This is a special post by a young man called Finlay who was meant to be coming and having coaching with us whilst over in the UK from Australia. Sadly Finlay hurt himself (riding his bike of course) so couldn’t come for any riding. However he did write us a little post on riding and his dreams of down hill podiums.
Good luck Finlay!
Where does it start? The desire to go faster, to go longer, to go higher? For those who don’t know me, I’m Finlay. Currently 16 years old with a dream to become a pro downhill mountain bike racer.
At the age of nine I discovered some small jumps in my local bushland. On the heaviest BMX of the century, I was petrified to send this foot jump to flat. Later I learnt about bikes that are designed to do this sort of thing, bikes that have gears and suspension. That summer I worked all weekends to save for a mountain bike. By the end of the summer I had saved $700. A short drive to Nannup and I had a Giant Talon. It was love at first sight, the fresh paint job, 2×9 gears and a front fork. What else does a beginner need? In my Nike trainers and green tee, I was flying down local trails. With a hardtail rocks felt like boulders, with my xc tires roots were like ice and all jumps had a hard landing.
Years down the line I now have a 2014 trek session which is my main bike. My mates and I raced each other down the local trails. From there I started to race in state rounds. I fell in love with racing and have wanted to do it as a career for a long time. I’m now doing bigger jumps and going faster than I ever could have imagined. I still want to go bigger, faster, longer and higher. I wake up every day thinking that I could win a world cup because if others can do it why can’t I? I’m dedicated to working out, eating healthily and lots of practice riding. The thing that gets me up at 6am to train and what I think about when I go to bed is that I can win a DH world cup, and one day maybe I will.
Well, that’s it for the 2019 Southern XC Season.
17/03/19 Southern XC Round 1 – Matterley Basin, Winchester
Fred raced this one in the u12s at the South Downs venue of Matterley Basin. Flowy singletrack in the woods combined with fast open sections combined to give close racing. Fred started at the back and was immediately held up behind a crash. Pushing hard he fought up to 17th having passed 18 riders. A good ride!
21/04/19 Southern XC Round 2 – Checkendon, Reading
Edith and Fred both raced here in the u12s. This is a very familiar venue after many years of the old Rampage series and frequent Southern XC visits here. Pan flat, but tight and rooty, this course rewards speed through corners and power, lots of power! Edith raced hard and came in 12th. Fred got off to a good start this time and was rewarded with an 11th place. It was also Easter Sunday, so chocolate eggs followed!
19/05/19 Southern XC Round 3 – Crow Hill, New Forest
Edith and Fred returned to the much-loved venue of Crow Hill in the New Forest. The course here is loamy, fast and in contrast to Checkendon is nicely hilly. Loved by Fred, and less so by Edith! Good starts by both saw them racing well up until a ‘racing incident’ between Fred and Edith resulted in Fred through the tape and crashing off the course, right in front of the race commissaire. He wasn’t impressed at the Price sibling antics. Finishing the remainder of the race cleanly saw Fred in 13th and Edith in 9th.
02/06/19 Southern XC Round 4 – Folly Farm, Basingstoke
This is a new woodland venue for Southern XC and featured a fresh cut woodland course with a reasonable climb and fun descent. Edith raced hard for 10th and Fred had a very close race resulting in a sprint finish for a 10th place. Good racing! Good to see new venues and it should develop into a cracking race venue for the future.
14/07/19 Southern XC Round 5 – Pippingford, Ashdown Forest
This one was a full family outing with Fred and Edith in u12s, Karen in vet ladies and me in open men. I reckon this is the best venue on the Southern XC circuit, and every year it gets better! Why? Well it’s a Southern Enduro venue too, giving some cracking descents with berms, jumps and drops abound, all earnt with some stiff rooty climbs too. Get your droppers on for this one and have some fun! Well fun I had and scored a happy 8th placed finish.
Edith and Fred both got 10th placed finishes and then we all cheered Karen on in for her race. Just to make it an endurance day too, Karen rode to the venue and started her race with some 60 something miles in her legs already. Luckily it didn’t slow her down and she scored a 3rd placed finish. Podium!!
Southern XC Overall
Edith finished 7th overall and Fred finished 5th.
Again many thanks to Southern XC for a great series – always well run, fun and on great courses.
The racing is very inclusive so if your child is keen, get along and give it a go.
Sunday was the last day of this amazing adventure, the Carpathian MTB Epic, it has been a mental and physical roller coaster from day one.
Lining up at the start line on Sunday I felt a twinge of sadness that this incredible experience was nearly over but also a little relieved that this would be the last day of pain! The final day saw competitors in the 1-day-epic join us at the start line for a shorter 40km loop, this was an appealing idea, just 40km instead of 60km…
For the first time in the race we headed out of the arena and into new territory battling a grassy off camber field with ruts and diverts the size of my front wheel it was tricky to navigate after this exhausting affair we were greeted with a hike-a-bike section, I won’t miss these, at the top I had a decision to make 40km or 60km. It wasn’t hard really it had to be 60km!
