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The Joy of Progression, Sandra Cheston 06/06/ 2014

First, here is the photo of me with my 2nd place medal from the SDA Dunkled Race ? Dunkeld Medal For some reason the race calendar was red hot for the month of May. For the first time this year, I had decided that I would like to see how I got on at the British Downhill Series. This series take the pressure up a notch with a more competitive atmosphere. At the Scottish Series, each racer has two race runs which count and the fastest of the two is considered their race time. At the British Series, each racer has a seeding run and a race run. This creates a greater feeling of pressure as you’ve only got one shot to get it right. The weather was a bit of a mixed bag for race day at the 2nd Round of the BDS at Fort William. It was on and off torrential rain. Luckily, both of my runs were in the dry which made my goes down this incredibly long and brutal track that small bit easier. Yup, it was that rainy This year I had given myself the goal of getting a race run in under 8 minutes on this course. My seeding run was not perfect. Small mistakes and catching the rider in front while going through the trickiest part of the course meant that I didn’t quite make it. I put in a time of 8min16 which equalled my best time to date. I knew I could make time, so headed back up the hill with ideas of where I could pedal and carry more speed. I put in a good all round run for my race run, but still had a few mistakes due to my feet bouncing off my pedals in some of the rockier sections. None the less, I smashed my season goal with a time of 7 minutes 55 secs. I was positively delighted. To make a great outing even better, my time was fast enough for 3rd. My first British podium ? Fort William Podium The next race was the SDA at Ae Forest. Last year I raced here and left a bit disappointed. I didn’t ride any of the features as I was too chicken. This year, I was heading back with a new set of eyes to look upon the course. I knew there was a river stream gap jump that I should have been riding last year, so that was definitely on the hit list. I had also been mulling over trying the Ae forest Step Down which is a 10 foot drop. The Ae Step Down A series of bungled incidents added to a lack of confidence and attention to detailed during practice and racing, including locking my bike, and my keys in the car on front of Nic’s house before we’d even left for the races ? This door is clearly locked, and the keys are definitely in the ignition.... After great weather for both racing and practice, I had easily ridden the stream gap, but hadn’t ridden the drop. I placed 4th in the race, missing out on the podium by 500ths of a second. I was gutted. I hadn’t reached my goal for riding the drop and I missed the podium by such a tiny margin. Luckily, I was heading back to Ae forest in two weeks and I was determined that I would hit that Step Down! The cool thing about the British Rounds, and especially leading up to the World Cup at Fort William is that you get to meet and ride the same track as the best in the world. Some even take the time to do a run with you and show you how they ride the track to get some pace out of it. When I arrived on practice day, I put my hardshell body armour on. This was me sending the message to myself that ‘yes, you are going to jump off that darned thing and you are as protected as you can be when you do it.’ Next, I jumped on with riders that I knew were riding it. I wanted to see their speed going into the corners leading up to it. Unfortunately, half way down the hill I lost them. So I just rode around it like I always did. On my 3rd run on practice day, I decided that I wasn’t leaving until I gave it a go. Even if I only rode it once, I would surpass what I previously thought to be possible. So I gave a few run ups, spoke to Taylor Vernon about how he would do it, watched another girl do it for her first time and then just went for it! I cleared the jump fine and was soooooo very excited to have reached my goal for the weekend before race day even showed up? I slightly regressed after that and chickened out on the next two runs. On my final run of the day, I decided that I wanted to ride the drop as my line during the race. I went back up the hill and promised myself I’d ride a full run with it included. I did it again and closed the day on high. My seeding run and race run were pretty clean and I hit the Step Down in both. Admittedly, one attempt at the step down carried more pace than the other – which is obvious from the hilarious face I’m wearing in this picture and the worry/fear of the onlookers – don’t worry, I cleared it no problem! Sandra Cheston pic 1 I improved my time during the race run and was delighted to place 4th, which is a podium at the British series. The best bits for me were achieving my goal and the fact that my times are starting to get closer to both the leaders in my category as I was only 2 seconds off of 2nd. To think that two years ago I finished my first downhill race a full 5 minutes and 19 seconds down on the winner – now that is the joy of progression ?


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