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The team had a strong start to the new race season in February, with a race win as well as podium finishes at the Portugal International Downhill race in Caramulo. Three weeks later we were back at our training venue, Ventoso Gravity Park, for our second Portugal team camp of 2023. Episode 2 of Finding Speed follows the whole team as the riders spent another week in Portugal training and racing, and continues to follow the story of Theo Goodsmith who everyone met in episode 1. Theo, a beginner to mountain biking in 2022, now finds himself on a professional race team, and started the season with a podium finish. In this episode he works with coach Jack in an attempt improve his time of 3:07 for the Ventoso Gravity Park Leader Board, with the target being to go sub 3 minutes, as well as back up his impressive 3rd place finish at Caramulo, with another good result in Seia at round 1 of the Portugal Cup.

The riders joining Theo and enjoying the second coaching camp of the year at Ventoso Gravity Park were team riders Rueben Taylor, Oscar Hakes and Seb Sumner, as well as Gravity School Coaching rider Sam Hatfield. The weather for the week was fantastic, meaning riders were enjoying a fast, dry track, and they managed to set some great times.

The riders also enjoyed riding the newly built, fresh line at the bottom of the mountain, “GFR”, for the first time. The line adds steep and off camber terrain, as well as some gnarly features, to the already very varied track that the riders use for their timed runs.

Unfortunately Oscar had a crash at the start of Thursday, losing the front wheel in a big berm and slamming himself into the floor. He suffered a partial fracture of his collar bone, ruling him out of racing at the weekend. As Oscar had built great momentum with his riding over the weeks leading up to Seia, it was such a shame he wouldn’t be able to take part in the race. He has recovered well in the weeks following the injury, and he’s now back on the downhill bike and excited for the first British National Race of the season.

Joining the team for the race weekend were junior rider Fin Sykes, and elite rider Nuno Reis. Seia, on the edge of the Serra Da Estrela National Park, was to play host to the first round of the Portugal Cup, which was a category 1 UCI race. As there are limited races in Europe with this UCI status at this time of year, the start list was stacked with world cup pro riders in elite and junior, so it was going to be a big ask for the team to be competitive at the front of the categories. In elite Jack, Rueben and Nuno were racing, and looking at the entry list, a top 20 would be a great result. Finlay, Theo and Sam were racing in junior under 19, and Seb would race in the youth under 17.

The track is fast, and after a short wooded section after the start, is open for at least two thirds of the track, with fast corners and some jumps. The lower third of the track is back in the trees, with a steep technical section to finish, which provides a large and noisy crowd come race runs. Not being the most complicated or difficult of tracks, is a good way for riders to start the season and get back into racing again.

It was a mixed bag of results for our Gravity School crew. Jack was the biggest surprise, after qualifying 5 th in the stacked elite field he backed it up in the race going 1 second faster and finishing 4 th , less than half a second behind Loris Vergier and narrowly missing out on a spot on the podium with the champ (X6) Loic Bruni. Jack is having a great start to the season and is enjoying racing under retirement… something to be said for racing with less pressure it seems!

Seb was the next surprise, putting down an awesome time compared to the juniors and finishing in 3 rd place and bagging himself a spot on the youth podium. It will be super exciting to see Seb develop throughout the year, and with the team having two other very fast youth riders, Josh Wood and Haydn Fletcher who are yet to feature in Finding Speed, it’s going to get competitive in the category!

Rueben wasn’t happy with his riding all weekend, struggling to carry corner speed as the track got more and more blown out. It certainly left Jack and Rueben with a clear plan going into the following week as to what Rueben needs to work on. Nuno put down a solid result with 26 th and he was happy with for that for the start of the season, but is ready to start lifting the pace ahead of the main part of the season kicking off in May.

In junior Finlay couldn’t back it up in the race after an impressive qualifying time, and crashed hard in the final section, which was a real shame. Check the Finding Speed episode for the crash footage. Theo progressed well throughout the weekend, with a 2:37 in practice, a 2:33 in qually and a 2:30 in the race which is clear progress. He was 16 th in junior which was a solid result in the stacked field of riders. Sam lost his chain at the top of the track and finish frustrated, and in 17 th place. After showing great pace in practice it’s a real shame he didn’t get chance to put down his best race run because of a mechanical.

Overall another fantastic week in Portugal and we hope you enjoy this episode of Finding Speed, by LoamLife Media. Episode 3 will be edited and released next week, and it follows another week in Portugal, with junior riders Tom Westgate and Tommy Walker joining Jack and gang for a coaching camp as well as Rd 2 of the Portugal Cup at Padela. The “Tom’s” are very entertaining, so get ready for some laughs in this banger of an episode! This weekend the team heads to wet and wild south Wales in the UK, for the first Rd of the British Downhill Series, where LoamLife Media will film episode 4 of Finding Speed with an 8 rider strong team showing at the event. Thanks for tuning in and we hope you are enjoying the show!

Words: Jack Reading

Photos: @charlesthetog

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