A day off work booked with a gamble on the weather holding was one nervy part of the trip, compounded by my memories of just how steep some of the pro “Olympic” lines were on the bits of the course I’d seen. I escaped London in a grey but dry day that would brighten significantly. Arriving at the course I was relieved to find it open so unloaded the bike and warmed up on the pump track and skills area, where the practice drop-offs did nothing to calm my nerves. One trip back to the car to fix a slipping dropper post cable-stop and I was off onto an exploratory lap. First up it was longer than I expected and my aim to run it all in a big ring might be doable but wasn’t fun.
I took red runs all round and was slightly disheartened by the size of the black lines at first look, as I hit the end I was loosening up and riding better, so it was time to drop a couple of gears, stick the tracker on to record it for Strava and go again.
This Strava log is nothing special, apart from the slight thrill of being on the same table (much, much lower down) as Cross Country superstar Nico Schurter.
By lap three I was much more dialled and the pro lines seemed less daunting. I started taking these options and found them well within my abilities and in some cases easier than the red options by virtue of losing some of the sketchy turns that had been included to keep the gradient down. By lap four I’d cleared them all and ridden a clean lap of the whole loop. The riding is tough and technical, and over the 5K ish route you’re barely allowed to relax. My legs were feeling the constant work and I decided to call it a day after a couple of hours of riding to leave myself wanting more and to prevent any stupid tired injuries.
So, in summary, a shortish technical track that challenges you to be better, faster, take harder lines and compare yourself to the pros. However pleased with myself I might be with riding the hard lines, I can’t ignore the fact that I did them on an enduro bike with nearly 140mm of suspension either end, and dropper post, while the Olympic riders did the same on race-spec hardtails with fixed seatposts. You have to admire the skill of those riders really and it takes riding some of the same sections as them to drive that home.