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IXS Dirt Masters Festival in Winterberg is an iconic event, and our team has never found the time to visit before. So when SR Suntour came to us with the opportunity to go to the event and help them with the operation of their tech booth, we jumped at the chance. We headed across with a 5 man crew consisting of riders Jack, Reuben and Tom, mechanic Josh and Ben from LoamLife Media. As we had a Portugal Camp the week after, it was tight to fit in the trip, so we left the UK in the van on Friday afternoon, and would cross back on Monday evening, before getting a flight to Portugal on Tuesday afternoon. Hectic to say the least.

Rueben was on the hunt for a big result to add to his UCI points count, as he works his way towards the 40 point requirement to be able to race world cups. Tom is one of our first year junior riders and he was also keen to impress at only his second ever race out of the UK. The trip didn’t start well, as when we arrived in Winterberg, our arranged accommodation failed to show up and let us in, so after numerous calls back and forth with, at 3am we gave up for the night and slept in the van. Four people trying to sleep in a fully loaded T6 van was not a fun experience, and also not the most ideal way to start a very busy two week block!

Despite this set back, running on three hours sleep and lots of caffeine, we got straight into it on Saturday morning with pit setup and track walk. The track was short and looked like it had some really cool sections. When we walked the track it was very dry and looked like it would be really fast and flowy, but at lunchtime just before the lads were set to start practice, a huge deluge of rain came and made the track look more like a river. On went the Schwalbe Dirty Dan mud tyres, and ONeal rip ‘n’ roll goggles, and off the lads went to get started with practice.

Unfortunately, with the conditions being so slippery and the lads struggling to feel fully focused after such a bad night with little sleep, everyone had crashes. Jack came off worst, injuring his chin and wrist, and as a result decided it would be best to sit this one out and spend the rest of the weekend in team manager/coach mode, to help Rueben and Tom with their lines as well as assist Josh in the SR Suntour pits. Rueben and Tom bounced back and by the end of the day were feeling good on track.

Saturday was another wet day, and Jack spent the practice session trackside helping the lads with their line options. Going into the qualifying round, both Tom and Rueben were feeling positive and excited to put down good runs. They did just that and both were fastest in category. Tom was 8 seconds in the green in junior, and set the 4 th fastest time of the day, and Rueben was FTD, by almost 4 seconds! We were excited for racing now.

Sunday was another wet and slippery morning practice session, but with a six hour break between final practice runs and Tom and Rueben’s race runs, the track started to dry out. By the time the lads were getting ready to go, the track was so dry that it was time to take off the Schwalbe Dirty Dan mud spikes, and switch to the rider’s preferred dry tyre, the Schwalbe Tacky Chan. Tom was first up and with a solid run, dropped just under the 3 minute mark, taking the win in junior and finishing an impressive 7 th overall.

Rueben was only interested in one thing, and that was winning the race. He was last man to drop in after his first place qualifying run, and as Jack nervously watched from the finish line, knowing when Rueben needed to appear to be in contention to challenge the current fastest time of 2:53, there was Rueben. He appeared just when he needed to, and it was going to be a very close fight to the line. Unfortunately, disaster struck as he crashed in the next corner. He got out of shape in a rut, losing the front wheel out of the top of it and behind and a stump, and with it his chances of the race win. He was gutted, but at the same time there were lots of positives for him to take from the weekend, knowing his speed is increasing.

It was a bitter sweet finish for the team, with Tom taking the win in junior, but Rueben crashing out when he had a real chance of being fastest man on the hill and getting the UCI points he needs to go on to race world cups. Big thanks to SR Suntour, Schwalbe Tires, ONeal and RAAW Mountain bikes who we hung out with at Dirt Masters and can’t thank enough for their support of our team!

Follow us through the weekend in Episode 5 of Finding Speed, and get ready for Episode 6 which sees us head straight back to Portugal for our final Portugal Gravity School Camp of 2024 to see if Jack can wrap up the Portugal Cup series overall. Thanks for reading and watching, stay tuned and spread the words, Finding Speed!

Words: Jack Reading

Photos: Jonassalamon

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