Wow, what an intense few days! I’ve just got home from my second World Championships, and my first in Elite, with a Bronze medal - and I’m exhausted! Here’s how it all went...
We arrived in Leogang, Austria on Tuesday afternoon and settled into our home for the next few days. I’d not stayed with the British team before so it was cool to have everyone around to chat to and to share stories from the day with at meal times – it took your mind off the race for a bit and a good deal of banter kept everyone entertained! I was also pleased to find out that I was sharing a room with Tracy Moseley, the 2010 World Champion. It was her 15th World Champs so I figured I’d be able to learn plenty from her experience!
On Wednesday we didn’t have a lot to do, I guess you could say it was the calm before the storm, so all we had was the course to walk and the opening ceremony to attend in the evening - I didn’t mind as the next few days were going to be pretty hectic so it was nice to have some time to get my head prepared for the weekend! It was awesome to get marched around the town in our GB by an Austrian band who were all dressed in Lederhosen and traditional costumes, with the GB flag flying in front of us – it makes you realised how big a deal the World Champs are for yourself and everyone watching it, and I couldn’t wait for practise to start!
Although in the last year they have sanitised the track a bit much and given it the ‘bike-park treatment’ I still feel the track at Leogang has a good mix of everything; fast jumps, switchbacks, technical wooden section and as many braking bumps and holes as you can cope with! It didn’t take me long to get up to speed on the track, I was riding the new Saracen Myst complete with pink linkage and a carbon rear end, it looked and felt amazing! After about two runs I felt flat out and was wondering what I was going to spend the next three days of practise doing... Well the weather had a good answer for me!
At some point in the night the sky had burst open and emptied a LOT of rain onto Leogang bike park. We weren’t sure what to expect from the track as it had been so hard packed the day before, and I was just praying the rain had had time to soak into the ground and give us some mud! I think it’s safe to say my prayers had been answered and the rain was exactly what we needed, it turned the course from a good, fun DH track to a World Championship worthy race course. The Wet Screams were on and in the two hours practise we had I blasted out four runs in the rain and I loved every single one. It was only until we got back to the hotel that I realised what a mess we were, covered in mud from head to toe and spent most of the afternoon cleaning up!
Saturday – Timed Session
Saturday morning was an early one, with practise only being an hour from 8.00-9.15 my alarm was set for 6 o’clock so I had time to eat breakfast, get to the pits and wake up before practise started – in that order! The track was starting to cut up and tyre choice was difficult, with time for only two runs before the Timed Session, one run on either wet or dry tyres was all you had to decide from. In the end I went for high roller II’s hoping that what I lost in the top corners or technical sections I’d make up for on the long, fast pedals in between. I came third in the timed session, 4 seconds back on Emmeline Ragot who had set the fastest time although I knew I’d made a few mistakes in my run and there was more time for be found. And also that this was the Downhill World Championships – anything could happen.
Sunday Race Day
When your alarm goes off at 5.55 in the morning it’s never good, and you never want to get up - but as soon as you remember it’s World Championships race day there’s no way you’re going back to sleep! I’d been containing my excitement pretty well throughout the week but was anxious to get on the hill asap so come 7.50 I was leaving the pits ready for my first run down the hill. Again, there was only time for two runs so I made sure I hit all the lines like I would in my run and returned to the hotel to rest and wait... for almost 5 hours until my race run – talk about suspense!
I tried going to sleep but it didn’t really work, the Juniors’ race was going on and I couldn’t wait to hear how everyone did - I could hear the loudspeaker from our room but couldn’t hear what was going on! Time passed and soon it was my turn to head up to the top of the hill. Since Friday’s monsoon the track hadn’t dried up much, just cut up massively and there were roots and holes all over the place, but throughout Sunday morning the sun had begun to appear and start drying the track out. Sat at the top of the hill about to start my warm up it was hard to know what the track was going to be like or what to expect. The twenty minutes or so before the countdown finishes and you head out of the start hut is always strange, you have done so much preparation – mental and physical – and your warm up is so structured and precise yet you know that as soon as you break the beam literally anything can happen in your race run, nothing is guaranteed. I don’t really know what was going on in my head as I sat in the gate waiting for the 3 minutes to pass, I’d like to think calmness.
I had a good, solid run. I got the top corners good, pedalled as hard as I could on the flat sections and held on for dear life through the woods! By the time I got halfway down the track my legs were burning, my lungs wanted to explode and my arms were ruined but I knew that all I had to do was hold on to the finish line and I would have given it all I had. Everyone goes to Worlds with the aim to win Gold, and although that would have been amazing I’m still happy with Bronze. After breaking my collarbone mid-season, and still being in my first year of Elite, I’m happy to say I gave it everything I had and came away with a Medal.
Massive thanks to everyone who held me get there and who has enjoyed my result. Will, Alex our mechanic, all the guys at Madison who support our team, my Mum and Dad for coming out to watch and everyone at Sport Wales and Welsh Cycling who have helped me this year, there are plenty more and I hope they know who they are!