The trail continued down on a fast descent, but line choice was important as huge gullies had opened up leaving a thin ‘safe zone’ on which to ride.
I felt really fresh and continued to make good progress. The course was amazing with so much packed into 60km riding through lush green forests, over tiny bridges and vast ravines with the sound of the water echoing.
Once we climbed out of the ravine the descent down was really tricky almost like riding in a river bed of boulders, it was a case of eyes up bum back try to stay straight, my arms were getting a serious workout as I rumbled through the rocks.
At the bottom was every riders nightmare, the air ambulance, I’m not sure what had happened but I do hope whoever the rider was he is okay.
After this I rode slightly more carefully these rugged mountains we were playing in meant business and the consequences for choosing the wrong line could be nasty. The course continued to climb until reaching the steepest downhill I’ve ever come across, channelling my inner Rachel Atherton I rode the first 20m before grabbing a tree in order to stop. Walking my bike was as hard as riding, to keep it going slow enough for me to slide my feet forwards the breaks had to be locked out which made the bike skid sideways.
After battling gravity through the wood the bottom was in sight and the course started to climb, again.
My nutrition strategy was working every 40 minutes EAT. This worked well and I pushed myself hard until the end was in sight. The last 5km were tough following the same course as stage two it felt a really long way, but finally the white arch was in view and I just had one more climb to make and then it would be the home straight.
Rolling over the finish line was an awesome feeling the Carpathian MTB Epic stage race had held nothing back, a massive adventure which pushed my mountain bike skills to the max and challenged what I thought my body was capable of. Turns out it was more capable than I thought!
Coming into the race I was not prepared, training had been mediocre at best and a mixture of family and friend events had not exactly made me ‘super healthy’ either. What I learnt was that your body is incredibly adaptable and you just learn to suck it up, smile and keep pushing those pedals and eventually that climb will finish.
Until next time…
Stage two of the Carpathian MTB Epic started with the same route out of Fundata as stage one this gruelling climb hadn’t become easier overnight which was a shame as my legs pushed hard, body weight over the bars just to keep traction on the front wheel.
The route climbed a similar path up to the first feed station but today instead of turning left we went right a short sharp climb led to what felt like the roof of the world towering above the mighty Carpathian mountain range, standing still to catch my breath my heart beat was the only sound. The vast wilderness stretched out in every direction un-touched by humans, rugged and wild.
Now for the descent! The start was a grassy meadow, with a twist as it was basically a vertical drop, I opted for two feet! This came with the nuisances of flies, which seemed to think I smelt great. I’m sure I didn’t!
Once past the rather daunting top section the climb entered the woods and became a whole world of fun, loose earth, roots and switch backs made for technical riding. I kept my eyes up and picked my lines carefully as I swept through the forest my Specialized 29’er making easy progress down the mountain side.
We were at the bottom far too quick, a long an arduous gravel road climb took you straight from glory and back to the pain cave for what seemed like an age, as I made my way out of the tree line the rumbles of thunder got louder.
Finally seeing the red tent of the all too familiar feed zone I had made it to 25km in 3 hours 21 mins and passed the cut off for continuing into the most technical section of the course. As I started to climb the weather growled, thunder and lightning seemed to be surrounding me and the rain was coming down like someone had turned the hose on! Reaching the woods I slipped off the path and hurt my ankle, it wasn’t that bad, but in that moment I
decided that my head had to rule and to turn round and back to safety. Reaching the red tent I was surprised how far I had actually climbed. Not stopping at the feed zone I continued on through the rain and wind feeling so cold I just kept pushing, not noticing the time tick by… By the time I realised my lack of eating and drinking it was too late to reverse the damage I had done, it was if someone had switch the power off in my legs and the only gear was slow and painful, I crawled back into the race village.
On unpacking my stuff and reflecting it became even more evident why I was I trouble my full camelback told the story, I was so dehydrated my body was just running on nothing. It’s safe to say stage two was a steep re-education in looking after myself. Usually I am so good at refuelling but the conditions got the better of me and then I paid the price hitting the wall 10km from the finish.
Stage three I promised myself would go better, and it did!
To see more photos head over to my instagram.
This first stage had a total distance of 60km with an elevation of 2,700m (although my Garmin said 2,995m)
Friday was the first stage of the Carpathian MTB Epic. The day started with a hearty breakfast and plenty of procrastination on my part.
After what seemed like an age waiting in the starting box the music fell silent and the loud heart beat timer started our count down, I could feel my heart racing and tried to control my breathing. The starter sounded and the sounds of clicking pedals and gear shifts filled the air as we set off out of the race village towards, what for me, was about to be an awesome day in the saddle.
The climbing and heat hit me straight away as the other riders pulled further up the road, I knew I needed to pace myself after all I was here for the enjoyment and adventure not to ‘race’ but as a ‘racer’ that can be quite difficult to get your head round.
The course took us through some spectacular scenery we climbed up on to a ridge line, where the first feed station sat, at just over 12km into the race. It had been a mixture of ‘hike a bike’ and gradual climbing to get here up fire roads with horses grazing in the woods and loggers hauling huge trees behind tractors.
