the venue the news was chatting about storm Hannah, hmmm that didn’t sound very good. I expected rain but gale force winds weren’t something I had considered. Oh well I had a good tent that had stood up to many storms and the camping was in a valley so hopefully not too bad.

We pulled up and I realised the wind was already blasting down the valley, this was going to be interesting. I set up my tent and put my car next to it protecting it from the wind and set off for a track walk. The tracks were surprisingly dry despite the earlier rain, a few puddles here and there suggested what it might look like on Saturday morning after a night of rain.
Sat in the van with Amanda and Tom on Friday evening listening to the rain pelt down and wind howl past I was not looking forward to a night in my tent. I don’t have many fears but wind is one of them and wind whilst in a tent is the scariest of all! I know it’s absurd and irrational, it’s not like anything actually happens but the anxiety it causes me is real. Wahoo let’s hear it for irrational fears!

I checked my guylines, put my ear plugs in and settled down in my sleeping bag. I spent the whole night listening to the wind, being rocked by my shaking tent and getting up to check the pegs and guylines again. I finally fell asleep around 5, got up at 7 and watched a gazebo fly past. Holy crap it was windy but my tent was doing fine.I went back to sleep and then got rudely awakened by the side of my tent hitting me in the face at 8am. I rushed outside to realise the wind had swung through 90 degrees and was somehow coming from the side of the valley which meant my tent was now broadside to it and all the guys had ripped out the pegs. I put the guylines back in and moved my car round, 20 seconds later my tent was flat and pegs were flying through the air again. I figured I needed to swing my tent through 90 degrees but before I had chance the poles were bending and then it ripped. I sat inside frantically packing my stuff whilst holding up the side of the tent. I threw things into my car including my bike which I didn’t fancy putting on the roof and stared around at the race arena. It was destroyed, there were tents in hedges, gazebos in heaps, the barriers were all down and the wind was forecast to get stronger. I was wet and practice was on hold for safety reasons. It took about 10 seconds for me to decide to go home!

I dodged floods and fallen trees arriving home to a beautiful blue sky and sunshine. I unloaded my car, put my sad tent in the bin and stood in a tired grumpy trance before figuring I should go and change out of my pyjamas! I moped around the house driving my husband mad, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

A beautiful walk through the bluebells followed by cake and coffee helped me regain some perspective. A relaxing evening had me wondering about going racing tomorrow after all! I didn’t fancy driving all the way back, I didn’t think a couple of practise runs would be enough to race the track properly and I was tired.

I woke up bright and early Sunday morning raring to go. FOMO kicked in and I realised there was no way I couldn’t race. The sun was shining, my friends were going and I didn’t have any other plans. My husband laughed and said I was predictable! I guess I am, I hate missing out and I also hate it when my plans get changed so it was inevitable that I would drive back and race.

Sign on was quiet, half the field weren’t coming but there would still be 7 of us so a pretty good turnout. I’ve never turned up on the day to race a track I don’t know, I always practice at some point beforehand so I was feeling a bit nervous. I’d ridden the track a few times and walked the track so a couple of practice runs would have to be enough.

I crashed in the first corner on my first run, had a better second run and then crashed again on my 3rd practice run. I was still getting surprised in a couple of places where I couldn’t remember the track, I was still at cruisey practice pace not race pace and I was crashing more than not! Practice closed early so that would have to be good enough.

I was more nervous than I have been in ages going in to race run 1, until I got to the top. Weirdly at the sound of the beeps I got less nervous! What?! The beeps normally signal the real surge in nervous adrenaline but weirdly they made me less nervous. None of my normal race routine was there this weekend until the beeps, they were normal, I recognised them and suddenly it all felt OK.

My first run was a bit chaotic, I braked into a few corners too hard sliding to a stop, totally missed my line through the top corners, slipped off line into a gully and clipped a tree. Hoping I could clean it up for the second run I was quite surprised to find myself sitting in 3rd place. A chill, some food and a bit of spectating wasted time before the second run and the nerves kicked back in again. I set off, stalled in the first corner and then had a great run. I pedaled hard, remembered my lines finally and really enjoyed myself. I went across the line 100th of a second faster! It was one of those weird runs that feels good and faster but somehow isn’t! it was enough to hold on to 3rd place and my first podium of the season.

It was an eventful and stressful weekend so I was really pleased with my performance. Medals, prizes and smiles made it all worthwhile in the end. Poor Pearce not only had a lot of their kit destroyed by the storm on Friday, some scumbags broke into their shop Saturday night and took £70k worth of bikes. They ran another great race in difficult conditions and managed to keep smiling despite the bad news. I hope the karma badger hits those thieves hard when it catches up to them.

So my next race will be the mighty Fort William in 2 weeks! I am not feeling ready but I am really excited. My flights are booked, my presentation is submitted (because going straight to a conference the day after at the opposite end of the country is perfect planning!) and Sybil is riding better than ever. I’ve been working hard with Matt and Ash and I feel stronger than ever so I’m really intrigued to see how the track feels compared to last year.

Rebecca Smith, Flow MTB rider

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing100% UKGlower ClothingFINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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