Missing link 3 – the final link

Hooray, the last part of my missing month, and as I have had fewer adventures in June I should soon be up to date, guess I should start riding, partying and doing more!

After the EWS weekend the DH World Cup was visiting Fort William as it does every year, and I had a road trip with the bikes planned as I do every year. This year was my seventh in a row and it may be the last one where I dedicate my whole weekend and take holidays from work for it, or at least that was my thinking before this year, now I am not so sure.

Laggan. I love the place, I wrote about it in depth recently so I won’t talk too much about the slabs and trails aside from to say they are great fun, but this time I was able to sample a bacon butty and coffee at the cafe before setting off and they were both excellent, good quality bacon, cooked fresh to order, strong coffee in a mug. Perfick. This visit was with speed demon Gael and my sister Rebecca, I sit somewhere between them in riding skill so had a great time trying to keep up with Gael / not die and helping Rebecca progress her riding. It was a great day out, the weather was spot on after a damp climb and the people we bumped in to had good chat, it was a great start to the weekend.

Rebecca and I supporting Tahnee Seagrave and Copparide at the top of the red climb.
Gael smiling on a climb?!
Rain cleared and the blue skies appeared.
Rebecca riding some Laggan slabs.
Enduro mode.

Following Laggan we all loaded up the car and van and headed on to Fort William for the weekend of madness. As Gael is posh she and her boyfriend had a hotel booked whilst Rebecca and I were headed to the “Wild Camping” closer to the base of the Nevis Range where we were expecting parties, music, beer and fun. Arriving at the site it looked a bit muddy, and by a bit I mean it was a mudfest, but we found a spot, pitched Rebecca’s tent and had a beer whilst waiting for Gael and John to pick us up for dinner. The campsite was a bit ropey, the showers required (expensive) tokens, but at least they existed and a food van was there. Music was in a barn, but as they had provided a bar we were not allowed to take our own drinks in, this would have been fine if we had known, but we had stocked up on cans (no glass on the campsite) especially, so we were kind of excluded from the barn.

In town we tried every food venue that was open until we found somewhere with space at last, an indian restaurant, yay for food! The guys from Singletrack mag had a table by the window, yep I spotted you. The food was ok, the service was odd, but we all needed food after a day on the bikes so it was wolfed down. On our mission to find an eatery we were stopped by staff from the bookies, asking if we wanted to bet on the DH racing, it’s almost as if they knew us, out of my family I am the only one who does not work in gambling, my parents and little sister all work in the industry. Once food was ordered the two of us popped down the road to part with our cash. I bet my money on Bryceland (long shot after injury but I like the lad) and Manon Carpenter along with a little side on Tahnee Seagrave to place, Rebecca bet on an Atherton double and the same side of Seagrave. Fed and watered we were kindly delivered back to camp by Gael and John, so tired we just went to bed ready for a day up the mountain.

Saturday at Fort Bill is always a bit quieter than the Sunday as lots of people travel up or ride Laggan then, just coming to the World Cup for the race finals, but I love watching Four Cross so have always come up for both days. It’s a shame but the 4x is not what it used to be, it was fun to watch the last few races but nowhere near the atmosphere of previous times, with fewer Brits racing and a very low turn out for the ladies it has really lost it’s place and appeal in my opinion. The weather on Saturday was horrible, wet, windy, very Scottish. We got the gondola up the hill once, it didn’t feel very safe, and the cold wind up the top was horrid so we didn’t even get out, just carried on round back to the start, the first World Cup where I had not walked down the mountain, bit of a shame. Watching people walking down the track, being blown about I don’t think I was missing much.

With qualifying cancelled there were quite a few pro riders at a loose end, so we managed to snag photos with Gee Atherton, who agreed it was pretty grim, Team Saracen hiding in a tent and I even got a pic with Rob Warner who was happy to have been spotted, his enduro beard seems to be a good disguise it seems.

