This past weekend I went road trippin' with the Maverick crew to the African continental champs held at Mankele mountain bike park in Nelspruit. We left on Thursday around 11am. After a long drive and a couple stop and go's due to road maintenance we finally arrived. The venue was perfect for the event, there's loads of camping area's, lodges for the rich folks, a game room, pools, and most importantly good trails! I was happy to see our tents had already been pitched when we arrived at 7PM, coz I really didn't feel like wrestling with tent poles in the dark. I had been told it got cold in Nelspruit...but I wasn't expecting it to be that cold! We woke up to ice on our tents and a frozen solid Monster energy can that Conrad had left outside, but we survived!
On Friday Hayden, Tim, Tayla and myself walked the track early, it was pretty much the same route we rode in February which I was happy about coz I really enjoy that track. It can be divided into two sections, the top is really fast and rough, then a road crossing separates the next steep technical wooded section with loads of switch backs and littered with rock gardens. The super fast, steep off-cambered section at the top was a real suspension tester, I'm really thankful to Pat for hooking me up with the new Fox rc2 rear shock coz it handled so well on that rough stuff! We started practice at 12 on Friday, I felt a bit shaky on the technically demanding track to begin with, but a few runs later I got into the rhythm of things and started enjoying myself.
Saturday morning we started practice once it had warmed up a bit...this was only around 9 or so once the sun had come up over the mountain ridge over looking our camp site! I used my moto trainer and did timed runs of the course, I really feel this is the way to get faster because it's a race against yourself every run and it pushes you to improve even if it's by half a second. It was also useful finding out which lines were faster or slower, it was no longer a case of guessing which is faster, all I had to do was time it and decide from there. I had a small crash in the afternoon, luckily no serious injuries, just a tweaked shoulder and a roastie on my pinky finger. That afternoon I flatted my rear tyre three times in three consecutive runs...I wasn't in a good mood by the third one! So I pumped up my tyre quite a bit harder and used a heavy duty tube, that seemed to help as I didn't flat for the rest of the weekend.
Sunday came and it was go time...all the riders had to use SA jerseys as we were all representing our country (it was pretty funny though coz there were no other countries participating anyway.) I did two practice runs in the morning and headed up to the top of the hill for the timed run. I was way to cautious on the fast top section, and stalled a couple times in the wood section, I ended the run with a time of 2:24. That put me in about 15th position. I wasn't too concerned about that run since it was just to give us an idea on the times for the final. My race run went really well, I focused on carrying speed between corners and forced myself to brake just a bit later into the corners. My run flowed really well from top to bottom and I had alot of fun doing it. I ended up getting a 2:18. This put me in 9th position overall, just 0.01 seconds of 8th place, and 7th in the elite men. I'm happy with how the weekend went, this being my first actual downhill race after my accident I didn't expect to make a winning come back to be honest, just wanted to be on the bike again and compete in a race scenario. With racing over for the season I want to carry on with my training and get back some DH skills!
Thanks to Conrad, Mike, Steph, Fab and the Brown family for a really good weekend and to Lloyd for the photees.
Ride safe, TB