I looked up at the climb to the top of the peak and ate another date, I was going to need all my energy for this one! Once up this short sharp climb the course stayed high and traversed the sky line, the view was incredible! The first proper ‘descent’ felt very steep and loose.
The next few hours are a bit of a blur the course continued to be gruelling and amazing at the same time. The clouds had once again pulled in and the thunder in the distance worried me, it was going to get wet, very wet! I stopped and put my rain jacket on and continued my descent towards Feed Zone 2, reaching this I was right to put my jacket on when I did as the heavens open and within seconds everything was washed out, the next section was a road climb which seemed to go on forever, the road had become a river and the rain was making it hard to see.
I was relieved to be off the road and back to the gravel; even though this was harder to climb I didn’t have to worry about the cars.
The route meandered through the valley with towering rock cliffs on one side and the open meadows on the other, farmers and their cattle watched on as I slowly made my way around the course following a stream which then became a river to cross before tracking the valley on the other side. I could see little dots behind me, which I thought were cyclists and it felt comforting to know I wasn’t the only one!
The climb continued and on reaching the top the huge rock face stood in the distance, you’re going over there said the marshal, wow it looked far away!
Continuing along and down I was surprised to reach the rock face quicker than I anticipated proving that all you have to do is keep pushing those pedals and you will eventually make it.
The next climb was exhausting and I really began to question the ‘fun factor’, it was a grassy climb and in the wet my shoes kept slipping and it seemed to take hours to reach the marshals who were lovely, they said one little bit of up then it’s all down! That sounded promising.
Of course that’s not quite how it went it was more like up, down, up, down, up then down.
It was a spectacular descent now on the other side of the rock face and open valley to my left the descent was rocky and challenging I kept my wits about me as I negotiated the rocks enjoying the challenge. The trail led into the woods where I felt really at home working my way through rooty sections, looking for the best line when the trail was off camber and holding on for dear life when it got rather steep in more than one place! Sometimes the descents would be gradual and then turn steep and committing 100% was the only way to make it down, the descents pushed my ability and belief in myself but time after time I made it to the bottom without coming off.
The final 10km was hard work the descent for 4km to the road was a rutted field with steep sections that came out of nowhere the last 5km up the road was a killer, pain seems to be a prerequisite of cycling so I sucked it up and pedalled on. Soon enough the white archway was in site and I crossed the finish line.
Stage one down, two to go!
Today was the start of the Carpathian MTB Epic, a three day stage race in Romania. I was under the illusion the 10km prologue would be a gentle introduction to the beautiful mountains surrounding the resort. I was in for a shock!
The day started pretty chilled breakfast and working out the jigsaw of putting the bike back together after, what already felt like, epic journey to get here.
After packing my camelbak in the heat of the Romanian afternoon I wasn’t entirely convinced carrying a bag was the best way forward, but it was too late to go back to bottle cages now. The music playing loudly and the chilled out vibe reminded me of the Trans Alp and as the sun shone I made my way out onto the course.
10km doesn’t sound like a very long way but it soon felt like it. The climbing was insane! I always knew it was going to be, it’s hard to practise for ‘mountains’ in Southern England but I kept pushing forward, knowing that it had to end eventually, didn’t it?
The ground was loose gravel and rocky and traction was proving tricky. The first descent was steep but manageable down a grassy bank, this brought you back into the area over two little jumps and then back out and up.
This final climb finished with two switch backs and then a short descent onto a gravel road which took me into the woods. I felt at home in the wood it was cooler and felt more like home riding the trail was loamy and I enjoyed making my way through the trees. Until, I got to the first ‘A’ line, when you see three downward pointing arrows you know its worth having a little peak before jumping in. I am glad I looked.
Nerves have always been a nemesis, I know everyone gets them, I seem to tie myself in knots quite easily pre-race and the knots had not released my brain yet so my feet hit the ground and there they stayed until I was at the bottom. Mind-set is something I find fascinating, how one way day it can just flow and on others not so. Whether your approaching a steep descent or your own ‘steep descent’ being able to think clearly enables you to react in the way you want to. Lets just say today there is a little fog in my brain and thinking clearly is hampered!
Anyway, back to the course after another fun section through the woods it was back to the climb a long an arduous single-track trail, the jumps and drop offs soon made me realise we were riding up a downhill track, the climb got so steep it was taking all my efforts just to keep the front wheel on the ground. I decided pushing may be more efficient and got off I am not sure if this was the case and what felt like a long time passed before the gradient eased out enough for me to remount.
After the ‘hairy’ descent and brutal climb it was just a case of staying on two wheels back round into the arena. With a sign of relief to see the white arch and flags again after what had been a testing adventure.
After a shower and sitting down to write down my thoughts on today it was a mental and physical battle, but one that I did enjoy, I think. The Carpathian team fitted an extraordinary amount of gradient, obstacles and work into 10k it was packed full of surprises no kilometre was the same.
Tomorrow it gets a little more serious! 60km 2,700m of climbing… I feel tired just thinking about it.