Alpine's resident downhill aficionado Neil Wilson takes on the SDA Round 2 in the Tweed Valley.
After racing the first round while not quite fully prepared, I was desperate to get some bike time in on my new Trek Session 9.9 before the second race of this season. But, after bad weather cancelled a planned day’s uplift, I’d only had one day’s riding to prepare for the next race at Innerleithen. However, I had spent some time setting my bike up – cutting 5mm off the end of my handlebars – which makes a big difference, and I’d also fitted a stiffer spring on my shock so I was feeling better prepared and really looking forward to SDA Round 2 at Innerleithen – my local and favourite track.
The hill at Innerleithen is littered with downhill trails and any race there tends to use a combination of bits of those trails – it’s usually quite fast and always fun. This was no different – some tight root covered corners , some fast flowy sections and a flat out blast over the jumps – great fun and no rain just made it better. (There was snow on Sunday morning but it just helped keep the dust down!)
Practice went well on the Saturday – I was happy with the lines I was taking and I got a timed run in late in the day so I reckoned I was all good for race day. The snow first thing on Sunday wasn’t a big surprise – I was getting used to a snowy Innerleithen after the previous two Sundays had started that way – and it didn’t make much difference to a couple of practice runs I did first thing. So I was set for my two race runs in the afternoon.
SDA races have two race runs with the best time counting. In my first race run, I pushed too hard and just couldn’t get into any flow so was disappointed to cross the line with a time of 3 minutes 32 seconds... which was slower than my practice from the day before. My second run went much better – I felt like I was carrying better speed, getting more pedal strokes in and generally just getting into a flow so I was even more disappointed to cross the line with another 3:32! Long story short, I’d misheard the commentator and it was a 3:22 which left me happier as I reckon I can improve from there.
The Scottish Downhill Association again put on a great race - there was the usual happy vibe around the pits and up on the hill with smiles all round from the 300 riders all having fun over the weekend. If you ever want to check out a race or get involved they’d love some help and are always looking for marshals – go to the SDA website for more details.
Next stop is Glencoe – a tough track but fun and I know that a lot of work has gone into it recently so it should be a good one.