I'm sneaking a little time out of work to quickly sum up last weekend's activities. When I first decided to live in Europe, I thought 'great, loads of access to great racing.' That's not quite been the case - Not that there's no racing happening, just that I'm not making the time to partake. So, after losing riding time to working time, and having such a haphazard schedule that training was non existent and riding was often forfeited for sleep, my hopes for entering multiple World Cups melted away as the summer racing season approached.
But, the Fort William WC still beckoned. It's relatively local and i convinced myself it would be a good idea to enter - catch up with the other kiwis who are doing so well and have a bash around one of the more fun XC race tracks.
As race day neared, my trusty Santa Cruz Blur accepted a nice new EA70 flat bar and gleaming carbon bar ends, in an effort to make up for her pilots lack of race-readiness.
Unfortunately, all the carbon accessories in the world were not going to make me go any faster on the day, but they made me feel like i was fitting in a little better.
I left Glasgow the day before the race, arriving one minute shy of the 12pm sign in cut-off (an accident on the road and a forced 1 1/2 hr diversion and shot my carefully timed schedule to pieces). I left sign on with plate number 59 - 2nd to last on the start grid, one place ahead of another NZ rider, Palmerston North based Fiona Macdermid. A snapped chain on my first practice lap had me skooting all the way back to the pits to visit the guys at the Sram tent. A few new split links and a new chain (thanks Graham!) and I was back out on the track, enjoying the unusually dry and dusty conditions.
Race day was similarly dry. So dry, in fact, that when the start gun sounded, the rest of the field seemed to go up in a cloud of dust... and suddenly I was all alone. And i remained alone until the end of the 4th lap when the put-putting of the tail moto behind me confirmed my suspicion that i was about to be lapped out.
So that was that - probably my most lack-lustre performance to date, but it was an experience all the same. I had the pleasure of meeting John Gibson (Kona team photographer) who rescued my CO2 pump from the dirt when it leapt free of my jersey pocket in one of the rock gardens, I got to hang out with the Santa Cruz Syndicate mechanic (Nigel was the NZ team mechanic last year at the Fort William World Champs), and took part in the pant-wetting excitement of the Downhill on Sunday, where Kiwis Justin Leov and Sam Blenkinsop pulled out times that had them in the top 4 riders, just before their names were eclipsed from the leader board by Hill, Rennie, Peat, Atherton and Minaar. But the major memorable thing i took from the weekend are the 67 midgee bites I was unfortunate enough to get on my face while i slept in my tent at the Glen Nevis Campground. Midgees come in clouds, they are officially measured by the ton, and they apparently have an insatiable appetite for me. A full packet of antihistamines and a tube of anaesthetic lotion later, my complexion is almost back to normal. Almost.