Will Weston race season update #1
With the UCI Downhill World Cup at Fort William taking place this weekend, test team rider, Will Weston, gave us his thoughts on his recent BDS race at the same venue…
From my experience, Fort William is possibly the most punishing race course on the face of the earth, it brings about feelings of excitement and trepidation in equal parts. “Fort Bill” is always a date circled on my calendar, and a target set from the very darkest depths of winter as it provides a real platform to test yourself and your equipment against a world cup level depth of talent.
This season coincides with my final A-level exams so unfortunately I’m not attending the world cup in a few weeks time, so for me this would be one of the few times I can compare myself to the likes of Loic Bruni and Gee Atherton on a genuine World Cup level course. As the years go by more and more people turn up to the Highland town for semi official Friday practice, so it’s essential to take the extra day off work (or school in my case) to be competitive. The extra practice day not only gives you longer to learn the 5 minute long beast of a track but also to spread out your physical efforts over two days so as to not burn out completely come finals on Sunday.
I managed to get to the race venue as lifts opened on Friday and was met with dry weather for the first time in years, although being so high up the wind chill made things cold up top. I decided to wear my Neo jacket despite the near dusty conditions to keep my core temperature up. The roughest track in the world becomes even harder when you can’t feel your hands!
I had a clear game plan to do 4 runs each day, enough time on track without asking too much of my body and allowing plenty of time to chill out and recover. Friday went well, it’s always intimidating first run down as there are a lot of blind drops and rocky outcrops that can so easily lead to broken wheels and sore ego’s unless you are absolutely precise with wheel placement, so I took my time learning the course and scouting for smooth lines. The event crew had done a facelift on the ‘motorway jumps’ at the bottom of the track, I love a big jump and had loads of fun throwing my fuzz sideways over the freshly lipped up gaps.I quickly got to grips with the fast pace of the track and began to feel comfortable towards the end of Friday, and ready to find some speed the following day.
Saturday morning brought about glorious sunshine and an increasingly rough track, the course is built out of a fine gravel that is shipped in and throw on top of the Scottish heathland. Without rain it begins to break up very quickly resulting in some big holes! I made some suspension changes and mixed up my lines from the previous day in search of flow. All practice runs are timed at the BDS so I put in one full run at the end of the day to see where my pace was at, and to see how physical it would be to link together the whole track.
Out of a 50 rider deep world class elite field to which I am a rookie, I sat around 30th in timed practice, which I was really happy with. This gave me a little confidence boost coming into Sunday, although it’s hard to gauge how hard riders push in the timed runs. I got an early night, ate some solid carbs and dreamt of a fast race run at the high profile race.
Practice Sunday morning was much of the same, blistering sunshine (for scotland anyway) and a dusty loose track, I had played around with my tire pressures a lot over the weekend, running a tubeless set up on the super tough NS Enigma rims I could afford to go lower in return for more grip on the loose gravel. I soon found the limits of that direction in my final practice run, I hit a square edge about 6 inches to the left of where my wheels should have been and had a huge blowout, I had to walk the remaining two thirds of my last practice run. I was very nervous for seeding, the idea of racing my idols is still a bit daunting and its hard to feel confident when you recognize how talented the people around you are. Never the less I had a smooth run, no flat tires and no big mistakes and went 6 seconds quicker than my timed practice slotting into 34th but I knew I had more in the tank.
The finals arrived, I was much more relaxed and approached the run with an attitude I’m really pleased with, smiling as I drifted round the top corners and enjoying riding in front of the fans. I can’t remember much about the first half of my run so it must have been good! I did however begin to fade on the second half of the course, conscious I had ridden well up to that point I began over breaking and overthinking. Braking where you should be attacking only makes you more tired and I felt drained as I crossed the line, by no means a throw away run, but I know I have more to give. . . and hopefully so will everyone else soon enough.
I finished 35th which is a step in the right direction, I got congratulated a lot on what was comparatively a very respectable time but I’m definitely not satisfied. As a racer you strive for your own personal best, weather you place first or last so long as you delivered your best you should be happy, and I know I had more in the tank. Never the less happy to leave Fort Bill as I arrived, healthy, hungry and with a big smile. One positive to take from the weekend is if this mini World Cup would have been for real, I was just about within the qualifying time threshold of years past, we will find out for sure next year!
Photography by: Aspect Media
Courtesy of: Imprint Grips, TMR Designs