Bad weather makes for nice double rainbows.
Rebecca got to meet one of her idols, Gee.
Me with Gee.
A happy and soggy me meeting a happy and soggy Rob Warner.

Heading back down the hill at dinner time there was a nice double rainbow over the mountains, the view from the campsite was decent, we grabbed chips from the van and had a few beers. A nice chilled evening, with a walk around the campsite to see if we could see any familiar faces, but aside from some absolute lunatics it was a fruitless endeavour and we ended back at the van and tent for an earlyish night.

Sunday was a much nicer day, starting a bit wet but drying up and even resulting in us ‘catching the sun’ which is novel in Scotland. The racing was brilliant, with carnage and crashes, Rachel and Tahnee both came through for us on our bets, thanks girls! Rebecca even snagged a pair of Seagrave’s special limited edition pink socks as consolation for not winning her awesome DH bike. Racing done we watched the podiums before collecting our bikes for the final run down the hill, I always love that last ride down on a Sunday, everyone is amped on the day and yelling “pedal” at me, as I am easily persuaded it does make me fly down the hill grinning, thinking I am Manon, but riding on a tarmac road, idiot.

Camp, showers, beers, time to take a walk into town to see our mates for some drinks. It’s about six miles from the camp to town so I amused myself by trying to get the trucks to honk their horns for us. Danny Macaskill, you need a better horn in your van, it’s a bit squeaky! Arriving in town we ran into the promo guys for the RedBull Jeep after party and were easily persuaded by the offer of free food and free bar. Deal. Walking into the Nevis Centre it was a bit quiet so we got food and beers and found a spot to sit next to a couple of guys, one of whom was Neil Donoghue, I got a bit excited but hid it well, of course. By the end of the night we had chatted to Rachel and Gee Atherton, hung out with Fionn Griffiths (and been photobombed by her) and Siegenthaller, watched Bryceland and his mates do some bad dancing and taken far too much advantage of the free bar. What a night. Now I am torn about my plan of not going back next year, I might go up just for finals and the after party!

Nice night for a walk.
Distillery in the sun.
Meeting my idols.
And being photobombed by them.

Monday morning. Today is the day we set aside for riding the Nevis tracks. Oh dear. On the Nevis Range there are a few cross country tracks and some downhill, there is the main DH track used by the pros for the racing, which is open to the public with a few features removed, and the red dh which is still pushing the limits of my riding but a bit more achievable for us mere mortals. Shame about the free bar last night though, I was feeling ROUGH. Arriving at the car park I made a beeline for the cafe, ordered a full breakfast and black coffee and tried to resemble a human, it was a tough call. Gael and co arrived all smiles and consent forms, I duly completed my life-waiver whilst trying to hold down my bacon and eggs, drinking more coffee and wishing I had taken better advantage of the free food last night and not just the bar.

Go time. Bikes loaded on the back we got in the gondola for the trip up the hill, yuck, not fun with a hangover, but at least the view was nice and unlike Saturday the whole thing was not swinging about in the gale force wind. Getting out of the lift at the top was pretty nice, it was cool up there with a nice breeze, the view was stunning as ever, and I had started to feel like a person at last. I hate boardwalk. Even if it is 6 inches off the ground I hate it, I like to leave riding on fences to trials riders, I like the ground beneath my wheels, not chicken wire and slippy planks. The top of the Nevis Red DH if all that though, seemingly miles of boardwalk, often with a 6ft plus drop to one side, not my favourite, and certainly not today, I was so wibbly I kept riding off the boardwalk at the top (before it gains a massive drop to one side), so I had to get off and walk / run with my poor bike until I found terra firma again.

The last time I rode this track was two years ago and it was hard but I mostly enjoyed it, this year I was hoping to slay all my demons here and shred the trail, but it was not to be. I minced it all, walked too much and generally had a mediocre day of it, I only managed two runs as I felt so awful and both of those were terrible. I blame the beer. I will go back some point this year and try again, no free bar the night before and hopefully a lot more sleep!

Next time – Beaver hunting, bike upgrades and learning curves.

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