Sunday, 26 June 2016

Whistler Trip 2016

After my last trip to the mecca of downhill mountain biking, I wasn't sure if I'd ever return to the big mountain again. I left the place dampened (literally and spiritually) after some (albeit great) coaching sessions dug deep into my abilities and exposed some real flaws in my riding. Not what I wanted from the trip, especially as it paired with God-awful weather for the whole week. However, with a healthy amount of time to reflect, I realize it was just what I needed (the skills analysis, not the rain!) and for the two years since then I've been working on a few things : getting my body position and weighting correct, pumping through corners, using my hips, getting my upper body working to help bike lean and - most importantly - not allowing self criticism to get in the way of a good ride!

I figured I'd venture back to Whistler one day, maybe in a couple of years or so. However when Eric kindled the flames of a trip suggested by Chris earlier this year, a date was set and I couldn't bear the thought of missing the chance to ride. So I signed up too! Along with Rosson and his brother Todd, we had a crew! And so it was that we spent a week this June up in beautiful British Columbia, surrounded by like minded folks all looking to hit up mother nature's roller coaster for some full on shred!

To save major hassles with airlines, I decided to rent a rig. A nice 650b Santa Cruz V10. Aside from having brakes that felt a little under gunned for the task at hand, the bike felt great! Burly enough to inspire confidence but playful enough to push your limits. In fact by the last day's riding I was experimenting with bar twists when mid air on some jumps. Great fun!

After arriving to an apocalyptic looking sky filled with rain, the chances of a soggy week's riding seemed likely. However as we suited up and collected our rental steeds early the following day we walked towards the lifts with sunshine in our grinning faces. Aside from some showers on the very last day we were spared the wet weather and instead treated to some near perfect (if not sometimes muddy) conditions. After some warm up laps down old friends B Line and Crank It Up we ventured higher up the mountain and rode Blue Velvet and Freight Train. 'Train became a new favorite on this trip. The perfect mix of flow, jumps and some fun tech. And it has the infamous Drop In Clinic - a feature that I've previously wilted at, but on this trip we all hit it on the first day! By the end of the long afternoon's riding I'd also successfully hit the drop on A Line that was also on my bucket list. My only other goal was to clear the container jump, however - as much as my jumping improved over the week, I never felt fully confident to try it. Watching Rosson painfully case his rental Glory into the metal box's lip didn't help inspire confidence in my own ability to clear it either. Something for next year maybe....

My number one goal for this trip (aside from going home injury free) was to enjoy my riding for what it is, whatever level I'm at and not pressure myself to improve and nail everything perfectly. This mindset, the great conditions and being surrounded by good friends (even bumping into fellow Brit Chris Walley!) meant I not only rode better than previous years, but that I also had a feckin' great time doing it. Its probably also why I didn't hurt myself. Save for a couple of bad line choices and one or two spills, I didn't fall hard once. I was extremely happy with my riding. Corners and berms in particular felt really smooth. Weighting correctly and hips and leg pumping all came together in concert and allowed me to (for the first time) feel utter freedom on the flowey trails.... Coach Oscar would've been proud!

Amusingly (in hindsight) we did get completely outplayed on day three (or maybe it was four.) Taking a shortcut through In Too Deep (a very aptly named double black technical run) lead to a full on hike a bike down large sections of insanely challenging (on foot!) trail. Knowing the crazy steep features were designed for a level of bike riding well outside our comfort zone was both humbling and awe inspiring. Definitely a glimpse of what our future could hold if we keep up the progression. On regular black technical runs (which are still pretty gnarly - at least on par with Northstar's double blacks) we all did really well. Hitting wet, muddy and rooty descents with confident abandon whilst others stood around umming and aahing. We also did some nice steep boulder roll drops too. The flowey trails are amazing fun, but there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of cleaning an intense technical trail and feeling in control as the bike bucks wildly below.

My jumping skills however will always be a little behind everything else. I get the theory, and I know when Ive done it right. Also, big step ups and any blue run jump is something I'll gladly pedal towards with a crazy grin. But I get shy in front of certain steep black jumps. I'll get there, it will just take time and patience to get me where I want to be. But berms, drops and technical skills all felt pretty solid. I honestly think I rode the best I've ever ridden. And I loved every minute of it!

So thats it. Another trip in the bag. Five years since my first visit north and I really hope to be hitting those groomed hero dirt slopes, with my good riding buddies, for many more years to come. Here's a short edit of Blue Velvet to Crank It Up. Both blue runs so no crazy gnar, just flow and good trail times. Cheers!

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