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Gravity School Racing - ‘Finding Speed’ Episode 3

Gravity School Racing - ‘Finding Speed’ Episode 3

Finding Speed episode 3 covers the second week of the team’s back-to-back camps in Portugal, and round 2 of the Portugal Cup at Padela. This week Jack and Rueben were joined by first year junior team rider Tom Westgate, and Gravity School Coaching rider Tommy Walker, who is also a first year junior. Both Tom and Tommy have big personalities, which meant for an entertaining week both on and off the bikes.

Tom had just returned from 3 months skiing in Switzerland and Canada, where he had completed his training to be a qualified ski instructor. He was really excited to get back on the bike, and especially excited to ride his new RAAW Yalla! for the first time. Tom is big mates with team junior riders Oscar and Theo, so he was really keen to set a fast time on the Ventoso Gravity Park Leader Board and get ahead of his counterparts.

Tommy came to the coaching camp on a mission. He made it clear early on that he was keen to learn as much as he could, as efficiently as he could, and go on to set the fastest junior time on the Leader Board. We also got the news on day 1 of the camp that Tommy had been selected to race the first 3 rounds of the World Cup series, so this fired him up even more. It was all set to be a big week of coaching and racing.

The coaching camp went very well, with all of the riders working on their specific coaching points with Jack, in perfect track conditions. On day 3 there was a tail wind on the track. Everyone was excited to set some personal records and get as high up the leader board as they could. Rueben kicked things off, setting an incredible time of 2:47, beating Jack’s previous track record by 3 seconds and his own time by 6 seconds. Tom was next, and on his first lap he set a 2:57 with a smooth run, and on his second lap was all set to do a 2:55 or better according to the splits, but then had a wash out in the woods on the second to last corner. Tommy set a 2:58 on his first run, and after some evaluation with Jack, managed to improve to a 2:52. Rueben encouraged Jack to set a new time with the tail wind, as he wanted to know how his time would stack up in these extra fast conditions. This is a sensible approach from a rider who is learning, always wanting to have all of the information. Jack set a 2:45 with a mistake in the bottom woods costing a couple of seconds, which means in the same conditions there is at least a 2:43 in there from someone. Will we see this before the end of the season?

It was time to head to the race. Padela was the venue for this one, and with its hillsides a combination of beautiful green trees and rocky outcrops, plus the amazing weather, riders and event crew were in for a treat at this location. The one downside is that the track is not the best one used by the series. The hill doesn’t have the best gradient for trail builders to work with, and despite their efforts to improve the track, they had left a very wet section, which later in the weekend became known as “the bog”. There was a 20 second or so flat section at the finish, which was going to be a very unpleasant sprint come race runs.

Saturday practice started with a head wind, and after a couple of runs riders weren’t having too much fun on the track. The wind meant it was difficult to find flow, and the bog was covering riders and their bikes in mud, despite the other 99% of the track being dry and dusty. After a lunch break, the wind turned around and our riders had a better afternoon. The bog did become very difficult to ride and by the end of the day the jump at the exit was extremely difficult to clear because of the ruts that had developed before it, and most riders were having to go around it. It was what it was and riders needed to accept that, and find the best way through it for them.

Race day and our guys were confident for some good results. In elite Jack seeded 3 rd with a smooth run, but followed it up with a messy race run which he described as the prime example of “over trying”, and he only managed to find a little bit more time so finished 7 th . Solid but not what he was after. Rueben had been working hard on his cornering speed all week, and was making great progress. Unfortunately, he had a crash in his race run, going off track on the landing of the fast fly off just before the bog, costing him a lot of time. He had mixed feelings, being happy that he felt he was riding well, but frustrated he didn’t make it all the way to the finish line to see his time. Nuno had a crash in his seeding run, in exactly the same place as where Rueben went off track, but it was a big one! He smashed his head and decided it was best not to race.

In junior Tommy had a very solid day, seeding 8 th with a 2:33 and then improving by 6 seconds to finish 6 th with a 2:27. He did make a mistake in the big, costing him some time. Tom had a crash in the fateful bog, and the video of it shows that he lost 11/12 seconds. Without this crash he was on for a 2:22/2:23 and 4 th place, which is very promising for the rest of the season. However, on the day he was back in 9 th and frustrated. Stay on the bike next time Tom.

Another amazing week in Portugal and we hope you enjoy episode 3 of Finding Speed filmed and edited by LoamLife Media. Episode 4 sees the team head to the first round of the British Downhill Series at Rheola in Wales, so stay tuned for more action.

Words: Jack Reading

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